Project Based Learning to Promote 21St Century Skills: An Action Research Study

This action research study explored how instructional staff members at a rural
high school in Central Virginia can improve their PBL instructional practices to promote
students to acquire the 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, creativity,
and critical thinking. Based on the results of this action research study, the top three
strengths of PBL were students learning from mistakes, students taking responsibility for their learning, and that projects come in all shapes and sizes. The study revealed that there is not a tight fit or alignment between PBL and the Four Cs of communication, creativity, and critical thinking, and collaboration; however instructional staff members still perceived PBL as promoting the Four Cs in various ways. The study revealed that instructional staff members envision their school as students learning from their mistakes in a non-punitive way, being responsible for their learning, and creating their own educational paths to success. The study revealed that instructional staff members would like professional development on grading PBL lessons, as well as infusing PBL into the curriculum.

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Scaffolded Research-Based Learning for the Development Of Scientific Communication In Undergraduate Students

A Research Based Physiology subject was developed to improve undergraduate students’ experimental design and written communication skills through the generation of a scientific manuscript. This subject consisted of active-learning lectures, small-group discussions and formative feedback on students’ drafts of sections of the
manuscript. Students were segregated into low-, middle- and high-achievers based on their prior level of achievement. Analysis was performed on students enrolled in Semester 1 and Semester 2 (n = 332) in 2013. Our data demonstrated that there was a significant positive Kendall’s rank co-efficiency between the number of drafts submitted and the scientific manuscript assignment mark for low- and middle-achievers. Furthermore, for these groups, there was a significant positive Kendall’s rank coefficiency between students’ prior level of achievement and their assignment mark, with no coefficiency between their prior level of achievement and number of drafts submitted. However there was no coefficiency between prior level of achievement and number of drafts submitted for all groups. A significant positive Kendall’s rank oefficiency between prior level of achievement and either theoretical content or experimental design marks exists for middle-achievers only. Finally, all groups had a significant improvement in their assignment grade and experimental design marks
compared to their prior level of achievement. However only low- and middle-achievers demonstrated an improvement in their theoretical content mark compared to their prior level of achievement. Therefore, this study demonstrates that scaffolded learning using active-learning lectures, small-group discussions and collaborative workshops, may enable students to develop their experimental design skills, but more importantly
can be used to develop written scientific communication skills.

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Interest Matters: The Importance of Promoting Interest in Education

Interest is a powerful motivational process that energizes learning, guides academic and career trajectories, and is essential to academic success. Interest is both a psychological state of attention and affect toward a particular object or topic, and an enduring predisposition to reengage over time. Integrating these two definitions, the four-phase model of interest development guides interventions that promote interest and capitalize on existing interests. Four interest-enhancing interventions seem useful: attention-getting settings, contexts evoking prior individual interest, problem-based learning, and enhancing utility value. Promoting interest can contribute to a more engaged, motivated, learning experience for students.

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Transdisciplinary action research: A guiding framework for collaboration

How can graduate students work productively with each other and community partners? Many researchers and practitioners are engaging in transdisciplinarity, yet there is surprisingly little critical reflection about the processes and outcomes of transdisciplinarity, particularly from the perspectives of graduate students and community partners who are increasingly involved.

Our group of four graduate students from the University of Guelph and one community partner from the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, reflect on our experiences of working together toward community food security in Canada, especially producing a guidebook for farmer-led research (Fioret et al. 2018). As none of us had previously worked together, nor shared any disciplines in common, we found it essential to first develop a guiding framework for collaboration. Our thinking combined the following key principles from action research and transdisciplinarity:

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Interdisciplinarity and synergy in collaborations

Problem-solving often requires crossing boundaries, such as those between disciplines. However, interdisciplinarity is not an objective in itself, but a means for creating synergy. When policy-makers call for interdisciplinarity, they may mean synergy. Synergy means that the whole offers more possibilities than the sum of its parts. The measurement of synergy, however, requires a methodology very different from interdisciplinarity. In this blog post, I consider each of these measures in turn, the logic underpinning each of them, and I specify the definitions in mathematical terms.

