Jeremy O'Shea

Applying Educational Technology in Technology Education

Month: July 2019

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Technology Education, STEM, and the Trades

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and Technology Education fields of work and study. McCarthy & Berger used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses. The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions, focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they came to the decision to pursue a technology education/STEM career path.  A third combined interview concluded the interview process which allowed for the interviewees to discuss their thoughts and findings together. The interviewees were also tasked with keeping a journal over 14 days which documented influences and important transition points that may have led them to their career in technology education.

Pixabay, 2019

McCarthy and Berger (2008) concluded, based of the information provided by those interviewed, that the following should be done to encourage an increase in the growth rate of female representation in technology education and the STEM fields:

  • provide families and schools with information on the learning needs of girls
  • provide education for men and boys outlining the importance of including women and girls in STEM/tech ed.
  • Stress importance of male role models and encouraging female growth within STEM/Tech ed
  • Create opportunities for STEM to be used in the elementary school setting. Prepare teachers so that they are comfortable and confident with the subject matter and willing to share it with all students equally
  • Provide young girls, especially those without a male role model in their lives, with male modeling and support
  • Encourage more males to teach lower grades to balance the predominantly female teacher representation of lower grades.


Personal & Professional Connection:

For just over a decade I worked as a full-time journeyman carpenter.  I loved the work, but the job site can be a hot bed of sexism, among other things, like bigotry and racism. It is my belief that the extremely toxic culture on the work-site is largely one of the reasons many women do not feel comfortable there. As I reached my late twenties, I decided that I had had enough and that I wanted to help institute a change in the toxic work-site culture. I discovered the people I was working with were highly resistant to changing and felt very set in their ways. I concluded that change would need to come from a new generation. It was then I decided to pursue a career in education. There are, of course, other reasons for my career change but this one was very important to me and it is what drew me to the McCarthy and Berger’s article.


Interest, Problem, Purpose, Questions:

My experiences on the construction site have made me come to believe that “site culture” is far behind the times in regard to workplace equality/equity.  All too often there is a bigot, racist, and/or sexist, or group there of, who harass anyone who is “other” until they either quit or become one of them. It is because of this I became a teacher. My goals as an educator are to help change, not only attitudes towards women, but also for everyone on the job site, including LGBTQIA folks and people of all races, class, ability, religion, sex, and gender.

It is my predominant goal to help encourage girls/women to pursue a career in Technology Education, the STEM field, or Trades. I also wish to encourage others to let go of the toxic norms of yesterday which do not accurately reflect a woman’s value or ability. There are many ways I attempt to address this within my classroom. This could be as mundane as common daily interactions with students but can lead to full on lessons about the potential realities of the work site and respect for others. Daily, I endeavour to portray myself as welcoming and respectful to all my students. It is important that they feel comfortable with me, the other students, and the machinery they will be using. Everyone has just as much right to be there as anyone else. Everyone has the same right to design, make, and learn.

My inquiry into encouraging girls/women to pursue technology education, STEM, or trades naturally could expand to encouraging people of different sex, gender, race, class, religion, and/or ability to follow their passion for one of those disciplines. Technology Education, STEM, and trades, I believe, would be far better off with the addition of other points of view and ways of knowing.  Furthermore, it would help meet the growing need for people in those disciplines.


Collected Resources:

There has been several studies into women in STEM , tech ed, and trades.  Below are some resources I have collected and how they add to the discussion.  I have also added other resources which expand on my research for equity in my classroom.

  1. Men & Women and Tools by Marcia Braundy – Book & Video

This book dives deep into the toxic culture that can be found on the trades site and in technology education.  Using their experience and scholarly research, Braundy weaves a rich argument for change. Further, Braundy also created a drama which demonstrates the kinds of harassment and treatment women can experience on the work site.


  1. Toward Inclusive STEM Classrooms: What Personal Role Do Faculty Play?
    By Tess Killpack & Laverne Melon – Academic Journal

This paper sets out guidelines to challenge educators to overcome the cultural and implicit biases that are often held for STEM courses.  The authors provide a guide for educators to help assist in the adaption of syllabi, material, and approaches.

  1. Gender, interest, and prior experience shape opportunities to learn programming in robotics competitions by Witherspoon, Schunn, Higashi, & Baehr

This article examines girls’ interest in robotics and programming from elementary to high school.  The research highlights a drop off in female interest as they get older and concludes on potential ways to address that loss of interest.

