A Formative Evaluation of the Revisions to CMNS 363 as a Research Design Course

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Steve Kline, School of Communication

Project team: David Murphy, School of Communication, and Svetlana Smirnova, research assistant

Timeframe: March to December 2011

Funding: $3,000

Poster presentation: View a poster (PDF) describing this project from the 2012 Symposium on Teaching and Learning.

Final report: Read the final report (PDF) and watch this video reflection on this project.

Description: In 1994 I developed CMNS 363 Approaches to Media and Audience Research, a communications course designed to introduce students to the growing role of both qualitative and quantitative audience research in the field of media studies. Six years ago I began to redesign this course to recognize the way digital technologies were changing both mediated communication and the practices of audience research. Although the course continues to include lectures, readings, and seminars, it now uses a lab-based pedagogy to teach research design as a practice, and not simply as a method. Students learn to design, conduct, analyze, and report on audience research projects using cameras and video composition software. It is my belief that in the process they learn to understand and apply methodological concepts.

Student course evaluations have been positive, and other forms of assessment indicate that the course is achieving its learning objectives, including an understanding of the contributions of audience research to the field of media studies; a high-level knowledge of the quantitative and qualitative research methods employed in audience research (surveys, media diaries, and so on); an understanding of the issues underlying audience-research design; and an ability to use cameras and computers as recording, analysis, and reporting technologies for media analysis.

However, the evaluations do not indicate which aspects of the redesign have contributed to the success of the course. This project will continue the formative evaluation by collecting qualitative evidence about students’ perspectives on experiential learning of design practice. It will begin with a pilot study conducted by a group of student researchers (participant-observers) with appropriate research skills in the current course. Their task will be to document various aspects of their group work (problem solving, collaboration, and so on) and to interview fellow students about their experiences with the redesigned learning approach. The outcome will be a video reflection, edited by me, that describes and analyzes students’ experiential learning in this redesigned course.

Question: What aspects of the redesigned CMNS 363 course do students identify as important factors in their learning of the course objectives?   

Knowledge sharing:

Kline, S., & Smirnova, S. (2012, May). A formative evaluation of an experiential learning pedagogy. Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Leading Change @SFU, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.