Teaching Tip: Making Research Methods Personal

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The PLC (Professional Learning Community) will be providing the teaching tip of the week throughout the academic year in support of their goal of interdisciplinary collegiality.

Engaging students successfully on the first day can have a lasting impact on the learning environment for the semester. Even more challenging is the process of engaging students in a required course that isn’t exactly the most popular in the program. In the social sciences, this course is most often a research methods course.

At the beginning of the semester, many students report that a course in research methods doesn’t offer them something perceived as important for their long-term careers. Research is something done by “other” people whereas their own interests pertain to practice. However, asking students on the first day of class to report their passions and aspirations as well as possible research interests helps frame why a research methods course is an important part of their professionalization and careers. Technology can assist in this approach.

Technology is everywhere in the classroom, not only in the front of the room. Students bring sophisticated technology with them. Having students use their personal technology is an avenue toward engagement. A tool such as Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com) allows students to answer a question through a standard text message from a mobile phone and have their answers aggregated and displayed in real time. Using Poll Everywhere to display the student responses provides an immediate and visual way for students to see their reported interests and passions for practice displayed and see those of classmates. Tables, word-clouds, and charts are all options for displaying these responses. Using technology engages students and drives their own interests for possible research topics and group collaborations. Students can begin to see similar interests and diversity of research topics proposed by others which generates class discussions and bridges their professional and personal interests with research questions. Combining technology with these interests can foster active learning throughout a course and make for a positive and lasting experience for students.

~Mike Killian, killianm@uta.edu, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

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