  1. Googles Ideological Echo Chamber by James Damore – memorandum

This is a memo written by a google employee, James Damore, outlining why they do not believe that women will ever have equal representation to men in the STEM field.  I felt it was important to include this in my readings as it gives a very different interpretation that stands counter to my beliefs and many of the other articles collected.

  1. Considerations From Places Where Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing Circulate Together: STEM as Artifact of Teaching and Learning By Borden, L. L., & Wiseman, D. – Academic Journal

This article challenges the Western assumptions and philosophies of teaching and learning STEM and presents STEM using Indigenous ways of knowing.

  1. Participation and achievement in technology education: the impact of school location and socioeconomic status on senior secondary technology studies By Steve Murphy – Academic Journal

Murphy explores the limitations put on STEM courses at rural schools caused by school location and socio-economic status.

Putting Social Media and Research Methods into Practice (Final Blog)

How Research Diaries Can be Used to Better Research and be Used Via Social Media/Online Blogs:

I have written diaries on and off in my life and I always find value in them. They are a great way to record your thoughts in the moment and to reflect on what you have been doing/learning in a meaningful way.  In the two summer courses I am currently taking, EDCI 515 & 568, I have been tasked with keeping an online diary (blog) of my reflections on the academic readings and class time. I feel this is a smart approach to the courses as it is extremely condensed, and the blog forces me to reflect daily, helping me articulate my thoughts and challenge my knowledge.

Research diaries, as discussed by M. Engin in Research Diary: A Tool for Saffolding, allow the researcher and opportunity to reconnect with earlier research in the point of view of the researcher when the observations were made. This prevents the researcher from retroactively altering the way they perceived their past research and allows them to connect with the research process in a stronger and deeper way.

Using a blog, such as this one, as a research diary throughout my master’s program will serve in a similar way, affording me the opportunity to reflect and reconnect with past work. Online and offline programs, such as OneNote, Diigo, Trello, or Zotero, can be used to aid in the moderation of research and organize it for later consumption.

I have used a diary system in the past in my robotics courses to help students keep track of their progress and to help them reflect on what they have and need to accomplish. I find that, despite initial resistance, students do find them useful and by the end are glad they put in the effort.  I intend employ the blog method in the coming semester, expanding on my previously offline method. It would likely ease the work load and allow other students to see what other groups are doing and respond to it, adding another layer of student critique, peer assessment, and the sharing of ideas.  This could in turn lead to further reflection and refinement of their projects potentially making them better.


Ethics, Online rights, and Responsibilities of Use:

The research and design diary system I have used in the past with my students has always been offline.  If I were to move it onto a blog based system or any other online method I would need to be sure to meet BC FIPPA Cloud Guidelines and be conscious of other online ethics concerns.  As a member of a public institute, I am required as a teacher and researcher to make sure my students’ personal information is kept safe from potential online threats. I would need to be sure to use either a service that keeps the information stored in Canadian servers or I would need to gain permission/consent from students and parents to allow for it to be stored elsewhere. This can be a problem when using sites like Google Classroom which are based in the United States.

I have a duty to my students to make them aware of the potential harms that can come with being online and sharing one’s personal information. They need to understand that what is posted to the internet can very rarely be taken off. They are leading the way into a new frontier and we are all playing catch up. They will be the first generation to have had the internet their whole lives and we are only now starting to understand the good and bad or what that means.

Continuing on the theme of research and ethics, Alexandra D’Arcy explores in IRBs, researchers, and the gathering of data from social media the importance of being an ethical researcher. We were fortunate enough to have Dr. D’Arcy, former head of the UVIC Ethics Board, join us in class to discuss ethics and research with us. She stressed the importance of maintaining high ethical standards in our research.  She made clear how difficult it can be at times navigating the line between private and public material/information when collecting data and when it is necessary to gain consent from the public to minimize harm, risk, and confidentiality breaches. I found it particularly interesting how, as a teacher, I can make observations of how lessons and projects go and then make changes based on the in-class research/assessment I do. But if I record that data and report it without consent from each individual student and their parent, I would be breaching ethical standards.  Her overall message was, if you aren’t sure it’s ethical you should ask the ethics board.


