Developing a Grounded Theory for LEGO ® Kinesthetic Modeling: 

A Research Design Portfolio

The current attrition rate among colleges in general is an abysmal 57%, and among community colleges, the problem is even worse: students finish at a rate of 38% (Shapiro, et al, 2017). Furthermore, within English and literature, composition grades are a solid predictor of future college success (Volpe, 2011), and in fact, Youngerman (2018) points out that while First Year Composition (FYC) courses are not discipline-specific, they should be designed to help students transfer learning to another setting. Therefore, Youngerman states, “composition courses can both establish an intellectual setting where connecting, applying, and/or synthesizing is encouraged and teach students how to enact those integrative learning skills” (p. 1).

Situating the issue of student attrition within the context of social constructivism, the issue seems to be less about competency within learning objectives and more about a lack of meaningful engagement – Coffey, Anyinam, & Zitzelsberger’s (2018) intersection of the personal and the professional. Ye & Cheng (2018) offer a framework on how to address this – as they put it in their title, “Fill the Classroom with Life”: 

To change the above state of affairs, we must shatter (but not entirely deny) the traditional framework that perceives teaching as a ‘particular cognitive activity’ in order to secure a comprehensive understanding of classroom teaching and reconstruct a new perspective on it from a higher-level point of view, i.e. from the point of view of life. (p. 358).

Two problems exist with respect to this issue: engaging students from the outset of a course and keepingstudents persisting throughout the semester. Within the context of an FYC classroom, Anderson & Kraushaar (2017) go so far as to say that they “envision writing alongside students as a transformative act of pedagogy” (p. 47).  Though this combination of the construction of new knowledge and the collaborative nature of the writing process is key in understanding how students can learn how to write, it is also related to a “constructivist epistemology…that [states that] knowledge is constructed through our interactions with one another, the community and the environment, and that knowledge is not something absolute” (Harasim, 2012, p. 12). In short, a need exists to determine what student engagement looks like in order to carry students through the course. 

Review of Relevant Literature

In this study, student engagement is defined as synonymous with “student involvement,” which is the “amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience” (Astin, 1999, p. 518). Icebreakers and team building can be seen in many classrooms on the first day of almost any course, but to extend that engagement beyond the first few days is key in this study. One way is to consider the use of popular culture as a learning tool. The efficacy of the use of popular culture in the classroom has been described broadly in the extant literature (Cheung, 2001; Melo & Johnson, 2018; Smith, 2015; Whiley, Houston, Smith, & Ross, 2018), but research studies into how that process plays out is not very well covered. Some studies do exist that affirm the use of popular culture as a pedagogical tool (Buelow, 2016), but many of them affirm in over-arching ways rather than specifically.  

One such pedagogical model uses LEGO® as a kinesthetic modeling for source integration: this modeling uses LEGO® building blocks to metaphorically represent source material and the subsequent paraphrasing and summarizing that a writer completes as part of the research and writing processes (Sterner-Neely, 2016). Informally, I have seen how students are much more engaged during the few days that I am using LEGO® to teach source integration skills. In the context of this study, “kinesthetic modeling tool” refers, broadly, to the ways in which LEGO® has been used as a metaphor for abstract concepts (Peabody & Noyes, 2017; Nerantzi, & Despard, 2014). LEGO® has also been explored as an accessible tool for reflective practice (Nerantzi, & Despard, 2014), and that phenomenon of LEGO® as reflection has also been studied, albeit with the LEGO® Group’s LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (Peabody & Noyes, 2017). Peabody and Noyes found that distinct phenomena occur when using LEGO® as a reflective tool: accelerated group cohesion, an appreciation for inclusive learning where student voice was amplified, a language for emotional content and deeper meaning-making, and an experiential process using materials that appealed to various learning styles. As Peabody and Noyes found, reflection is, indeed, a valuable tool for student engagement (McConne, 2018; Poldner, Van der Schaaf, Simons, Van Tartwijk, & Wijngaards, 2014), and the creativity that the use of LEGO® affords can tap into Lee & Lee’s (2016) findings – specifically, that creativity is key to teaching and learning. 


There remains, however, a gap regarding the process of integrating LEGO® modeling as a reflective tool to anchor student engagement throughout a unit or course.


