Putting my research out there……….

Thanks to all on the #scholar14 MOOC, I have found encouragement through your discussions about being an online scholar and feeling vulnerable in revealing professional practice or personal experiences online……….

I have been meaning to post about my exploratory research for quite some time but always had a feeling that the research wasn’t quite ready or good enough to share……….in fact it is still is not ready, but articulating where I am at the moment will hopefully help me on the research path.

I am in the process of an EdD which is a Doctorate programme structured towards the professional practice of education. However in the past few years my own engagement in professional practice has been rocky to say the least………..Ireland, where I live has been in recession and this has had a knock-on effect to employment in public sector in areas of education. As a result short term contracts have been the norm in Irish higher education for a few years and I have changed professional roles 3 times in 3 years! This has had an impact what I have been able to carry out research on in a professional context…………..Looking back perhaps the PhD track would have been more suitable to me, but I wanted a structured approach, and I felt the EdD programme offered that. Despite my rocky professional and employment journey over the past few years (which has had its impact on me financially, emotionally and meta-physically!) I have completed all of my papers and assignments to date and now I am onto the final thesis of the EdD programme.

My research
My participant group is small, about 10 people. They are a group of professionals all working in higher ed, who originally engaged in a professional development Masters programme, I was the programme coordinator /lecturer and encouraged the use of Twitter to reach outside the ‘classroom’, connect with others, and find and harness information that they could use in their learning and Masters studies. A few years later many of the graduates of this master’s programme are still using Twitter. I became interested in how and why these professionals were continuing to use Twitter, so in my research I am exploring Twitter as a tool for professional learning.

I have analysed the Tweets of participants in my research group. Veletsianos (2012) asserts that there are 7 activities that higher education scholars’ engage I non Twitter. I am using these 7 activities as priori codes, and I have analysed Tweets of participants to see if they engaged in those activities and also if any additional activities popped up.
What became apparent from Tweets, was that all of the participants were using Twitter in different ways, some had more of a focus on networking, and echoing thoughts of others; some participants have established useful collaborations with other academics and this had had an impact on their professional practices; others are listening/lurking on Twitter
Jane Hart says that Twitter is a learning tool (see http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/) and I want to read ‘The Use of Twitter for Professional Growth and Development ‘( Gerstein 2011) to see what the author asserts about Twitter professional development (currently awaiting an interlibrary loan)

However, according to my own understanding and beliefs developed through reading about theories of learning and professional learning (Mezirow, Kolb, Boud, Lave & Wenger, Argyris, Schön). I have a certain slant on what professional learning is ……….Learning is more than information retrieval, more than talking to people over the web…………I believe that for professional learning to become realised, a change must occur to practice of a professional. I am interested in transformational learning, applied changes in perspectives that leads to changes in practice. Mezirow’s Theory of Transformational Learning influences my theoretical framework….
I am carrying out interviews with participants at the moment on this, the research is very much exploratory
I need to talk about many things with my supervisor who I will meet next week. I am enjoying this research but I am a long way from conclusions at the moment. What most interests me at the moment is that Twitter can be a learning tool, but that use of it might need to be honed and sharpened so that professionals in higher education are making the best use of it for professional learning purposes

Gerstein, J (2011) The Use of Twitter for Professional Growth and Development. International Journal on E-Learning Volume 10, Number 3. Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE),Chesapeake, VA
Veletsianos, G. (2012). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter (Links to an external site.). Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 336-349.


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
This entry was posted in EdD, scholar14, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Putting my research out there……….

  1. francesbell says:

    Thanks for sharing the relationship between employment situation and your research – and so glad the finishing line is in sight:) I agree that Twitter and how we network with it can be a site for learning . I am increasingly struck by how SNS like Twitter are constantly becoming something different for each of us and I sense a real tension between learning and other activities like making money

    • Thanks Frances, yes I am finding a tension between learning and the use of Twitter as a marketing tool for ones own personal brand, It seems that some academics have created their own personal brand using social media tools, which enable them to link with others at a global scale and market/sell their expert knowledge. Is this feeding the marketisation of education?

      • francesbell says:

        It seems legitimate to me to think about your digital presence and how others perceive you but for me authenticity is a key factor. I love to get and give comments and have conversations around my blog and others’ blogs but a very important audience for me is myself. I use my blog sometimes to think things through and if I can’t be authentic to myself I don’t think that would work somehow, Having said that, there are some things that can’t be public – that’s what friends are for.
        This is just a personal thing but I have found that some blogs that are quite good otherwise become unappealing to me because of relentless self-promotion by the blogger. It seems to make me lose trust in the content.

  2. francesbell says:

    P.S. this image from 2009 (that I used in trying to teach ug students about personal networking and curation) illustrates how change happens – delicious is a very different SNS now https://www.flickr.com/photos/francesbell/4022783424/

  3. Hi Muireann – thanks so much for sharing your research. It sounds both interesting and useful, and I’m sure George is delighted to see your current research building on his previous work on academics’ use of Twitter. On the shoulders of giants, and all that 🙂

    As for the practice of blogging about your research, and more importantly your thinking behind it, I support you wholeheartedly. I have been an active blogger about my teaching and learning for a few years, but only started blogging about my research in the past year since I began my PhD research. I’ve found that blogging helps me to clarify my thinking in many ways. Did you find this? I also found that blogging and tweeting about my research has enabled me to connect with many more people than I might otherwise have encountered. Through comments on my blog posts (and discussions in others’ blog posts) I’ve found terrific resources, learned about similar projects, and made some wonderful connections. You and I have a good connection already 🙂 and I look forward to continuing to share ideas re: research directions, decisions, conclusions, etc. re: our respective blogs as well.

    Good luck!

    • Hi Catherine, yes I agree writing this blog has helped clarify my thinking, I’m really glad I took part in #scholar14 as it has expanded my connections with people who are interested in social media use in higher ed, A big thanks to George for organising the MOOC:) and to all I have linked-in with over the past few weeks, long may these new connections last , best wishes

  4. Clare Gormley says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Muireann. I 100% agree with Catherine’s comment about how sitting down to write helps to clarify one’s thinking on a topic. Steve Wheeler also puts it nicely here: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/truth-about-blogging.html Good arguments for blogging indeed!

    I also found it especially interesting to hear about your professional journey on the EdD – there isn’t enough discussion about that in my view (ie the parallel changes that can potentially occur during intensive long-term research projects like an EdD or PhD) and there probably should be. So much can happen in 5, 6, or 7 years and of course it has to affect the research. Well done you on putting it out there!

  5. Lorraine says:

    Hi Muireann,
    I was very interested to read your blog; well done on your progress to date with the EdD. Despite what you say, it sounds as if you are well on the way to completion!
    I am sorry for the delay in responding but therein lies one of the problems; finding the time to do social media! You say you are ‘exploring twitter as a tool for professional learning’. I take it you mean professional learning in education, or even more specifically in Higher Education. I think therein might lie another problem. Are you speaking to the converted? Is there any way you can expand your research beyond the group of ten, already active social media users? I think that might make the study more interesting.
    I too think that ‘professional’ has connotations of ‘effective’ i.e. effecting some change, or more importantly some improvement, in practice. In my limited understanding of Mezirow his framework consists of two dimensions; habits of mind and points of view. Can terms of employment affect habits of mind? Does organisational behavior (short term contracts, insecurity of tenure) impact on professional behavior i.e. how professionals in higher education use social media? Your experience in this regard might be something to incorporate in your research rather than something outside it.
    Every good wish with the research

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