Paradigm Surfing: Cross-Disciplinary Education-Focused Research

Paradigm Surfing: Cross-Disciplinary Education-Focused Research

Catherine Lang (La Trobe University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1738-2.ch014


This chapter presents the experiences of a researcher conducting education research in the computing discipline, and in doing so provides evidence of a journey through several paradigms, hence the chapter title: paradigm surfing. A case-by-case retrospective analysis was conducted on several influential research projects with reference to the categorization of paradigms presented by Ling and Ling in Chapter 1 of this book, as well as categorizations presented by other scholars. The chapter provides an understanding of paradigm shifts influenced by the environment in which the research was conducted, the purpose of the research and the maturity of the researcher. The reflexive lens used demonstrates how these developmental research experiences have contributed to a rich understanding of the importance of paradigms and the nature of interdisciplinary educational research (epistemology). This led to a current identification with the pragmatic paradigm as the best fit for the author's axiology.
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Background To My Research Journey

As a practicing school teacher with ten years’ experience, I gained the opportunity to undertake a university-based Teaching Fellowship, which was a collaboration with one university and the Department of Education in my State. I was released from my school to the university for twelve months and retained my current school position and salary, not an unimportant consideration for anyone working as an academic in a university without a higher degree. The year-long secondment involved a commitment to teach into the undergraduate degree program, interact with university academics to promote smooth transition of students to higher education, and also undertake a research project related to teaching and learning.

In my school I was expert in two disciplines, Geography and Information Technology. While I was passionate about both areas I was aware of the growing importance of Computing and Information Technology in all aspects of education and business. I had observed that my senior classes were consistently dominated by male students, and despite my active petitioning to female students, I had little success in attracting them into the senior computing classes. Serendipitously, in my Teaching Fellowship application I proposed a research topic related to gender and computing that caught the attention of the Dean of the Faculty of Computing, who also was becoming increasingly aware of the gendered skew of students studying the discipline at university level.

The Teaching Fellowship led to my first taste of a research project beyond that of the student projects that were part of the final year school assessment in the subjects I taught. For example, in senior Geography this involved a systems approach to investigating inputs to a system, studying and evaluating processes within the system, and their subsequent effects on the outputs. In the Information Technology discipline the students investigated a current computing system or business process to evaluate its effectiveness in achieving the desired outputs and suggest ways it could be improved.

The Fellowship opportunity allowed me to explore research paradigms beyond the practical applications of a secondary school teacher across two disciplines. It also allowed me the time to realize that I enjoyed the research process and this developed into a desire to continue with the project and complete a Master’s degree in the topic of gender and computing.

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