Category: Research Methods

An Unexpected Journey: To Masters and Back Again

Where I started

In September I will be starting my third-year teaching at U-Connect Secondary School in Langley. This school is unique, as we offer both fully online and blended learning programs.

U-Connect was my first full time teaching position and it was not what I was expecting. I thought online education was a form of alternative learning that allowed students flexibility and choice in their education. However, what I found in practice was an online textbook and online writing assignments, very similar to a traditional brick and mortar school. I have nothing against this type of learning, I myself did very well in this system. However, it led me to wonder if an online educator could do it differently. Fortunately, with my blended students, I see them once a week. The in-class time is a precious commodity that I use for hands on learning and collaborative work. However, I have always wondered if I could create a better learning experience for online students using a digital platform.

The first challenges I faced while trying different approaches were lack of time, resources, and knowledge. Although I had many lofty goals, I found them hard to implement in the digital classroom. I have been able to take small steps towards a hands-on, genuine learning experience for students in my blended classes. Some of the things I have implemented include games, group work, and debates. Because of my background in physical education, I am a big believer in active learning and movement in the classroom.

As I was trying out new ideas, two things were missing. First, I did not do the research to back up my pedagogical approaches. Because of this, I was unable to defend my choices and their relevance to the content. Second, I did not have the experience or background knowledge to integrate purposeful activities into my courses. Although student enjoyed the activities, I often found afterwards that they did not achieve what I had intended.

This led me to explore various professional development opportunities to access knowledge and ideas to improve my personal pedagogy. Although there were many opportunities out there, very few were applicable to my specific job requirements. This is where I started to investigate different master programs that would be beneficial for an online learning environment. Admittedly, my choice to begin a master program was heavily influenced by the increase in pay. However, it soon became an opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues and improve my personal pedagogical practices. My desire to incorporate digital tools to create effective learning experiences has been a driving force in the beginning stages of my academic journey.

Where I am

Which brings us to the present, I am done the first term of the master program and looking forward to the upcoming school year. I have learned a lot from the courses and have had many realizations and ideas about where to take my pedagogical practices. In general, I have discovered that there is no one size fits all fix for education, that my development as a teacher will never be done, and that it is okay to still be improving.

In e-research: harnessing and understanding technology in research (EDCI 515) I was reminded of the importance of research and how it can benefit my pedagogical practice. Moreover, research is the base for understanding and is necessary to ensure best practices. Up to this point, I have reflected on my lessons, what has worked and what has not, but reflection is not enough. I can use reflection as a tool to critically analyze my practice and inform my pedagogy. In addition, reflective diaries are an important part of research, learning, and having a growth mindset. Being a scholar is part of being an educator, understanding the literature allows teachers to develop best practices through research questions and research. Finally, I learned about indigenizing learning as well as different ways to honor indigenous knowledge systems. The most important thing I can do as an educator is to learn more about indigenous ways and always be aware of how dominant perspectives overshadow non-dominant views. My understanding of research has changed throughout the course. Before, research was just something that had to be done to get through my education. Now I realize that research is an opportunity to gain better understanding of the educational field and make informed decisions in my pedagogy.

While reflecting on my explorations and experiences of methodological perspectives and approaches to research I found that I want the whole picture. Quantitative or qualitative alone, do not provide a clear enough picture to act on. However, if you look at multiple pieces of research and mixed method approaches, it allows the reader different perspectives on the results. Moreover, I am hoping to demonstrate storytelling and métissage for my students, as one way to integrate indigenous ways of knowing into research. I hope to show students the benefits and practicality of research for lifelong learners.

In discourse on social media for connected and personalized learning (EDCI 568) I was inspired by the different ways of educating and structuring a classroom. Many guest speakers advocated for various approaches to education which would allow students to inquire, collaborate, problem solve, and take ownership of their own learning. More importantly, the class discussions and readings promoted conversation and collaboration among colleagues. Even though I have thought of using some of these ideas previously, it finally felt like I could apply them in my classroom. Some approaches that resonate with me are inquiry, problem-based learning and cross-curricular projects. I teach social studies, physical and health education and inquiry and am genuinely excited to start the new school year so I can try some of these ideas out in my classes.