Professionals and Students on Social Media and its Potential Perceptions:

Research, such as George Veletsianos Public comment sentiment on educational videos and Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse demonstrates some of the potential dangers that social media can pose for students and professionals. Velentianos’ research suggests that females generally receive more negative comments/social interaction when online. This research would make a great opener for discussion in a classroom on online social behaviour. Students could be asked: Do you believe these results are accurate? Why or why not? Have you experienced this personally? Have you been on both ends of online abuse? What can you do to prevent this kind of behaviour? I think it is safe to say that some social media like Facebook and Twitter can be toxic places and it is up to teachers/parents to inform ourselves and the next generation of how to properly navigate that negative space. It is equally important that we understand the potential abuse women and people of color can face in an online context.

In Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility, the authors assert that students perceptions of their teachers/professors changed based on their Twitter use. Personally, I have always hesitated to use social media as a professional. This is perhaps due to my teacher education program instilling a healthy fear of teachers posting the wrong things and getting fired for it.  I think the growing pains of the wild west internet of yesteryear have passed though and it may be time to open myself up a little bit. I think, if utilized responsibly, Twitter and/or a professional blog, can make for a powerful way to connect with students and colleagues to share ideas and help one another grow.

Christine Younghusband, sets a strong example of how Twitter can be used in a positive way on her blog post Evolution of my PLN. Here she outlines the BC EdChat group and demonstrates how it can be used to improve ones teaching practice and network effectively online.


Inquiry Based Research / Learning in the Modern Era:

One of the many things that has drawn me to higher education is the opportunity to conduct a large inquiry project into a subject of my choice. A big part of inquiry-based learning is the research, so it is important to understand the different methods that can be employed. There are the more traditional quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as mixed method, autoethnography, action research, narrative inquiry, phenomenology, and metissage. All these methods have their benefits and draw backs, but I find myself drawn to the more people focused methods, such as autoethnography and narrative inquiry.  Education is a person driven profession and reducing people to numbers or objects does not adequately help the individual student. Perhaps in broad general terms quantitative methods would work best but to be precise in my research I would select another method with a more person centric focus. I find myself drawn to the narrative inquiry method as it, if written well, can pull the reader into the work and entertain while it educates. It can input more feeling and story where often most research is cold and attempts to be overly objective.

Higher based education is based on inquiry research and beginning to take roots at the lower levels of education as well. Jeff Hopkins, who has started the PSII high school in Victoria, or High Tech High in the USA have demonstrated impressive programs that are driven completely by inquiry based learning.  Much of the work I do is at least partially inquiry based as shop classes tend to favour that type of learning.  The practice of full on student led inquiry sounds amazing and I have had some students capable of it but certainly not the majority.  Some students refuse to take the reins to their education and need a lot of encouragement to be pushed into taking ownership of their projects.  Others have become too accustom to traditional teacher led educational systems up and get confused or lost when they are given the freedom to choose their topic of research/learning. Using the competency framework outlined by Jeff Hopkins and the inquiry structure of Trevor MacKenzie, I believe I can find more inquiry learning success in my classroom.

Oddly enough, I think I would need to create more structure in order to make it work.  Students need a clear outline of expectations and they will need proper scaffolding to get them there.  It will be on me to set them in the right direction with the right amount of resources to do the research they need to do.  They will need to learn how to research, work independently and thoughtfully.

Inquiry Based Learning in Practice

This last spring, I was fortunate enough to be a member of a school based ecological-literacy inquiry team. For one of our meetings we decided to visit a school on Saturna Island called the Saturna Ecological Education Centre (SEEC). There we met Martin Anevich, the programs lead teacher, and the several students under his care. They gave us a grand tour of their school’s property including dorms, a shared cooking/hang out area, and their solar panel set up which powers most of the small campus.

The students were encouraged by Martin to mingle with us, a group of teachers and administrators, and show us all the things they had been learning. Throughout the day I was shocked to see how engaged the students were and how motivated they were to be discovering new things about the environment around them and the visitors who had come to see their school. The students were dedication and had a desire to learn and inquire that really blew me away.

You can learn more about SEEC in the video below.

After watching Education as if people mattered, a TEDxTalk b

y Jeff Hopkins (@hopkinsjeff) and having an in class conversation with him, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jeff was not too long ago the superintendent of the Gulf Islands School District.  This is the same district that the SEEC operates in. Jeff now is the principal teacher at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII). PSII is a school based heavily on inquiry and self-motivated methods of learning/educating. As an educator I am always extremely intrigued and slightly skeptical at the success of heavy inquiry-based learning. In my experience, there are some students who thrive and excel in this kind of learning environment while others flounder and lose focus and even give up. I think a lot of the time the reason for students lack luster performance with inquiry-based learning is because they are not used to it and have not been trained to do it. For example, in my grade 11-12 woodworking classes students are given the opportunity to find their own project and pursue it. For some this leads to the chance to really test their skills and try something that they have wanted to do. For others, they can’t grasp why I am not assigning a project and ask me what they should make. I always try to work with them through a process of finding their own projects but there is often a small group of students who just refuse to take the reins of their education.