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Ten principles of good interdisciplinary team work

Background: Interdisciplinary team work is increasingly prevalent, supported by policies and practices that bring care closer to the patient and challenge traditional professional boundaries. To date, there has been a great deal of emphasis on the processes of team work, and in some cases, outcomes.

Method: This study draws on two sources of knowledge to identify the attributes of a good interdisciplinary team; a published systematic review of the literature on interdisciplinary team work, and the perceptions of over 253 staff from 11 community rehabilitation and intermediate care teams in the UK. These data sources were merged using qualitative content analysis to arrive at a framework that identifies characteristics and proposes ten competencies that support effective interdisciplinary team work.

Results: Ten characteristics underpinning effective interdisciplinary team work were identified: positive leadership and management attributes; communication strategies and structures; personal rewards, training and development; appropriate resources and procedures; appropriate skill mix; supportive team climate; individual characteristics that support interdisciplinary team work; clarity of vision; quality and outcomes of care; and respecting and understanding roles.

Conclusions: We propose competency statements that an effective interdisciplinary team functioning at a high level should demonstrate.

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Interdisciplinarity as Teamwork

This essay discusses interdisciplinary research in the context of science policy and the practice of science. Comparisons between interdisciplinary research and other forms of cross-disciplinary research are made, and a brief discussion of the development of the concept of interdisciplinarity is provided. The overarching thesis of this essay is that interdisciplinary research is team research, that is, research conducted by a team. This notion is developed via recent policy discussions of team science and the need to understand interdisciplinary research in action. The author shows how it may be possible to consider the implementation of principles from teamwork and team training to improve interdisciplinary research and the practice of team science.

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Anthropology in health research: from qualitative methods to multidisciplinarity

Qualitative methods are now common in research into the social and cultural dimensions of ill health and health care. These methods derive from several social sciences, but the concepts and knowledge from some disciplinary traditions are underused. Here we describe the potential contribution of anthropology, which is based on the empirical comparison of particular socie­ ties. Anthropology has biological, social, and cultural branches, but when applied to health issues it most commonly relates to the social and cultural dimensions of health, ill health, and medicine.1

Emphasis on methods in health related qualitative research obscures the value of substantive knowledge and theoretical concepts based in some social sciences-. Anthropology views the familiar afresh through focusing on classification and on understanding rationality in social and cultural context. It highlights the value of data gathered informally and the differences between what people say, think, and do. Its emphasis on empirical particularity helps to avoid inaccurate generalisations and their potentially problematic applications. Truly multidisciplinary research needs to incorporate the conceptual frameworks and knowledge bases of participating disciplines.

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How can co-labouring improve transdisciplinary research?

What do we mean by co-labouring? What practices does it involve? How can it enhance interactions among researchers and key stakeholders in transdisciplinary research?

Choosing the notion of ‘co-labouring’ in our transdisciplinary project stems from an awareness that creating alternative perspectives, eg., on sustainable futures for mining, is a complex endeavor. Ideas of researchers wanting to give voice to unheard groups at the margin are too often based on simple models of translation. These assumptions underestimate what gets lost in translation, or the gaps in understandings between different groups of stakeholders.

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Reflectivity in Research Practice: An Overview of Different Perspectives

The article grounds on the assumption that researchers, in order to be not mere technicians but competent practitioners of research, should be able to reflect in a deep way. That means they should reflect not only on the practical acts of research but also on the mental experience which constructs the meaning about practice. Reflection is a very important mental activity, both in private and professional life. Learning the practice of reflection is fundamental because it allows people to engage into a thoughtful relationship with the world-life and thus gain an awake stance about one’s lived experience. Reflection is a crucial cognitive practice in the research field. Reflexivity is largely practiced in qualitative research, where it is used to legitimate and validate research procedures. This study introduces different perspectives of analysis by focusing the discourse on the main philosophical approaches to reflection: pragmatistic, critical, hermeneutic, and finally phenomenological. The thesis of this study is that the phenomenological theory makes possible to analyze in depth the reflective activity and just by that to support an adequate process of training of the researcher.

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