Furthermore, I was reminded how important social media and other digital tools are in the classroom. There are many ways to incorporate digital technology in the classroom, some of which I plan to explore this upcoming school year. For example, introducing video recording in physical education as a way for students to self-assess sport specific skills. Also, I plan to use flipgrid as a method to check students understanding of content in social studies. Social media is not only an excellent digital tool to incorporate into classes but is also a great professional development tool. There are so many opportunities for professional development with the use of social media. Twitter and other sites connect educators to like-minded people and provide a platform to collaborate, support and inspire one another. I am currently working on my social media presence and developing my professional learning network.

As an educator it is important to understand the relationship between the needs of the learner and the responsibilities associated with digital technologies. With all the benefits of integrating digital technology in the classroom, it is important to be aware of the best interests of the learner. In addition, it is important that educators use technology appropriately as well as demonstrate digital citizenship for students. Integrating technology and digital tools can enhance learning experiences, however, technology alone does not make a lesson better if pedagogy does not change. It was brought to my attention that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ fix for integrating technology. Each class has a variety of learners and abilities therefore, it is important to remember to use a range of methods and approaches in each class. Despite everything I have learned, I would still like to explore how educators can better their practice to engage a variety of learners.

I am first and foremost an educator. My specialties are physical education and social studies, but I have come to realize teaching is less about the content and more about the relationships you build with students. I strongly believe in hands-on learning experiences that allow students to interact with content and develop skills. I believe that school should be a safe space for students and teachers alike to learn, try, fail and succeed. I think that educators should do everything in their ability to create genuine learning experiences for students and always act within the students’ best interest.

What I know now

  1. Things are easier said then done, but that does not mean we should not try.
  2. Change is a slow process but is possible with the help and support of colleagues in the educational field.
  3. Research is the base of all pedagogy, you need to research in order to develop best practices.

Where I want to go

The adventure has just begun, but where do I go from here? I am very excited to continue my pedagogical journey and put what I have learned to use. As of now I am trying to implement as many ideas as possible to see what works, what does not, and what needs to be adjusted for my students. It is here I take my next step,

Retrieved from

I will leave you with the wise words of J.R.R. Tolkien

“It’s a dangerous business … going out the door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

“The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can.”


Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay.

A Settler Trying to Honor Indigenous Knowledge Systems

              This week I read a few articles that discussed Indigenous Knowledge Systems and how to Indigenize Education. Including: Idle No More​, Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education​, The Digital Revolution and the Unrecognized Linguistic Colonization​, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Science and Technology Education. 

              These readings left me frustrated and encouraged at the same time. It was encouraging to read about how indigenous knowledge can and should be included into core subjects. But I was frustrated because I don’t know where to start. As a social studies teacher, I teach students many components of First Nations history in Canada. However, I feel inadequate in my content knowledge and the methods I use to teach First Nations studies. Why do we teach First Nations History in a traditional a.k.a. colonized way? This is no excuse I am just a little lost as to what I can do better.

              What I learned from all this: 1) the system is not going to change overnight 2) it is everyone’s responsibility to incorporate indigenous knowledge 3) independent professional development in the area is a good place to start.

              Moving forward my goal is to teach students to be aware of their own biases. While reading these articles, it became very clear that I am privileged. I am a Canadian with settler ancestry, who has had every opportunity for quality education, and would be categorized in the dominant culture.

              As the reader, I need to be aware of the lenses I have when examining research and literature from non-dominant perspectives. I am responsible to understand my personal perspectives and how the influence my perceptions. As an educator, I must teach my students to do the same.

              Sure, we cover the content of First Nations people, and Canadian history throughout the course. But I have not once asked my students to think of their biases and views. Nor have I asked them to reflect on how their views changes their understanding. If I ask students to look at an event from all perspectives (dominant and non-dominant) but I do not teach them to understand their biases, what is the point? It is far more valuable for them to understand how they interpret information than it is for them to memorize facts.

