Sunday, 28 April 2013

Midnight ramble! 2 - The Return

I probably should stop blogging late at night, but then again my posts seem to be less art and more honest at this hour!

Two things occur to me tonight, after an evening spent 'Critically Reflecting' that I felt compelled to blog about:
  1. In the course of reflecting, gathering and organising material for both my proposal and critical reflection I began to realise that my inquiry, in even this preparatory stage, is affecting my practice! I am spending more time in and out of class getting my students to voice opinions, share ideas and take charge, for example, of what they 'need' help or support with. I've also seen improvements in my students attitude to class (one particular lesson springs to mind), which I believe stems from giving the students opportunity to dictate the direction the class will take (to a certain degree, of course!). I am really looking forward to continuing to read and investigate my topic of 'motivation in dance' in the next module but, if nothing else comes out of my inquiry, I will have already taken some big steps forwards!
  2. I want to say a big thank-you to you all! The path that has lead me to where I am now with my inquiry proposal was created brick by brick, not on my own but with the help of everyone I have engaged with over the last few weeks/ months. Through talking about the highs and lows of teaching, sharing ideas on student-teacher relationships, taking time out to fill in pilot surveys, exploring ethics on the SIG forums, linking to Delicious accounts...(the list goes on, and on), it has been possible to add, subtract, alter and shape my initial lines of inquiry. So yeah, take a bow cos you're all awesome! :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

It's all a question of questions!

In my last post I talked about how I had been really inspired by taking part in an interview as the participant rather than the researcher. Since then I've been reading about data collection and finding that both the experience and the new knowledge are making patterns and connections in my mind.
The result of this reflection is that I have been trialing out questions, with friends - both dance and non-dance - and students, with the aim of refining my interview strategy so that I can get the most out of my time without collecting masses of data that is irrelevant.
The initial response to my questions were good, with most participants finding them easy to understand, and I found that talk was fairly free flowing and relaxed. What was said was not always relevant, as some participants were not dance trained whilst others were adults (and therefore outside of my sample age), but I feel that just having the opportunity to explore the format my data collection will take is invaluable. It is something that I will keep doing right up until I actually begin my research for real.

One really pleasing aspect of this trial is that I have realised that I want to encourage anyone who takes part to feel that there are no limits to what they can say. For example, as a teacher I feel that I am limited in what I can achieve in terms of student motivation, for example: outside influences (such as bad day at school or argument with parent), time constraints of lessons, class sizes, principals expectation of exam results, etc. However, in my research I don't want limits put on the ideas and thoughts of my students!
It links back, in my mind, to the Module 1 section on journal writing styles, and the writing of fantastical journal entries, where we could take our thoughts to the furthest extremes of our imagination. In a 'nothing is too crazy' scenario there were grains of truth that might lead to reflection about how to achieve aspects of this 'ideal world.'
How might this help my inquiry?
Well, in being fantastical I believe that I am more likely to get my students speaking freely and without reserve. The thoughts and ideas that they share with me, I hope, will give me an insight into what really matters to them and, through analysis, from a more diluted and realistic perspective, I might understand how it could be possible to re-create them in the classroom.
I'd love to see what anyone else thinks so here's what I think may be the last question in my interview:

If I gave you a magic wand to create the most motivational dance lesson you could, what would you use it to do?

Another addition to my data collection methods is going to be the use of a diary. I will give my participants a small book (nothing too big or intimidating so that they feel they have to fill it) to write down their feelings and experiences of one really motivating dance lesson and one where they felt less motivated or perhaps even demotivated.
My reasons are as follow:
  • A more immediate way for my students to capture their feelings and experiences than trying to think about motivation in the sterile environment of the interview.
  • Offering students that are perhaps less able to verbalise their thoughts and experiences another way of getting their voices heard,
  • An opportunity to spend as much, or little, time as they can afford on participating in the study,
  • The control over what is relevant to the individual student and what is not, and
  • The opportunity to choose to make an entry at time that is suitable to them.
I am very aware that I am asking a lot of my students but I am hoping that by offering two different methods of data collection I can gather more variety of data and therefore deeper insight into my topic of 'motivation'.
At the moment I also aim to use the diary as part of the interview as a point of reference for the student - a memory jog if you like - with them in control of the diary throughout. (I hope that I am able to do a short pilot, to see what the benefits/ pitfalls are, before embarking on my final inquiry.)

