Monday, February 24

Stage 2: Work with the research questions

When my Ss sent me their research questions I printed them out for Ss to analyse at the lesson. I prepared a table to analyse these questions. The ideas of the criteria for the evaluation were taken from the article (  They were: audience-oriented, complex (require research and analysis), concise, arguable, clear, and focused. Each S had to evaluate five questions. They had about 10 minutes for that. Then the discussion started. Each S chose one question (out of those five) and commented on it. The other Ss also provided comments. The Ss whose questions were discussed put down their classmates’ comments. As homework for Wednesday they were asked to rewrite their own questions. It turned out that their rewritten versions were just as unsuccessful as the previous ones. Thus, I understood that I had to show them a pattern applying which they all would write good research questions.

The most important idea of the article mentioned above was that a good research question should include both information AND analysis of it. So, a good research question should begin with the question words how? or why? to incorporate both these aspects. The next thing I thought about was how to connect a research question with the main theme because my Ss’ questions sometimes were not really on the topic. In our case the general topics were: the Art of Teaching, Studying, Creating a Computer Game, Filmmaking, Product launch and Art of Photography. I thought that concerning these themes the following equation is correct: art=success, i.e. the topic “Art of Teaching” means that the act of teaching  is/was successful. So, I needed two components to include: why?/how? question+ the word “success”. The next thing I needed was to think of the Ss’ topics as a macrosystem that includes different components. For instance, the subcategories of filmmaking could be the choice of cast, budget, personal qualities of the director, place of release, time, choice of the audience, choice of the genre, and etc. Since I decided to have five research questions I needed 5 components of each topic. The last step was to connect these three things: why/how? questions+ the word “success”+one subcategory. On the example of the filmmaking these research questions could be like this:

1 How did the choice of cast contribute to the success of the director?

2 How did the budget influence the success of the director?

3 How did the personal qualities of the director lead to the success? etc.

Stage 3: Work with the research information

At the lesson on Tuesday, March 4 I asked my Ss to rewrite their research question for the last time using the pattern that I’ve just described. Then I collected their questions, wrote my remarks and gave them back on Wednesday, March 5. Ss’ homework for Monday, March 10 was to find the answer on the Internet to two of their five research questions (two alternative opinions) and attach links to the information.

On Monday, March 10 we analysed Ss’ answers to their two questions.  I prepared these questions and asked Ss to analyse three questions and the opinions/answers found. The questions were:

1.            Does the question correspond with the research aim?

2.            What are the key words of the research question? How do you understand them?

3.            Does the information in opinion 1 and 2 answer the question?

4.            Do opinions contain irrelevant information? Why do you think so?

5.            What do you like about the information collected?

6.            What other aspects of the question should/could be examined?

Ss had 20 minutes to analyse each of the three works and then we discussed them. One S commented, the others added something. At the end of the lesson I asked Ss to formulate the conclusions that they could draw out of the analysis of the research information.

As homework Ss were asked to make necessary improvements in their questions 1 and 2 and by Saturday, March 22 to send them and the rest three research questions with the information and the links found to me.

Now, here comes my question:

Since I don’t have much time(the 8th of April is the date of Ss’ public speech), I want my Ss to analyse/to summarise  the research information they will send me. How to do it? I don’t think there is much use in waiting for Saturday, March 22 to discuss it. Can we already predict or decide what to do with the information collected?

I’d really appreciate your comments and suggestions.


# Alexander Sokol 2014-03-28 17:05
Olga, apologies, I seem to have missed this post of yours. Is the question still relevant?
# Alexander Sokol 2014-03-28 17:26
A few thoughts about the process as such. Please don't take it as criticism - I am more interested in understanding why you've decided to take this part.

If I remember correctly, the initial plan was to get students to think about the topics (art of teaching, art of film-making, etc.) through the prism of problems faced and the solutions found. In this respect, an inquiry question leads to working with problems and solutions and deals with the development of competences related to it (see the discussion between Irina and myself here - Following this, the idea was to get students to identify problems faced and solutions found in the fields they have chosen, or at least to push them in that direction and see which competences are to be developed to help them do it better.

In fact, the process of developing competences is the key to planning. What I am trying to say that whatever tasks we plan or don't plan or whatever feedback we give should be centred around our aims - the aims determine what we do.

When I am reading about the approach you've taken, I am not sure I understand your aims. What exactly were you trying to reach? What competences did you want to address? It seems that you actually taught a particular way of dealing with inquiry questions to your students, corrected their mistakes when they misunderstood something and then asked them to use it. This is not bad in itself but it seems to be a usual Present - Practice - Produce model which is not normally compatible with the TA.

It would be interesting to have your comments. As I wrote, I would like to understand why you've decided to take this path as it may help us understand the difficulties of TA teachers better.
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