              After all this I still found myself wondering, what’s next? So, I looked at Courage: Going Forward in Aboriginal Education, to better understand how to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge Systems. I found that giving space to honor different ways of knowing, is more important than information, and that small steps over time make a difference. I hope that I can begin to honor indigenous knowledge systems by helping my students build skills to critically analyze historical information and look for non-dominant perspectives. It is imperative that educators help students understand their biases so they can become conscientious readers or literature.  

The Thorn in My Side aka. Research

Humans are curious by nature; we love to learn. What impacts this desire to understand is the subject matter. However, one truth stays the same, research matters.  It is an important aspect of education, careers and day-to-day life.

Garlic Crop 2019

For example, a few years ago I decided I wanted to grow my own garlic. Having never done this before, and being a serial plant killer, I did some research. Turns out garlic is really easy to grow. First you buy garlic and separate the cloves. Then you plant each clove (not bulb) in the ground with the point up, about 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart. You plant in early October and then you leave it until late July. Sometime in the Spring, you will start to see what is called a garlic scape, it is the center stalk of the leaves and it is recognized by the curl. Cut the scape off, if you don’t the plants energy will go towards making a flower rather than growing the garlic bulb. In the summer you harvest, that’s it. I knew nothing about growing garlic, but now because of my research I have a small supply of home grown garlic each year.

Research starts with a question, a quest for an answer that you don’t already know. Good research questions start with an area of interest or an idea. Something that you are personally invested in finding out. As valuable as research is, it can be a struggle, especially for students.

As an educator I find it challenging to get my students to dive deeper in content through research. There is always a resistance to anything beyond surface level. And I get it, from their perspective what is the point? As a student, I frequently take this position. Why would I spend extra time to understand a topic (that I may or may not care about) at a deeper level, when I can know the basics and move on.

My biggest barrier is background knowledge. I find that I frequently get lost in the data and language used in most academic papers. This leads me to skim those sections and look for the main points in abstract and discussion sections. This works if you want surface level understanding but is ineffective when you are trying to develop a position in the field of research. It is also important to have a basic understanding of how research is conducted in structured. I know this because I am currently working on building my understanding. (it’s a slow process). Trying to overcome these barriers as I research is discouraging as I feel as if I am playing ‘catch up’ to my peers.  

THIS IS THE WRONG MINDSET TO HAVE!!!  Research is an opportunity to broaden understanding of content area and research methodologies. But the key is to start with a question you are interested in. There’s the secret, if you like the subject, or you find it relevant it will be far easier to research.

I would define research as the thorn in my side. A necessary part of being an educator and a student, but an unfortunate discomfort at times. Research is a part of life, at every level, so why not embrace it!

Quantitative vs Mixed Method Research: A Comparison of Two Studies (Assignment #2)

For the power point discussion comparing quantitative and mixed methods research, click here: RSmith – july 10th presentation

              This is a comparison of the articles “Assessing the quality of mixed methods research: toward a comprehensive framework” written by Alicia O’Cathain (2015) and “Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement” written by Chin-His Lin, Jemma Bae Kwon and Yining Zhang (2018).


O’Cathain, A. (2015). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556. doi:10.4135/9781506335193.n21

              Research is an important part of education, as it allows educators and policymakers to make informed decisions about their practices. However, there is much debate as to which methodology yields the most relevant results. Researchers have sets of criteria to evaluate the quality of their research. These criteria are specific to the methodology that they have chosen, for example, quantitative research’s criteria are “validity, reliability, replicability, and generalizability.” (O’Cathain, pg. 4, 2015) Whereas the criteria for qualitative research are “credibility, confirmability, transferability and dependability.” (O’Cathain, pg. 5, 2015) Unfortunately, there has been little around how to assess the quality of mixed methods research.

