Looking in PD for Online Instructors

Sometimes our research takes us down rabbit trails that can be very helpful for our research, providing that time is not lost in the vacuum of discovery. As I continue my research focused on online music education, I came across an avenue that very much intersects with online teaching and learning – professional development for online instructors.

PD for teachers can be a very challenging topic due to the fact that teachers already know a wealth of information on how to teach, combined with the ever-changing landscape of technology. While it can seem overwhelming for an online teacher to embrace some of the new research taking place in how we can better help our online learners, the fact remains that PD is an important component for all of us in the education field.

Palloff & Pratt (2011) have highlighted a number of characteristics that remind us of what skills we as educators need in regards to online teaching readiness: visibility, compassion, communication, commitment and organization (p. 19). While these inherent skills are critical for connecting with our online students, there will always be ways to improve our online teaching through training: personal establishment of online presence; online teaching pedagogy; how best to disseminate subject-specific content and how and what technology (i.e. LMS, apps, etc.) to use in online teaching (p. 21).


While Zhu (2008) cites that many faculty attending technology training for teaching are not known for trying new things or change, we can all be part of the solution by building communities in our faculties that support collaborative learning. My goal for this week is to make one concerted gain in being more collaborative… how about you? 🙂

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2011). The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Zhu, E. (2008). Breaking dow barriers to the use of technology for teaching in higher education. In D. R. Robertson & L. B. Nilson (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instruction, and Organizational Development, 26, 305-318. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Improving online courses

With my research going in the direction of searching for a framework for developing online music education courses, I have come across a number of educational models in use and how, as teachers, we can improve our current teaching. That said, Palloff & Pratt (2003, 2007) have developed a number of online teaching strategies and methods for improving online courses. In particular, the use of inclusion of self-assessment and application of skills/studies is a need for encouraging students in online courses.

Another helpful resource is the Quality Matters rubric. This rubric is helpful for online teachers to evaluate their courses in adherence to design of the actual course. The Illinois Online Network (QOCI) also has some helpful evaluation tools for course evaluation, plus its also attends to elements of collaboration and interaction.


Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2003). The Virtual Student: A profile and guide to working with online learners. Jossey-Bass.

Creditability and Reliability

As outlined by various researchers (Phelps et al 2005; Gall et al 2007; Phillips 2007), providing creditability and reliability of research methods will promote strength of data findings as well as strengthen the application of findings to other music research.

Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P. & Borg, W. R. (2006). Educational research: an introduction (8th edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Phelps, Roger, Sadoff, Ronald H., Warburton, Edward C. and Ferrara, Lawrence. (2005). A Guide to Research in Music Education. 5th ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Phillips, K. H. (2008). Exploring research in music education and music therapy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Starting to gather themes for literature review

It’s amazing what we find when we start looking into research. Yesterday I was looking at some research studies in more than “scanning” detail and I came across some interesting ideas to pursue. To that extent, here is a sample of how my literature review research could unfold:

Literature Review

Using a keyword database search on the terms, “online music education,” “music education philosophy,” “online teaching practices,” database sources (i.e. RILM, IIMP, JSTOR, and ERIC) will provide initial resources for primary and secondary resources. Searching these resources for common terms will aid in additional database searches for deeper depth and breadth of information to be contained within the Literature Review.

The Literature Review would be written in a thematic approach that assists in providing documentation that warrants the study of online music education while providing insight into past methodologies and significance for continued study. Possible themes that may arise include: music as social significance; qualitative methodologies; learning impact of online education; motivation and self-efficacy.

Sources included in this section would display both primary sources (i.e. journal/blogs, interviews, video footage, autobiographies, past and current research studies etc.) and secondary sources (i.e. newspaper articles, journals, biographies, research reviews etc.) that were likely obtained from initial database and bibliographic research.

More readings on case study research

Additional information on case study research can be gleaned from the following texts:

—Stake, R. E. (1995). The Art of Case Study Research. SAGE.
—Ragin, C. C., & Becker, H. S. (Eds.). (1992). What Is a Case?: Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry. Cambridge University Press.

Case Study Research – Questions in Reliability and Validity

Firmly based in context-dependent knowledge (i.e. rule-based knowledge to virtuoso/expert) Flyvbjerg (2006) presents 5 challenges to our misunderstanding of case study methodology.  While large samples of research data can develop a breadth of knowledge, individual case studies can present a larger work of depth on a specific point of study.  Various established researchers in the field of research methodology (—Campbell, 1975; Eysenck, 1976; Ragin & Becker, 1992) have seen through the challenges of reliability, theory and validity posed to case study research and begun to establish the meaningful research outcomes of the case study methodology.

