College Research Methodology Courses: Revisiting General Instructional Goals and Objectives

Article excerpt

A number of graduate (masters-level) students from a wide variety of academic disciplines have viewed a required introductory research methodology course negatively. These students often do not retain much of the previously learned material, thus limiting their success of subsequent research and statistics courses. The purpose of this article is to briefly 1) describe the current lack of research interest and involvement among masters-level students and 2) propose three recommendations for faculty in order to reevaluate general instructional goals and objectives. The incorporation of these recommendations may facilitate student learning, and maximize student retention of previously learned materials in the introductory research methodology course.

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The purpose of an introductory research methodology course is for students to become familiar with research mainly at "how-to" skills and application level, and the textbook authors generally do not mystify students with heavy theoretical and statistical jargon (Gay et al., 2009). There are some similarities in this introductory research course across academic disciplines: Research is taught as a professional tool to improve practice; both quantitative and qualitative research are taught; and research assignments include designing and implementing a research project or proposal (Unrau and Beck, 2004). Before taking a formal research methodology course, a number of graduate students nationwide have demonstrated a lack of interest and involvement in research activities (Bard et al., 2000). Because introductory research methodology is a required course in some graduate programs, a small number of masters-level students have expressed a deep interest by conducting thesis research as their culminating academic activity, while most students have simply completed a set of required coursework, followed by a written comprehensive examination for graduation (Lei, 2008a).

Previous research studies have shown that research design, statistics, and computer skills are often inadequately taught (Royalty and Reising, 1986; Wampold, 1986), thus creating a low interest and a negative impact on attitudes toward research. These negative attitudes have greatly reduced the amount of time and effort students are willing to expend on learning research methodology and have limited the selection of more advanced courses, such as research and statistics courses beyond minimum requirements set by the graduate college (Papanastasiou, 2005; Lei, 2008a).

College research methodology faculty from a wide variety of disciplines must develop and maintain learner interest throughout the course of study in order to capture the attention of students. The interest of students is vital if optimal attainment is to accrue (Ediger, 1994). This article offers three recommendations for faculty who have taught or will teach introductory research methodology courses. The incorporation of these recommendations may enhance student learning, and promote student retention of previously learned research materials.

Recommendations

Instructional Goals

Regardless of course format (face-to-face, distance education, or hybrid) and course length (semester-long or condensed/ time-shortened class), research methodology instructors must use measurable stated goals and objectives in teaching-learning situations (Ediger, 1994). Instructors write these course goals and objectives for the purpose of effective teaching and assessment, which may range from simple learning of facts to higher-level thinking and performance skills. Students who are told what they should accomplish at the conclusion of an introductory research course know exactly what they must focus on, have tangible goals and objectives to strive for, and are better able to judge how successful they have learned and retained new materials (Gronlund, 2000; McAshan, 1979; Stiggins, 2001).

Goal theory researchers generally agree that mastery goals are more productive than performance goals, and approach goals are more productive than avoidance goals (Brophy, 2005). …