              Through a literary review, Alicia O’Cathain compares previous studies in order to develop a comprehensive framework for assessing the quality of mixed methods research. O’Cathain further discusses how “it is important to assess the quality of mixed method research” in order to “offer guidance to researcher, to establish a common language and provide direction for future development.” (pg. 2, 2015) O’Cathain discusses 8 domains of criteria to help assess the quality of mixed methods research in the “first attempt at a comprehensive framework.” (pg. 24, 2015)

Domains of Assessing Quality of Mixed Method Researcher (found pages 14-22)

1)      Planning Quality​

2)      Design Quality​

3)      Data Quality​

4)      Interpretive Rigor​

5)      Inference Transferability​

6)      Reporting Quality​

7)      Synthesizability​

8)      Utility​

              This comprehensive framework can be used to “address the needs of the variety of stakeholders who want to assess the quality of mixed methods research.” (O’Cathain, pg. 3, 2015) Furthermore, each stakeholder, including teachers, researchers, participants and policymakers, have “different needs and [are] likely to be interested in different aspects of the quality of mixed methods research.” (O’Cathain, pg. 3, 2015)

              It is a valuable skill for teachers and students to be able to evaluate the qualities of different methodological research. Whether it be qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods, it is important that readers assess research to ensure it effectively answers the research question.  


Lin, C., Kwon, J. B., & Zhang, Y. (2018). Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement. Educational Technology Research and Development,67(2), 317-336. doi:10.1007/s11423-018-9614-x ​

This article is a little more personal for me, as I am currently employed at a distributed learning school, where we teach both fully online courses and blended courses where we see students face-to-face and deliver content online. I found it very interesting that with all the virtual high schools available to students there has been very little research done at the K-12 level.  

              Dr. Chin-Hsi Lin examines student success rate in relation to class sized in self-paced online courses. Before this article most academic research for online class sizes were conducted at a post-secondary level.  Dr. Chin-Hsi Lin discusses the “relationship between class size and student learning outcomes” (Lin, Kwon, and Zhang, pg. 317, 2018) understanding that “small classes are generally perceived as desirable” (Lin et al., pg. 317, 2018) for both teachers and students.

              “Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement” uses quantitative research methodology to assess the relationship between online class size and student success rate. Data was collected from “an accredited state-wide virtual school in the Midwestern U.S.” (Lin et al., pg. 321, 2018), the courses were self-paced, communication with teachers and peers was asynchronous and teachers were provided with “fully designed online courses.” (Lin et al., pg. 321, 2018) Comparing class size with student achievement included the following data:

  • Sample size
    • 20,540 records
    • 12,032 students
    • 233 courses
    • 6 subjects
  • Enrollment Data for students
    • Name of the course
    • Semester enrolled in
    • Grades
    • Instructor identifying numbers

It is important to note that class size “was calculated as the sum of the students who had completed [the course], regardless of whether they had passed or failed.” (Lin et al., pg. 323, 2018)

              Lin et al. found that class size did have an impact on student achievement, but not in the way that he had expected. Optimal class size was related to subject area and was much higher than previous assumptions indicated. Class size had no significant impact on English, or foreign languages, but did effect math, social studies, science and the arts up to a specific number of students. Lin et al. found that students’ “final grades increased as class size increased up to a maximum [number] of students but decreased if class size rose beyond that point.” (pg. 329, 2018) The average maximum number of students in a class before seeing a decrease in achievement was 35-40.

              “Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement” included some optional survey questions. Students were asked what grade level they were in, and why they had chosen to take an online course, however, only 30% of participants responded. If this study would have been conducted as a qualitative or mixed methods study, it would have allowed researchers insight into the online school. Including students’ perception of online courses, their experience, and how effective they believed the online course was at teaching the content. It also would have allowed researchers to examine how teachers felt about online courses, how they managed the marking and most importantly how frequently they were able to connect with individual students.

