Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Doctoral Seminar 2

"But whether you learn to enjoy it or not, whether you go on to more advanced work or just sty with what you now know, whether you actively use your statistics or simply become an informed consumer - whatever you do with it - nobody can change or take away the fact that you did learn it and that you did survive. And it wasn't as bad as you thought it would be - truly now, was it?"(Kranzler, 2018, p. 184)
     This quote summarizes the Doctoral Seminar 2 (DS2) summer course on quantitative research at Brock University in St. Catherines, which focused on the research process, educational issues, and an introduction to quantitative methodology. While the topic of statistics struck fear in my psyche, getting access to the syllabus well in advance of the course allowed me to structure a progressive reading schedule that eased my concerns. Hoy and Adams (2016) primed me for qualitative research. Creswell & Guetterman (2019) became a well tagged guide. Caldwell (2013) and Nardi (2018) were at my side providing tips and strategies. But it was Kransler (2018) who became my primary navigator through the course. As I read, I applied the four sentence summary that was introduced in DS1, but also used a quantitative research summary template from Hoy and Adams (2016) to analyze and synthesize the readings for this course.

     The course presented extensive opportunities to critically examine, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate research from published papers. This included deconstructing the research question, determining the purpose for the research, examining items included or excluded from the literature review, analyzing the descriptions of methodology and methods used, interpreting the discussion of results with a critical lens on the statistical analysis, and appraising the stated research implications. This practice was then applied to the construction of our own research proposal using a qualitative or mixed method approach. 

     While qualitative or mixed method research remains on my horizon as a result of this course, there would be much to learn beyond the statistical introduction provided in DS2. I have become a critical reader and consumer, acquiring the skills and fluencies necessary to design, create, plan, carry out, and report on quantitative or mixed method research yet would require additional learning opportunities, with practice in action. 

     It was during DS2 that I took explicit steps toward practicing data analysis. In particular I became interested in how to use software to support research efforts. I downloaded and introduced myself to SPSS, but have not yet resolved technical issues that impact my use of this digital resource. I purchased NVivo software and began exploring this digital tool as a way to analyze research information in meaningful ways. This was only the beginning of my active use of NVivo, which you will see in the reflections from the Research Colloquium course. 

     DS2 prompted some deeper analysis of the foundations of literature reviews. Before the course started, I reflected on my own literature reviews from a critical stance with these observations:     With these insights in mind, and knowing that the research proposal assignment for DS2 required a quantitative approach, the literature review I conducted was framed by my tentative research question. While my research interests continue to focus on three key conceptsopen educational practices, media and digital literacies, and teacher educationa shift occurred while attempting to define and operationalize these concepts. As I refined the research question, my focus deviated from teacher candidates studying in faculties of education to the teacher educators providing instruction in education. With this change, a whole new avenue of inquiry opened, and I stepped closer to 'digging where I stand', as suggested in DS1. My research was framed by research conducted with teacher educators in Europe (Ferrari et al., 2013) using a measure for digital competencies. This in turn led to work in the US to define the digital competencies of teacher educators (Foulger et al. 2017) as outlined on a twelve item reflective list called the Teacher Educators Technology Competencies (TETCs). 

     During the course, a round of 'lightning talks', where we were asked to share and query each other's research questions as part of an in class task, honed and shaped my question and the resulting research design. These conversations reinforced the key elements that need to be included in the research questions. As discussed in class: variables need to be clearly defined and operationalized, the context of the research needs to be explained, the characteristics of participants and their selection should be stated, and the hypothesized directions for the research need to be established.

     While my research plan for my dissertation inquiry may not include quantitative research methods or methodologies, this course helped me see how each piece of the research puzzle relies on other pieces to ensure they fit into the whole research picture. This becomes even more evident in the learning that occurs in the Research Colloquium course. The paradigmatic framework I apply to research originates from my ontological, axiological, epistemological, and ethical foundations (Guba & Lincoln, 2005). It is in this reflexive comprehensive portfolio that my steps bring me closer to the center of this Joint PhD labyrinth, and also bring me closer to myself as researcher, "the human as instrument" (Guba & Lincoln, 2005, p. 210). This process of knowing myself will continue into my research as a "conscious experiencing of the self as both inquirer and respondent, teacher and learner, as the one coming to know the self within the processes of research itself" (Guba & Lincoln, 2005, p. 210). 

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