As our research project begins to unfold and our ideas are starting to flow, I can’t help but feel an excitement around what Tracey Thorne and myself will be creating. We definitely feel that there is a need in our district for some kind of online community among teachers where we can share ideas and resources.
At this point in our project I am beginning to research my area of interest in order to construct a literary review. This leg of it can seem overwhelming. Where should I begin this process? How do I start systematically looking to see what other researchers have found? Our professor, Dr. V. Irvine had a great analogy of how the process starts. She suggested, “The beginning is like sitting in a sandbox where you are picking up handfuls of sand and letting the sand granules fall away through your fingers.” This analogy helped me to put in perspective the anxiety I felt towards the amount of research available to sift through. It is okay to allow myself time to play in the sandbox, to browse and search for my niche. I am taking the time right now to peruse through the various research articles looking for an opening, an area that is in need of filling.
I have found Chapter 3 in Creswall to be very helpful in how to develop a systematic approach to gathering research on a topic. In this chapter Creswall identifies 5 steps to a literature review. The first step is to, “Identify key terms to use in your search for literature” (Creswall, 2012) This is where I have begun. I started with the following keywords, professional development, professional learning community, and computer supported collaborative learning. I have only search the UVic library database looking for peer-reviewed journal articles from 2009 and on. I soon realized that this was a very vast area with many articles to wade through. I soon started to narrow my search even further by including the words online and virtual to my list of keywords. This seem to have created a much more defined search that was more relevant to the project I want to create. From here I curated citations of articles with abstracts that looked interesting into RefWorks. I ended up with about 10 articles that seemed to fit the profile I was looking for. I then printed those and read about 5 of them more thoroughly. There were about 3 that seemed to really pertain to the online collaborative community I want to create with teachers in the district. I was also able to find other articles that were referenced from within these three articles. This led me to a few more specific articles that were of interest.
When I find an article that is specific to my needs, reading it can be very interesting. One article in particular went into detail about how professional development is far more effective in improving instruction when it occurs over a long period of time rather than a one-day workshop (McConnell, 2013). As I read through this article it became apparent to me that creating a virtual place where teachers could collaborate throughout the year would be much more valuable than a one day workshop.
My next step will be to expand my list of keywords to define my project even further. By creating a much more specific list of keywords I will be able to start to hone my ideas in. This in turn will result in finding even more specific research that has already been done in my area of interest. I will also move outside the UVic Library to include Google Scholar as well as other reputable databases.
A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker, Stacey Johnson, join our Tiegrad class. During the class she spoke about the process that was involved in completing her Masters of Education. It was extremely helpful to have her recount the process she underwent as a graduate student and to be able to ask her specific questions about her journey. She had many helpful ideas and was able to give specific examples from her project.
As I move forward in my project I begin to see it taking shape and this is reassuring! As the grains of sand fall through my fingers I feel a sense of accomplishment with the vast amount of information I have learned so far!
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research : Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed ed.). Boston: Pearson.
McConnell, T. J., Parker, J. M., Eberhardt, J., Koehler, M. J., & Lundeberg, M. A. (2013; 2012). Virtual professional learning communities: Teachers’ perceptions of virtual versus face-to-face professional development. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(3), 267-277. doi:10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y