With the date rapidly approaching for the end of module assignment I have realised that the nature of my study does not allow for concrete statements of intent but rather that my inquiry will need to change, adapt and develop throughout the journey.
I have a strong rationale for my choice of topic, an evolving strategy for my research and methodology that I am continuing to refine, and a strong ethical awareness...I hope that this, coupled with my passion and enthusiasm, will make for an interesting and engaging proposal.

Fraleigh, S. H., & Hanstein, P. (1999). Researching dance: Evolving modes of inquiry. University of Pittsburgh Pre.
Greene, S., & Hogan, D. (Eds.). (2005). Researching children's experience: Approaches and methods. SAGE Publications Limited.
Riley, J. (1990). Getting the Most from Your Data: A Handbook of Practical Ideas on how to Anlayse Qualitative Data. Technical and Educational Services.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Being a co-pilot!

I had a really great experience this afternoon when Clare Orlandi and I trialed out a pilot interview over Skype.

Clare started of by putting me at ease and asking me some very straightforward questions. She was very calm, relaxed and gave me time to say what I wanted without leaving big empty pauses. When we moved on to the more in depth questions I felt that her wording was really well thought-out so that, although some required me to think and then respond, I never felt reluctant to answer anything she asked, nor felt that I didn't understand the question. We chatted, laughed, agreed, shared stories and generally I had a really great experience. I never once felt stupid, wrong or that I didn't want to be honest with her.

At the end of the interview she asked if she could read back any notes she had taken so that there was no question I had been misinterpreted or would be misquoted. This recap also lead onto further discussion and Clare allowed time for me to add anything I wanted to.

As well as being a very interesting and thought-provoking set of questions (I really felt that verbalising helped me to reflect on my teaching in a way that perhaps I don't usually, i.e. I had to find a way to communicate it to Clare so I needed to put action/ experience into words, being the interviewee gave me a whole new perspective on how I might better present myself and my questions in any interviews I might undertake as part of my inquiry.

It was also really nice to meet Clare in (virtual) person and to be able to share thoughts  on the course and the current module.
I hope that Clare found the time as useful as I did and I really look forward to learning more about her inquiry.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Fate isn't always so fickle!

Just a quick post today, after yesterday's great meeting with Rosemary and really good campus session with Holly, Hayley, Joannah, Georgie and Anastasia.

The one thing that I really kept thinking about yesterday was that, although the passion for our inquiry topics is clearly evident, the ability to encapsulate what aspect of that area we are try to study, or why we feel it is important to research it, into one smooth explanation is incredibly hard!

I spent all night pondering my own inquiry area, in which I am now very comfortable, and what the underlying rationale is for choosing this area of study or, perhaps, why it chose me...

This morning I carried on re-reading a book, that I had previously discovered way back in January, called Research in Dance. In one of those fateful (in a good way!) moments I decided to pick the following chapter Postpositivist Research in Dance by Jill Green and Susan W. Stinson (whom I am rapidly becoming a big fan of - see my Delicious page!). It's a brilliant explanation of the postpositivist approach to research, taking apart in detail three different forms - interpretive, emancipatory, and deconstructive - and putting them into the context of dance and dance education.

How is this related to the soul of my inquiry? Perhaps a little background first!

My inquiry, as you may or may not know from previous blogs/ SIG entries, is concerned with student experiences and perspectives of how they can be motivated or demoralised in the environ of the local dance school lesson. My aim? To better understand the causes and effects of dance class motivation, to give my students greater ownership of their learning (Fallows and Ahmet, 1999), and to make available that information for other teachers to consider and reflect on so that they might become more able to motivate their students, either by identifying tools they can employ or by listening to their students voices too.
So immediately I know that I am not going to be collecting quantitative data or producing graphs and charts in my reseach findings!
However, I am very aware of the subjective versus objective debate regarding research and of teacher-researcher power, inference and bias. I've also been reading more about the intangible nature of motivation and how we can only observe the effect not the phenomenon itself, which can only produce partial understanding and researcher/ participant interpretation rather than empirical or scientific data.

