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My Research Journal
Tuesday, 7 March 2006
Just thinking about my research
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Aaye Ho Meri Zindagi (Raja Hindustani)
Topic: Research questions
I have no idea what I want to talk about - but I'm bored and so I thought I would post something here. Well, so far I've gotten about 4000 words done for my literature review - but most of it ain't that great - its just me writing very verbosely and saying many things twice. But as James say, its at least 3500 (well at the time its was!) words on paper that won't have been there before ... so that's some kind of encouragement.

I think James might be worried about me a bit ... I met on Friday - up to that point I didn't think I was faring that badly, but he wants to see me enthusiastic about something, but I must admit there is nothing I find that I could have a burning passion for.

There was the socialization concept with Biglan's classification of disciplines that Smart and Elton used to explain the differences between disciplines. I mean that sounds ok - I think there is a gap somewhere around there - not sure if I'm burning for it though :).

There is also Galbraith and Haines use of the three types of problem: mechanical, interpretive and constructive - very nice concepts: but still not sure if passion exists there.

Hmm ... what else there is the cognitive load theory that John sort of warned me off since it is a huge literature quagmire (my words not his!) ... but that sounded kind of interested - but might get into conflict with other people's views, so best not raise that ants' nest.

So, what else peaks my interest? I don't know ... I know in the end I just want to compare black box and white box software and see how this fares in the learning of linear programming, but from what conceptual angle I'm taking it from I don't know. I could perhaps use Galbraith and Haines questionnaire on mathematics-computing attitudes which seems like some kind of fun - will get some quantitative data to play with - but not sure how it will get me to answer the questions of black-box and white-box software.

Actually, more I come to think about it ... I definitely want to see how disciplinary studies molds a student for different uses or perspectives on the use of black-box and white-box software - and this might be the socialization theory. Disciplines do shape students mind, but also their background - so all that is saying that disciplines is a covariate (if found to be significant) in the way that students use software - particularly I think from the discipline they emerge from. In that sense - if we are looking at what discipline they emerge from - we should find stronger socialization at the graduate level - such as in MBA programmes teaching linear programming and masters programme teaching optimization and masters programmes in engineering concerning with teaching production management etc. Obviously will have to look at the socialization of the persons discipline before they enter their masters degree and the current discipline that their masters degree is in. Therefore, one should expect that the socialization concept should be stronger for the master's students and less for undergrad students learning linear programming and probably increases from their Year 1 to Year 3.

As such, one should expect their mathematics-computing attitude to be shaped by the different years they are in (i.e. higher up they go - more socialization with that discipline - will their high school subjects influence this also?) - particularly with respect to black-box and white-box software. Indeed I expect the business people to be again a more soft-applied approach - hmmm ... this looks good - a factor analysis of the mathematics-computing attitudes should help in investigating what dimensions could be found - won't it be great if three dimensions were found with respect to the mathematics-computing attitudes and they relate to the hard-soft, hard-applied and life-nonlife dimensions. I know John thinks the last dimension is a bit loopy but it would be great to see that ... but won't it be nice to also see how approaches of study (not sure how this will actually act - but there has been some literature that this differs from disciplines but not using a Biglan's framework - as far as I could see - although the SOMUL project may have done some of that) may interact with the mathematics-computing side - I know a lot of purely quantitative stuff - but I can try it for a pilot and see how it works ... and probably go more wide scale after if it proves good - but I can still intersperse this with some real life observations or interviews (because I do want to do this - but just not seeing how it will fit into my study).

Posted by prejudice at 11:51 AM GMT
Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Questions I want to pilot
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: That's What Daddy Wants (Wayne Hancock)
Topic: Research questions
So, got the observation set up over in Cranfield on Monday - and I am still wrestling with what I expect to get out of it.

So, I'm brainstorming here - all I keep remembering is that I'm looking at the learning and teaching of linear programming in various learning contexts - although it is really learning rather than teaching.

Ok, let's see what are the main goals of this pilot study:
1. Pilot my observation skills
2. Pilot my interviewing skills

So, essentially I'm piloting two methods of data collection.

