Design based research proposal

This Design based research proposal will outline a project researching how a Problem based learning approach to teaching utilised in a postgraduate nursing subject can be supported by networked learning to improve student engagement and understanding of course material based on phase 1 and 2 of Herrington, McKenney, Reeves, & Oliver (2007) design based research approach.

Phase 1:

Background

Online education is an evolving area of education, particularly in the post graduate arena and while it has been around for years increases in technological capabilities and pedagogical advances along with increase technological and broadband capabilities means that the online educational experience can be of high quality and engaging for students even in courses that traditionally are hands on such as medicine and engineering (Universities Australia, 2014).

While technology is providing us with a multitude of tools and resources to enhance our teaching and the student experience, institutions and educators have been a little slow to take up and engage with the tools. For many the perception of e-learning is that you take a PowerPoint or a document and put it online for students to read then perhaps answer some questions. Despite e-learning having been around for about twenty years this is still the experience of many students and it is minimally engaging from the student perspective. Gregory (2001) explores the concept that learners need to be engaged in content and in the process of learning: without the learners’ engagement in the content and process our teaching is fruitless. How do we engage learners in content and the process of learning online?

According to Rounds & Rappaport (2008) as the characteristics of nursing students change, they become older and have more life experience the need to emphasise the adult learning principles beomes increasingly important. There is also a growing need to have effective, lifelong learning skills due to the explosion of knowledge (Rounds & Rappaport, 2008). Adult learning principles are conducive and complement a connectivist and online approach to learning.

Educational Context

This project is taking place in an Australian private education college that offers post graduate certificate level courses to nurses in a variety of specialities. These graduate certificates are accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) and are delivered at an Australian qualifications framework (AQF) level 8. All courses are delivered nationally via the online medium using Moodle as the learning management system (LMS) platform.

The nature and role of learners in the contemporary healthcare setting is varied due to the variety of roles learners may have, their educational and skill level, intergenerational and cultural diversity as well as past experiences of learning. These all impact on the learners ability and willingness to engage in learning online and provide a constant challenge to educators in facilitating education to this diverse group of professionals.

Statement of Problem

There have been several issues identified that impact not only on my teaching but also on student learning. There are some subjects which have a poor online design and therefore there is minimal student engagement with peers in the online environment. Due to the current setup of the subject there is minimal online engagement with the course material as it is possible for students to download and print the workbook and all activities, there are no activities based in the online environment other than assessment items. There is some internal organisational qualitative evidence that also suggests that students are either not fully engaged with or not understanding the course material, this is evidenced by the types of questions being asked by students, the numbers of students missing or submitting assessments late with the reasons of I didn’t know it was due then or I just missed it/didn’t know it was assessable.

There is also some internal quantitative and qualitative data which would suggest those students are unable to link the theory to practice. This is a particularly important skill in today’s health care environment where practitioners are required to have the ability to understand and implement evidence based practices and therefore the ability to understand and implement evidence based practice is a key graduate outcome for the post graduate nursing courses.

The courses currently use elements of problem based learning through the use of case studies however these are often used as static blurbs to which students formulate an individual response as an assessment piece or they are used to demonstrate the progression of disease and the nursing interventions required at each stage. They are not interactive in nature and they often do not encourage the development of skills required in the workplace such as communication, problem-solving and assessment.

Consultation

Consultation was sought from fellow students in the EDU8117 course and also from colleagues, educators, nurses and instructional designers via my blog on my initial thoughts regarding this proposal. Due to a number of factors written feedback on my thoughts was limited. I received feedback on my blog from fellow students however the few of my peers who provided feedback did so verbally (usually at lunchtime in the tea room). I suspect this is partly due to the workload currently being experienced by many of my colleagues and also the fact that seeing me prompted them to provide the feedback.

I feel that more feedback from peers and also more written feedback would have allowed me to better reflect on the development of the DBR and also strengthen the design of the intervention and the justification for the use of particular tools and strategies.

