Comparing Action Research, SoTL, DBER

This semester has been an interesting journey.  As a teacher-educator I am helping pre-service teachers understand what “Action Research” is and help them integrate some action research strategies into their thinking and their portfolios that provide evidence of proficient practice.  As a university professor I am involved in multiple Communities of Practice.  The “Teaching Champs” CoP focuses on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and is led by Renee Howarton of the Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center.  I have also been involved in grant writing that focuses on Discipline-Based Research (DBER) and includes elements of SoTL and Action Research as a K-16+ stakeholders are addressed.  It has been interesting to see how the elements of all of these overlap.  I am sharing this link from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln that does a good job of comparing and contrasting  Action Research, SoTL and DBER.  Take a peek at:


Understanding by Design (UbD)

When we last met we were discussing how we might structure our lessons to thoughtfully address changes we might make in our courses and in instruction.  We are working to bring some education specialists into our next meeting.  I am also posting these resources for you.  It is “Understanding by Design” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  Please take a look at these resources:

I hope that you find these strategies helpful and it helps further the conversation in our RSD CoP.

Creating Stakeholders in Your Department…


We are all familiar with wanting to introduce an exciting idea to a group of faculty…the usual refrain, although not necessarily expressed transparently is, “are you really going to ask me to do something else right now”? This was the context that I was thinking through after having been a part of John’s RSD Workshop this past July. Our Human Development and Family Studies department was primed for the introduction of the RSD since my colleague and I had been charged by our department to explore how to assess research developmentally across our  curriculum this past summer and report back in the fall. How perfect given that the RSD is developmental, building on student skills; however, my enthusiasm may not be met in kind. I decided, along with my colleague, Robin Muza, to approach this from faculty buy-in; how could we create stakeholders but not have it be seen as just “extra work”.


  • Yes, we did decide to invest some time to “get ahead” of the anticipated process; a time-saver in the long run. Robin and I decided to create a matrix of all our departmental core courses and then review all the syllabi, identifying what we perceived to be the “research course objective” and corresponding  “research assignment” (see the attached matrix).
  • We then prepared a document that summarized what we had been charged to do and our experience of the July workshop an benefit to ourselves and our students of using the RSD (attached).
  • We also created examples using one of our courses of the various ways to use the RSD.
  • We then determined which department meeting we would be introducing the RSD and sent all of these items via email a week before to “desensitize” our colleagues before the meeting.


Overall, there was an openness to the RSD and the materials sent before the meeting were helpful. Issues that came up for discussion:

  • Did the objective-linked assignment need to be a “hard” research assignment? We talked alot about the concept of assignments that are “research-informed”. For instance, if a faculty is having a debate in his Health Care Dilemmas class, the debate is “research-informed” given that the students need to come prepared with research supported arguments.
  • Faculty asked if every course needs to have research or a research assignment? After some discussion, it was clear that some faculty do not “think” of their course through the lens of research; however, all of them are heavily “research informed”.
  • We asked if faculty could review their courses against the matrix and fill in the “best” research objective and linked assignment if different from what we identified.
  • We then would plan the next department meeting to finalize the matrix.
  • Other issues that emerged to discuss at the next meeting included revisiting our department definition of research, add the Student Autonomy Level to each of the assignments on the Matrix, and to identify a list of developmental research skills in order to developmentally scaffold the skills in each of our courses.


  • We are planning on moving forward on these “next steps” at our next meeting this week.


The one most important thing to communicate to an already overworked faculty (self included) is that “you are already doing it”…point out what your faculty is already doing and think in terms of “research-informed” assignments which has a broad and creative scope.

HDFS Summer Assessment 2015.Research Across CurriculumHDFS Course Matrix Research Objectives.Corresponding Assignment

Analyzing a Research Project: Insights

I did an analysis of the research project I am in the middle of completing for my Games in Education course.  I used a modified version of Byron Anderson’s analysis framework.  Here is what the analysis looked like and some of the insights.  There is work to be done!!