The main contention found by various researchers is that the case study methodology presents issues with validity of research. As we can see from the visual reminder below, the virtuoso, or expert, comes to be an expert in a field through individual case knowledge. From specific cases that demonstrate both individuality for a study and possible connections to other research studies, a person becomes an expert in a knowledge field with the increased number of individual case studies that contain knowledge connections.


By challenging previous ideas of mis-understandings on case study research, it can be posited that like the natural sciences, the case study and how it is chosen is the objection really for generalizing for validity. Therefore, it is problem dependent and can use “falsification” (Popper, 1959) to generalize. Once we introduce the use of falsification to our research problem, a stronger case (no pun intended) can be made for the strength of case study research.



Pre-conceived research ideas

We all come to our research with previous knowledge and ideas. Sometimes our information is helpful for digging into the research and sometimes our pre-conceived ideas are mis-aligned or facts without all of the details.  I came across the latter this week as I got into a few articles on research method, specifically case study.

The specific reading that challenged my previous ideas on case study research from researcher Bent Flyvbjerg (2006).  Prior to my reading, I have to admit that I had a leaning towards qualitative research as a “more scientific” method of research. Built upon numbers and statistics, probability and scientific design, I thought that quantitative research would likely be the method for my own PhD research. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all the right answers, and after reading Flyvbjerg’s article, my position has changed to a more open acceptability towards case study research.

Now having said that I am open to case study research, I feel that I need to qualify that statement by adding that case study research does need to include obvious rigor, falsification of the problem, clarity of narrative outcome and that the researcher has to re-examine preconceived notions (i.e. biases) and theories throughout study. For the next few posts I am going to go a bit more in depth on my findings for the method of case study research.

What pre-conceived research biases do you have as you begin your research study?

Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219–245. doi:10.1177/1077800405284363

Question for fellow researchers…

We continue to come across some great questions in our research and sometimes they are ones that may not have a finite answer, but are really helpful for keeping us in the research thought process. Here’s my question for the research cyber world:

Culture influences epistemology, but how deep is not know.  Is there another reason behind epistemological diversity in education research (i.e. beyond the being tolerant and expanding understandings)?

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I think it can be safe to say that writing comes in waves; some days are better writing days than others. Thankfully, when we have a troublesome writing day there are a couple of ways to move through the mental block and, hopefully, onto some great writing output. To that end, I’ve added a few helpful items from my reading this week (Creswell, 2011) to remind myself of how to navigate those waters when they come.

1. Find a template and use that as a guide.

Creswell (2011) has a great template example on how to write a five paragraph statement of the research problem. By referencing other literature, statistical trends and a quote or two a template can quickly become a well developed piece of writing that may inspire you onto the next writing section. 🙂

2. Read other research studies.

What better way to write well than to immerse yourself in other well-written research studies. The more we surround ourselves with great models, the more likely we will begin to take on similar traits and habits. Needing a place to start? I have found a wealth of great doctoral studies from the AECT.org site as well as through Proquest doctoral searches.

3. Just write.

We can always find a way to procrastinate but in the end it really doesn’t make us feel any better about not having gotten any writing done for the day. Just grab your computer (or pick up a pen and feel the old-school vibe!) and write something. Writing in a stream of consciousness for a few minutes might just trigger those research writing skills back in action.

Ok, speaking of procrastinating, I need to get back to my own research. 🙂

Happy researching!

Creswell, J. W. (2011). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (4th ed.). Addison Wesley.

Deterrents to Research (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday, here are a couple more deterrents that I came across in my readings for the week (Creswell, 2011):

4. Limited Research Skills and Abilities

We all have an even playing field that we stand on – no one is perfect. That said, as we look across that field we can see that there are is a wide range of strengths and weaknesses. Deep down we all know our own weaknesses. If there is a known research weakness, our best strategy is to learn how to research from someone who does it well. Find a colleague that you can learn from or take time to visit your research library – we all have something to learn from each other.

5. Should our problem be studied?

This deterrent is really a priority to our research as the resulting answer is an open or closed door for completing our research study. A few good questions can help us answer the looming question:

  •  Does your problem fill a gap in existing research/literature?
  • Does your problem replicate a previous study to increase the value of the field of research?
  • Does your problem go more in-depth into the existing research?
  • Does your problem give voice to marginalized people or groups?
  • Does your problem inform current practice?

If you can answer “yes” to any one of these questions, your research problem will likely be a benefit to the field of educational research.

Creswell, J. W. (2011). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (4th ed.). Addison Wesley.
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