User Study 2: Understanding Educators- Interviews &Profile Boards
After the field trip to WT Upper School, we summarized notes we took during the trip and we found that their problems with maker space mostly lied in four areas: students collaboration, tracking timeline, community-based learning workflow and also communication and instructional issues for mentors as we have mentioned in the previous post.
We were drawn to the documentation and assessment process followed, since the maker space course is very different from traditional courses, and these two processes really play a crucial role in portfolio creation afterward. Mr. M was kind enough to answer our follow up questions, and he was the main instructor of the maker space course. That’s why we chose him as our primary stakeholder. At the same time, we also reached out to Dr.F to get rich educators’ data. We want to first understand the dynamic of maker space course from instructor and director points of view.
Study Methods and Process
By focusing on the four directions we were curious about, we generated educator interview protocol and conducted semi-structured interviews with Mr.M and Dr. F at WT Upper School. Mr. M is Science Department Chair in Winchester Thurston Upper School, and also the instructor for the maker space course. Dr.F is Director of Winchester Thurston Upper School, also former Director of eLearning in WT.
Interview 1: Mr. M
We started with the collaboration dynamic in Mr.M’s classroom. We want to understand how Mr. M team students up, how to lead students if they are not willing to collaborate, and how to address problems related to group work, finally how to assess students’ performance fairly in a group. Mr.M told us that students in the course are pretty familiar with each other and the class size is small. They usually do not have concerns and problem regarding to the collaboration. In terms of the tool they used, students currently use google docs a lot to share their group process and work with him which is too messy to easily track their progress and improvements.
For showcasing, we are interested in the whole documentation and showcasing process in the maker space course. How do students record their working process and how to present to a diverse audience? Mr. M mentioned that students have design book but they are not required to hand-in their sketching pieces on it. Each year, students’ final showcase is a poster board and school usually just kept them when students finished their presentation. He also talked about the limited spaces for final presentation. We realized that it is hard for students to showcase their work in the future since there is not that much thinking and working process involving in their final product.
Tracking students’ working process
For the sake of project management, we asked about the arrangement tools that Mr. M used, and other methods to track students’ work by the group throughout the whole semester and try to uncover the potential needs for his class.
Community & Mentor
WT has its maker space course designed as a PBL course, which means students will be addressing a real-world problem. Through our interview, we knew that WT has great relationship with multiple community resources, and they would provide mentors to assist students. We focused more on the method to reach out to and communicate with possible mentors if there is any problem locating proper mentors for students. Since they maintain a good relationship with parents and communities, it is usually not that hard to reach out and get needed resources and mentors.
Interview 2: Dr. F
After the first round of interview with Mr.M, we slightly switched our focus and also tried to target what Dr.F’s is taking control of.
Since Dr. F was the director of e-learning in WT, we began our interview with some questions related to her change of viewpoints in WT, especially for the maker space course. We asked about her working style in order to provide e-learning support to the course. She used to focus on one specific area of the school but not she switched to care more about the whole vision of the upper school, where do they want to go and curriculum design. She mentioned that being a director is about setting the vision. In terms of technology used in class, either teachers come to her with a request or she will visit classes for the potential use of technology to make work more efficient or make recommendations for the class.
However, she said Mr.M didn’t say there’s a problem regarding to the technology used in class. Even they did look at a project management tool at one point, it’s too cumbersome and also has a bad cross-platform compatibility.
Then we moved to questions targeting at maker space course. How to assess instructor’s work, how WT had been thinking about maker space course, its past and future, and what kinds of improvements would be of the school’s wish. Fay told us that they want to assess the process instead of the product. They want students to transfer their work to other situations.
“Assessments are where teachers struggle. It’s difficult to do assessment for group projects that are so different and interdisciplinary.” Fay said. However, we did not find this is a problem from the viewpoint of Mr.M. Some problems that we worried about / mentioned by Fay did not appear to be of Mr. M’s concern, for example, methods to reach out to mentors and the unfairness of assessment within the group.
We then moved to technology usage on campus. How technology was adopted and how students were utilizing technology to scaffold their learning process. We focused on the systems and platforms used, as well as in maker space course specifically. Dr.F mentioned she evaluates technology by their learning curve and considers is it hard to learn to use? Currently, different courses use different technologies based on the needs. But the problem is it can be hard to manage even though they have a school-wide platform for storing data and files.
The fourth part is on showcasing, from an administrator point of view, how had WT been doing in showcasing the process of maker space course, and were students able to show their work and value to the audience and get useful feedback?
Educators’ Goals and Challenges
From the first interview, we found out that Mr. M is very creative with his maker space course, bringing much freedom and enthusiasm to his students. He is also a free spirit, with his professional knowledge, he is willing to explore the problems that students encounter with them.
From the second interview, we found out that Dr. F was concerned about mostly the assessment process and showcasing students’ work to the community and experts. We also found that there had been interesting differences between instructor and administrator point of view.
Marked Up Transcripts
As mentioned in the previous post, we used a form that was divided into three columns to write our field notes. Each of the team members went through the notes and highlights what we found interesting, what surprised us, where we saw an opportunity, and what was our concerns. Followed is a screenshot of our marked up:
Getting some insights from our field notes, we created user profile boards as a first pass way to gather telling quotes and consolidate high-level information about our key stakeholder. In this way, we showcased our findings and their key characteristics. These two profile boards served as a point of reference for the whole team when we are exploring problems and ideating solutions.