Hmmm... so, back to the book! In reading one perfectly precise paragraph I found myself wondering if this chapter had been written with my inquiry in mind:
If the primary purpose is to understand an aspect of the dance experience from the participants point of view, and to reflect on the meanings that are expressed, then an interpretive approach will be most useful. (p.113)
Yes, yes and yes!

I feel much more comfortable with my decision to take my inquiry in a very people-oriented direction and know that I am ready to present both the limitations of such interpretive research and the benefits for myself, my students, and other teachers in a similar situation to myself (perhaps not just dance but any 'after school' club or society).

I heartily recommend reading this book if you're inquiry is dance related. Not necessarily all of it, but those chapters that feel relevant to where your inquiry topic is taking you. However, be warned, you will have to fight me to get hold of this copy!!!

Fallows, S. J., & Ahmet, K. (1999). Inspiring students: Case studies in motivating the learner. Routledge.

Fraleigh, S. H., & Hanstein, P. (1999). Researching dance: Evolving modes of inquiry. University of Pittsburgh Press.
It can also be found online here:


Friday, 12 April 2013

Literature review No.3

In my previous post entitled Doing, reading and reflecting I talked about a book I had started reading called Researching Children's Experience by Greene and Hogan, and how it had been a brilliant discovery. Having read further, I decided that it would indeed be the subject of my third literature review.

My reason is that there seems to be three clear aspects to any research I might undertake, all of which go into making up the nature of my inquiry:
  1. motivation,
  2. dance education, and 
  3. students' experiences.
I have already written around the topic of motivation in education and reviewed a dance publication so it seemed important to choose this third area for my final review. I've posted it on my google drive here. It can also be found, along with my other two reviews, on our SIG Wiki (

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Doing, reading and reflecting

In a previous post (Pilot methods) I had been reflecting on the various methods of data collection, how I saw them in relation to their relevance to my possible inquiry, and the ethical and logistical issues that they might present.
Since then I have done three things that have added or altered to my point of view:
  1. A pilot interview with a colleague,
  2. Reading researching children's experience by Greene and Hogan, and
  3. Reflecting on new insight and information.
1. The pilot interview
The interview took place in a neutral, convenient location with a professional colleague who had been informed about what the research was for and about and also  that it was a pilot interview.

I thought it might be interesting to take the questions that I created for my pilot survey and use them to structure of the interview. My reasoning was that it would allow me to compare and analyse the pro's and con's of both methods of data collection with regard to,
  • ease of collection,
  • type of data collected.
  • time spent answering questions, and
  • usefulness of answers
The interview took 45minutes, during which time I asked all nine questions.
The time spent on each question varied as I allowed time for the interviewee to say whatever she felt was relevant before moving on to the next question.
There was also time spent explaining aspects of the questions that the participant felt needed clarifying.
The last question was left as an open question to allow for any other thoughts or comments that the interviewee felt were relevant.

Contrary to my previous thoughts about structured/ semi-structured interviews I can now see, particularly if I am going to be talking to adolescents, that having a list of short, clear, yet fairly open questions is more likely to yield deeper, more individual answers about experiences and perceptions than either a) yes or no questions or b) multiple choice questions (where the choices are of my creation).
I also believe that by collecting my data in face-to-face interviews I will be more able to ensure there is no confusion about the question being asked or a lack of understanding about the use of particular words/ phrases/etc. This is something that I cannot do in a questionnaire, whether it is on paper or online.
A potential issue with using interviews will be the logistics of when? and where? and whether my potential participants will be prepared to a) travel to and b) give up time for the interview. This is something I will need to consider carefully as I progress on with my inquiry.

