Sunday, March 15, 2015

Finding research on your topic

This week, we will be meeting in the library at the reference desk.  You will be looking for work that others have already done in your area of interest.  This will hopefully inform your practice and research, and maybe even give you new ideas on what to look for or questions to ask.  What is it that you already know about writing a literature review?

Now that you've been writing fieldnotes, and perhaps collecting other data, for a number of weeks now, what are some terms and phrases you might look for?  What is it that you want to see from other teachers and researchers to support you in exploring your questions?


  1. This past week I spent a few hours here and there starting to look into research. Last week I emailed my MTET professor and she also sent me a few links to look at. The first place I started looking around was the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website, they have a few journals that I looked into. I’m not a member so I could not read entire articles, but I put a few on my Reading List. The key words that i have been looking into are:

    -student engagement
    -student motivation
    -enduring understanding
    -mathematical conceptualization
    -math talk communities
    -student questioning and habits of mind

    As I read or even watch some videos on the topics above I have been rejuvenated and reenergized to try some new things in my class. Last week I introduced the I-THINK problem solving framework (S. Lynch, J. Lynch and J. Bolyard from Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School). It is a work in progress and this week it lead me to introduce Accountable Talk stems as well. I am being more elicit with what I want from my students during discussions and I’m sharing strategies so they know how to talk in a math classroom. I think that as I read more literature on the topics above they will seep into my lesson plans and my teaching self.

    1. Jenny! I'm so excited to hear you have some new things to try! I have seen the power that Accountable Talk stems can have with middle schoolers. And I am so curious about this I-THINK problem solving framework. Can't wait to hear more about it!

    2. Jenny, even though you are not a member of NCTM (and you should be--they give student discounts!), the library should have access to their journals. You can get them tomorrow night, or even find them yourself by going through the RIC library website.

    3. Jenny, even though you are not a member of NCTM (and you should be--they give student discounts!), the library should have access to their journals. You can get them tomorrow night, or even find them yourself by going through the RIC library website.

    4. Yes!! Just like we talked about a few weeks ago, the fact that we are delving into these issues in our own classrooms makes us vulnerable but also allows us to reap the benefits! So glad you found some great ideas

    5. I have always held to the maxim, that if something is easy, it is probably not worth doing, and only those things that challenge you make you grow. I can't quantify how many times I have had those types of conversations with my students and players over the last 13 years. The same holds true for us as educators, we have to find that place where we are uncomfortable, because it allows us to question our practice and be open to new ideas. Of course it is much more difficult to turn that critical mirror to face us instead of others, but I always feel like that work pays off. I certainly feel like last semester opened my eyes to look at the world in a different way, and this semester as well is challenging my practice and ideology, pushing it to go further and answer more questions, which of course begs more questions to ask. It makes me feel alive, and I can't wait to see what happens next. Keep going with your introspection, and as you try new things, be aware of them as you are on that journey.

  2. When I wrote my literature review for my undergrad honors project, I found this video from North Carolina State University really useful (especially from the beginning to 3:30, then from about 7:00 to the end; the visuals were helpful too). The authors says that a literature review tells the story of the existing research. The goal is to see how the network of articles on your topic interact. You try to determine the relationships between them. That way, you set the importance of your research and are able to participate in the larger conversation within your discipline, maybe even determining how your research might be filling a gap.

    Just like data collection and analysis, a literature review is not necessarily a linear process. It is not designed to prove any points. Rather, the purpose is to show relationships...and this can get messy. However, I like the suggestion from Dr. Johnson’s videos about organizing via questions. Because there are several terms that I am using very specifically in my project, I anticipate finding literature that supports the way that I will be defining those terms.

    Right now, I know I have some work to do in determining whether I am taking a “learning-centered” or “learner-centered” approach in my classroom. I have already found a lot of debate about this. I want to provide a background about why/how/when this approach has come to be. I also need to reexamine my use of the word “performance” in my overarching question, so I anticipate needing a few sources on that. As Dr. Johnson pointed out on my proposal, "language is a tricky business" and I want to be careful that my words most accurately portray my intentions. Finally, I am curious about what work has been done about teacher/student, student/student, and student/self relationships in the context of a learning/learner-centered approach.

    We all have our work cut out for us, but I really like literature reviews for the fact that we get to become experts in our topics. We get to participate in the conversation and show the importance of our work.

