SLO #3 - Research Skills
Professional educator demonstrates research skills by designing and conducting research ethically and effectively and presenting their findings at a professional level in oral and written forms.
Action Research Project - The impact of competitive collaborative game play on achievement and attitude in Advanced Placement physics. Over the past two years I have researched articles, designed a study and executed that study on the effect of playing physics games of my own design on the test achievement and attitudes toward physics of my AP physics students. I created not only an action research written presentation, but also a slide presentation of my study. Both the study and the slide presentation are available on my website.
Much of my time and energy in the masters program has gone into the design, execution and reporting of my action research study. Early in the program, I spent a lot of time analyzing other studies, learning not only what other researchers have found, but also how to present findings in a professional manner. Learning APA style was a major challenge and source of laughter and frustration for myself and my colleagues throughout the program. I feel I have nearly mastered APA and the journal style of presentation for an action research study. I also learned many interesting concepts that sparked many more questions in my mind. The one that I identified with the most was concerning the impact of collaboration and game play. I love playing academic games with students, but could not find data that suggested it was beneficial, as I believed it to be. I decided that in order to continue using my valuable class time for games, I had better be sure that these games were actually helping students. I decided to look at two aspects of my class that are very important to me, achievement and affinity towards physics. Not only would I design a study to determine the impact of game play, but I would also create a new physics game that I felt would help students. I designed specific games based on what research I found on positive aspects of collaboration, competition and game play. I designed tests for my study to measure achievement and attitudes using at least three measurement tools to create triangulation and increase validity and reliability. I had to come in for extra help to learn to analyze the data I collected and how to interpret meanings from that analysis. I then spent innumerable hours recording, analyzing and weaving the data together to tell the results of my study. I found that achievement results were mixed, showing both increases and decreases. I also found that student attitudes increased or remained positive toward physics. I made many mistakes along the way, which also taught me a great deal. I learned that my measurement tools were flawed and that if I repeat my experiment how to better design my tests to properly measure achievement. I learned a great deal about writing my action research study and am indebted to Prof. Rivas, Prof. Cheng and my colleagues for all the editing, suggestions and constructive criticism.
Now that my study is complete, I am filled with a sense of relief and a great sense of accomplishment. I can remember the first semester of the program, hearing a long list of tasks that we would complete while in the program and feeling very overwhelmed. I continued to feel very overwhelmed while the program continued, and seemed to barely keep up with the large work load. I read a ton of research and wrote many analysis papers about that research especially for Prof. Rivas. It was here that I was inspired to try something new and to follow my own beliefs, because they seemed to line up with other research. I always felt lost and that I was learning on the job, making lots of mistakes and asking the wrong questions. Eventually, the study was complete and I was no longer a novice. I am be no means an expert, but I have really learned a lot about conducting research and know that next time it will be even better and may be a lot easier now that I know what to expect and what to avoid. I was a little disappointed that I designed some of my data collection tools wrong. I think I that my study would have shown increased achievement if I had created the correct measurement tools. I did not realize they were wrong until after the study was completed and it was too late to go back and retest. Although it is painful to realize that I made mistakes, I learned a lot from making those key mistakes and realize how to critique and analyze other research better. Gaining some mastery and knowing that I have created a work of research that I am proud of has filled me with a great sense of accomplishment. It goes with one of my life mottos: "the greatest rewards in life come from the greatest challenges." Because of this project, and the encouragement of Prof. Rivas, I have applied to present my research findings at next year's NSTA conference. I never would have dreamed that I would someday present at a major conference. I am now looking forward to sharing what I have learned with those that are interested. This project and the masters program has definitely changed me.