When I was at SEEC I noted that the students there all had to sign up for it and were not necessarily from the island.  These students chose to take on this specific kind of learning and for those that didn’t like it, they went back to their original schools.  I feel there is a lesson to be learned here.

After our class conversation with Trevor MacKenzie (@trev_mackenzie), (EdTech MEd student at UVic & Teacher at Oak Bay Secondary on Social Media to Support Inquiry) I realized that it is possibly a shortcoming of my scaffolding techniques that may be limiting my successful inquiry results. This did give me pause and force me to re-examine my inquiry methods. Next school year I plan to try and build from structured inquiry and work through a controlled and guided inquiry until the students are working at a free inquiry.

It wouldn’t take too much change and integrate this approach. Usually the first project we do we do it together. Next, I would provide students with demos, instructions, and other resources to guide the through their projects. The next project I would give them the goal (example: a table or horizontal surfaced piece of furniture) and the students would find the resources and instructions to design and build to that end goal. Lastly, they would come up with their own project and then design and build it.

Getting to meet and talk with Jeff Hopkins and learn from his experience as the lead of an inquiry school was very eye opening for me. It was interesting to see what he has managed to do and hear about the growth and changes that have taken place at PSII in the last 6 years since the schools opening. I was especially heartened to learn that his school does not pick and choose students to join but accepts students off all abilities and needs.  I love how the school encourages students to follow their own interests and encourage them to connect with community businesses and groups.  This is something I try to do in my own classroom, but I often am more limited in scope of people to connect with as Sooke, where I work, is a small community in comparison to Victoria.

Here is a link shared by Jeff which I intend to use to help guide me in the practice of inquiry:

Indigenous Education

Idle No More by S. Pete  (2017). (*Chapter 3)

Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education by S. Pete (2018) (*Chapter 10)

When reading Idle No More and Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonizing Higher Education by Shauneen Pete, I was teleported back to my teacher education program. Pete, an indigenous resource coordinator and professor, tells of her experiences of exhaustion and conflict with students. This conflict arose when teaching them the importance of indigenous education.  She asserts indigenous education is not “extra” to teaching, education, or the curriculum but is those things.  I remember all too well students within my own education program asking when they were going to “learn how to teach.” I can sympathize with both positions. The students, including myself, knew the system of education they were taught and had expectations that their teacher program would show them how to teach in a similar manner. Furthermore, many other courses in the program set a “classic” or settler focused approach to education. Only a few teachers in my program, much like Pete, challenged those expectations and it made some upset, particularly when many of us were accused of being racist.

It took a lot of time for people to come around to the teachers’ way of thinking.  I recognize now what Pete and my teacher were doing.  They needed to challenge our preconceived notions of education and do it in a startling way.  It worked for some, but it shut a lot of students down as well and caused them to not participate in class other than the bare minimum to pass the course.

I really enjoyed reading Pete’s point of view on this situation.  Having been on the student side it was hard at times to see what the teacher must have been going through. Pete’s words are very eye opening. I am intrigued by Pete’s repeated regrouping and reattempts to integrate indigenous education into her curriculum.  Despite numerous setbacks she was able to try a different angle until she found what worked for her.

Now and educator myself, I see the challenges of Pete’s work and people like her far more clearly then I did when I was in my teacher program. I have tried very hard to teach with an indigenous educational focus in my classroom. Admittedly, I fail more often than I succeed but I feel I am getting better. I include many indigenous projects, such as bentwood boxes, drums, carving, and paddles. When we make these projects, we work through indigenous design and connect with our local community and band, the T’Souke Nation. This is all a start and I still have a long way to go to properly indigenizing my educational methods.

Both articles did challenge me in many ways to improve my classroom. First, I hope to include more information focused on First Nation and Metis artists/carvers/builders. Further, I would like to include projects related to current indigenous issues and concerns.  Instead of giving trinket gifts to elders/role models when they share with my classes, I need have the class and myself do something for them in return for so graciously giving up their time and sharing their knowledge. Lastly, I need to do my own research in how to better indigenize my courses instead of relying on others to do my work for me. I plan to check out the works of Dr. Rauna Kuokkanen & Dr. Marie Battiste, among others, as suggested by Pete.

