Writing Styles for Research and the Web

As anyone could see from previous posts, a style make-over would be helpful for me.  The idea was highlighted for me by a comment by Michael Hanley* about writing differently for blogs and for academics.  There are two goals in mind.  Write in a way that does not comprise academic / scholarly / research concepts, but leaves academic styles behind recognizing the nature of web readers need to scan information quickly.  Its like the idea that google is dumbing us down.  I believe that part of the answer is in nature of community (of practice?) and network formation.  How to communication complex ideas that leverage distributed cognition / networks.  Maybe it could be wiki-based so that people entering the network can get up to speed on and join the conversations that interest them.  The idea is also that, as a society, we need blog readers to up grade the complexity of the information that they can handle, while continuing to manage the amount of information coming at them from all sides.  More to follow.


The Difficulty in Measuring

Measurement is, or should be, a concept that is at the center most peoples’ practice.  It comes in many forms: “No Child Left Behind” in education, “evidence-based practice” in medicine and psychology, six sigma in manufacturing, balanced scorecard in management, or performance improvement in human-resources.  All of these programs have measurement at the process core and the results of these processes begin with the quality of the measure and the ability to target measures to illuminate the intended purpose.  But, much of the efforts that are made to impliment these programs focus much more on the methodology that surround the measures, than on the measures themselves.

Achieving quality measures and quality data is not that easy.  Understanding this begins  with the idea of the measurement construct. 

“In philosophy of science, a ‘construct‘ is an ideal object (i.e., one whose existence depends on a subject’s mind), as opposed to “real objects” (i.e., those whose existence is non dependent on a subject’s mind)”

 “Measurement is the process of assigning a number to an attribute (or phenomenon) according to a rule or set of rules” (Wikipedia.com).

Measurement assigns numbers to constructs; attributes that are idea objects.  Measures do not create real objects.  Some of these objects are more problematic in definition (like personality) than others (like temperature),  but they can all be defined as constructs or idea objects.

This leads to the importance of the concept of validity in measurement that will be the next topic.

Two New Project Ideas – Validity and Social Media Pedagogy

For the next couple of months I should have time to pursue some intellectual projects.  #1 is backward looking (extending on things that I have researched in the past) and #2 is forward looking (developing ideas and knowledge in areas to which I have not devoted as much time).  

#1 Evidence-based programs (practice, management, education, etc.) as well as quality programs like six sigma miss an important point if they do not focus on measurement concerns.  All these programs begin with measurement to generate data and measurement concerns should be at the center of their methodology.  All of these programs start by defining a standard methodology, and that is all well and good, but in an example of quality data in / quality conclusions out, their methodologies can only be as good as the quality of their data.  

The question is, how do you determine good data.  A simplistic definition of good data will only obscure the issue and result in an intellectual sleight of hand.  I propose validity as an idea that has measurement and data quality as its central focus and can provide a framework that can eliminate and clarify this issue.  Specifically (as I mentioned before) I like Messick’s framework.  It’s complex, but not unmanageable, and serves to provide a 360% view of data and measurement quality.

#2 Social media pedagogy.  This is about how to use social media to teach and to further student development.  To this question I will also use a Vygotskian constructionist lens by which I determine what outcomes might look like.  That is, Vygotsky help me to determine what I want students to be able to do, and social media are the tools by which those outcomes can be achieved more effectively and efficiently.  These ideas should occupy some of my thinking (and posting) for a while.

Note – Maybe pedagogy is not the best term given its pedantic history, but again I am following Vygotsky who seemed to have a broad and forward-looking perspective on the subject.