              Qualitative research may have also addressed how both students and teachers defined success in an online self-pace course. In this study, “learning outcomes were the course grades reported by the virtual school,” and class size was “calculated as the sum of the students who had completed [the course], regardless of whether they had passed or failed.” (Lin et al., pg. 323, 2018) Some would argue that ‘success’ is not accurately represented by a final grade, but rather should include evidence of students’ understanding of content and their ability to communicate their knowledge using various media. One challenge of using the quantitative research methodology for this study was that researchers were not able to accurately assess student characteristics “such as motivation and previously identified abilities … interventions on the part of instructors … and parents.” (Lin et al., pg. 332, 2018) If this study would have included components of qualitative research, they may have been able to address these blind spots.

              A shortfall of this study is that the quality of pre-designed courses is unknown to the reader. As all online teachers were provided with a “fully designed online course” (Lin et al., pg. 321, 2018), it is difficult to assess the quality of education student participants were offered. The “lack of responsibility for curriculum development on the part of its teacher … could have reduced their preparation time … enabled them to effectively teach larger classes than might be normally possible.” (Lin et al., pg. 331, 2018) The success of students may have been influence by the quality of course, more so than the class size.  Another limitation of this research is the sample size, all data was collected from a single self-paced online school. It would be interesting to complete a cross-examination of various virtual schools to see if the results were consistent. Previous research indicates that “small classes are generally perceived as desirable” (Lin et al., pg. 317, 2018) so it is interesting that this study would have very different results. Lin et al. recommend that “policymakers should be more cognizant of the balance … between maximizing educational access and having small classes.” (pg. 331, 2018)

              Online schools and online course availability are becoming more prominent in the education system. “Schools are continuing to expand their online course offerings, both to overcome school-level challenges and to meet student needs.” (Lin et al., pg. 317, 2018) Online courses afford the learners flexibility in and most importantly access to education. Lin et al. recommend that future studies “should aim to disentangle the effects of class size by considering additional factors” including “student satisfaction, and the amount of student-teacher interaction.” (Lin et al., pg. 333, 2018)



Lin, C., Kwon, J. B., & Zhang, Y. (2018). Online self-paced high-school class size and student achievement. Educational Technology Research and Development,67(2), 317-336. doi:10.1007/s11423-018-9614-x ​

O’Cathain, A. (2015). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556. doi:10.4135/9781506335193.n21

Diaries and where I’ve gone wrong.

Diaries are great in theory, or so I thought. At different points in my life I have been encouraged to record my days, thoughts and inquiries in a diary format. This includes the reflective diary entries that I had to complete during my practicum. Of course, I completed these diaries with a less than enthusiastic vigor. If I am being honest, I could have invested more into these diaries, but I didn’t see the point. From my student perspective, diaries were a waste of time where I wrote whatever I thought the professor wanted to read.

Well, I have been writing diaries wrong, for multiple reasons. As Engin (2011) discussed in Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding, writing a diary can be instrumental in the research process. Diaries are not just for writing down personal experience, but they are also for: reflecting on your practice, scaffolding personal learning and development and an excellent way to explore thought process. Here was my first mistake, I wrote diary entries as a way to cross something off my to do list. They contained little information on my practices or my future goals and intentions.  Furthermore, diaries offer the author a platform to ask themselves questions and increase their ability to notice details in their practice. And there was my second mistake, I did not take reflective writing in my practicum seriously.  My third and final mistake was something I did not expect. I have never once revisited my diary entries to see how far I have come. This is vital to growing as an educator. How can I expect to improve my practice, if I don’t consistently reflect on what I have done, what I would like to do and most importantly the progress I have made as an educator?

I would like to propose an addition to the diary writing process. I think that it is important to tell others about your plans, as well as write them in a research diary. For me this would add a layer of accountability. Not only would I have the support and collaboration of colleagues, but I would also have someone checking in on my progress.  How I see this playing out, is a group of teachers asking each other about their day. Simple as that, what worked, what didn’t, what would you change. There are many times that I do not have a solution, but a quick conversation with another staff member produce many new ideas.

With this in mind, my blog has now officially become my platform to reflect on my practice, make new goals, examine my personal biases and question everything to develop a better understanding.