This study attempts to bridge that gap by examining the reflective practices of students as they are anchored to LEGO® kinesthetic modeling throughout a freshman composition course. Reflection is a valuable tool for student engagement (McConne, 2018; Poldner, Van der Schaaf, Simons, Van Tartwijk, & Wijngaards, 2014) and the creativity that the use of LEGO® affords equals action – a process, in this case, that leads to a transformation. Roberts (2016) points out that despite the “plethora of research completed on reflection and reflective practice, there is still no consensus on effective strategies to teach and analyse reflection” (p. 21). In fact, students need “focused attention on all levels of the reflective spectrum through scaffolded experiences” (p. 22), and this aligns with the engagement that reflection offers as well as the active creativity of the use of LEGO®. This study has the potential to both bridge the gap in the research, and it offers insights into the actions and behaviors of students during and after the lessons on the use of LEGO® as a kinesthetic modeling tool for reflection. 

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this grounded theoretical study is to develop a theory for the transformative experiences of participants as they use LEGO®-based kinesthetic modeling for semester-length reflective practices and student engagement throughout a semester for students in second semester, English composition courses at Pueblo Community College. At this stage in the research, the “transformative experiences of participants” is generally defined as the common themes or motifs that exist in the qualitative data during the first set of student reflections, and the common themes or motifs that exist in the qualitative data during the last set of student reflections, though the reflections themselves will be conducted throughout the term. These themes and motifs will be examined in light of one another in order to develop a theory of the transformative experiences of participants as they use LEGO®-based kinesthetic modeling for reflective practices.

Research Question

What is the theory underlying the transformative experiences of participants as they use LEGO®-based kinesthetic modeling for semester-length reflective practices?

Sub-question one. What are the experiences of participants in the first set of reflections?

Sub-question two. What are the experiences of participants in the last set of reflections?

Sub-question three. How do the experiences of participants in the first set of reflections compare or contrast with the experiences of participants in the last set of reflections after students have had the opportunity to practice that reflection during the course of the term (five reflections total)?

Key Phenomena

The central phenomenon in this study – the transformational experiences of students – is defined as the action of students that results in a transformation, and this study seeks to understand that transformation through the development of a specific theory that connects to reflective practices as the act, and to LEGO® kinesthetic modeling as the vehicle for that reflection.

Definitions of Terms

Student engagement. Student involvement in a learning process (Axelson & Flick, 2011, p. 42).

Student involvement. The “amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience” (Astin, 1999, p. 518). 

Reflection. A set of practices that allows students to examine their experiences through narrative, critique, and metacognition.

LEGO®. Building blocks designed and made by the LEGO Group.

LEGO® kinesthetic modeling. The use of LEGO® to model a process or experience, and to critique that process or experience. 

Research Expectations

            The expectation from this study is that a theory of the transformational experiences of students using LEGO®-based kinesthetic modeling will be developed, inclusive of the typologies embedded in that theory and the pedagogical implications derived from that theory.


Context and Participants

This study will be conducted at Pueblo Community College (PCC), a small, urban community college, with a Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) of 3,424 in 2016-2017, and a total of 7,581 students in the same year (2017 Facts). 42% of PCC students identify as Hispanic or Latino, qualifying PCC as a “Hispanic Serving Institution” (HSI), defined as an institution of higher learning that “has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic” (U.S. Department of Education). Further discussion of the implications of this demographic breakdown will be discussed in the section on the researcher’s role. 

Setting. The setting of this study will be in a 100-level, second semester, English composition course. In any given year, about 200-300 students take ENG 122. This study will include one class of ENG 122, which will contain about 20-25 students. Typically, the majority of my students identify as cisgender males or females, with a small number identifying as queer, transgender, or another gender identity. The racial and ethnic makeup of the class is similar to the institution at large.

Actors. The target population is all students in second-semester, freshman composition classes across the Colorado Community College System. The accessible population is all students who take first-semester, freshman composition courses at Pueblo Community College (PCC). To conduct the study, the researcher conducted a purposive sample of one whole class all sections of the second semester, freshman composition classes at PCC to accommodate the recommended sample size of 20-30 participants for grounded theoretical studies as explicated by Creswell & Creswell (2018). The estimated sample size is 22. Each section meets twice a week for 16 weeks. 

Research Design

This study will use a Grounded Theory (GT) design as the primary methodology, which, broadly, falls under qualitative research in general, but is also unique in that it is “possible to theorize from qualitative data grounded in the lived experiences of individuals” (Green, 2014). Additionally, Hoddy (2019) points out the following:

GT methodology is highly exploratory in approach, requiring the researcher to enter the field relatively uninhibited by pre-existing theoretical knowledge and gather comparable data about a general phenomenon…[and] whereas early grounded theorists were advised to resist conducting literature reviews in advance of data collection, contemporary grounded theory permits the researcher to handle ‘preconceived analytical categories’ and draw on ‘pre-existing theoretical knowledge, hunches and hypotheses. (p. 114). 

