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Study Process in Action

Source: Private Collection

Source: Private Collection

It  w a s  in the year of 2002, at the time, for example, fixed in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, when I still hopefully faced the future. And thereafter, in 2003, 2004 …

Quite accidentally, I today started to read the Compendium on Issues on Study Design, composed by Petri Nokelainen (University of Tampere; Tallinn University of Technology). I am not comparing the course with Rein Taagepera’s course on quantitative research methods in social sciences, although I am soon going to write about how independent should university research activities be in order to fulfill their main aims ( -Transmit the relevant knowledge and further the science), at the same time not replicating the lectures delivered in other universities.

Today, I rather started to think of university teaching methods from the viewpoint of a foreign expert. What would I do if, for example, having been sent to a EU candidate state to teach EU law and evaluate the correspondence of the educational standards to the EU requirements. First, I would probably also hand out an amount of scientific articles / literature to the students, with the aim to develop the cognitive and metacognitive strategies for reading academic texts in a foreign language.

What else would I do – I would take the major responsibility for leading the group discussion. Certain methods have been worked out for evaluating, whether the students have by reading acquired certain competences, such as (if the students learn language only) decoding, literal comprehension, inferential comprehension, and comprehension monitoring.

The Compendium: „Decoding involves using the printed word to activate word meanings in memory, either through a direct association of the printed word and its meaning or through the intermediate step of representing letter-sound correspondences. Literal comprehension involves putting activated word meanings together to form propositions. Inferential comprehension involves going beyond the idea explicitly stated to integrate, summarise and elaborate on these ideas. Comprehension monitoring involves setting a reading goal, checking to see if the goal is being reached, and implementing remedial strategies when one’s goal is not being reached“.

The teacher / lecturer should be aware of how, when, where and why to use specific strategies. Such awareness should be seen from the study objectives.

There exist different methods for teaching facts, law, rights, human rights, legal theory, etc.

What else did I find relevant in the Compendium? – Perhaps an evaluation model for understanding what could lie behind the study results, from the article: „Nokelainen, P., Tirri, K., Merenti-Välimäki, H.-L. (2007). Investigating the Influence of Attribution Styles on the Development of Mathematical Talent. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(1), 64-81“ that presents the following tools for measuring:

(1) Success due to ability,

(2) Failure due to lack of ability,

(3) Success due to effort,

(4) Failure due to lack of effort (that I most suspect).

● What about failure due to the lecturer’s low pedagogical and cognitive skills?

● Interesting, should also the different economic situation in different states be taken into account if composing such evaluations?

More examples of irony about the quantitative methods and subjectivity of the researchers:

First, on measuring religiosity – The Compendium offers a method, according to what participants complete a 33-item Post-Critical Belief Scale that is then scored. Well, everyone understands the world and existence according to his / her level of development, thus when trying to measure religiosity, we actually measure the development level of a concrete person (his / her understanding of morality). 

Second, the Compendium includes the Moral Judgment Test – A mercy-killing dilemma. For such dilemma, “a person has to indicate to what degree he/she agrees with the solution chosen by the main character. Next, this person is confronted with six arguments pro and six arguments contra his/her opinion on how to solve the dilemma. The person then indicates, on a 9-point scale ranging from -4 to +4, to what degree these arguments are (un)acceptable. The mean score a person obtains for the arguments referring to the same stage indicates the degree to which this person reasons according to the underlying sociomoral perspectives. In addition, the C-index measures the degree to which a person’s judgments about these pro and contra arguments are consistent.” Then, there should exist a detailed description of how to compute this index. 

That begs for the question, how relevant the qualitative methods used by the social sciences actually are. – For it seems that I can reason every method I use and that every method gives some results.

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