Week Three: Reflection

I believe that the importance of this weeks task is more so than the previous weeks as being able to see and give constructive criticism to one’s own work is such a vital skill. This week there was a lot of applying knowledge of terms such as validity and reliability in order to effectively evaluate research. Firstly, you had to differentiate the two terms and their meaning. In terms of validity, there is internal validity, that may include how well extraneous variables that may affect the outcome are controlled and also external validity, which is to how far can you generalise your findings and results to other people beyond the original investigation. In order to have ‘valid’ results you must be certain that the findings directly support your conclusion and for instance in other general research, that you can establish a cause and effect. Reliability is if we or others repeated an experiment will the outcome or results be the same. During this week I have learnt to consider that although a study may have to some extent reliable results, it does not automatically mean that the results are also valid.
This week has helped to to see studies in a critical way and help me notice the flaws in the study that should be adjusted to enhance the quality of the research. However I realise if we take for example validity, if we tried to increase the external validity, this most likely would be at the cost of control and so internal validity would be lower. I think being able to recognise these issues before conduction research and then identifying them along the way is a key skill to have in order to be able to find effective methods to overcome and obtain the best set of results posible in a study.
All in all, so far I believe this course has really helped me to expand my thinking in this area and helped me develop key fundamental skills that I will undoubtedly need to hone in the future. It has helped me think deeper into information that I am given and it has helped me with skills that I can apply to subjects I am currently studying such as pyschology and helped me with giving more sophisticated evaluation of studies. I think the skills developed on the course will certainly be of use in order to become a better independent learner in the future.

Evaluation Of Egg Research

When closely analysing our attempt at finding an answer to what is the ‘best’ way to cook an egg, I realise there are multiple criticisms concerning our research in terms of validity and reliability. For instance, if we take our methodology, supposedly using the method of triangulation should technically increase our internal validity, despite the fact we did have a few sources, our research really lacked the variety of information in order to effectively triangulate the data to establish more valid results. In terms of the online sources and the use of cookbooks, it is hard to really contemplate how reliable or valid the information it provides us with is in terms of its contribution to the research, seeing as ‘best’ in the question, has many interpretations such as being the tastiest and taste being such a personal and subjective concept that most probably these sources aren’t a very valid source to draw information from.
I also conducted a short survey as another way of gathering information for the study and asked people I knew around me to answer a few simple questions regarding the research. In terms of reliability and validity of this method since the question was merely asking for a persons opinion on their preferred way of cooking and egg, there should be no real problems with things like social desirability, meaning internal validity should be high. Furthermore, assuming if you asked the same people, you presumptively would elicit the same response suggesting that in this sense, reliabilty of this method is reasonable. Nevertheless, whilst the survey was quick and easy, the participants were people who were around me and assessable, and there were only 25 people who answered the questions. This means that it really lacks external validity, that is to the extent that we can generalise our findings and results. The people I asked were all from the same area and this is a very small sample meaning it lacked population validity. Whose to say the palate of someone from England would be the same as another from France or Italy? Never mind this within a household there are certain to be different preferences whether it be sweet, savoury or spicy.
During out research we were unable to fully collaborate and therefore correlate our sources and findings so it is hard to get a full assessment of the reliabilty of our study. Additionally, we have not really discussed what we found with what other groups also found in their research to see if they also got similar results to affirm the reliabilty.
It is interesting to see that when we closely inspect the processes during the research and then evaluate the reliability and validity of our findings how many other considerations need to be addressed before you can even begin to accept the results you have found. So if you take our conclusion, it is merely drawing aspects of the data we had in front of us rather than thoroughly evaluating all the information and resources we had gathered at hand.

Research and Enquiry

“What is the best way to cook an egg?” was the question we were asked to tackle and to find a solution to. I realised it was going to be quite a challenge seeing as the question was very broad and open to interpretation and we would have to collaborate our research to find an answer. In terms of the research process, I found it very useful that we had guidelines to help with the inquisition as this made the process much more systematic and easier to approach as well. The research and enquiry was very time consuming and required a lot of thought as you needed to draw from various resources and not just type into google the question and assume that the first answer you see is definitive. However, it has been very useful as it has helped me develop my ability to be critical about sources and also cross referencing information to draw the best quality data which involves both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data gives us better objectivity and the results we assume, would be accurate and therefore it gave us a good basis for our research by providing us with data to work from and which was also relatively easy to obtain. Qualitative data gives us richer and more detailed information to work with, although this is much more subject to opinion and bias and so we had to procede with caution whilst handling this form of data. I believe in order to get the best results you would have to draw conclusions from both types of data (triangulation) which is a new skill I have acquired during this week.
In terms of our success as a group working on this project, I found it difficult to communicate with the other members of the group on many separate occasions regarding which direction our research was going to take. This problem has most likely arisen from the fact the discussions had to take place online and we were not on at the same time to properly debate how to answer this question, and some members of the group failed to make an appearance and contribute to the research. This made it difficult to really make good progress on the project as a group as it took a while for it to really start up. Admittedly it took myself a good part of the week to really get going as it took me a while to figure out how to use google docs in the first place! Nevertheless I believe the project would have been more succesful had it not been for the fact everything was done online and if some members of the group were more co-operative and a the moment it hasn’t been published as I’m waiting for a group consensus to approve.
I think i made an effort in collaborating my ideas with others, however as some members of the group did not attempt to make any changes or respond very much it is hard to assess how affective I was as a collaborator. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact none of us where ever online at the same time. However, I believe i could have given more feedback on other peoples input to the project and engaged in more discussion, as well as starting the project slightly earlier! All in all, I think this week has shown some of the difficulties of working in the groups sometimes but also highlighted how useful it can be to share ideas and information.

Independent Learning

I chose to join this critical skills course having heard its focus on independent learning and I hope it will help me develop my skills in this area. Often when revising for an exam I simply read materials I already have and really fail to exploit any other resources that I have at my disposable. This skill will almost certainly be useful to acquire for the future.
This past week I have been challenged to really define what independent learning is and what skills this may consist of. I believe there are misconceptions that independent learning is, as it literally implies, learning unaided and alone or autonomous learning and self directed learning. While there are some elements in this proliferation that are true, I think the term ‘independent learning’ is just a broad umbrella term that covers most aspects of learning.
To be a good independent learner, there are probably many things you first have to identify within yourself, for example reflecting on how you learn best, in a basic sense are you an auditory, kinaesthetic or visual learner. Every person is different, so for instance one may feel more of a benefit teaching materials in order to retain information whilst another learns from being taught. The ability to recognise and identify the best method which suits you is a key characteristic in being an independent learner.
Through further discussion, although the implication is that independent learning is a solitary activity, this is deemed not the case. Being able to establish when you require help from others and finding the right person to ask for guidance is also a key aspect which gives rise to the term in(ter)dependent learning. Having the ability to work together with others and sharing ideas with others can further enhance your own knowledge and also help you become more aware of your educational environment in a social context.
Inevitably one of the most important characteristics of an in(ter)dependant learner is to have motivation and the drive to work hard to achieve this goal. This gives rise to the question ‘Can you learn to become a more in(ter)dependent learner?’ I believe it is perfectly reasonable to argue that you can, as a desire to become an independent learner can be achieved through developing an individual’s positive attitude by finding an ambition they can strive towards. Nevertheless, even without an end goal as a means of motivation, being taught the skills and aspects of being an independent learner will help to successfully instil a strong positive mentality to find the optimal conditions for an individuals learning.