I found having my DBR reviewed, particularly by my peers at work quite daunting and as such didn’t provide them with any specific questions rather the assignment question and those posed in my blog. Perhaps if I had been more specific regarding what feedback I required then I may have received more feedback.

Another factor which limited the feedback I gained was that many of the nurse educator colleagues I ask to review the DBR were unfamiliar with DBR and therefore were unable to be overly critical; some were also not familiar with networked learning and the principles that underpin it.

I suspect my lack of experience with DBR and my own insecurities have limited my ability to gain critical and useful feedback from peer outside the course.

Feedback from the students within the course prompted me to consider using an approach that was more evidentiary and assisted me in clarifying my question to enable me to research all the issues identified which I felt were linked.

Unfortunately there was significant time between seeking feedback and writing the final proposal which has impacted on my ability to recall specific thought processes that occurred as a result of the feedback.

Research question

How can networked learning, via a problem-based learning approach, enhance engagement with and understanding of course content and materials?

Literature Review

With the increasing popularity of online education there has some shifting in relation to how education and learning is viewed. Traditionally education was viewed from a transmission perspective being that knowledge exists separate to the learner and the expected outcome is that teachers pass on a “common body of knowledge and a way of thinking similar to what is in the text or the teacher.” (Pratt 2001, p. 7), more contemporary perspectives are based on a constructivist philosophy to teaching and learning where knowledge is viewed as something the learner needs to construct in order to understand, predict and control their environment. (Blais 1988. Cited in Creedy, Hornsfall & Hand, 1991, p.728).

Networked and global learning (NGL)  is strongly associated with the connectivist theory that learning occurs through the creation of networks(Murdoch, Socolick, & Murdoch, 2013). Siemens (2005) suggested that knowledge exists in the network as much as, if not more than in the individual and therefore learning is about making connections. That may be making connections with others, with resources or artefacts, with knowledge, connecting the theory with the practice (Albion, 2014). Garcia, Brown, & Elbeltagi, (2013) refer to a connectivist learning networks as being a network of nodes. This network of nodes can consist of individuals, groups, resources, systems or communities, they are highly personal and the responsibility of the individual (Garcia et al., 2013) Another key feature of networks is that it is up to the student to make and choose connections not the teacher therefore placing a greater emphasis on the students role in the learning process. (Garcia et al., 2013)

According to Goodyear, Carvalho, & Dohn, 2014 emergent processes are most important when learning, it is about what students actually do, what they think, feel and say that is critical. This is particularly important when it comes to designing activities for students in a course using a networked approach as a particular tool is not going to guarantee a particular outcome, it is more about the connections that the tool allows the students to make (Goodyear et al., 2014), for example the use of an asynchronous forum within a course will not guarantee that students connect with each other and discuss their ideas, however  well placed activity that encourages them to post their research question and gather peer feedback before completing the literature review assessment  may.

Problem based learning (PBL) is a teaching and learning strategy that encourages students to relate theoretical learning to the practical context, in order to understand what is occurring in a situation, predict what may happen utilising past experience and knowledge in an attempt to control the situation. PBL methodologies are used frequently in contemporary nursing education and have been since the 1980’s (Creedy, Hornsfall & Hand, 1991, p.728) and it encourages synthesis of knowledge and an understanding of the contributions the social context makes to health, illness and treatment. (Creedy, Hornsfall & Hand, 1991, p.728) PBL is currently used in undergraduate, postgraduate and in the work based continuing professional development areas of nursing education. It was intended to develop effective critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills that are essential for nursing however it also fasters independent and self-directed learning skills and builds motivation and questioning abilities that are all key attributes for lifelong learning (Rounds & Rappaport, 2008).

In PBL the learning environment in authentic and based in reality therefore making the learning more meaningful as it creates understanding. Students are required to focus on the relationships of concepts rather than on the concepts themselves. (Magnussen 2008 p 83). Use of the e-learning environment and tools such as simulated environments for PBL also allows for application of knowledge and skills, it enables “learners to become more active participants” (Magnussen 2008 p 84). The utilisation of social interactions within PBL allows for learning to be constructed by individuals as opposed to handed down by experts. (Magnussen 2008 p 83).

