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Using social networks for educational research: Ethnographic "reflexivity"


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My research involves two cohorts of first year tertiary student participants enrolled in a pre-service primary education programme. One cohort of students is enrolled in the programme where delivery is predominately face-to-face. The other cohort has the programme delivered mainly via online. I am interested in student participants’ experiences of writing academic assignments in their first year of tertiary study. I am using the ethnographic research methods of observation and interview, and supplemented these methods with asynchronous online informal focus groups via two social media sites. The intention being that this would give student participants an opportunity to instantly reflect on their writing experiences in a forum that allowed for interactions with their peers. Three categories of findings appear to emerge from this research method. First, that one group of participants chose to interact on one social media site and the other group of participants did not interact on the other social media site. Second, participant interactions gave access to participants more immediate reflections on academic writing experiences that were not able to be gained from other methods used for this research. Third, the nature of the student interactions on the social media site were not only reflective as initially intended by the researcher, but that it appeared students were using the social networking site to apprentice each other into the academic writing conventions.

During this presentation I will explain my reasons for supplementing the ethnographic research methods of observation and interview with focus groups. I will also explain the reasons why asynchronous online informal focus groups via social networking sites were chosen as a method and the ethical issues that arose from choosing to conduct confidential research via social network sites. An explanation of how these initial ethical issues concerns were addressed will be given. I will also explain the reflexive theoretical framework chosen for the online focus groups and why the social media sites Google Groups and Facebook were chosen for the research. Information will be given on how these two social media sites were trialled, issues of confidentiality that arose during the trialling of one of these sites and how these issues were addressed. Reasons given by participants for participation and non-participation in the social media sites will also be given. I will end the presentation by reflecting on the prolific nature of the student interactions on one social media site, the nature of these interactions, and how the information gained has aided in beginning to answer my research questions.

In summary, this in-progress paper reflects the reasons why I chose to use social networking sites as a platform for focus groups, and the reasons for the choice of the two social networking sites. I also discuss ethical issues that I considered before the research took place in using social media sites for confidential research, and ethical issues that arose and were addressed during the research. Finally, to be discussed are the initial in-progress findings of using Facebook and Google Groups as asynchronous online informal focus groups and how these findings will assist to begin answering the research questions as this research is part of my PhD (Education). This presentation adds to the extremely under-researched area of the use of social media sites for educational research purposes.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethnography academic literacy facebook social networking
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions: Corporate > Student Learning Services
Depositing User: Christina Gera
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2014 03:11
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 03:22

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