Master of Arts in Educational Technology (OMET) Pepperdine University  
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  Paul Sparks' Questions for Discussions

What types of data will you be gathering for your first cycle? Why is it important to gather data from more than one source? My first cycle involves hosting a meeting with my advisory panel to gather qualitative data on the pros and cons of my action research project. It is imperative that I have their support and guidance as they are not only familiar with WestEd policy but are experts in the field of how people learn and best practices. With permission of the advisory panel, I will conduct a survey to determine if employees think the idea is useful and determine the number of participants interested in participating in the peer-supported network. I also plan on interviewing the supervisor of WestEd’s help desk and a few members of his staff. During these interviews, I will seek their help in performing a quantitative study. It is my hypothesis that there will be a reduction in the number of calls that the help desk receives as a result of establishing a peer-to-peer support group at WestEd.

Are you an Expert? Expertise is the main topic of the book Surpassing Ourselves. What does it mean in your community of practice to be an expert? Are you an Expert? WestEd staff is frequently honored for their outstanding achievements in the fields of research, development and service. Employees consistently are awarded for promoting high-quality professional learning, excellence in education, and for making significant contributions to educational programs that strengthen the teaching profession. I am considered an expert in proposal coordination, editing and submission process. I have recently moved out of that arena into a higher-skilled position in an effort to have a stronger impact on student learning. It will take awhile to gain respect and expertise in this new direction.

How does expertise relate to problem solving and learning? Experts are able to deal with greater complexity through effective use of fixed capacity. So then, mental resources are reinvested in the activity leading to further growth in skills and knowledge. With expertise, especially, in a highly concentrated area, problem solving becomes much easier as you have experiences and a wealth of information to draw upon. An expert is then able to share these learned experiences with a novice. Since that expert, once a novice himself or herself, has that unique perspective they can then impart their knowledge to a newcomer in ways that traditional teaching cannot provide.

How do you feel about what you have learned about the AR process? I came into this OMET program knowing little about the action research process. Now, having completed VirtCamp and a full semester, I feel I have learned much about the action research process. Through our reading, learning circles, discussions and learning activities, I feel more confident in what the process is all about. One of the most valuable sources in helping me understand action-reflection cycle was the book by McNiff and Whitehead, All You Need to Know About Action Research. I am learning how to create theories by studying my “living practice.” I am gaining a greater appreciation for understanding the holistic connections and the potential for generating further connections through this enquiry process. My goal is to improve my own learning and influence the learning of others.

Has the review of Literature changed your direction? In what ways? I have read over 50 peer-reviewed articles of existing studies on peer-to-peer support networks. This informative material has confirmed that my action research project is worthy and worth pursuing. The literature review process has given me a clearer definition and direction of what my project will encompass and its potential for success. I gained valuable information of what to do and what not to do when setting up a peer-support group; how many and what type of people should initially be invited to participate; and insights of what may or may not happen as a result.

Share how collaboration w/ cadre, w/ work peers and others has helped. Admittedly, the cadre has been a steady stream of support, offering suggestions on how to proceed and better my action research project. Just when I think that I am not clear on where this project is heading, some member of the cadre or learning circle will offer advice on strengthening the relevance of my project. My determination to complete this project is supported by peers at WestEd. They are excited about the potential benefits of a peer support group within our workforce. I have spoken with the supervisor of the help desk and some of his employees and they too are anxious to have this action research project succeed.