Engagement, understanding and motivation are all interdependent on each other when it comes to learning. It is difficult to engage with and understand course material if there is a lack of motivation, be that internal or external motivation. According to Hartnett, St. George, & Dron, (2011) learners are not primarily intrinsically motivated, motivation is complex, multifaceted and sensitive to situational conditions. Therefore no two students are going to be the same and no two cohorts will be the same either therefore it is necessary for teachers to be adaptive and supportive. It is also important to consider these factors when designing activities for students as both intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation co-exist and are sensitive to situational influences therefore the perceived importance of the activity and  the utility of the activity are just as important as the enjoyment and interest in the activity (Hartnett et al., 2011)

Students are humans and as such we are social people. Nurses will often say that they are much better at just having the conversation than writing it down. Conversation is an important part of learning, it allows us to exchange ideas and information, make our positions known, persuade and motivate others (Klemm, 2002). Within education communication can assist in expediting memorisation, provide and range of information and perspectives that can contribute to a deeper understanding, it can provide a stimulus for creative thought (Klemm, 2002). Conversation within the workplace is the mechanism through which ideas are generated, decisions and plan are made and evaluation occurs (Klemm, 2002). Conversation allows learning to occur within the “real world” and therefore the learning takes on meaning and is more likely to be transformative in nature.

Currently many people see the web as delivering information rather than a place for people to interact with each other to construct meaning, develop understanding and solve problems using information (Klemm, 2002). In online discussions participants need to be participatory rather than viewing the web as a source of information in order to gain the benefits of the discussions

Phase 2: Development of Solutions:

Description for proposed intervention

Using the current Learning Management system (LMS) Moodle and the plug ins available a range of activities are proposed to create engagement and understanding of course material in a post graduate nursing subject that uses aspects of PBL. The intervention aims to increase the amount of PBL and introduce a networked approach to the PBL as opposed to an individual approach to solving problems.

The subject will have a case based scenario within each theme of the subject based on a real world clinical situation. The case scenario will require students to draw on the learning within the theme to make a decision regarding the care of their patient. Each case scenario will begin a week into the theme and run for 3 weeks. Students will be presented with the initial case scenario in week 2 of the theme and via a small group collaborative blog will need to examine the case and come to decisions regarding the patients care. During the case scenario tutorial support will be provided by the teacher. The teacher will add to the scenario at least once a week indicating changes in patient condition that need to be considered and managed just as they would in a real clinical environment. The case studies will be supplemented with clinical notes from other members of the healthcare team, interviews with the patient or relatives via either recorded videos or synchronous discussions. Students will then also be provided with feedback within a week of each case scenario that they can then utilise when completing the next one. This will culminate in the students preparing an individual written case analysis at the end of the semester. Students will however be able to seek peer feedback throughout the final  month of the course on their case analysis through the use of a workshop activity. The peer feedback will be based on the rubric for a case analysis as will the tutor feedback throughout the semester.

Plan for implementation of intervention

Introducing this intervention is going to take significant assistance from content experts to ensure that the case studies are authentic. It is going to take significant instructional design time to set up the various case studies, collaborative blog and any audio-visual and synchronous activities to support the case studies. Significant support may be require by the tutorial staff regarding the case studies and how to manage them, provide feedback etc. as the tutorial staff are content specialists and work remotely.

Students will require clear and explicit guidelines for the activities and performance will need to be monitored to ensure that some students are not disadvantaged through others not participating or monopolising the discussions and decisions.

Feedback will be sought from both students and tutors at the end of semester specifically relating to the activity. Changes to the activity will then be made according to the feedback. Participation data will also be collected.