EDUC 210 – Original Analysis

Games in Education

Sylvia Tiala

Course Goal Mtg # & Item RSD Column & Row Student Action & Instructor Notes
Explain the educational/training use of identified video games and simulations 1.AFS Summit and Game Research – assigned readings over the course of several weeks as homework. Embark and Clarify

Find & Generate

Quiz given this semester after it was noted that most students did not complete the reading as there were not outcomes/consequences attached and no apparent reason other than the   instructor statement that “it would be important.
Analyze video games/simulations for their suitable use in education/training environments
  1. Current Researcher Assignment
Embark and Clarify In the past I have shared these in class. This semester I did not do this. In a weekly reflection several students asked for clarity regarding the relevance of the assignment.
Propose a research project that includes a literature review, a study design, and methods of assessing the use of video games and simulations in the educational or training environments.
  1. APA Format (APA format game & homework assignment) Research Question Developed (Online resources on how to develop)
Embark and Clarify I introduced the final research project assignment and indicated that the assignment would be “chunked”. We looked at APA formatting. Most students are familiar with MLA style. An assignment was given to identify a research question and write a paragraph on how it tied to major themes from the FAS 2006 Game Summit report. The process of identifying a research question was provided and discussed with time in class given for practice.
  1. Research Question

Annotated Bibliography

(response in D2L and in person)

Find and Generate

Organize & Mange?

Time was given in class and two days for processing a research question. Students were asked to post their research question to a D2L discussion board so that 1) I could help refine the question and 2) Make sure the question was focused enough to enable a viable literature search.
  1. Research paper
Organize & Mange

Analyze & Synthesize

I have done the research paper in the past and most were done well as an end product. The middle of the project is always a bit hectic.
  1. Peer Review on discussion board and grading by instructor
Communicate In the past I have just reviewed the papers so dissemination was not a part of the research process. This time I will consider having peers make comments or???

Overall insights from this process:

  1. Students are unclear about how this research endeavor ties to teaching/learning or adds value.
  2. I identified weak areas where I am not being clear – either with my students or in my own mind (What does organizing and management look like? Am I making the scaffolding clear to the students? Should I concentrate on only part of the framework? How do I get students to more clearly see connections between what I am assigning and how I want them to think?).
  3. Is this a viable assignment for the amount of time I have students engaged in this course?
  4. Is it time to re-evaluate, and perhaps update, the course?

Applying the RSD revealed gaps

For the past two years I’ve been using a “research portfolio” project in my upper level plant science courses.  One primary goal of the project is to create learning opportunities that help students better align their career goals with class learning outcomes.  In this semester-long project, students are asked to use the portfolio to help refine the course to better meet their interests and career goals. They are expected to “dig” for information and become highly conversant on the crop(s) or ornamental plants they chose to investigate.

The first phase of the project asks students to state their career goals and describe how the course aligns with their career goals, and/or personal interests.  This seemingly simple task is actually quite painstaking for some students, but providing this opportunity for reflection often reveals some very interesting outcomes for the students.  This is particularly true of students who are required to take the course and may not initially see how the course aligns with their career or personal interests.  It’s usually fun to read the students’ response to this question, and more often than not, I’m pulled aside to hear at least handful of mini-epiphanies that have occurred from this process.  However, sometimes even after reflection students struggle to address this initial question and it’s these students who I think have the potential to benefit the most from the “self-study” aspect of the project.  It was difficult for me to determine how this aspect of the project aligns with the RSD framework because it’s not exactly “research” but I think any scholar needs to understand that immersing themselves in a topic, becoming highly conversant in it and having any depth of understanding, requires commitment to eventually allow themselves to be compelled by their natural curiosity to be driven to ask “what, why, how!?!?”  For this activity I aligned it to the RSD “Embark and Clarify” self-actuated research level 4.  Though this is just a brief activity, I do think it plants the seed for developing curiosity and motivation to persist in a research endeavor.

The second phase of the semester-long activity requires students to define their own learning goals in their particular topic of interest (the topic of their research portfolio).  This is followed by a series of self-study activities, including beginning a broad review of the literature, looking for gaps in knowledge, identifying a simple and achievable research question and refining and defining their research question, including specifically what methods they will use to conduct their work. Each aspect of this work is documented within their portfolio. It was much easier to align all of these aspects to the RSD (find and generate & evaluate and reflect at scaffolded research level 3).

Finally, students are asked to conduct their simple research activities, collect data, and disseminate via an oral report.  Their research portfolio is also included as part of oral exam material at the end of the semester.  These aspects of the project aligned with RSD Analyze, level 3 and Communicate, level 3.

What doing this alignment revealed to me is that I am not requiring or training students carefully in organizing and managing their data in the context of this research activity.  In separate classroom and laboratory projects students do various activities that train them in prescribed methods of data management and analysis, but they typically struggle with these activities and struggle further in communicating their confused data analyses.  The RSD alignment activity revealed to me that I’ve de-emphasized these aspects of research (organize and manage particularly!) in my students’ self-study based research.  In my opinion, this is a very important learning “gap” that I need to address thoughtfully and carefully in future iterations of this project. I’m looking forward to reading about the RSD alignments from other instructors so I can get ideas on how to better prepare my students for the “data organization and management” aspects of the research process, particularly when the projects are all individualized such as in this example.

