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Questions to guide journal discussions

February 21, 2013

Some colleagues and I have been doing PER journal club since the start of last semester. The club does a good job of ensuring we’re reading at least one article a week but I’ve felt like our discussions are sometimes lacking. The four of us in the club are all new to PER so I worry that sometimes we miss some of the deeper ideas or not reading critically enough. We also have a tendency to get off topic in our discussions.

Last week I came up with the following set of questions that I hope are general enough that we could apply them to any PER article to help guide our reading and discussion.

  1. What theory or assumptions prompted this research? That is, what made the authors think that the question they are attempting to answer was worth asking in first place?
  2. Do we see evidence of this theory or the assumptions in our classes? What is our evidence?
  3. What specific research question(s) is being addressed in the current paper?
  4. What was the methodology used in the current paper? Are there any assumptions inherent to these methods?
  5. What are the authors’ conclusions? Are these conclusions well supported?
  6. What are the implications for instruction? For research?
  7. What would you propose as the follow-up study?

I emailed these questions to my colleagues last week and proposed that we try to answer them for this week’s article: Redish, Saul & Steinberg, Student Expectations in Introductory Physics. We didn’t get through all of the questions and our discussion still wandered off topic some but I think the questions were really useful. It was helpful to have pre-arranged questions ready to help bring the discussion back on topic and some of the questions definitely helped to make us think more critically.

We had a particularly good/surprising discussion about the second question. While we were all quick to say that yes, our students have expectations about our classes that influence their learning it was very difficult to come up with actual evidence to support this claim. We came up with evidence that our students 1) have expectations about science and/or our classes, 2) shift their expectations over the course of the semester, and 3) modify their behavior based on shifting expectations, but it was very difficult to explicitly connect these expectations to learning. We decided that we need to do a better job of articulating for ourselves what expectations we value and think are productive for our students to hold and why. Then we can start thinking how we might see these expectations played out in the students’ learning process and our assessments.

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From → Epistemology

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