Just got an idea - I wanted to use Galbraith and Haines mathematics computing attitude scales - I was thinking I could have pilot here in the OU with people who would have perhaps did linear programming or mathematics at the undergraduate level or perhaps using OU students - not sure what I'm looking for in that case - but just as pilot to compare how these attitudes may differ from discipline or possibly by students taking the course, if whether their attitudes of mathematics-computing compare well to the course that they were undertaking.

Or perhaps I can interview people who did linear programming here in the OU and as them how they felt about it, what kind of software they used and what they thought about the software etc. It might be a long time ago for these people and they mightn't even remember the course.

I could possibly interview OU students who did the course?? Got to go through SRPP for this - but still need to come up with what I'm looking for ... probably could call it exploratory research just like exploratory surgery :D

Still haven't got to the questions I want to get from the pilot study ... I think from the observation/ interview study at Cranfield I want to see:
1. What kind of approach is used in teaching linear programming for this course? I.e. is it more like a soft-applied approach or a hard-applied approach etc
2. How are the lectures presented?
3. The amount time spent on formulation, solutions etc and the problems given to the students
4. The amount of interaction that the students have between them and the teacher
5. When is the software whipped out for the students to use and what are the problems and comments that the students have when using the software
6. What they do when they are behind the computer - i.e. follow teacher's instructions to the law or do their own thing

From the teacher interviews:
1. Why the particular approach is used for these particular kind of students? i.e. soft-applied/ hard-applied - and whether a different approach would have been better in the teacher's opinion
2. Would this course be sufficient to meet their future goals in their field?
3. How much they think linear programming would be used in their future jobs etc.
4. Why the choice of software?
5. Would they have preferred a different software?
6. What problems they see with using the software and problems that student's bring up?
7. How do they go about assessing student's linear programming accomplishment
8. What kind of problems are set for them - in assignments, tests or projects?

As for the interviewing of students at Cranfield and maybe in the OU:
1. What they think of linear programming - is it a hard or easy concept?
2. Do they think it will be easy to implement? Or do they see themselves using the concept or using some other concept
3. What they found hard about linear programming?
4. What they enjoy most or least about studying it?
5. Do they enjoy using the software for linear programming? What they enjoyed the most/ least?
6. Would they have preferred some different kind of software?
7. What problems they see when using the software and learning?

Well, these seem all like questions I want them to understand - but to what purpose? To merely illustrate how linear programming is taught at one institution (or learning context) and to highlight the problems/ challenges of teaching linear programming (and with software)?

Seems good to me :D

Posted by prejudice at 5:18 PM GMT
Monday, 23 January 2006
My draft research question
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Hippy (Atomic Kitten)
Topic: Research questions
So, based on my supervisory meeting last month in December, the research question that I'm currently working with is:

How do students learn linear programming using software in various learning contexts?"

I originally had learning environments but Doug thought learning contexts might be more suitable. As it is, this research question is still broad and they did suggest using a number of sub-questions to focus into what I need to research.

Posted by prejudice at 11:13 AM GMT
Thursday, 8 December 2005
I have no clue about research questions!!!
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: Jack The Ripper (Link Wray)
Topic: Research questions
Well, I'm suppose to make an entry into my research blog today .. but have no clue what to write about since I'm pressed for time (got to go catch a bus).

I've read so many papers and yet I'm clueless about my research question. I think I'm just going to use 'How do students learning linear programming using software?" and then put a lot of sub-questions to answer that and make up a methodology of observations, interview, questionnaires (inventories) and examination of scripts. Although it seems like a lot of work and I have no point to why I'm doing it and how it will answer my research question.

I'm clueless at the moment.

Posted by prejudice at 5:24 PM GMT
Thursday, 1 December 2005
Grouping of research questions
Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: Young Love (Sonny James)
Topic: Research questions
So, had my supervisory session on Monday with James and Doug and it seems that the research questions that I developed weren't so good and I've got to get them prepared by next week.

They suggested that I group the research questions into headings but not sure how I'm going to do that and what that will solve but hopefully it might give me some fresh ideas!