A Research Question – The Hardest Part

After looking at Byron’s presentation I went and took a good hard look at what I was doing in my Games in Education course.  I had two projects that were supposedly “linked”.  Students were to make a game and connect it to education concepts discussed in the class.  The students were also asked to select a research topic related to the game they were making and tie the game, concepts in class and the research all into a connected understanding of how games in education worked.  So, one of the first questions I had to ask myself was, “Is this research?”  I think I will be starting my personal RSD framework decision matrix with this question.  The game assignment is designed to have students wrestle with educational concepts as they design a game – not an easy task and thus one of the points.  The activity serves as a great culminating task and an assessment but it isn’t research.  This left me with the research paper which also serves multiple functions.  One is for students to do a basic research paper.  The other is to integrate readings and information from the course.  I spoke to Byron Anderson about his model.  He expressed doubts that his model was sustainable in part because students had a difficult time generating their own research questions.  It was difficult for them.  I spent this week introducing my research project and I am more cognizant of student thinking at this point in time.  Along with the assignment to define a research question, I also gave students a survey asking them to identify questions/concerns related to the course that they currently had.  Student responses indicated that they are not getting the connection between the course content and the research paper.  To some degree the students are expressing doubts about its relevancy.  I did not introduce the RSD Framework to this group of students.  I just assigned the research paper.  Next time I will introduce the RSD Framework on some level.  I also saw what Byron expressed.  That is the difficulty the students had in generating their own research question. My strategy was having students post their research question to the course discussion board.  I then responded with suggested tweaks in wording, explain the null hypothesis, and suggested revisions to help students obtain a focus to their question.  There were library resources that helped and I spent one class period using these to have students identify the who, what, where, when so they could really get a “good” question started.  Students still struggled.  We spent the class period today starting a search with the library data bases and talking about annotated bibliographies.  I don’t think that I am going into enough depth and I am relying on students to go to posted links for additional information.  I am wondering about the approach I am using and whether I should spend more time on this assignment, chunk it differently, assign more scaffolded assignments, or just give them the assignment, provide support and hope they get it or ????   I am assuming that students have some background knowledge from their general education courses and are willing to visit online and library resources to pull this assignment off.  I need to really go back and focus on what elements I will require and what I am really  going to be asking students to complete.

Information Literacy: A Relevant Tangent

Hello. I’m the librarian. I’m here because we’re talking mostly about the same thing. I am working to bring a related set of learning concepts – information literacy – into harmony with the RSD framework. The overlap is obvious. The service one can render to the other might be powerful.

That being said, information literacy in the library world is changing. If you’re familiar with the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education from the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), you might have a bland taste in your mouth (and for good reason, but that’s a conversation over strong drinks). Don’t leave! I have great news!

ACRL is currently revising, for release in January 2015, an entirely new, qualitative approach to information literacy. The current Standards read as a list of decontextualized learning objectives that easily devolve into “push-that-magic-button-and-information-will-appear” (which immediately leads into panicked shouts of, “No! Not that button! Wikipedia is naughty!”). The new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education honors the complexity of the information landscape. We’re talking information ecosystems, people. This librarian is excited to finally start saying it how it is. And the Framework doesn’t sacrifice usefulness in favor of pure theory. In fact, (you know, to bring us back around to our actual point of gathering), I think it might greatly inform how we can move students from one RSD Facet of Research to another. Let’s get that scaffold skill-set, spiral thingy going.

Because the Framework is new and still in process, I can’t claim expertise. But let me outline the significant pieces of the 2nd draft published in June 2014 (Update 11/13/14 – 3rd Draft now available). I know you’ll recognize at least a few of the theoretical approaches.

Frames/Threshold Concepts

Frames are the core concepts that students must master in order to meaningfully navigate an information ecosystem that is inherently relational, highly contextual, and where “students must ‘make meaning’ of an extremely mutable set of information resources and processes, and must tolerate ambiguity within a learning environment in which fixed reference points are becoming less ‘fixed’” (ACRL, 2014, pg. 24). The Framework directly addresses threshold concepts, those “gateway” concepts that divide a novice who is dependent on step-by-step instructions from a nimble expert in any disciplinary arena. Threshold concepts target “bottlenecks of understanding,” challenges or gaps (pg. 25) that most often keep students from moving, if you will, from one RSD facet to another. ACRL has identified six core information literacy frames (threshold concepts)(pg. 2):

  1. Scholarship is a Conversation
  2. Research as Inquiry
  3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
  4. Format as Process
  5. Searching as Exploration
  6. Information has Value

Knowledge Practices

This is where it gets practical. These are the listed abilities an information consumer-creator must have in order to navigate the information ecosystem with increased skill. They are not listed in a vacuum, but instead attached to one or more of the framework/threshold concepts. And they are suggestions meant to be used, discarded, modified or multiplied based on the local (think polytechnic, disciplinary) ecosystem.


