Time flies. Our project participants were first graders, when we started the data collection in spring 2019. Now it is spring 2021, and the children are finishing their third grade while our final data collection has taken place. The past year has been really challenging for our project, especially concerning collecting data. The plans have changed many times along the year. In spring 2020, we needed to cancel the whole data collection, when the world was suddenly locked down due to Covid-19. In autumn 2020, we managed to collect some data at schools instead of organizing the data collection at the university.
But this spring was maybe the most challenging one
Schools went for a “red level” just when we had the plans ready for the data collection. The red level meant that we were not allowed to visit the schools.
Last autumn, one of my colleagues used Teams as a tool for remotely instructing older students in their classrooms while they were doing tasks as part of the data collection. Our participants were years younger. Would there be any chance that data collection could be carried out in a similar way, so that a research assistant would instruct children in the classroom via Teams? Well, the other option was to skip the final data collection, which did not sound as a good option at all. If the teachers would be willing to go for this, maybe we should give it a try.
The schools said yes!
This time, two research assistants, who had participated one of the data collections last autumn, joined again our team. The biggest challenge was now to figure out together how everything would be organized and the sessions conducted online. What kind of instructions teachers would need? What if they do not have a camera and the research assistant cannot see the students? What if loudspeakers or mic do not work? How to communicate with the teacher then? Technical issues were the biggest concern for us. We simulated different scenarios what might happen, go wrong, and what to do then. Luckily, we found different ways to solve possible challenges and to communicate with the classroom: sharing screen for instructions if needed, using whiteboard to clarify instructions, use chat etc.
Just as we were about to start the data collection sessions, the schools informed us that the red level also meant that the students were now studying in smaller cohorts. We needed to book some more sessions with the schools than initially planned. Both teachers and research assistants were very flexible in their timetables, for which I was very grateful, and finally all sessions were scheduled.
Before the sessions, we delivered materials to the schools – printed booklets of tests and questionnaires. Teachers were provided brief guidelines how the data collection session would go, and their primary task was to look after the students in their classroom while all instructions were given online by the research assistant. As in autumn, there were two sessions of around 45 minutes, and the children answered for questionnaires about math motivation and emotions, and completed many different math tasks.
Our biggest concern had been the possible technical problems
It was quite a surprise that we did not really face such problems that would have distracted the activities during the data collection sessions. Both teachers and research assistants were well prepared for the sessions. Research assistants were all the time aware what happened in the classrooms. As technical issues did not negatively affect the sessions, we can be happy about the quality of the collected data as well. Also, the children had enjoyed the sessions, which was the most important for us to hear from the teachers!
This time the data collection was an experiment itself and a very educational one for us! As it showed to be a positive experiment, this way of collecting data is something to consider also in later research projects.
All the data have now been collected in the project – four times in total! We were not able to conduct all tests what we initially had planned, but in these covid times, I am more than happy that we managed this what we did. The aims of the research project can still be fulfilled as we have a rich longitudinal data.
Exciting times now ahead with all data analyses and reporting of results!