On 5 May 2014, I was at Milton Keynes again. I had something called a module team meeting in the morning. In the afternoon I attended an OU funded conference that had the title (or abbreviation) eSTEeM (project website).
eSTEeM is an initiative to conduct research into STEM education. STEM is an abbreviation for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. Since I have some connections with some computing modules, which can cross the subjects of Engineering and Mathematics, I decided to submit a proposal that had the objective of learning more about the tutor’s experience of teaching computer programming. The aim was simple: if we learn more about the tutor’s challenges, we can support them better, and subsequently they will be able to support the students better too.
I have been lucky enough to receive a small amount of funding from the university. This, of course, is great news, but it also means that I’ve got even more work to do! (But I’m not complaining - I accept that it’s all self-inflicted, and it’s work that will allow us to get at some insights). If you’re interested, here’s some further information about the project (eSTEeM website).
A 'pilot' project
The ‘understanding the tutors and the students when they do programming’ project is a qualitative study. In this case, it means that I’ll be analysing a number of interviews with tutors. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been quite a while since I have done any qualitative research, so I felt that I needed to refamiliarise myself with what I needed to do by, perhaps, running a pilot study.
It wasn’t long before I had an idea that could become a substantive piece of research in its own right. I realised that there was an opportunity to run a ‘focus group’ to ask tutors about their experience of tutoring on another module: T320 Ebusiness Technologies (OU website). The idea was that the outcome from this study could feed directly into discussions about a new module.
During my slot at the conference, rather than talking about my research about programming (which was still at the planning stage), I talked about T320 research, that was just about finished. I say finished, when what I actually mean is ‘transcribed’; there is a lot more analysis to do. What has struck me was how generous tutors are with both their opinions and their time. Their views will really help when it comes to designing and planning the future module that I have a connection.
Final thoughts and links
In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the conference programme.
What struck me was how much ‘internal research’ was there was going on; there are certainly a lot of projects to look through. From my perspective, I’m certainly looking forward to making a contribution to the next conference and sharing results from the web technologies and programming research project with colleagues. The other great thing about getting my head into research again is that when you have one idea about what to look at, you suddenly find that get a whole bunch of other ideas.