Conclusions and Implications
The most important parts of a research report are the descriptions, analyses, and interpretations of the data. What you do with the findings, i.e. the implications, are just as important.
The research needs to identify for the reader why and how the analyses and interpretations were made and the way key concepts in the analyses evolved. In addition, the researcher needs to "inform the reader of any unexpected findings or patterns that emerged from the data and report a range of evidence to support assertions or interpretations presented." (Stainback and Stainback, 1988, p. 80-81).
Showing, not telling about your findings, is the best way to let your reader know what you discovered. Quotes, vignettes, field notes, work samples and other data can be used to support interpretations and assertions. "The best way to show findings is to look for those critical incidents in your data, the "aha" or "oh no" moments, when you had a breakthrough in answering your research question. If it was a moment of vivid insight for you, it may well be a breakthrough for your audience." (Hubbard and Power, 1993. P. 113).
A conclusion section refocuses the purpose of the research, revealing a synopsis of what was found and leads into the implications of the findings. A conclusion may also include limitations of the study and future research needs.
Implications for Practice
The meanings you construct from your data help give you ideas about how to teach in a particular way. The statements you make about how you might teach are the implications for future teaching. Is Teacher Research Valid and Reliable? That is a question that has been asked many times by both traditional educational researchers and teacher-researchers. Validity in research is the degree to which a study is honest and true to its intent, its context, and its reporting. It is the result of your integrity as a teacher and as a researcher. It poses the question, "Does your data say what you say it says?" All of the research strategies you have been using- observing, writing, interviewing, documenting, analyzing-are ways to ensure validity." (MacLean & Mohr, 1999, p. 117).
Each school is different and the conditions are never the same from one class to the next. Teacher research derives its reliability from providing enough information to be able to make reasonable "comparisons" to other situations and contexts. Teacher researchers do not try to recreate the context of a study, but rather consider asking questions such as these:
- How does the context affect the findings in the study?
- What different variables are in the context?
- If the multicultural mix of students was substituted for a more homogeneous one, how would that affect the findings?
MacLean & Mohr, p.120-121:
MacLean and Mohr outline a number of steps teacher-researchers can take to achieve validity in research. Chief among them are:
- Make revisions of your research questions to ensure a focus on your current teaching and what your students are learning.
- Frequent, consistent writing of your own observations will help you to discover what you think and to record what happens over a period of time.
- Collect a broad database of information to provide grounding for the interpretations that emerge from the data.
- Have other teacher-researchers examine and challenge your work.
- Read literature from theoretical and methodological frameworks to seek different theories and methods that challenge and deepen your own.
Stainback and Stainback state that "qualitative researchers seldom claim that their reports are totally unbiased. "...they do try to let the reader know, to the best of their knowledge, what their perspectives and biases were and how they collected and analyzed their data, to allow the reader to judge for him or herself the potential usefulness of the findings." (1988, p.83-84).
MacLean, Marion S. & Mohr, Marian M. (1999). Teacher-Researchers at Work. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, p. 56-66.
Power, Brenda Miller (1996). "What to Do With What You've Written. Taking note: Improving Your Observational Notetaking. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Stainback, Susan and William (1988). "Conducting a Qualitative Research Study." Understanding and conducting qualitative research. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS (CONT.)
Limitations of this Study
The results of this study clearly showedthat there were motivational effects of publishing students' workon the World Wide Web. What is less clear is if the motivationaleffects were due to a wider audience or the novelty of usingcomputers to publish the students' own work on the everincreasingly popular Internet. In defense of this study, thereare far too many researchers who are consistent with one anotherconcerning the theory that the effects are due to a wideraudience. In a presentation to the 1993 Southeastern Conferenceon English in the Two-Year College entitled Exciting Themto Excellence: Publishing Student Work, teachers RickDollieslager, Vic Thompson and Christine Pedersen (1993) eachshared their experiences in publishing their students' work in printednewsletters. Dollieslager et al (1993) all agreed:
At last students could see a finalproduct for all their efforts. They understood that writing wasnot just an exercise; it produced a tangible and valuableproduct. Those students whose works were published discovered anew pride in their work (p. 10). Most of all,students have a well-defined, real audience, andtheir awareness of the audience reveals itself in more carefullycrafted writing (p. 13).
