Overcoming Design Difficulties with my Literature Review

Just sharing my process as my intervention proposal comes together. I’ve had a lot of trouble with designing and structuring the literature review section, as this guide the design of my intervention. Below is a video I often refer to when writing literature reviews.

I find David Taylor’s explanation very clear and concise. I think it’s easy for students to fall into the trap of designing their literature review to support their expected findings/outcome, rather than reviewing literature to form a finding/outcome. I was finding I was unconsciously making this mistake when the scope of my literature review was too broad, so I attempted to decrease the scope to something closer to the teaching context that my intervention will be applied to. Below is the current state of my literature review and the design principles I extrapolated from it. The first paragraph focuses on literature regarding the Japanese English education system. The second paragraph reviews literature about integration of networked learning into English education; successes/benefits and limitations/risks. Any feedback or comment is welcome and appreciated 🙂

Literature Review

Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita (2009) suggest that the greatest issues with English education in Japan lie with the Japanese education system and Japan’s exam culture. These place excessive stress on students and negatively affect teaching methodologies by encouraging or forcing teachers to focus on teaching to the test. Three teachers were found to have been given the responsibility for teaching more than five hundred students in one particular school, leaving teachers with inadequate time or attention to achieve satisfactory levels of communicative ability in their students. Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita identified a fear among parents, administrators and other members of the community that high student achievement in English education will have a negative impact on students’ first language language (L1) skills. Ruegg (2009) challenged this idea as she believed the Japanese government has displayed clear evidence of commitment to high communicative English achievement through the implementation of communicative teaching methods in classrooms at increasingly younger ages. Ruegg believes that native Japanese teachers frequently lack English language skills and confidence in their communicative abilities, leading them to focus more heavily on teaching grammar and vocabulary. She suggests that students require greater exposure to more natural communicative experiences with native English speakers. Samimy and Kobayashi (2004) strongly disagree stating that their analysis of the introduction of communicative language teaching (CLT) methods in Japanese schools in the 1980s found these teaching methods to be “not adequate nor feasible” (Samimy & Kobayashi, 2004) for Japanese educational contexts. Educational and socio-cultural factors claimed to lead to this conclusion included students’ limited communication needs, limited exposure to English in daily life, most Japanese English teachers being non-native English speakers, a pervasive exam culture and differences in traditional expectations of learning methodologies and educational outcomes. Friedman (2013) believes that aside from economic benefits that improved English language achievement will bring, efforts by the Japanese government to reform English education are aimed at allowing Japan as a nation to better shape foreign perceptions of the ideas and opinions of its people. With the goal of “developing English skills for persuasive writing, rhetoric, and argumentative analysis” and “to win over other nations and convince them of Japan’s good intentions” (Friedman, 2013), Freidman suggests that reform of learning outcomes is a necessity and is already well in the process of occurring. Similarly to Ruegg, he points to the Strategic Plan to Cultivate Japanese with English Abilities (“Japanese Government Policies in Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology”, 2011) as clear evidence of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s (MEXT) dramatic shift to more modern teaching and learning outcomes for students in the Japanese education system.

Research into the use network learning technologies existed even before the boom of creative tools brought about by web 2.0. An article Yang (1998) in the early days of mainstream Internet adoption focused primarily on the transformative benefits multimedia brought to the field of English education. Major benefits identified by Yang include the effective engagement of all language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), student focused learning, greater feeling of student autonomy due to lowered focus on the teacher teacher, increased flexibility of scheduling and location, and greater communicative access to other learners due to the removal of geographic barriers. At the time of writing, Yang noted the severe limitations networking, software development and computer processing technologies placed on networking technologies. Student social interaction was predominantly limited to text communication in early online tools and environments such as email, multiple user domains (MUDs) and object oriented MUDs (MOOs). In contrast, Allen (2000) analysed the benefits the social and collaborative aspects of networked learning offered. She believes that community connected learning provides a range of opportunities for secondary English students including interaction in authentic environments and situations, integration of ideas and interests with the wider community, promotion of active learning rather than passive learning, the ability for students to make future professional network connections, access to professional work skills, and insight into opportunities at postsecondary institutions. Allen suggests project-based learning as a powerful tool for integrating multiple student abilities and areas of knowledge into English education, while at the same time fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration skills. In a more recent paper, Jauregi, Graaff, and Bergh (2012) analysed studies involving university graduate education students’ use of networked learning technologies to complete collaborative task-based assessments. Results revealed students gained communicative fluency and displayed higher levels of interactive engagement. Students reported that Web communication environments offered more opportunities for authentic and functional interactions than they experienced in traditional classroom settings. Problems were encountered; technical issues and delays in communication could cause frustration or impede student progress. Test subjects felt that the use of this form of learning in secondary settings may carry significant risk. Suggestions included the need to ensure sufficient numbers of work partners, good access to the Internet and required technologies, and the ability to schedule synchronous sessions. With these conditions met, students felt networked learning experiences were worthwhile as the learning they experienced was more fun and rewarding, required innovative methods of thinking, used a variety of communicative skills and required more natural and interactive language usage.

Design Principles

Improvement of learning of communicative English could best be facilitated by an environment that:

  1. provides opportunities for authentic language usage (Van Lier, 1996)
  2. integrates usage of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills (Li, 2012)
  3. has a focus on knowledge construction, rather than knowledge reproduction (Jonassen, 1999)
  4. promotes student ownership of work (Newmann, 1992)
  5. presents opportunities for students to reflect on tasks (Jonassen, 1991)
  6. Supports collaborative construction and sharing of knowledge (Siemens, 2005)
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3 thoughts on “Overcoming Design Difficulties with my Literature Review

  1. How good is that? I love the use of “fill me in” and “update me”. I am so going to use that video and those concepts. Thanks Adam

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  2. Hi Adam. Some general comments.

    Some good detail in the lit review around the context and also some of the early moves to NGL in the field. What I felt was missing through, was more recent work. e.g. how has social media changed some of the early findings? How might this relate to NGL and thus influence the design principles you’ve come up with?

    What about research questions?

    The following is one of the descriptors for the exemplary standard from the “Intervention and principles” criterion from the rubric. How well do you think the above matches this descriptor?

    Insightful use of NGL and other theoretical sources to inform the design principles and intervention in ways that are appropriate to and implementable within the context.

    I think your design principles are good, but I also think you could probably provide a theoretical foundation for these design principles without ever using any NGL literature. Given that this is a course focusing on NGL….

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    1. Hi David,

      As always, thanks very much for your comments. I agree with your thoughts. I may have unconsciously limited the scope of my proposal in some areas due to the limitations and barriers i experienced during my time in Japanese teaching settings. Some of the feedback I received when I posted my proposal to teachers working in Japan on Reddit echoed similar reservations. They thought the ideas were good but would be very difficult to achieve in real classroom settings due to resistance from administrators.

      I understand the benefits of NGL but I’m still unsure of how social networks can be used in primary and secondary education without risk to student privacy and safety.

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