Also James suggested that I look at the methodologies that I might use since these might feed into what my research question might be - because need to also decide my preliminary methodology by next week.

Further, I need to think about what kind of theoretical approach I will be taking since this will determine how I analyse my data. The only two theoretical approaches that I do know is the cognitive and situative and I was hoping to unified them as Anderson et al suggested, because I don't think I can be partial to one, because I think learning is social as well as mind thing.

Then I have to think about my definition of learning, Gill, I think, was saying her definition of learning was once someone knows something more than what they started out with (or something to that effect) - sure it is a good definition but not sure how well one can operationalize it :) i.e. measure that.

Posted by prejudice at 8:19 AM GMT
Wednesday, 16 November 2005
Thinking of PhD research: research questions
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: All I Have to Do is Dream (The Everly Brothers)
Topic: Research questions
So, went to the U500 session yesterday on research questions and design, so got me thinking about my research question, so I slapped down a few questions - they are definitely not perfect but needed to create one for the session: Well a very broad question I developed was:
"How do student learn LP using various types of software?"
This was quite broad but this is what I want to answer essentially, I do need to identify what is the types of software - so far, I have two definitions: one that goes with the box approach but this for solution software: so white-box and black-box, and then I can go to how they teach (software used in the teaching process) such as: problem-based software, example-based software or context-based (such as using problems that are related to their disciplines like agriculture, engineering, business). Well, using the box-approach to the classification of softwares, I developed a somewhat other question and this is based on Jonathan research (and somewhat what James is interested in):
What strategies do students employ when learning LP using a) black-box software and b) white-box software?
I'm not quite sure what I mean by strategy :) and what I hope to get from this. My third research question is alot like the first, so just will state it because I think I will throw it out soon:
How do students learn using software that are example-based, problem-based or context-based?
I was thinking about what James was saying about groups depending on their background may 'take to' differing software so perhaps something like this:
How does a student background influence their learning of LP using software?
But here I'm not sure what I mean by background - do I mean their disciplinary background? Their attitudes to computer? Their mathematical ability? Their age? Their sex? Their race? Their culture? All these are background factors now got to ask myself which do I mean! Perhaps, I can go back to what I originally wanted to study such as:
How does employing various types of LP software affect the learning of LP by students?
This is what I'm mainly interested in, and this suggests to me that the learning of LP may also depend on the course, the curriculum, the discipline etc and thus depends on how the software is integrated into the course and to what purpose it is used in the course. I expect in some cases where learning LP is done mostly by hand to learn everything, then employing a software to do the solutions only, wouldn't really have much of an effect. My problem comes here in what I consider learning of LP to be ... that is how do I measure it, and what constitutes that someone has learned LP. The question to ask is does LP consists of someone being taught the formulation of the problem, the solution of the problem (and which solutions these are: the simplex, the graphical, the interior-point?) and the sensitivity analysis (is this just learning the range of the coefficients of objective variables or the range of RHS variables or finding the dual price as well?). The next hard part is deciding when students have learnt LP is that when they are able to put the numbers into the software and get the answer out? Able to interpret the answer? Understand the theory behind it? Able to produce the answer by doing it by hand? Understand the principle? I think I have to soon (but not as yet since I don't want to limit my thinking)to make strong barriers and definitions for my research, for example, looking at courses teaching the graphical method only or the simplex algorithm only. Or looking at courses where the examination is by hand or something like that - got to think and decide about it. You may have note that my research question has nothing about disciplines in it ... and I do want to compare disciplines so somehow got to tuck that in - or let it be some parameter for comparison in my study.

Posted by prejudice at 2:01 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2005 2:07 PM GMT
Friday, 4 February 2005
Conjectures of research question
Mood:  bright
Now Playing: don't have a clue what the name of the song is!
Topic: Research questions
I found out today that my first comments on this blog was made on January 26! Guess what ... it was somebody from the OU - which makes it a bit too close to home.