Recommendations for Future Research
This study only begins to reveal theeducational potential--and pitfalls--of research and publishingon the World Wide Web. Some unanswered questions have beenexposed in this endeavor such as the connection betweencooperation between students and the process of publishing theirwork. It is reasonable to infer that students would wish theirwork to be presentable with good content, spelling andgrammar if it is to be read by a vast audience; however, whatcauses students to work cooperatively?
This was the first year that theresearcher required students to have a science mentor to helpguide them through their research, and it has become evident tothe researcher that science mentoring is essential to the successof the student in science fair competition. However, to whatdegree did the mentors influence the students' level ofsatisfaction in their research?
Implications for Educators
Besides demonstrating the benefits ofpublishing students' science fair projects on the World Wide Web,this study also determined specific activities which the studentsliked--and disliked. Most students enjoyed searching the Internetfor sources of information and images to be used for theirliterature review. They also enjoyed conducting theirexperiments, using email and creating Web pages. The leastenjoyed activity was writing the literature review. Writing agood literature review is essential if a student wishes toadvance to regional and state science fairs, yet the studentsfound writing a technical literature review arduous--if notpainful! The teacher of science fair students must do everythingin his/her power to inspire each student to write a completestudy and to write it well.
At the same time, students found usingcomputers to be extremely frustrating when they were not set upcorrectly thereby impeding their progress. Any teacher who wishesto use computers for publishing--or any educational project--mustbe certain that there is adequate equipment, that it is workingproperly and that they are very familiar with all of the softwarewhich the students will be using.
At the onset of this study, a majorityof the students were completely against the idea of doing scienceresearch and competing in science fair. Most of the studentsnoted in their journals that they thought it was a waste of timeand that they did not see the connection between science fair andthe physics course. The reluctance to do science research andcompete in science fair is peculiar to older students in highschool while the researcher has experienced that most middleschool students look forward to science fair. Still, this studyshowed that the wider audience the students' work received madetheir research a tangible and valuable product, and the processof producing the work changed many of their attitudes:
The more I look back, the more myattitude improves about the whole thing. The end result that wasthe finished project proved to be well worth the incredibleamount of effort I put in.
There is a need for interested educatorsto become involved in sponsoring activities such as a virtualscience fair. At the time of this writing, there were fewer thana handful in existence. First, teachers must be trained in theuse of educational technology and they must have hardware andsoftware available for the students to use during class andduring students' free time. Educators who wish to sponsor avirtual science fair (or any competition) where students canpublish their work, must advertise their competitions using theUnited States Mail Service as well as email. They must solicitand work cooperatively with schools and each other to pool theirresources and share their expertise. This all begins by searchingthe Internet for educators who are doing similar projects andcollaborating with them.
Thirty-two junior and senior high schoolstudents conducted independent science research for the purposeof competing in local, regional and state science fairs. Thesestudents used the Internet to search for sources and tocommunicate with science mentors, and to publish their completedscience fair projects on the World Wide Web. The students keptjournals, answered questionnaires, were observed and interviewedto determine if their awareness of a wider audience motivatedthem to excellence. The study concluded that students whoparticipated in the Virtual Science Fair exhibited more effort,engaged in a greater degree of voluntary cooperative work, spentmore time on their projects, and produced projects of higherquality than students engaged in the traditional science fair.The study recommended that teachers build upon this research toexplore the potential for cooperative interactions betweenstudents in the classroom.
The researcher pointed out that whilepublishing students' research may motivate them, the teacher'srole to inspire his/her students is still paramount. In addition,the teacher must make him/herself familiar with the hardware andsoftware before undertaking student publishing. Furthermore,there is a void of educators who are willing--or have theexpertise--to sponsor virtual competitions in all disciplines.The experience of guiding students through the research processand giving them the tools to share the fruits of their labor isrewarding. The wider audience makes the students' work real andvaluable so they will improve their work ethic:
Of course I wanted to work harderbecause I knew more that just my teachers were going to see [myresearch]. Therefore, I was far more meticulous in my work. Ithink that the motivation was greater because I was going topublish my work. This would be a good way to get other studentsin the future to work harder on the science fair. Just scare thema little by telling them that thousands of people will bewatching!