I’m very much an aural learner; as a student I compose essays in my head while out walking (this is probably helped by the hypomanic experience of continuous mental discourse) and I struggle with visual learning. No mind maps or pictures for me, I write my plans out in a very linear way. When teaching practical tasks I mirror this by breaking them down into simple stages which are clearly explained. So, I went for a walk this morning and cleared a dilemma about my research cohort which has been bugging me.
I decided originally to use my K219 cohort as my participant group. This was mainly because it has a high number of students with declared disabilities but also because K219 offers an opportunity to support students who are just starting out at level 2 and are developing their independent learning at a post-foundation level on a more generic health related module rather than a specialised one.
But a few weeks ago, I started getting a few quibbles. If I target K219 students, I may have to recruit students from other tutor groups. We use group tuition on K219 and tutors know each other well so I would hope this would not throw up too many conflicts. But it does mean that I might be researching students whose full data I cannot access. The analytics database used in the university helps me to identify students who are falling behind and is a key tool in targeting students for support. Recruiting from other tutor groups means I will miss out on this data. I also don’t want to confuse students about who to approach for learning support.
I started considering using my other modules for recruitment. This would mean I could use available data to be responsive to students and fits in well with my action research aims. But it throws up its own issues; it will be more complicated as I will need to liaise across several module teams and a very large tutor cohort. It introduces students from a more diverse group; this might be beneficial in gathering more varied data but might also lead to fewer applicable conclusions. It all seemed far too ‘messy’.
So today I went for a walk and decided to embrace the issues raised by recruiting K219 students. My analytics data base provides an overall module picture and this can be using for targeting motivational support for students not in my tutor group. My own students will get individually targeted support. This comparison can form part of the analysis, as will the difference between own tutor and alternative tutor providing motivational support. It might draw up interesting discussion about who needs to provide motivational support to students with mental health challenges and how personal it needs to be in practice. I will need to be clear in my research information that I will be providing motivational support in the form of interventions but that students need to contact their own tutor for module support.
This has also made me think about other issues, such as personally addressed emails. I already send out weekly emails as a group email to my students with generic addressing of ‘Dear students’, these will continue and will also be sent to non-tutor group participants. The additional motivational emails will be personally addressed, allowing a comparison of student response to these approaches. I’ve also developing ideas on motivational presentations in the online tutorial room, including one targeting mental health while studying. My research data will focus on the interviews I have with students exploring what has been helpful in developing their independent learning.
Making a firm decision on my cohort allows me to step forward and plan my interventions with a target group in mind and a useful stepping stone on my research journey.