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Fostering Active Learning in Research Methods Courses Through the Use of Survey Research Projects
Unformatted Document Text:  7 Conjectural variable relationships are also formulated by each group at this point and submitted for approval in the form of hypotheses. These tasks serve as “active learning” participatory exercises since they are developed through student-student interaction and application rather than formal instructor-student guidance beyond clarifying the importance of thoughtful conceptual and operational definitions for variables. Students often realize that concepts they routinely use in academic discourse present challenges when they are forced to move from mental abstractions to measurable variables. A group from fall semester provides a useful illustration. This group was interested in exploring the degree of support or opposition to socialism as an ideology and socialist-oriented policies. The first hurdle is conceptualization. After the group agreed on a common textbook definition, the task shifted toward the tougher challenge of developing measurement rules and settling on a specific set of items for their survey instrument. In class, we spend considerable time discussing principles of “validity” and “reliability” and the mechanics of “mutual exclusivity” and “exhaustiveness.” This group ultimately decided to develop a summary index of a dozen items, each measured on a seven-point Likert scale. Two additional items indicators were also used -- one that measured support for either “Freedom” or “Equality” on a Guttman scale and one using a 10-point feeling thermometer question that gauged support socialism as a political ideology. Data Collection Once the foundational building blocks have been established, groups are charged to begin development of their survey instrument and a sound data collection method. In

Authors: DeWitt, Jeff.
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7
Conjectural variable relationships are also formulated by each group at this point and
submitted for approval in the form of hypotheses.
These tasks serve as “active learning” participatory exercises since they are
developed through student-student interaction and application rather than formal
instructor-student guidance beyond clarifying the importance of thoughtful conceptual
and operational definitions for variables. Students often realize that concepts they
routinely use in academic discourse present challenges when they are forced to move
from mental abstractions to measurable variables.
A group from fall semester provides a useful illustration. This group was
interested in exploring the degree of support or opposition to socialism as an ideology
and socialist-oriented policies. The first hurdle is conceptualization. After the group
agreed on a common textbook definition, the task shifted toward the tougher challenge of
developing measurement rules and settling on a specific set of items for their survey
instrument. In class, we spend considerable time discussing principles of “validity” and
“reliability” and the mechanics of “mutual exclusivity” and “exhaustiveness.” This group
ultimately decided to develop a summary index of a dozen items, each measured on a
seven-point Likert scale. Two additional items indicators were also used -- one that
measured support for either “Freedom” or “Equality” on a Guttman scale and one using a
10-point feeling thermometer question that gauged support socialism as a political
ideology.

Data Collection

Once the foundational building blocks have been established, groups are charged
to begin development of their survey instrument and a sound data collection method. In


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