As research, I find both of Pete’s papers to be very clear and well written.  She has taken an auto-ethnographic approach and inserted elements of story telling which not only enhance her points but also make them more enjoyable and colourful to read.  Her use of “Coyote” as a blunt truth-speaker to her thoughts really emphasizes her points in a fun and engaging way. Her research is important in that it conveys indigenous points of view and the requirements of healthy indigenous education to be implemented into the modern classroom.

Both papers are neither quantitative or qualitative but more based on Pete’s lived experience.  When in class, Pete shared her story and explained her love for story telling. I found the part of her story where she described her dissertation very interesting. Her work was presented in the way of a story rather than traditional academic methods and some judging members of her work were unsure of how to perceive that or whether her work was admissible. The use of story made a great point about traditional academia/education not considering outside or other methods, sent home her point of having to fight constantly for indigenous point of view in education, and did it in an engaging and sympathizing way.

Joining and Participating in Supportive Professional Online Communities

Blog Post: Evolution of my PLN

In her online blog, Christine Younghusband, shares her experiences in using a professional learning network (PLN) aka #bcedchat (Twitter) initially to find people wanting to develop professionally in her areas of her interest.  Those connections lead to the building of a support structure for her where she could connect, share ideas, and share support with others.

Christine describes meeting her Twitter colleagues in real life as an overall positive experience.  Because of Twitter and her online support group she was able to make quick real-life connections with group members and skip introductory pleasantries.  This allowed her to meet more people and have a deeper relationship with them, allowing for a more enriching professional development experience.

I am a member of a private Facebook collective for Technology Education teachers (members of the BC Technology Education Association aka BCTEA) which works in a very similar way to Christine’s Twitter support group and has seen a very similar evolution.  It started as a place to share project ideas and resources but very quickly grew into an online space to ask questions and professionally support one another in any way we can to better one  another’s teaching practice.  It has taken a rather loose knit community, that only met once a year at the BCTEA annual conference and helped many teachers within the province form strong bonds both professionally and personally.  For me it has been like a mentorship in that I can ask just about any professional question and I know that I will get many well thought out opinions in support of me and often in a very timely manner.

Much like Christine, because of this online group when members get together it is like we already know one another. We can meet as far closer friends than we ever would have when we only interacted once a year.

One thing the #bcedchat offers that the BCTEA Facebook group does not is the opportunity to set up guest online speakers and/or open moderated conversations to address varying topics for anyone who is interested in an online Twitter forum.  This is a great opportunity that allows teachers to professionally develop in a less traditional “professional development day” way and choose what they want to participate in based on their interests.  A fully laid out schedule of up and coming chats can be found here.  If you miss the conversation, they are catalogued here for later review.

I was fortunate enough to meet Christine in class via video chat.  Overall the experience was very pleasant and informative.  It was interesting to here her experiences with #bcedchat and how it had formed a community for her both professionally and personally.  Teachers need to support one another in their journey and #bcedchat is a beautiful way to do that, especially for teachers who may be for rural and secluded from other teachers.  IT also offers an opportunity to share all the differing styles and methods of teaching going on around the Province.

Meeting the Researcher

Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video format, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comments by G. Veletsianos, R. Kimmons, R. Larsen, T. A. Dousay & P. R. Lowenthal (2018)

Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame by G. Veletsianos, S. Houlden, J. Hodson, &  C. Gosse

In Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video format, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comments, G. Veletsianos, R. Kimmons, R. Larsen, T. A. Dousay & P. R. Lowenthal conduct a study on YouTube comment sections of TED talk videos using mostly quantitative research methods.  They explore the positive/neutral/negative connection of the comments section based on the video being presented by a male, female, or animation.  The study found that most comments were neutral.  Furthermore, male presenter’s comment sections were generally more neutral when compared to female presenters whose comment sections were more polarized. It is also suggested that less polarize comment sections could be achieved with the use of animated videos, although this method does put the onus of controlling comments on the presenter and not the commenter.  Interestingly, results assert that negativity in comments begot negativity and the same with positivity.  It is suggested that limiting negative comments may produce a healthier comment section.

Another study, Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame by G. Veletsianos, S. Houlden, J. Hodson, &  C. Gosse, uses a qualitative research method, interviewing 14 female scholars about their experiences with online harassment to better understand the coping methods taken by the scholars.  Results found that self protection, resistance, self blame, and/or acceptance of harassment were all used by participants as coping methods.