Anyway, created a list of research questions for James and Doug about 2 weeks ago, and it seems as if we are going with the original research question. But they asked me to unpack what I mean by computational and learning tool - oh that has got me stumped. James like the idea a bit better now - I think - at least got that impression from our meeting, because I was able to make conjectures about the different disciplines. Now these conjectures are based on my experience of teaching LP, so I figured that

1. Mathematics students: most likely would not use any of the LP software, since it is all into the mechanistics of mathematics. But I think I am more likely to find learning LP software here ... if any.

2. Business and Management students: I think most likely they would use the computational software, simply, because they need to apply the answer to make a managerial decision, and they are not into the understanding of heavy maths.

3. Engineering students: I feel these can use either ... if I group the OR students here, I think they will use the learning tools, and if it is the engineering management students it will be computational tools.

So, that's my conjectures. Still haven't gotten around to unpacking the ideas of computational and learning tools ... not certain what is meant by unpacking so stuck there. I think what Doug meant is to find the components that make up these words. Possibly, why they decided we should have a demonstration of the software. Well, so far, I've gotten two software (WinQBS and Lindo), got the Solver Add-in, I think there is another add-in but I can't remember the name, its something like XLP - got to find it and install it and I have some java applet programmes. Only problem, one of the better one, claims I have to update my java applets, I think I have to install a JRE - that will take ages to download! Oh well, I guess I can demonstrate how those are use, and probably between my supervisors and I we can figure what relates to computational and learning tools.

I wanted to relate it to about 6 different aspects in LP problems itself, these are:

1. Formulating the problem

2. Inputting the problem into the computer

3. Understanding of the simplex algorithm (or other method)

4. Interpretation of the results

5. Interpretation of the sensitivity analysis

6. Application of results to problems

Anyway, still not sure where I stand ... wonder if I have said so far even makes sense! Well, promised my supervisors a draft outline of a proposal by today!!! Wondering if I can make that deadline I've imposed on myself ...

Anyway, I'm going back to work on my ethnography - got a TMA due Tuesday coming.

Posted by prejudice at 1:40 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 4 February 2005 1:42 PM GMT
Tuesday, 11 January 2005
My first entry
Mood:  not sure
Topic: Research questions

So, this is the first entry of my research journal, and I have tried to procrastinate this moment for the longest while, but the time has come. Now, I am blank as what to write. Probably, first up I should write what the tasks I have to do. Well, first up there is the finding the research question. I had one which was:

"Are linear programming software perceived as computational vs learning tools by differing university discipline lecturers in operations research based courses?"

However, James and Doug pointed out some problems in trying to conduct that survey such as trying to get a good response rate and contacting these lecturers. My initial idea was that I can send packages to universities and let them distribute it to the course lecturer and let them reply and send it back to me. Gary however (in my DTZY840 proposal) asked why I couldn't do it through email. That seems a legitimate question, and I guess I can do that still.

A problem however, I sense that James wants the research grounded in some literature, and I am not quite sure how grounded I can get this research in the literature since there are so few articles on LP software. As such, James as suggested that I look at the challenges of teaching LP. I am also having the problem of seeing where Kolb LSI and the Approaches to Studying Inventory (ASI) is going to fit into the Masters, although I have a better view of it in the Ph.D or quite possibly thinking that I can stick it somewhere into the Ph.D. I will have to see what insights I gain from Linda when I meet her on Thursday.

My problem is that I want the master's to be a survey based research since I am sure I can cope with that. However, I need to link the masters to the Ph.D, I want it to be the basis of my Ph.D. I however, want to study intermediate steps in software, I have made the assumption that only if the software is being used for a teaching purpose that intermediate steps will be used and as such want to see if there are any people even using the software for teaching. Doug has suggested that I find a few enthusiasts and see what they think about the software - not sure exactly what I am suppose to ask them.

As such, I am floundering trying to find a research question, about 1-2 months ago I was confident I had my research question, but now I am not so sure. I hate feeling this uncertainty. Anyway, probably with more reading, I can figure out some solution.

Posted by prejudice at 3:36 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 January 2005 3:48 PM GMT

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