Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ah ha moment

I have come to the realization that perhaps I am worrying too much about a "Grand Paradigm" at this point in the course and my research. I have been reading Anfara and Mertz's Theoretical Frameworks in Qualitative Research by Sage Publications (2006). They state that theoretical frameworks can be found at three levels: grand, mid-range and explanatory (p. xxvii) and that can be applied to understanding phenomena. For some reason this gave me a bit of an "ah-ha" moment because I started thinking that there may be other frameworks we can use that are not tied expressly to the four super-structure (am I using that word correctly?) paradigms we are studying now. Many of the studies that are mentioned in the book resulted in articles, not doctoral theses, but they do discuss a variety of frameworks like Chaos and Complexity Theory and Liminality Theory for example.

So this got me thinking about how students have done theses on Dr. Michael Moore's "theory of transactional distance" and Dr. Randy Garrison's (et al) "Community of Inquiry" model. So ultimately, while we have to know the different streams of the paradigms, I am coming to understand that I can relax to some degree about slotting myself into one of the four dominant paradigms we are learning about. There are a plethora of theories out there from the social-sciences at different levels that may be useful to us as we narrow down our research topics. My understanding has changed now to the point where I will find a framework suited to my area of interest and not worry so much about which methods to use or which paradigm it is located in.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Doctoral Seminar update

It has been a couple of months since I have taken time to compose my thoughts on the doctoral program. We are on the third of four perspectives/paradigms. Thus far we have covered postivism/funtionalism, Interpretivism and now Radical Humanism. We have Radical Structuralism to cover after Christmas. I am still having some trouble with the material in the sense that it is difficult to get a consistent message on meanings. Now that I have some theoretical knowledge I am starting to read more about the role of theory on research projects (i.e., which comes first, the method or the paradigm?) and what do theses using a paradigmatic framework look like? I have one dissertation now that I am reading and will try to review others. I am also realizing that in studying a topic such as blended learning I will need to find an organization theory to work with. Hence I will review Burrell and Morgan's discussion of systems structure. Perhaps the upcoming Radical Structuralism readings will help guide me?

The course itself seems to be lacking in participation in the discussion forum. Some of us have speculated that it may be because the material is so dense that none of us are really confident in our answers or it could be that because it is a pass/fail situation there is sense that one would really have to be disengaged to fail. The result is that while some posts are very well thought out, there is not a regular dialogue developing.

On the positive side, I have had the opportunity to work closely with two of my peers from the Educational Technology stream on Interpretivism and that was very productive. Also, the workload is not too onerous. There is a lot of reading and re-reading but it is manageable.

On the programmatic note, I was very disappointed that my Educational Technology course was canceled this winter due to low enrollment. Qualitative Methods was also canceled. I find this troubling for three reasons. Firstly, what guarantee do we have that we can complete our courses in a timely manner? Secondly, as graduate seminar courses, shouldn't the numbers be small? What is wrong with a course with 6 people? Thirdly, one would think that rather than wholesale cancel the two courses students could be appraised of the situation and asked if they would be interested in switching to a different section. Now we have two classes canceled when perhaps there would have been enough students for at least one of them to have run. Anyway, I am disappointed at this point and am currently awaiting the information on next summer's session.