Both articles assert that harassment of female scholars is more prevalent than it is for their male counterparts.  Implications from the research shows that institutions must take time to warn scholars of the potential hazards of online interaction as they encourage those scholars to have an online presence.  They can do this by providing training for the professional use of social media and demonstrate how they will support faculty being harassed online, both preventatively and otherwise.

It should be noted that neither study explored other potential causes for negative online feedback beyond gender, neglecting factors such as class, ability, religion, or race.  It is entirely possible that one or multiple other factors could have triggered negative responses.  Accounting for this would have greatly improved both studies but also radically expanded their scope and likely would have not been within the studies time frame or budget.  Furthermore, it should be noted that the Women Scholars’ Experience With Online Harassment and Abuse studies participants were all from English speaking countries and were generally affluent.

Both studies appear thoughtful in their approaches despite taking differing methods to reach their conclusions.  I find myself attracted to qualitative research over quantitative as I feel it is more inclusive/equitable and less about turning opinions into numbers.  Qualitative methods appear require more work which can be seen by the 14 interviewees chosen as compared to the Public comment sentiment on educational videos study which uses thousands of anonymous YouTube commenters as their data.

Both articles audiences are post secondary graduate students, academics, and other university/college faculty.  The general message being to both that if they are going to push faculty and online students into a potentially hazardous online space they will need to prepare them for the realities that await them, especially the women.  It is asserted that institutions need to also have female inclusion when addressing online harassment issues in order to make sure that their concerns and needs are met.

In class, we had the pleasure of meeting with a member of both studies, George Veletsianos.  I found meeting the researcher in person to be very interesting.  It is very easy to see researches as faceless people and not recognize the human and humanity behind the research.  One thing that I found very interesting was when George mentioned why they only used 14 interviewees.  I thought the number was exceptionally low but after his explanation that after 14 interviews they were just repeating themselves and not gaining any new knowledge it made a to more sense to me.  George came across as very caring and passionate about his work and I really appreciate his willingness to admit where his weaknesses were and how he would recruit others to help him with his research to make up for those short comings.  Overall the experience was very informative and well worth the time.

Applying Mixed Methodology and Its Effects on Research

History, Biography, Academic Profile:

Alicia O’Cathain (BSc, MSc, MA, PHD) is a professor of health services research at the University of Sheffield where she works to develop and evaluate complex treatments for chronic conditions and lead projects in emergency and urgent care.  O’Cathain’s University of Sheffield’s web page describes here vast catalogue of research journals on methodology in comprehensive detail.  Most of her work has focused on mixed methodological research but has more recently delved into qualitative methods using randomized controlled trials.  This knowledge she shares in workshops and clinics for PhD candidates (“University of Sheffield,” 2018).

The Framework of Mixed Methodology:

In Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework, Alicia O’Cathain outlines the basic framework for using a mixed methodology research method.  O’Cathain demonstrates a comprehensive method of mixing qualitative research methods with quantitative research methods.  This mixed method, although more exhaustive, can potentially lead to stronger results and conclusions.

O’Cathain (2010) breaks down the basic framework for mixed methodology into eight parts:

Planning quality outlines the means and approach to the research which is followed by design quality which defends the chosen methodology. This is in turn followed by data quality which upholds the data collection methods and size to be used.  Next interpretive rigor ensures that conclusions are accurate, consistent, and credible which in turn leads to inference transferability which explores if the research can be applied to other contexts.   Reporting quality outlines if the research met it goals and stayed within its means.  This is in turn followed by synthesizability which demonstrates that the research is all the same quality.  Lastly, the utility of the research is explored.  Utility covers who is using the work and for what purpose.

These eight guiding parts are broken down further to ensure that proper guidelines are met and results will be accurate and usable.

Applying Mixed Methodology:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field of work.  The researchers used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses.  The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they decided to pursue the technology education / STEM career path.  They were also tasked with creating a journal over 14 days which documented influences and transition points that may have led them to their career. (McCarthy & Berger, 2008).

The Research

As the Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers article uses a qualitative research method, a quantitative research approach is required to meet the mixed methodology definition as outlined by O’Cathain. An ideal way to meet that goal would be to expand McCarthy and Berger’s research to include a control population of women who did not go into the STEM field or a career as a technology education teacher.  The research would be further strengthened by increasing the number of the interviewed to a group larger than ten.  It should be noted that this would likely add more cost and time to the project.