    Happy reading :)

    1. Exactly right, Britt! I'll be interested to see what you come up with as well regarding learning/learner-centered. Leave it to academics to complicate things. It's good to be precise, but also exhausting :)

    2. Exactly right, Britt! I'll be interested to see what you come up with as well regarding learning/learner-centered. Leave it to academics to complicate things. It's good to be precise, but also exhausting :)

    3. Yes, Brit! I'm excited as well to see what tonight's library adventure brings us! I think one of the hardest parts of this is the language - knowing how similar we are, I know you get just as frustrated as I do when struggling to word or phrase something in a particular way. Hopefully tonight will help a little with that for all of us!

  3. When my students “get” to do research for various projects, I am actually jealous. That’s pretty geeky, I get it....but the truth is I actually love doing research. Usually, I’m more interested in researching literary criticism (because that is where my heart lies), but I think it will be interesting to explore a more education based data pool. I don’t think I’ve ever done a lit review (or it’s been a loong time), but I’m assuming it involves looking at what others have written about regarding my research topic and like Brittany mentioned possibly “filling a gap” with my own research in terms of what has been done and written about. I understand that my research is my own and should not rely on other’s information; however, I think their work can and should guide me in my own research and writing.

    I’m not exactly sure what type of research will be helpful to me, but I have a couple of ideas. I think articles on different types of peer and teacher feedback will be important. These articles will hopefully give me insight into what researchers are saying in terms of how feedback can help students grow and become more successful. Also, I think I might like to research rubrics and see what types of rubrics are most effective at fostering growth. I would also like to focus on the roles of reflection and self-assessment. I think these two ideas go hand in hand and I will be curious as to what the research says about it. Brittany suggested that I look at Kelly Gallagher’s work concerning writing instruction and ways to foster growth in student writing.

    As far as research terms go, I’m thinking some of the following might be my jumping off points:
    writing rubrics
    peer review in the high school ELA classroom
    role of peer review
    effective teacher feedback techniques
    role of student self-assessment and reflection
    ways to monitor student growth

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    2. Melissa, I love that you say it's pretty geeky that you're jealous of the students getting to do their research projects! I tell them that and they just look at me like I'm crazy! I think it's so important for them (and us) to constantly be reading things that other people have studied and done and written. They think it's so great that I have to do my own project now, after "torturing" them with research projects earlier in the year.

  4. When I think of writing a literature review, I think of figuring out where my research will fit into all of the other research that exists surrounding my topic. I know that its purpose is to tell my reader the history of the issues I will be delving into, as well as providing some background information on some of the other researchers' studies that have been done in that particular field. Being able to refer back to their work (findings and conclusions) as I come up with my own will be critical in comparing and analyzing my findings. One of the things I remember from doing a literature review as an undergrad was re-focusing my questions as I came up with new bits and pieces of information and different studies.

    I think I remember the actual writing of the lit review as being one of the "messier" parts - the reading is pretty neat, especially because it's usually on a topic that you're interested in (yay), and then the piecing together of different studies is a little tricky. At this point, we are still figuring out where our research may fit in and fill in gaps or continue other studies, but we are also looking at how the other studies enhance ours. Gah, it's like a cycle, much like the entire research process - definitely not linear whatsoever.

    A couple of the books I've found so far have had a lot of information about sexism and gender roles/gender stereotyping in schools, and how that is reflected/should be reflected in the classroom. I think the most important phrase to look for will be sexism in schools, as well as heteronormativity (heterosexism) in schools, and I would like to find any research that asks both students and teachers to identify sexist practices in their classrooms. Something else that will be beneficial to this project will be looking for new and different strategies on how to incorporate these conversations into all classrooms.

  5. I find myself mostly looking for validation, from outside sources, and from within my research that my theories and causal relationships are really there. I am trying to put words to practices that I believe in, and want reassurance that I am not omitting data that does not fit with my intended results.
    I like the term "relationship" as it refers to how individuals, events, and actions are related to each other. I like "trends" to suggest that something is moving in a specific direction. I also like "connection" in that seldom does any experience occur in a vacuum, rather in a series of intertwined events.
    With a background in behavioral psychology, the antecedent-behavior-consequence, string of events generally leads me to draw connections between reinforcement and decline in the existence of certain responses, and the presence or absence of the conditions in which it occurs.
    Behavior charts and language-o-grams lead me to data which can help identify and define specific common areas of concern, and will be useful to back up observations written in a more prose style.
    Moving forward, I am looking for "transference" from concept to skill, as an indication that the conversations and work is not theoretical, but is being absorbed, and therefor able to be used in application to corresponding experiences.


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