N.B. This is not the only interview I am aiming to pilot. I am hoping to complete a telephone interview so that I can see whether or not my assumptions and reflections about it, as a method of data collection, are founded.

2. The reading
researching children's experiences Approaches and Methods edited by Sheila Greene & Diane Hogan (2005)

I had been initially drawn to this book by the picture on the front and the first line of the back cover - How can researchers access children's subjective experience of their worlds?
In reading further (although I have yet to finish it) I have found it a brilliantly straightforward text that seems to really connect with how I ultimately wish my inquiry to appear/ appeal. I am seriously considering it as the subject of my third literature review!
The researcher who values children's perspectives and wishes to understand their lived experience will be motivated to find out more about how children understand and interpret, negotiate and feel about their daily lives
                                                                          (Green and Hill 2005, p.3)
A concern of mine, whilst working through Module 2, has been with such issues as empirical findings, reliable data, removing bias, interest to others. If my inquiry is to be of use then I must seek to eliminate as much subjectivity as possible, mustn't I? But how? Isn't the very thing I am interested in subjective? Does that mean that my inquiry has no place or, worse, is pointless?
These are the questions that have been filling up my journal over the last few weeks. The reason I mention them here is to give background as to why this book has given me hope.

In the preface the editors discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child and argue that it is our obligation to give children the opportunity to be heard on matters that are important to them (p.xii).

In Chapter 1, Researching Children's Experience: Methods and Methodological Issues by Sheila Greene and Malcolm Hill, the authors talk about the problems in weighing up more objective, yet less human, statistical data with deeper, yet less empirical, qualitative data. Just my problem!
Their point of view is that, in researching children's experiences there will always be such problems but they maintain that 'it is intrinsic to the nature of the questions which we are asking' (p.6).

Another interesting,and relevant, statement was about how research articles about children don't often give much in the way of a rationale for the methods they use to collect data. Something that I will take on board for the future.

So, in conclusion, perhaps by accepting and acknowledging these limitations and issues in my research, and producing an indepth rationale for my choice of methodology, I will be able to satisfy my desire to 'listen and learn' from my students and produce an inquiry that is of interest to more than just me!

I'd love to hear any thoughts on these ideas and issues.


BAPP (Arts). (2012). Reader 6 Tools of Professional Inquiry. School of Media and Performing Arts Institute for Work Based Learning.

Greene, S., & Hogan, D. (Eds.). (2005). Researching children's experience: Approaches and methods. SAGE Publications Limited.


Task 6d - It's Delicious!

I set up my Delicious account when looking into Web2.0 tools in Module One. I found it a really helpful way to store links to articles and websites that looked interesting or subject areas that I wanted to look deeper into.
I found that, even if I didn't have time then and there, it meant I could always find the information again when I wanted it. It was also really simple to remove and reorganise links depending on their relevance and reliability.

Using the tagging function has been great for going straight to the area of interest or to find articles containing certain words.
I've tagged BAPP into several articles that I discovered during this model (and that are pertinent to my developing inquiry) although I may go back and tag all of the articles as they all have a relevance to the course in one way or another.

My first contact on the site has been Hannah Stewart, who has some great links - both professional and academic. She commented, on her blog, about building a network of contacts and how useful this would be to all of us. I totally agree with her and, as such,
I am looking forward to connecting with many more people over the next few weeks and to discovering new, interesting, and previously unknown (to me) articles and websites.

My Delicious page can be accessed here


P.S. Sorry for the very weak joke in the title!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Literature reviews No. 1 & 2

In my first literature review I have looked at the historical development of inspiring and motivating students in education (non-dance related).
My aim was to discover the theories and concepts developed in the wider field of education, understand whether these are universal ideas, identify any relevance to my inquiry topic, and thereby develop a more objective knowledge-base from which to think about my future research.

My second literature review looks at The Student Dancer by Julia Buckroyd. A text that I've dipped in and out of for many years, found very interesting and, at times, useful, but have never taken a critical look at. My main reason for choosing it as my second piece of literature to review is the student-centric ethos, which is very close to both my heart and that of my inquiry.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Midnight ramble!

