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Reflection on Scholarly Writing: Dissertation Case Study

Introduction

Creswell (2011) points out that qualitative research is usually messy and rarely happens in accordance with the plan because of its highly unstructured nature. Conducting qualitative research depends on the researcher’s conviction, the yearning to have fresh insight on things, the nature of the issue being studied, and the commitment to provide elaborate details regarding phenomena that are problematic to elucidate using quantitative methods (Daymon & Holloway, 2010; Nardi, 2003). In addition, a qualitative researcher has must be able to tolerate ambiguity and continual reflection. I performed a qualitative research study, in which I sought to explore the perspectives of curriculum designers, facilitators, and teachers regarding the use of blended learning in teaching English as a Second Language. Specifically, my study focused on ways through which virtual classrooms can be used to improve English proficiency for adult ESL learners, ways that blended learning enriches ESL in and outside the classroom, and the challenges and successes that facilitators encounter when using e-learning platforms. It was my conviction that the nature of the study required a qualitative approach because the nature of the research problem was not structured. My emphasis was not on predicting the relationship between variables; instead, I used open-ended questions. In every step of the research process ranging from framing the research problem to presenting the results of the study, I encountered challenges and learned new things that improved my research skills. In addition, the feedback was crucial in completing this research. In this paper, I present a reflection of the research process I performed.

The research project provided me with an opportunity to learn about adult ESL teaching and learning. Through the research project, I have a better understanding of adult language learning, especially ESL. From my study, I found that English proficiency among adult ESL learners could be improved by making sure that learners have opportunities to practice listening and speaking and strengthening discipline and resourcefulness among learners. From the findings of my study, I found two ways through which blended learning can be used in enriching ESL learning. This included using different methods for different learning styles and that the interactive nature of ESL increases learner autonomy. These findings are consistent with those already reported in the literature. Despite the fact that there are no novel findings in my study, my research adds to the existing literature regarding the use of blended learning in ESL. In addition, I found a number of challenges associated with using e-learning in ESL teaching, which included technology-related challenges and communication-related challenges, especially on the student’s part. The success that I found regarding the use of e-learning in teaching ESL relates to convenience, especially for the case of asynchronous blended learning. Apart from the findings of my research, I was able to enhance my learning of the concepts associated with adult language learning, especially ESL. When conducting a review of literature, I enriched my knowledge on a number of issues including the challenges of blended learning, the different blends that yield an optimal learning environment, technology and ESL, and adult teaching and learning.

Despite enriching my knowledge of adult ESL teaching and learning, I encountered a number of challenges when performing the research. The first challenge experienced when performing the research is the difficulty in accessing participants. It is relatively difficult to access facilitators teaching e-learning courses; this explains why I used snowball sampling because I had to rely entirely on referrals from initial participants in order to be able to reach a significant sample size. The difficulty in accessing participants resulted in limitations regarding the methods of gathering data. As a result, I used online surveys because participants were geographically dispersed. A face-to-face interview, although the best option, was not feasible because of the travel costs and the busy schedules of facilitators (Padgett, 2004). The second challenge when performing the online survey related to lack of interviewer; this meant I was not able to probe and clarify unclear responses provided by participants. From the responses of my research, there were a number of ambiguous and unclear responses that could be clarified using follow up questions; however, this was not possible using online surveys. Lastly, I encountered problems associated with analyzing qualitative data. The main challenge associated with analyzing qualitative data relates to making sense of the huge amount of unstructured data, identifying significant patterns, and developing a framework to present the core of what the study data reveals (Silverman, 2013). I used content analysis, which at first appeared a daunting task because of the need to read and re-read the responses in order to identify the dominant themes and subthemes. This was the first research project that I had performed that required thematic content analysis; therefore, I had to familiarize myself with the technique. In addition, the material was relatively difficult and the research turned out to be more intensive than I initially thought. There are instances where it was difficult reviewing scholarly research, being preoccupied with unfamiliar concepts and getting lost in the scholarly dialogues – this was most evident when conducting the literature review whereby I would become overwhelmed and frustrated

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Apart from enhancing my knowledge on adult ESL learning, the research project provided me with an opportunity to hone my research skills, especially with respect to performing qualitative research. I have always had an interest in performing research of any form and I enjoy discovering complex and interesting relationships between complex ideas. Nevertheless, this research project was unique because of the approach that I adopted to tackle the research problem. I consider this research project the most valuable in my academic life. I am convinced that I have also enhanced my technical skills. Because I was exposed to extensive information, my organizational and critical analysis have improved significantly. Through the research project, I have learned how to perform research that involves adults and how to filter through vast information. I am also convinced that the skills and knowledge that I have gained in the course of this research project will be helpful in any field I may wish to pursue in the future in my professional career.

Feedback played an integral role with respect to the completion of the research project. Through feedback, I received guidance and support from my supervisor. Feedback has also helped in refining the study and focusing the research and presenting the findings with clarity. In the course of the research project, I have relied significantly on feedback from my supervisors to continually improve the various sections of the dissertation, especially the literature review and the methods section. Overall, I believe that, in the devoid of feedback, I would have not completed the dissertation in a way that is required.

Plagiarism is one of the problems that can discredit a reliable piece of research. When undertaking the research, I had to make sure that I acknowledged every idea that is not mine. I had to pay strict attention to citing and referring to the works of others used in the dissertation. In addition, I used paraphrasing in presenting the ideas of other authors. I also used quotes and cited appropriately.

Conclusion

This research project provided an ideal opportunity to enhance my research, organizational and critical analysis skills. The study also helped in enriching my knowledge of adult language learning. Nevertheless, a number of challenges were encountered, which included difficulty in reaching participants, inability to follow up and clarify responses, and difficulties in performing content analysis. Lastly, feedback played a pivotal role in refining the research.

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