And this is where it gets pedagogical. The draft Framework document points out two poignant truths that we can’t ignore, but rarely give ourselves permission to consider. First, threshold concepts are inherently “troublesome,” making students feel insecure as they struggle to move from one level to another. Second, that students learn best as whole people, with their affect moving together with their cognition. The Dispositions section of the Framework will provide pedagogical guidance to faculty or self-reflection tools for students to help create a whole-person openness to learning.

ACRL notes that the finished Framework will be followed by the creation of a databases of assignment prompts to assist instructors.

ACRL. (2014, June 17). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from

Update 11/13/14

The 3rd Draft of the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was posted yesterday.  Final draft is due out in January, but I don’t suspect it will differ much from this one.

RSD in Operations, whoa!

This week we were asked to develop an alignment with a project or assignment we utilize in one of the courses we teach.  It’s amazing what happens when you pull those thoughts out of your head and put them on paper.  RSD in business and operations, WHOA, very much needed (more so than I had thought).  I have attached my alignment for the project I plan to utilize in the Production and Operations Management course.  Due to the number of objectives we cover in this course, taking facility tours is very difficult to complete in a semester.  I’ve found this project to be very helpful in applying the theories and concepts of the course to something tangible.

What I am most concerned about (and this is noted in the alignment) is how to create instructions and provide guidance without taking away the ability to be creative and the teamwork that is needed for this type of project.  It is also crucial to keep the project at a level of rigor that my students don’t become robots and tick off checkmarks.  This will not bode them well for many of the careers they are choosing to enter.  However, I am in deep thought mode and excited to apply this framework more deeply with this project.

Next week, I will be conducting a “Willison” exercise and a little bit of training on “what is good information.”  What I hope to see after this review is an improvement in the review and analysis of their resources.  Unfortunately, the research I tend to see is a Google search and the first 3 links.  The best business decisions require much more critical thinking and analysis.  I want to provide my students with an opportunity to know more than the “first 3 links.”

Finally, as I’ve reviewed the blog today, I am noticing Sylvia asking “how do I get this ‘out there’ and communicate to change the culture?”  Excellent question.  In all honesty, I have not even thought about this beyond my class at this time.  Some of this is due to the way my time is structured this term, but some of it is due to trying to figure out the best way to communicate this process and idea and excitement to my colleagues.  I am finding that because this is my first time working with this framework, until I am feeling a bit more solid in the use of this tool, it’s going to be difficult for me to share without turning people “off” to this process.  I am very excited about our ability to showcase this at the January Professional Development week.  My hope is that by then, I will be more comfortable, and there will be a campus-wide information sharing opportunity to get our campus to start asking questions.  Sharing and creating curiosity is a great way to change culture.

Time to sign off and get back to work.

RSD Framework Alignment – MWilson

Fireworks – Yet Another Analogy – Please let me know how many inidividuals you have impacted!

Colorful Fireworks

Image obtained from Microsoft Office version 10 Clipart

A strategy I have used when teaching is to get students to use an analogy to describe something (teaching is like …).  It makes students have to stop for a moment and think about the concept at hand for perhaps a moment or two.  So as I thought about our Community of Practice and how everyone was excited during our Thursday meetings when someone indicated that no one on campus knew of our efforts.  We took some steps to “advertise” more and I was kind of depressed for a little while.  Then I started thinking about how a culture changes and what kind of impact we might be having.  I started listening to our participants and I started to think about the impact this small group in the RSD Community of Practice might be making.  So as I look at posts and hear conversations  about the RSD I think of fireworks and how one spark starts another, and another and so on until we have a grand display — and hopefully facilitate change.  So thinking about this here is what I know:

I contacted the director of the Graduate School and explained the RSD.  The RSD framework then went out to 22 graduate level program directors.

I was at a department meeting.  When the opportunity arose the RSD was described and explained to at least 15 other people at the meeting.

I gave the RSD Framework to two other professors in the STEM and Art fields.   They were excited about how the RSD Framework fit their research and will be doing a presentation to a larger group of faculty later in the semester.

I look on our blog and I note that we have over 250 followers.

So my question to the rest of you in this RSD Community of Practice is:

How many people have you introduced to the RSD Framework?  How many people do you believe you have impacted and was the response positive or negative?

I am hoping that we may actually be changing the culture little by little.  I would be interested in your response.

applying a framework to the development of skills associated with research