As in all qualitative research, it is important to consider a natural setting for the research (Creswell & Creswell, 2018), the fact that the researcher is the key instrument for data collection, the inclusion of multiple sources of data, the lived experiences of participants, and a holistic account of the data (Creswell & Creswell, 2016; Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).  Rather than a specific theoretical framework, the work of Green (2014) is important to consider when providing rationale for Grounded Theory. Green states, “some research methods do not overtly use a theoretical framework or conceptual framework in their design, but this is implicit and underpins the method design, for example in grounded theory” (p. 34). Additionally, Green states that “it is possible to theorize from qualitative data grounded in the lived experiences of individuals” (p. 34), but that a researcher should “analyze the data, before developing new theories or variations of existing theories as outcomes” (p. 36). Therefore, informing this study is the work of Paulo Freire (1970), wherein transformation is an ongoing process rather than a specific end state. In his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire describes the act of becoming conscious – conscienctização. Additionally, Freire describes the Banking Concept of Education, a focus of substantial criticism in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which rote memorization “becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor” (p. 72). In this context, learning results in a product only – that which is pulled from a student at test time. As a response to this banking concept, Giroux (2004) describes critical pedagogy as “a form of political intervention…that is capable of creating the possibilities for social interaction.” Intervention, then, implies action – a process that moves towards Freire’s conscienctazação, an awakening of the problems of poverty and of an oligarchical hegemony. Additionally, Kirylo (2011) defines “critical pedagogy” as “living an examined life relative to the art and science of teaching” (p. 213). He goes further than this, however, when he explains that critical pedagogy is more than just “talk.” He quotes Steinberg in saying that “liberals talk…radicals must do” (p. 215). 

The “doing” in the context of this study is reflection through kinesthetic modeling that uses LEGO® as the vehicle for that reflection. As mentioned in the review of literature, reflection as a valuable tool for student engagement (McConne, 2018; Poldner, Van der Schaaf, Simons, Van Tartwijk, & Wijngaards, 2014) and the creativity that the use of LEGO® affords equals action – a process, in this case, that leads to a transformation. This design, as a whole, attempts to address the lingering gaps in the research that do not derive a “general, abstract theory…grounded in the views of the participants” (Creswell & Creswell, 2018, p. 13) regarding the transformational experiences of participants in LEGO®-based reflection.

Data Sources

Data will be primarily collected by the researcher (Creswell & Creswell, 2018; Merriam & Tisdell, 2016), though the data comes from three main sources as follows:

Reflections (Qualitative Documents). Each of five reflections will be collected, and though the first set and the last set of reflections are anticipated to be included as explicit sources of data, the middle three reflections will be used to support an understanding of the transformative growth of participants. This fits with Creswell & Creswell’s (2018) guidelines regarding the sources or qualitative data. Additionally, Youngerman (2018) states that “although grounded theory is most often associated with interviewing, a rich tradition exists of analyzing published documents and other texts with grounded theory” (p. 5). While there is “no consensus on effective strategies to teach and analyse reflection” (Roberts, 2016, p. 21) students need “focused attention on all levels of the reflective spectrum through scaffolded experiences” (p. 22). Sparks-Langer and Colton (1991) affirm three facets of reflection: narrative, evaluative, and critical; they state that “participants construct and reconstruct narrative plots to gain a deeper understanding of their experience” (p. 42). This narrative approach to reflective writing necessitates that students tell a story about their experiences and that they analyze and critically evaluate those experiences. The “story” will be told through the development of a narrative written piece explaining the student LEGO® models, and the evaluative piece will be explained after, building on the story that took place through the building of the LEGO® models. Finally, a meta-cognitive aspect – Sparks-Langer and Colton’s (1991) critical facet – will ask students to consider how the process of reflection has contributed to their engagement and experiences in the class. 

Semi-structured interviews. As a follow-up to the reflections, semi-structured interviews will be administered to students to supplement and attempt to further understand the experiences of participants in this study. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following, open-ended questions:

  1. Tell me about your model and how it is a metaphor for your experiences in class.
  2. Explain to me how your thinking has shifted from the last class (or from the last reflection, as applicable) to this class (or reflection, as applicable).
  3. What are your future plans in this class (or in your next class, as applicable).

