SOTL Research Methods Series

The SOTL Research Methods Series was organized in 2012 to give faculty the opportunity to think about how different disciplinary research methods could be applied in their research on teaching and pedagogy (often termed the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SOTL).

Each session consisted of a 15 minute presentation on a standard research method followed by 45 minutes of discussion about how that method might be used in various SOTL projects. The presenters were our colleagues, people who use these methods in the research associated with their disciplines.

Participatory Action Research

Tuesday, April 12, 12:00-1:00 (Duffy 114C)
Discussion Leaders: Margaret Boyd, Sociology and Corey Dolgon, Office of Community-Based Learning

Action research is designed to address a problem or issue by focusing on the actions of individuals within the community involved in the situation. In Participatory Action Research, the people in the community collaborate as full partners with researchers in a cycle of planning, taking action, observing changes, and evaluating results. The goal is to assist people in their own empowerment to take action and benefit their community. Some questions for discussion: What is the role of the researcher in such an approach? How does one articulate professional boundaries? Is the "data" that is generated in any way objective? Need it be?

[The CTL will offer lunch for this session to any who RSVP to Pat Neagle at ext. 1324]

Case Study Method

Tuesday, April 12, 2:30-3:30 (Duffy 114C)
Discussion Leader: Chris Wetzel, Sociology

First developed by the social sciences, this method focuses on an individual, group, or event. The goal of such close study of the particular is broad insight that will allow valid conclusions to be made about more general groups or experiences. It is particularly useful when it is not possible to compile enough data to allow for more traditional quantitative analysis. Questions for discussion: How does one determine when to use this research method? How does one decide what situation makes for a valid case? What kinds of conclusions are appropriate to draw from information limited to one or a few cases?

Basic Statistics

Wednesday, April 13, 2:30-3:30 (Merkert-Tracy Conference room 250-251)
Discussion Leader: Heather Bleakley, Biology

Commonly associated with mathematical, quantitative research, statistics is the art collecting and analyzing data. As such, it is perhaps the most popular-and problematic-method used in SOTL research. Discussion questions: How does one create an opportunity to generate meaningful statistics? Can one do so "objectively," without bias? If not, how does one correct for that? Can one ever do a statistical analysis of our students or colleagues?

Arts-Based Research

Thursday, April 14, 12:00-1:00 (Duffy 114C)
Discussion Leader: Patricia Leavy, Sociology

In an age of exploding opportunities to share and observe images, to be "literate" involves more than merely the ability to research written texts. Images-video, photography, painting, or the plastic arts-are not neutral artifacts; when people create them, they disclose how they experience aspects of reality. As such, they can be a critically important source of information for the researcher. Questions for discussion: How does one investigate and evaluate art? What kinds of questions should we ask of it? What can it teach us about the artist and the audience? What role does "objectivity" play in this method of research? How does one separate out (or disclose) the personal interpretation of the researcher?

[The CTL will offer lunch for this session to any who RSVP to Pat Neagle at ext. 1324]

Survey Design

Tuesday, April 19, 10:00-11:00 (Duffy 135)
Discussion Leader: William Ewell, Political Science

One designs a survey to collect information from a targeted group in a systematic way. Most of us are familiar with public opinion polls, but surveys can do much more, forming a basis for research in the social sciences and beyond. Designing surveys-like conducting interviews (one form of survey)-are create samples; thus, it is important to understand the limitations of their use. Questions for discussion: How does one write effective survey questions? Are there standard sampling protocols appropriate to most surveys? What makes for a good survey question?