Students are the heart of my practice - they are my clients, my teachers, my inspiration, my motivation, my joy, my stress, my heartbreak, my laughter, my reason for being what I am and my biggest concern.
In my inquiry they must, therefore, be the heart and soul as their input and insight will provide the greatest enhancement to my understanding.

For this reason I cannot reduce them to numbers, statistics or graphs but need to give them voice and substance:

If one boy out of a hundred finds a way to get along splendidly with his parents, this is something that hardly warrants mention in a statistical description of what teenagers are like. But this one-in-one-hundred finding can be the most important fact if we wish to understand what adolescence could be like. So...we are not only concerned with proportions and averages; perhaps the most telling insight on this age of transition comes from persons and events that show how, despite widespread confusion or boredom, it is possible to create enjoyment and meaning. (1984, xv)

Csikszentmihalyi, M. and Larson, R. 1984. Being adolescent: Conflict and growth in the teenage years. NY: Basic Books.

Pilot methods

Following on from the conversation with Adesola on Tuesday (see previous blog), and with various informal conversations with colleagues and fellow BAPPers, I have reflected further about the methods of data collection that might be useful to my inquiry.

In this blog I would like to post my current thoughts about each method and would really appreciate any views or comments you might have on my reasoning.

My inquiry is about people, and young people at that. People are more than just numbers, they are unique, complex and a melting pot of thoughts, experiences, values and ideas.
This is what I want to find out about - not just 'yes' or 'no' but 'why?' and 'how?'
For this reason I feel that interviewing students will allow for more time to be spent in the process of understanding their motivations and inspirations, and their perceptions of how dance class has developed or hindered them.

My interviews, I hope, will be face-to-face so that I can be more aware of the non-verbal signals of my participants - clues to the honesty of their answers, helpful in showing me whether my interviewee is comfortable with the direction the interview is taking, and allowing me to pace the interview to get the maximum out of my students.

The style of interview is something I am going to be looking into, with pilot interviews that take both a semi-structured or informal/guided format and an open or informal approach (Reader, p13-14). At this point in time my thinking leads me to feel that the age group I aim to work with might not be comfortable enough to 'just talk' and that, as interviewer, I may need to set the ball rolling with some easy, structured questions just to relax and reassure the participant. However, as is the point of doing a pilot, I may or may not find this to be the case!

I will also trial the use of two methods of recording the interview - digital recorder and taking notes - although, at the moment, I think that using a combination of the two might be most beneficial:
  1. More accurate recording of answers,
  2. Less likely to misinterpret or misunderstand than if looking back over just notes,
  3. More in depth answers will be hard to get down on paper without breaking the flow of the interview; recording them will be more accurate and I won't be just frantically scribbling the main points down,
  4. By recording the conversation I can focus more on noting down non-visual signs
  5. Eye contact and relationship building is more likely to happen if I am not constantly writing things down.
By trialing both methods I can then create a relaxed, calm interviewer (with any luck), which will, in turn, lead to a more relaxed, calm interviewee!

Focus group
It might be interesting to see whether the focus group would create more debate and discussion,and therefore more in depth data, than the interview.
I think this might be a second option for me to trial, if feasible, as getting students to talk amongst themselves rather than to an adult might yield more honest results.
On the other hand, adolescents can be very uncomfortable sharing their innermost thoughts with others whom they may not trust and it might be that there would be less freedom to express oneself in a group than one-on-one in an interview.
I also have a major concern that things said within the focus group might not stay confidential if one student felt it could be used to their advantage. From an ethical, and personal, point of view this would be unthinkable and totally unacceptable so I would need to be very careful of the 'how'? and 'why?' of using this method.

I have already tried two pilot surveys, which fellow BAPPers and other professional colleagues have very generously taken the time to complete. One was a general testing of the water, the other a more specific, topic-related questionnaire.