Now with a control group, the researchers could sample school transcripts of the women who went into STEM/tech ed with an equal sized random sample of women who did not go into STEM/tech ed. The researchers could then compare two things: course selection and grades in math and sciences.  This information would be used to see if:

  1. there are any correlations between elective choice and future career paths.
  2. there are any correlations between success in math and science and future career paths.

This research would (potentially) give the results a stronger and more accurate depiction of women who both did and did not pursue STEM or tech ed jobs. It would be more thorough and have less margin of error.

The Researcher

The two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, would already have their hands full with all the information they gathered from their initial ten interviews.  Adding a second research method will right away add to the researcher’s financial needs, time requirements, and overall work load.  The researchers would need to create and a apply new framework for the newly added quantitative research.  That would be followed by proceeding with collecting, calculating, and reporting the findings found in the provided transcripts. First, they would have to expand their recruitment efforts to find the women to participate as their control group.  Second, they would be required to acquire multiple transcripts from said control group as well as their original interview group which could prove difficult.

When all the new interviews were completed the researchers would have to reorganize and make new conclusions on their amended interview data and make new conclusions based on an updated assessment.

The Researched

It would be important that all the women interviewed for this research felt comfortable with the experience and that they would be willing to share their transcripts with the researchers.  Failure to meet either of these points would mean that they would need to be replaced with someone who is willing and able to meet these requirements.

All women interviewed would need to be interviewed away from the other interviewees.  Furthermore, they must all be asked the same set of well-crafted questions with no leading input from the researchers.

Transcripts provided would need to be clear and not tampered with in any fashion.  Documents would also be either returned to the rightful owner or destroyed after the research process.

The Reader

With the updated research the reader would have a stronger and more compelling argument defending what methods could be taken to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and technology education.  Additionally, it would help the reader understand the issues and societal pressures women face in their upbringing and when choosing a career.

These findings could encourage future researchers to conduct studies into what changes can be made to encourage women to pursue the STEM/tech ed fields. It could also be beginning to wider research looking into the effects of class, race, and ability and their impact on women pursuing STEM/tech ed career paths.

Questions and Insights:

The research discussed in the article hopes to challenge stereotypes but in doing so could potentially reinforce them based on outcomes.  Furthermore, in the researchers hope to discover why some women go into STEM and tech ed careers their findings could be interpreted in a way that they had not intended.  For example, it is possible for a reader to write the original interviewees off as female anomalies and conclude that their experiences are “other.”

I do question the choices of the two researchers, McCarthy and Berger, to not find a female researcher to join them in the process.  It is likely that a female researcher could have given female insight and voice to the paper that the two original researches do not have as they do not have the lived experience of a woman.

McCarthy and Berger’s research is well done for a small scale sample but the results would have more strength if the overall sample size of interviewees was larger.  It is possible that their work could lead to a more expanded body of research in the future, paving the way for future growth in an area of focus that has seen little change over the last half century.


McCarthy, R. R., & Berger, J. (2008). Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers. Journal of Technology Education, 19(1), 65-79.

Ocathain, A. (2010). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556.

University of Sheffield. (2018, November 01). Health Services Research. Retrieved July 07, 2019, from

Autoethnography & Research Diaries

Autoethnography: An Overview by C. Ellis, T.  E. Adams & A. P. Bochner (2011)


In Autoethnography: An Overview, C. Ellis, T.  E. Adams & A. P. Bochner assert that Autoethnography is the use of self reflection within research to demonstrate the authors experiences as they relate to the research topic.  Autoethnography could impact the research in presenting a differing opinion beyond the perceived default white religious male’s point of view.  It allows a topic to be addressed using differing experiences of race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, class, education, and/or religion.


This type of research is important as it considers differing experiences beyond the “norm.”  Also, it recognizes the differing experiences which affect research and can alter that researches outcomes.  For example, when I worked as a full-time carpenter, my experience would likely have differed from many of the other, mainly white male, employees.  Overall most employees there would have said it was a fair and equal place to work.  Me, a queer man, and the lone female employee that worked there would have a very different view of our experiences on the site.  What most considered idle banter I saw as sexist and occasionally bigoted or racist.  This negative atmosphere eventually led to me leaving the trade on a full-time basis and moving into education.


I find myself drawn to this form of research for many reasons.  Firstly, it helps the reader of the research understand the researcher better and consider points of view beyond their own.  If research is presented in a quantitative method, it is hard for the reader to know the researcher’s biases.  Also, the research is presented in a way that is more personal and allows for the reader to empathize with the researcher through literary means.  People are far more interested in reading a well crafted story than they are a dry research paper.


Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding by M. Engin (2011)


I have written diaries on and off in my life and I always find value in them.  They are a great way to record your thoughts in the moment and to reflect on what you have been doing in a meaningful way.  In the summer courses I am currently taking I am tasked with keeping an online diary (blog) of my reflections on the academic readings and class time.  I feel this is a smart approach to the course as it is extremely condensed, and the blog forces me to reflect daily, helping me articulate my thoughts and challenge my knowledge.

I have used a diary system in the past in my robotics courses to help students keep track of their progress and to help them reflect on what they have accomplished and what they need to accomplish.  I find that, despite initial resistance, students do find them useful and by the end are glad they put in the effort.  I have never considered doing the diaries in a blog format and may employ this method in the coming semester.  It would likely ease the work load and allow other students to see what other groups are doing and respond to it, adding another layer of student critique.

Research diaries allow the researcher and opportunity to reconnect with earlier research in the point of view of the researcher when the observations were made.  This prevents the researcher from retroactively altering the way they perceived their past research and allows them to connect with the research process in a stronger way.

Most Likely to Succeed (2015) Film

The film Most Likely to Succeed (2015), directed by Greg Whiteley, documents High Tech High, a school with an alternative approach to education.  High Tech High operates under the belief that not all students learn the same way and that what students need to know is not the same as it was in previous generations.  They do this by focusing less on work sheets, text books, and testing and present students with bigger projects that encapsulate the learning outcomes.  The film generally depicts the school as forward thinking and leading students to the same or greater levels of success as other institutions.  Overall they depict the school in a very positive light.

It should be noted that the Most Likely to Succeed does have some flaws worth pointing out.  Firstly, the story mainly focuses on two students, one who succeeds and the other who initially does not meet his projects due date but then eventually manages to complete his work.  The school presents all the students as being as equally dedicated to their work but, based on my teaching experience, I find it difficult to believe that all students meet the same success shown in the film.  Secondly, the school is a charter school which may allow them to pick and choose their students which is not the reality of the Canadian schooling system.

In the Technology Education courses I teach (woodwork, electronics, robotics), I already employ many of the teaching methods that High Tech High uses, such as inquiry and project based learning.  Students are presented with a project or goal and then we work towards achieving it.  For example, in grade 9 Woodwork, students are challenged to make a cutting board.  We spend time researching design ideas and each student comes up with their own.  From there we learn about shop safety, machine use, and techniques needed to make the project.  This is all done hands on and with entire class participation.  From their the students work to make their project with guidance when required.  When we reach the end of the project students walk away with a new custom cutting board to bring home and they have learned how to use almost all the wood shops machines.  They might not know it then, but they have learned a great deal in a relatively short project which will come into play for nearly every other project they make.  This knowledge will help them think more critically when attempting future work.

Most Likely to Succeed talks about High Tech High’s focus on the soft skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, learning from criticism, good work ethic, and how to work on your own.  All these skills are encouraged and developed in my classroom to the best of my ability.  It is extremely important to me that my students can overcome challenges on their own and in groups.   They need to work with respect for themselves, others, and the equipment they work with (which can be extremely dangerous).  A short coming of mine when helping students develop soft skills is that I often give answers too readily instead of allowing students work through the problem.  This is often due to time restraints.  I am getting better at not doing this, but I still catch myself giving students the easy road from time to time.

In the film there is some criticism about what High Tech High is doing.  Many parents are concerned about students doing well on academic tests that open doors to post secondary education.  I don’t believe this is nearly as much a problem in Canada as it is in the USA, but I can understand their worry.  They want their children to do well and go onto a successful career and low-test scores can hold you back.  Personally, I am not a believer in heavily weighted testing.  I have met too many smart people in their field who do terribly on tests to believe them to be a great indicator of knowledge learned.  That is further compounded by students cramming information before a test and then immediately forgetting it almost immediately after.  I have done this myself.  I consider myself lucky to teach a discipline (Technology Education) that rarely requires testing in the traditional sense.  I find that having a student build and work on a project to completion is a test in and of itself and is often far more fun and rewarding for the students and teacher.

One thing that it appears High Tech High does well is cross curricular education.  I have been searching for ways to do that with other teachers in my school, but it has been difficult to do with rotating blocks and a structured bell structure.  This coming school year I hope to team up with my school’s foods/sustainability teacher in making an automated garden with his classes and my robotics/electronics classes.

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