Writing Research Questions is Hard!

A discussion post from Cathy:

From the beginning of the project I struggled with the research questions & what was being asked. We had a braod outline of what we wanted to look at – We had a class set of iPads we wanted to use well, we wanted to know what the students thought about using these technologies and we wanted to see if tasks we did in class impacted on the students’ use of their own mobile technologies. The practicalilities of what we were doing seemed simpler. . We’d told the students about the project & ethics forms were signed. We used the iPads in class and we met regularly to share what we were doing and what we were learning from our activities.

It has taken most of the year for me to really fully understand what it is about our original questions that don’t work:

educational benefit

How can anything we do really be measured as having an educational benefit, in isolation of anything else? A research question should really know what it is trying to measure – and this is an area that I am still very woolly about.

If the first stage of Practitioner Led Action Research (PLAR) is to challenge the possible assumptions of the problem then I feel that we were definately focused on the technology. Mobile Technology ownership is rising. There is increasing chatter about BYOD. The problem to address is the technology. But in phrasing the question as we did, we didn’t challenge the term’educational benefit’ (or rather I didn’t – I think early on our fabulous mentor was trying to help us with the question issue & it has taken me a while to really understand it)

I’m not even sure that I have any advice on this issue either. Well defined research questions feel to come from a variety of different places – discussions with colleagues, issues within organisations, literature reviews – but they are quite slippery characters. They are tough to write initally, have the potential to change as the research progresses & end by asking more questions than answering.

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