Although I found the answers, in general, very helpful it really made me realise that answering someone else's questions can lead to very different interpretations than was originally intended!
Reflecting on my pilots surveys, and alongside the information I have read, I now understand that, in order to get data that was useful, I would need to use the following:
  • Questions that are short and easily understood,
  • Language that is clear, straight-forward and that couldn't be misread,
  • Questions that don't lead the reader into my way of thinking, 
  • A series of multiple choice answers with the option to add more information in an essay-style box,

If I choose to use a survey for my inquiry, for example, because I want to gather more empirical data, from a larger sample group, about certain aspects of my topic area, then I now realise that I would need to be very careful on the wording of each question.

To see how motivated/ inspired students are about their dance classes I could observe other lessons in which I take notes about how individual students behave.
I could also observe the teacher/ student relationships, the style of teaching, the peer group relationship, etc.
I might take notes from these observations during or after the class and then write up the results of my data collection.
However, my main concern about using observation is that it will be my perceptions and my observations of the lesson from the point of view of an outsider (albeit with insider-knowledge). To my current way of thinking that makes it an interpretation of events or a secondary not primary source.
In my inquiry I am trying to be better informed about students needs and perceptions on how they are (un)inspired or (de)motivated in their dance lessons. Can what I observe give me this information? I, personally, don't think it can.

In the next few days I aim to have completed a couple of different styles of interview and will then be able to reflect on the merits/ problems I have encountered. Depending on the result of that reflection I will then either look deeper into interview methods or pilot a different data collection tool.

BAPP (Arts). (2012). Reader 6 Tools of Professional Inquiry. School of Media and Performing Arts Institute for Work Based Learning.

Denscombe, M. (2010). The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects. Open University Press.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The 'first Tuesday coffee house' meeting - 2nd April

Last night I settled down with a cup of tea and a comfy chair and joined my first 'coffee house meeting' via Skype. It was something I had been looking forward to as I have not been available for either of the campus sessions this term and am someone who finds being in contact with others really helpful, reassuring and productive.

Perhaps because of the timing of this month's meeting there weren't too many people available to chat but I still found the conversation between Adesola, Sophie Jones and myself to be really positive and thought-provoking so my blog today is going to be an overview of the things we talked about.
N.B. I know that Sophie is going to be blogging about the 'coffee house meeting' too so I'll not talk too much about what she said and instead link to her post when she puts it up.

Firstly Adesola and I chatted about the module 2 inquiry tasks, in particular I had a question about the task involving pilot data collection tools (survey, interview, etc.) and whether it was to be kept within our BAPP groups or opened up to involve other professionals, etc. Adesola was very helpful in pointing out that it was not necessary to do each and every type of data collection as pilot but that by being selective and trying out, in depth, one or two methods we would then be more able to see which of the ways would be of most benefit to our inquiry.
For example: Doing several interviews to explore the various types of structure/ freedom, and looking at the data collected from them, would help to identify which interview style, if any, would gather the most useful and relevant information.

We also spoke about how words have the power to limit or expand your thinking. Let me explain...
I have been struggling with an inquiry title.
  • I know where my interest lies and in what area I feel passionate about wanting to explore further - my students and their motivations
  • I've been reading literature on, and around, the subject of motivation within, and without, the field of dance,
  • I've thought deeply about wanting to 'listen' to what my students have to say and to look at things from their perspective, rather than relying on or just using information from theoretical research in my practice,
  • I've thought about the age range I am particularly interested in and why,
  • I've thought about methods of gathering data,
But I just can't seem to get a handle on what I'm actually going to try to do!

Adesola said "inspiration"... I said, sorry? She said it again, "inspiration". And I realised that the problem I was having with my inquiry was that I had closed myself off in mind by focusing on the word 'motivation' - I had literally pushed myself into a corner! - and it took another word to set me free again:
I can motivate my students using tools and techniques, and by understanding theoretical concepts of extrinsic/ intrinsic and task-involving/ ego-involving climates but if I can understand how to 'inspire' them then that would be something worth it's weight in gold!

