Learning to Scaffold a Synchronous Online Professional Development Course
I look forward to reading your comments.
Thanks for posting your paper, I enjoyed reading as far as I got, but time constraints mean I'm not going past Cycle One. My responses as I read are below. I suspect I have been a bit too thorough, but your paper encouraged me to engage.
I would STRONGLY recommend that you upload the appendices into a separate document. I was almost too deterred by reading that there were 16000+ words, to even start the task! But half of it, at least, is appendices. This may be why you've not received other responses yet. The EJOLTS editors should be able to advise you how to separate out the appendices and load them separately. You also need to do some careful editing when you get to the final version as there is a range of typos etc. in the document.
“The focus of my research is underpinned by my values of empathy and scaffolding.”
Can you call ‘scaffolding’ a value? I suspect you mean ‘supporting student learning by scaffolding’.
“...my role as a professional development co-ordinator made me question my right to ascribe to any educational values, as I do not directly educate others” .
An intriguing thought; I don’t easily see HOW anybody can practise in education without holding educational values, whether or not they ‘directly educate others’ . If you don't articulate your values, you risk inflicting them on others in ways that may be inappropriate, especially if the others come from contexts that differ from yours.
“When previously studying mathematics, geography and information technology my values and ontological viewpoint did not enter the equation” .
I would absolutely debate this. I would argue that your values and ontological viewpoint were totally involved in your educational pursuits even though you may not then have articulated them. However, this may just be the way you are expressing yourself.
“ Action research is about the researcher constructing knowledge by critically reflecting on and engaging with her own opinions and assumptions in collaboration with the participants in the study throughout the action cycles.”
I think you need to expand this definition. It’s not just about opinions and assumptions – it’s about reflection on evidence gathered through systematic inquiry as well. Opinions and assumptions have a place, and need to be examined, but this statement doesn’t acknowledge the hard evidence that action researchers seek when striving to improve their practice. I always encourage my action researchers to triangulate their data by seeking such evidence from a range of stakeholders as well as from their own reflections. [NOTE: it later became clear through your processes that you WERE seeking and reflecting on 'hard evidence'.]
“The choice of participants in this study was based on judgemental or purposive sampling. The criterion used to select the participants was based on their capacity to inform the research. Overall ten participants took part.”
I think you need some explanatory sentences in here. You have chosen to use an action research approach, and unless you explain notions such as ‘technical, practical and emancipatory action research’ (e.g., Kemmis & McTaggart, 1986) you run the risk of people arguing that your choice of participants suggests a rather more technical approach than many action researchers are comfortable with. It sounds as though ‘the researcher’ (who is not, per se, one of the group as this reads) selects ‘chosen participants’ who will take part. Therefore, it doesn’t read like an inquiry of collaborators, which action research usually is. This may not be what you are proposing, but it’s what hits me at first encounter.
“Yelinek et al (2008) had recommended that tutorials be broken down into even smaller segments that learners can access at will. I considered adding a table of contents so that experienced learners could navigate directly to an area that interested them as recommended by Yelinek et al (2008), thus giving more control to high prior knowledge learners as recommended by Shapiro (2008, p.34).”
It’s good to provide literature that supports your action; however I’m finding at this point that the way you’re citing the literature is interfering somewhat with the flow of the writing. Perhaps consider just citing the work without feeling you need to reiterate what it’s about?
“Six participants acted as a pilot group to view and evaluate the web-based tutorial once it was complete. Five of the participants, Sandra, Jean, Patricia, Joan and Catherine are colleagues of mine”
A question that occurs to me is whether this pilot group is similar to the students you will be teaching. If not, then their feedback is likely to reflect issues that may not be those that a student pilot group would pick up.
“The feedback told me that while I had analysed the difficulties that previous online learners had experienced, I had overlooked issues that could confuse and concern first time users. I had also overlooked guidance in the literature, highlighted by Yelinek et al (2008), for accommodating high prior knowledge learners and those with advanced IT skills by not including a table of contents.”
I really like the honest of this reflection, Elspeth. It highlights issues that might concern others wishing to implement such methods in their own work, and comes across as very non-defensive.
You're doing a great job of making your processes clear - how and why you did what you did.
Good luck with your ongoing work on this paper, and I hope my comments come across as supportive of this work rather than excessively critical. It IS important that we as educators examine our own beliefs and processes in order to improve and clarify these, and for sure the online environment, being (comparatively) recent is a fertile field for such endeavours.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read through my article.
I've quickly read over your comments and suggestions. You've given me a lot to think about but I look forward to considering the issues you've raised and how I can incorporate your feedback to clarify and improve the article.
Thank you for sharing your paper, which I’ve read with great interest. I offer my review in the spirit of encouragement, and with the intention of supporting you to help your ‘educative voice’ emerge with even greater strength.
