Reclaimed – “Video Research in Education”

August 21, 2012 Off By JR

One potential solution to our problem from yesterday is the video research method. Remember that there is trouble in having a macro view of education when trying to understand the entire system. However, even Finnish education experts refer to the classrooms of Finland as black boxes, it is difficult to say what really happens in them. And given the autonomy of teachers in Finland compared to some other countries this could vary greatly. So we had a presenter from the OECD suggest the video research method to examine how teachers teach world wide. We shared our space today with the video research class of HSS2012.

Unfortunately for our group I think this presentation was geared more towards the research group than the teacher group. There was actually very little discussion about the video research method, and not too much discussion from the group about how to implement the method in education. Most of the presentation focused on some indicators for practices such as TALIS, CERI, PISA, PIAAC, and AHELO. I thought the idea of AHELO was interesting (similar to PISA but for undergrads). The completion rates are much lower than PISA though. In Finland AHELO only had a 30% response rate. I wonder if those results would be the same world wide. What are we doing to students so that they feel no desire to contribute to these projects by undergrad?

There was also some discussion about funding for these research projects and potential problems with them. We also had some more explanation about PISA and Finlands results compared to other places. Many of the charts looked like cluster charts and by observing only those I disagree that any conclusion could be drawn. There was not really any defined trend lines within what I would guess a reasonable confidence interval, however I understand there are thourough publications about the results, outcomes, and indicators. But I digress.

The afternoon we were able to ask a panel questions about the morning. It is at this time I hope that people from the video class as well as DETEF contribute in the comments section of this post, because I fixated on my questions a little.

One question I had was about the appearance of Canada on the charts and what message that sends. As I have mentioned before Canada has a unique education system for each province. So saying “Canadian Education” is similar to saying “Nordic Education” and then throwing France in. In the results or statistics other instructors of our course have shown there have been a number of times they mention specifically Alberta, which makes sense. There is a lot of research done there, and it is only one system. Also saying the United States is problematic for the same reason. I think a number of states operate with the same curriculum, but each can operate autonomously.

My second, maybe bigger question was about the claim the OECD has of PISA “testing authentic tasks”. I asked exactly how valid that could be considering in my day to day life the number of formal tests I take could be expressed as a limit where x is approaching infinite and there is a horizontal asymptote along the x-axis. For non-math geeks out there, it is infinitely close to zero. The response I received was temporarily acceptable, but we ran out of time to continue the discussion. I understand that many experts have been employed to design the PISA system, from psychologists to statisticians, to SMEs. And maybe I would accept that as an answer, but the OECD is a political organization and there is a smaller sample of countries that design these measures than the number that engages in the testing. This raises the questions of context and value systems. Not only that, but if we need evidence to show PISA is not tainted how will we get that? As explained today it is difficult to get the funding and anytime a sponsor is brought on a set of conditions comes with them. I have read about the conflict between corporations and academic freedom as well, which adds another complication to obtaining high quality research that could be critical of PISA. So ultimately we “could” conduct this research, but practically I doubt it would happen. (Side note: check out the book “Selling Out: Academic Freedom and the Corporate Market”)

After our class I spent some time with my partner for the final presentation developing a simple model for engaging students in applied science courses. Particularly we focused on those in industrial engineering when hypothesizing our ideas. Early this evening was also the grand opening of the ELE at the University of Helsinki Minerva building. I will later provide a link exploring the area.

Tonight I was able to spend some more time at another WDC2012 pavilion, design afloat. Basically it is a bar on the top deck and a shop underneath. There is no readily accessible water at home other than our river so this was a nice change of pace for me. That may be one of the things I love most about Helsinki, the water is not far away. Combined with the views of the trees, rocks, and harbour it is fantastic. Maybe pictures will say more than words.