Adesola also talked about how vital analysis is to inquiry - the comparing/ contrasting of the 'this' to 'that' (or the 'why' with the 'how'). For example, how do I know that the existing research on motivation/ inspiration/ developing passion is relevant or reflective of my students needs? By analysing what has been said from what I find through practitioner research I can link theory to practice, or the abstract to the real-world - in other words my inquiry will be helping to improve my practice through a better understanding of knowing-in-action.

Something Adesola also said that really stuck with me is that our inquiry is about the journey not about getting there.

Sophie, who is doing Module One, talked about finding it difficult because she is not currently doing the job that she wants to be doing. We all talked about how it can be hard to see what is relevant in our day-to-day lives but that everything adds to your 'self' and, therefore, your professional 'self' too. For example, dealing with people, how you present yourself, your values, your past experiences, your passions and low-points are all creating the future 'you'.

Adesola brought up how passion seemed to be a word that Sophie talked about a lot, and it was very clear from chatting to Sophie that she has a great deal of it!
It was really great to talk about previous tasks and to see the foundations that they laid down for module 2. It was also made very clear to me that, as Adesola often points out in her blogs, we can all gain from interaction with each other, no matter where we are on the course or what walk of professional life we are - everything is connected!

To finish this blog, I would really recommend taking a seat at the 'first Tuesday coffee house' (next one is May 7th @ 7.30p.m.). Connecting and conversing with others, swapping and sharing ideas and thoughts, engaging in discussion and debate - it's got to be what it's all about hasn't it? And you don't even have to drink coffee!

Addendum (4th April 2013)
Here is the link to Adesola's post about the 'first Tuesday coffee house meeting'

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Reader 6 - part 2 (Observations)

The second section of the Reader is concerned with data collection tools:
  1. Observation (including participant observation)
  2. Interviews
  3. Focus Groups
  4. Surveys and Questionnaires
The method that I use to collect data will not only affect the type of information that I can gather but also whether the information I collect will be relevant to my inquiry so it's important that I am informed about their relative merits/ disadvantages and that I choose carefully.
I have found reading The Good Research Guide by Martin Denscombe (2007) really useful. It thoroughly explains the different methods of data collection in a clear and easy to understand way and then, at the end of each chapter, compiles a list of the good and bad aspects of using that particular method.

In this blog I will look at the questions raised on observation.

What preparation do you need to do for your pilot survey? Are there specific things on which you are focusing? How are you recording the  data? Why?
Do you need to contact the Gatekeeper or the participants directly? Will this be different for you final professional inquiry? (Reader 6, p.10)

My inquiry area is the motivation of adolescents in local dance schools from the perceptions of the students themselves.

In order to do a survey I would need to get permission from the principle(s) of the school(s) I would want to observe at. As there are children involved, and within their lesson time too, I would need to carefully explain the reasons for observing and how I would position myself so as to cause minimal interruption to their dance education.
I feel that I would also need to have permission from the parents of the students, and given the age range of my study group I feel the children should know why I am there. However, this then raises issues of how much natural behaviour I would be seeing in class. Even by having someone 'unusual' in their class will I not be seeing behaviour (both student and teacher) that is 'for my benefit'? If so, then any data collected would be unreliable at best!

How do I pick what I am going to observe? Why does this matter?
In the Reader it mentions purposive (choosing specific people) and representative samples (picking at random) (p.8-9) as ways of choosing participants. In my inquiry I would be purposive in the sense that I want to choose adolescent students who are not in full-time training or who harbour dreams of becoming professional dancers - these are the students that I am most interested in. However, in choosing class(es) to observe I would want a random cross-section of the average dance school so that any findings would be more reflective of the wider population.

Another careful consideration would have to be, 'What exactly am I looking for?'
In looking for what motivates students I would probably be relying on non-verbal movements in the students as well as possibly verbal and non-verbal clues from the teacher. For example:
  1. Draw up a chart listing each pupil. Then record how many times they were praised, corrected kindly, chastised or belittled during the class.
  2. Write down any non-verbal signs that showed whether the children were motivated or demotivated, and how many times they occur during the class. For example: yawning, looking out windows, avoiding teacher eye-contact, answering questions, smiling, etc.
  3. Split the paper into two columns and record evidence of task-involving and ego-involving climates (Nordin-Bates, S., Quested, E., Walker, I., & Redding, E. (2012))
  4. Observe how engaged the teacher is with the subject - knowledge, enthusiasm, how actively she engages the students, how relevant she makes the subject, etc.

