Research introduction for students

This summer I’m developing a fully-online course for transfer students to help them hit the ground running in our program (this is part of an entirely online program currently for psychology and business majors). The learning outcomes for the course focus on familiarizing students with the Hamline version of a liberal arts education and on research skills. It’s the latter part that this post is about because I’m seeking some feedback on the tentative plan.

The main approach will focus on having students investigate the research that debunks popular myths in their discipline. The rough outline is:

  1. Explore popular (mis)uses of a particular myth.
    1. This will intentionally have students use lower quality resources like the top 10 hits of a Google search.
    2. The goal will be to flesh out how the myth is understood in society.
  2. Form groups to dig deeper into each myth. Have them form a 10-100 explanation of the myth.
    1. This is where the groups have to describe their myth using the 10 100 most used words in the English language (the word “thousand” isn’t in the 10 100 most used words). I’ve done this in courses before.
  3. Learn how to seek out and evaluate higher quality resources.
    1. We have some good modules for this from our library that first-year students use.
  4. Review the lower quality sources from step one above to identify potential loopholes in the established research that might explain why the myth is so hard to dislodge from society’s general understanding.
  5. Put together an annotated bibliography of sources
    1. Include sources from steps 1, 3, and 4.
    2. Typically the annotations will include how they discovered the source, what its general arguments are, and whether it targets a loophole.
  6. Turn the annotated bibliography into a graphical one
    1. Each source is represented in the graphic.
    2. Physical space in the graphics is leveraged to communicate:
      1. How the sources agree
      2. How the sources reference each other
      3. How the sources refer to the loopholes
      4. Areas where new research could close or illuminate loopholes
  7. The graphical bibliography will not be turned in as a graphic. Rather it will be the context of a video the groups will make to describe their project

Things I like about this:

  • I’m excited to facilitate conversations around what high-quality research really says, as often it’s quite narrow. For example with (my favorite false myth) learning styles, a lot of the debunking research looks at particular features, like the learning comparison between being taught with a variety of approaches vs targeting the students’ claimed learning style. These are powerful pieces of evidence to argue against learning styles, but they are rarely comprehensive against every possible use.
  • I love the 10-100 assignment as students really struggle to find the words that they’re allowed to use to explain something that they understand. This works as a great analogy for how researchers have to learn to communicate.
  • I’m super intrigued by the graphical bibliography. I think that it could be a great way to illustrate the various connections among the sources.
  • I like the notion of closing loopholes. If the groups can find that, say, some company is making money leveraging learning styles, maybe they can find that a new research study could help close that loophole, or identify a use for learning styles that’s legitimate.

Things I’m worried about:

  • Letting students in the first week use just Google results might set a bad precedent.
  • Access to full-text sources in a short term (the initial version will only be 8 weeks long).
  • While I’m developing the class, I won’t always teach it, so I need to make sure that the assessments are solid and able to be performed by any qualified instructor.
  • Psychology myths are pretty easy to find, but business myths have proven harder to track down.

What do you think? Here are some starters for you:

  • This class sounds cool, my favorite part is . . .
  • This class is a waste, what you should do is . . .
  • Why not have the students develop a thorough research proposal for those loopholes?
  • You should add in myths about online learning while you’re at it.
  • What’s your beef with learning styles?
  • Here’s a bunch of business myths for you: . . .
  • I disagree with how you’re categorizing high-quality resources. It seems to me that they are comprehensive. Here’s an example . . .
  • When I think about preparing students for research, I think of a bunch of different ideas than yours. Here’s twelve . . .
  • If you love the 10-100 assignment so much why don’t you limit yourself to those words for your blog posts?
  • There are tons of resources for graphical annotated bibliographies that you should be ashamed you didn’t mention. Here’s my favorite . . .
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About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in dean, research, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Research introduction for students

  1. Steve says:

    Thought about Business myths. What if you had them take pieces of economic policy, and analyze those? Rich people don’t pay their fair share… If we cut taxes, (bad thing) will happen… If we raise taxes, (bad thing) will happen…

    • Andy Rundquist says:

      Those are great ideas. I’m not sure if the school of business here makes a big distinction between econ and straight business, but I’m talking to them about all of this.

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