I am nearing the end of my final coursework for my doctoral program. That brings up some mixed feelings for me–I am definitely excited to be moving on to the next phase and starting my dissertation, but this does feel like a conclusion to things as well. It has been a joy working with my cohort throughout the past three years, building friendships even though we rarely meet up in person and live on several continents.
A key part of my course work this semester has been practicing peer review. I have found this so very beneficial; we are at a point where the members of our cohort have become real friends, and it’s a pleasure to read each others’ work, and reflect upon, critique, and encourage our classmates to continue to strengthen what we have developed. I have enjoyed getting to know how my friends think about our field, and this is one aspect of the cohort model that I have found so beneficial for me: we develop relationships that are strong enough that we don’t take it personally when we hear the critique; we welcome it, because we know that our friends are looking out for us to help us make our work ever stronger! It is strange to think that we will not meet up online regularly after this course wraps up. And while I know we will continue to keep in touch, it will be different not interacting with them on a weekly basis.
Because the fact is, I am finishing up my last courses for my doctoral work as I write this reflection; we have less than two weeks remaining. The Educational Design Research (EDR) course I have been taking this semester was a research elective; I had to take one more research course, and I had a choice of several options. I am so glad I selected this course; I think it was the perfect choice for me at this point in my program. EDR seems almost ideally situated for my field of educational technology, as it is intended to generate both practical outcomes (interventions) that address real problems in education, but also generate theoretical understanding at the same time.
I have already taken courses focusing on quantitative methods and qualitative methods in previous semesters; EDR can use either, or both. One key focus in EDR is on understanding the context where the intervention will be deployed; this makes tremendous sense to me within the field of EdTech. Early in my studies–in fact, in the very first course I took in this program–we examined media comparison studies, studies intended to quantitatively examine the effectiveness of a particular medium or technology as compared to some other teaching approach. We discovered how these studies almost always result in “no significant difference,” meaning, “statistically speaking, these things are the same” or “the amount of learning is the same, no matter the medium being used.” That sounded crazy to me at the time, but that is a reflection of my lack of understanding of statistical analysis then; I know better now. The difference I see is this: using different media may result in the same amount of learning overall, but the experience may be very different! And that is where qualitative methods are so beneficial: understanding the experience of the teachers, the students, the learning environment.
And then, considering EDR…now I understand more about how to design an intervention, based on analysis of the problem, and with an eye toward ongoing evaluation over time. I also understand the value of creating multiple iterations to continually refine the intervention, and further develop the theoretical understandings as well. And the benefit of using both qualitative methods to describe the relevant information from the context and quantitative methods to increase the rigor of the study can be a benefit on both ends. I have become convinced of the benefits of EDR as a research approach, and I am certain I will use EDR in my long-term research agenda.
Now that brings up the question: will I use EDR as an approach for my dissertation? My honest answer right now: I am not sure. I have done some reading over the past few weeks that indicates it certainly is possible to use EDR as a doctoral student. My dissertation might function as the first iteration of a longer-term study; there are examples of dissertations that have been conducted this way, and there is some appeal in this for me! However, I have been thinking about conducting a case study for my dissertation for some time now, and I am not sure that I need to change this planned approach at this point. However, one might argue that a case study could be the first iteration of an EDR study. So…I guess I will say that it is not outside the realm of possibility that I would use EDR as an approach to my dissertation research, but I am not leaning that way at the moment. I would like to read still more examples of EDR dissertations before I make that final determination, I think. However…since I’ve written an EDR proposal as part of this course, that may actually sway me. Could I use this proposal as a start for my dissertation proposal that I plan to write this summer? That might just win me over… 🙂
I have benefited greatly through my work in this course. It has shaped my thinking about the way research is conducted in my field. I feel well-prepared to conduct research as an academic in my field, and I am excited to use this approach in the future!