'What type of data am I recording?'
Do I want data that can be recorded in a more scientific manner but is quite straight-forward and linear or that is more in-depth but open to interpretation and bias?
As my inquiry is about student perceptions I don't really see how I can accurately or usefully record data through observation. The two main reasons, for me, are:
  1. Whatever I see, and record, is going to be my interpretation of events and not the primary source of information - the student's perceptions.
  2. Personal bias may affect 'what I see' and be a distortion of the situation.

Reflecting on the thoughts and ideas above I don't think that I will be using observation within my final inquiry but I will aim to create a pilot observation just to make sure that I am not closing off a valid area of data collection. However, it is the end of the Spring Term and most students have broken up so I will have to look at arranging a time for the beginning of next term.


BAPP (Arts). (2012). Reader 6 Tools of Professional Inquiry. School of Media and Performing Arts Institute for Work Based Learning.

Denscombe, M. (2010). The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects. Open University Press.

Nordin-Bates, S. M., Quested, E., Walker, I. J., & Redding, E. (2012). Climate Change in the Dance Studio. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 1(1), 3-16.

Reader 6 reflections - part 1

I've been going through Reader 6 over the weekend and making notes, highlighting text and delving into the questions that it raises.
I thought it would be good to blog my answers to these, not as a formal post but as a series of spidergrams. I hope this will give me the opportunity to reflect further on my original thoughts.

Question 1

Looks at problems or concerns at                                  
work with a view to developing strategies,                     Reflection on the why?,
skills and new knowledge that will resolve                     how?, who? and what? of
or better inform practice                                                  professional practice 
                                             \                                           /
                                           How is professional inquiry
                                           similar to other professional
                                       activity in which you are involved?
                                      /                                                       \
Involves looking for answers                                            Starts from having no real 
from outside your                                                              answers and understanding
skill set to improve/ develop                                             that truth is subjective 
For example:                                                                  
clients,                                                     \ 
employers,                                                What I do has implications for work - 
professional bodies,                                 clients, employers, public perceptions, etc.
existing research, etc.                 
                                               Will be affected (to some degree) by personal bias , 
                                               insider-knowledge, time and resources

Questions 2 & 3

Society publications                                                       Online resources/ articles
Read what is relevant                                                       Read articles
Apply any updates or new thinking                                 Reflect on usefulness in own
Less reviewing more reflection and                                 practice and try out
assimilation into current practice                                     Adopt/ assimilate helpful      
                                                                                          skills/ knowledge
                                       \                                                       /
                                        Do you search and review sources
                                        from literature, gathering information
                                        for decision-making?  Do you collect
                                        points of view in order to have a balanced
                                       viewpoint from which to make decisions?
                                       /                                                      \
Books                                                                                     Person-to-person
More indepth exploration of areas of interest                        Ask colleagues/ employers
Access to further reading                                                       for opinions and advice
Build on areas of expertise and improve                               Talk to professional
on areas of weakness                                                              associates/ networks
Different points of view to widen teaching                          

All information is, to some degree or other, reviewed from a personal bias and adapted to 'best fit' the situation.

Question 4

                                                                                     Inquiry is not just for personal
Follows rules/ guidelines ensuring                           benefit but to others (clients,
ease of accessiblity to others                                     colleagues, organisations, etc.)
                                               \                                /                                                                  /
                                                How is it different?
                                                /                              \
More formal methods of data/                             Limitations explained and
information collection. More                               documented - bias and insider-
indepth analysis of data.                                       knowledge recognised
           Findings presented with
           awareness of audience and               \
           reader in mind                                   Scale of inquiry is generally larger than
                                                                        questions raised in other professional
                                                                        activities or in day-to-day practice
                                                                        (looking at the bigger issues)