Having read the body of the paper first I was struck by the voice you use with which to express yourself – practical, informed and analytical. You are clear in describing the two cycles of action research and throughout appear to be open to the questions that continue to arise. I hear your value of ‘empathy’ clearly explained as you take note of your participants’ feedback, but I already want to encourage you to find more ways in which to evidence how you embody it. Analysis and explanation are a great beginning but I would like you to find a way in which you can help your readers share the experience itself. I am however less clear when you introduce your value of ‘scaffolding’, and wonder how it can be embodied as a value and would like to hear more. You describe it clearly as a process at this stage and I’m left as a reader wondering how I should discern it as evidenced through your practice.
It is only when I then read Appendix A that I am able to truly feel connected to your text. Here I find a voice that is expressive, that is live in the moment of reading, and which now convinces me that you do in fact embody your values. And rather than these being values of empathy and scaffolding I have a much deeper sense of the values that might indicate your educative influence: accessibility, inclusivity and collaboration. As I particularly read page 5 I become fully aware of your presence in the text – this is a wonderful expression of your values.
So, I am curious. My response to your main paper is to feel somewhat distanced, to be put in observer mode. My response to Appendix A by contrast is to find myself connected and able to come alongside you. The contrast reminds me of my own experiences of ‘distance’ learning, and I am struck by the parallel feelings of being distanced and somewhat disconnected. I wonder whether this is your intention, and whether you might find a more powerful way in which to evidence your ‘I’ in the research by integrating the two? If this is not your intention then I would ask that you offer the reader some signposting to indicate in which way they should access this contrast and difference.
There are other cases where I would find more framing useful, and especially where you refer to the work of others. For example, in the section headed ‘The Origins of the Notion of Scaffolding’ I’m not altogether clear how a theory on the development of children is relevant to your professional practice, and would appreciate some evidence of how maybe you’ve taken this a starting-point for developing your own theory of practice. On page 8 as you begin to take the reader through the ‘Act’ you refer to the importance of having a vision for technology and I find myself wanting to encourage you to take this opportunity to share your own such vision, fully grounded in your educational values.
More generally, I would encourage you to look with a critical eye at the meaning you would like your readers to take from your referencing.
I offer my review as an encouragement to express yourself more fully, to reflect on the voice you would like your readers to hear. I have no doubts about the strength of your intent to develop your professional practice as an expression of your learning values and am sure that by paying attention to the balance and signposting of your paper it can be published. With best wishes, Jacqui
I'm thinking particularly about when you say in your Reflect section of p. 17 that:
"The evaluation of the web-based tutorial and the data generated made me reflect on my own practice and whether or not I was developing my values through creating a web-based tutorial as a scaffolding tool for online learners."
in relation to Jacqui Scholes-Rhodes response about the values of 'accessibility, inclusivity and collaboration'"
"It is only when I then read Appendix A that I am able to truly feel connected to your text. Here I find a voice that is expressive, that is live in the moment of reading, and which now convinces me that you do in fact embody your values. And rather than these being values of empathy and scaffolding I have a much deeper sense of the values that might indicate your educative influence: accessibility, inclusivity and collaboration. As I particularly read page 5 I become fully aware of your presence in the text – this is a wonderful expression of your values."
What I'm suggesting is you might include a sentence in your Abstract about your learning about your values in the dialogues of the review process.
You could include a few sentences in your introduction to explain that your awareness of how to bring your values into your text was influenced by the review process in which a reviewer pointed out her responses to material in an Appendix where she felt that you expressed values of accessibility, inclusivity and collaboration.
I like very much your emphasis on scaffolding and enjoyed your integration of insights from the literature. In the section on Action Research on page 7 & 8 you could add a couple of sentences (I'm thinking after the paragraph at the top of page 8, ending 'learn as a practitioner'. I'm thinking of sentences that describe the importance of learning that can take place through sharing one's living educational theory with others, learning that I think is happening with you as others point out that they are experiencing in your text values of accessibility, inclusivity and collaboration.
In the section on page 23 on the Significance of your research you could point to the importance of clarifying and communicating the values that helped to sustain you in your enquiry and of including these as explanatory principles in the generation of your own living educational theory.
I hope that you find this helpful as I would like to see your paper published in EJOLTS. If anything isn't clear or you want to question any of the points I'm raising please do so. Love Jack.
Jacquie and Jack
Thank you both very much for your insightful and encouraging reviews. I plan to incorporate your suggestions over the next few days and will re-submit as soon as I can.
I have attached a copy of the article with your recommended changes incorporated. I will upload a set of the appendices separately again as there is small change in those also.
with warmest regards
Have now finished reviewing this iteration. May I congratulate you on your taking on board some of the points that I made initially, and even more the points made by Jacqueline about incorporating some of the 'voice' from your appendices into the actual article.
I think it's hugely improved, and would recommend its acceptance for publication.
Being a compulsive reviewer, I have track changed the article which I attach, as there are a few issues that need fixing prior to publication, mainly in the referencing area. I haven't track changed the appendices, although I did make time to read these this time around. They are an 'historical' record of your thoughts and actions, and accordingly I didn't think it was appropriate to change what you'd written.
All the best with this and your future work. I can see that you are developing your own unique voice, and that you have well grasped the importance of rigour in your work, and making your processes clear to readers. I hope your company values what you're doing also!