Conclusion

This DBR has been designed to use networking learning to improve the engagement of students and their understanding of content in a post graduate nursing subject using a PBL approach to teaching. This will occur through the use of tools such as collaborative blogs, workshop activities, synchronous discussions and audio-visual presentations to solve authentic problems they would encounter in the workplace enabling student to practice skills, integrate knowledge in a safe and supported environment.

References

 

Albion, P. (2014). From Creation to Curation: Evolution of an Authentic’Assessment for Learning’Task. In M. Searson & M. Ochoa (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1160–1168). Chesapapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/130926

Creedy, D., Horsfall, J., & Hand, B. (1992). Problem-based learning in nurse education: an Australian view. Journal of advanced nursing, 17,727-733

Garcia, E., Brown, M., & Elbeltagi, I. (2013). Learning Within a Connectivist Educational Collective Blog Model A Case Study of UK Higher Education. The Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 11(3), 253–262.

Gregory, W. (2001). Curriculum pedagogy and teacherly ethos. Pedagogy : Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature Language Composition and Culture, 1 (1), 69-89. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Dohn, N. B. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting. In S. Bayne, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg, & C. Sinclair (Eds.), Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (pp. 137–144). Edinburgh, Scotland. Retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/abstracts/pdf/goodyear.pdf

Hartnett, M., St. George, A., & Dron, J. (2011). Examining motivation in online distance learning environments: Complex, multifaceted, and situation-dependent. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(6), 20–38.

Herrington, J., McKenney, S., Reeves, T., & Oliver, R. Design-based research and doctoral students: Guidelines for preparing a dissertation proposal, ECU Publications Pre. 2011 (2007). Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ecuworks/1612

Klemm, W. (2002). Software issues for applying conversation theory for effective collaboration via the internet. In Publications on on-line collaboration and educational technology (pp. 1-10). Retrieved from http://www.cvm.tamu.edu/wklemm/Files/ConversationTheory.pdf.

Magnussen, L. (2008). Applying the principles of significant learning in the e-learning environment. Journal of Nursing Education. 2008 Feb: 47(2):82-86

Murdoch, J., Socolick, F., & Murdoch, D. (2013). Connectivism:The (in)formal cohort and its’ implications in knowledge construction. Columbia University Teachers College Educational Technology Conference. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/3606727/Connectivism_The_in_formal_cohort_and_its_implications_in_knowledge_construction

Pratt, D. (2001). Good teaching: one size fits all. In J. Ross-Gordon (Ed.), An up-date on teaching theory (pp. 1-11). Retrieved from http://teachingperspectives.com/PDF/goodteaching.pdf. Garcia, E., Brown, M., & Elbeltagi, I. (2013). Learning Within a Connectivist Educational Collective Blog Model A Case Study of UK Higher Education. The Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 11(3), 253–262.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Dohn, N. B. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting. In S. Bayne, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg, & C. Sinclair (Eds.), Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (pp. 137–144). Edinburgh, Scotland. Retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/abstracts/pdf/goodyear.pdf

Hartnett, M., St. George, A., & Dron, J. (2011). Examining motivation in online distance learning environments: Complex, multifaceted, and situation-dependent. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(6), 20–38.

Herrington, J., McKenney, S., Reeves, T., & Oliver, R. Design-based research and doctoral students: Guidelines for preparing a dissertation proposal, ECU Publications Pre. 2011 (2007). Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ecuworks/1612

Murdoch, J., Socolick, F., & Murdoch, D. (2013). Connectivism:The (in)formal cohort and its’ implications in knowledge construction. Columbia University Teachers College Educational Technology Conference. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/3606727/Connectivism_The_in_formal_cohort_and_its_implications_in_knowledge_construction

Rounds, L. R., & Rappaport, B. A. (n.d.). The successful use of problem-based learning in an online nurse practitioner course. Nursing Education Perspectives, 29(1), 12–16.

Universities Australia (2014). Flexible modes of study. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/uni-participation-quality/students/Flexible-Modes-of-Study/Flexible-modes-of-study#.VIElHjGUeZ8

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