Images of the LEGO® models. Qualitative visual materials (Creswell & Creswell, 2018, p. 185) are the third and final data point. The inclusion of these images will assist the researcher in understanding the connection between the model itself and the metaphor that students describe in their reflections. 


Following approval from the system level Institutional Review Board and selection of the specific class that will be studied, consent forms will be gathered on the first day of the term and stored on a secure server on digital form, and in a locked filing cabinet in the primary investigator’s office. The students will be given instruction on LEGO-based reflection, using a model as a metaphor for their experiences, the evaluation of those experiences, and a plan for the next unit. These models can be separate or combined. As an example of this type of reflection, students will be given an example of several different types of building techniques for LEGO. Students will practice each element of LEGO modeling, and they will be given time to compare and contrast their models to ensure that each reflection in the class has the three basic elements. Simple, written notes will be taken to describe the metaphor, the evaluation, and the future plans.

At the beginning of week six and at the conclusion of the first major unit (Rhetorical Analysis), students will be asked to reflect on their experiences using LEGO modeling. This will take place again at the conclusion of weeks 10 and 15. At the end of the course – during week 16, students will be asked to complete one final LEGO-based reflection. Images will be taken of each model, and follow-up, semi-structured interviews will then take place.

Data Analysis

Boutet, Vandette, & Valiquette-Tessier (2017) affirm the use of “manual coding over automated coding because this type of procedure has the advantage that it permits human interpretation and enhances the ability to extract meaning from the data” (p. 3). In their study, Boutet, Vandette, & Valiquette-Tessier describe three different methods for their data analysis: constant comparative method, classical comparative method, and a simple word count. This study will follow that model, inclusive of manual coding and of the three different types of methods for analysis, using research assistants who are relatively unfamiliar with the researcher’s history with the use of LEGO® for kinesthetic modeling, but who are certainly skilled (if necessary, these assistants will be trained) in codifying data through the use of qualitative methods, including the use of memos to reflect on any developing themes. It should be noted, at this point, that data is normally gathered until saturation, especially for Grounded Theory studies (Creswell & Creswell, 2018), but as the sub-research questions specifically state, and as this study attempts to compare early-term experiences with end-of-term experiences, in this case, data will be gathered through the end of the term, with follow-up interviews as necessary. Roberts (2016) describes the specific method for Grounded Theory data analysis in the following way in a study on pre-service teacher reflection: “The data were collated and coded using a grounded theory approach where each level of data added to the earlier ones to identify key themes and areas of concern” (Roberts, 2016, p. 20, emphasis added). Each data point, then, will be added and integrated to the previous points to gather a holistic view of the participants’ lived experiences. 

Ethical Concerns

Ethical Issue 1: Institutional Vulnerability. Block & Gordon (2018) describe a population with institutional vulnerability as “individuals [who] have the cognitive capacity to consent but may not be able to make a truly voluntary choice and may be unduly influenced (or coerced) to participate when they otherwise might not have done so.” In order to mitigate this potential vulnerability, it is important to consider the consent forms offered as examples by my own institution’s IRB (Institutional Review Board, 2019). These exist on the system-level website (the Colorado Community College System), and the instructions (Appendix A), the sample consent form (Appendix B), and a consent form that I have completed to address this issue (Appendix C) are attached. The qualitative consent form is labeled at the top of the form.

Ethical Issue 2: Data Security. For most quantitative data that deals with student competencies at my institution, I use student data that is stored on our assessment platform (eLumen), which is only accessible by the instructor and those who have a legitimate reason to access the data (such as the VP of instruction or the assessment director). This is a little bit different for qualitative data, and the biggest concern is that a secure server that can only be accessed by the research investigators is not something that can necessarily be controlled by a single faculty member. The IT department at my institution must set up access, but this still concerns me, as the raw data could be entirely stored on college servers. Another option is to store recordings and transcripts in a locked cabinet, and to place the digital files associated with that data on thumb drives and store that in a locked cabinet as well. Additionally, the data will be coded so that no student-connected Personally Identifiable Information is available.

Ethical Issue 3: Deferential Vulnerability. I am white and male-presenting, and with respect to these two identities, there may be an issue with what Block & Gordon (2018) call “deferential vulnerability.” To mitigate this, it is important to consider how to place myself in a position that is not authoritative with respect to my students. In fact, I have experienced, anecdotally, the success of the democratization of the classroom, particularly with respect to students who identify as LGBTQ+, and particularly those students who are transitioning and who identify as a gender or genders that are inconsistent with their biological sex. One of the reasons for this is because I am very open with my college students about my own gender identity. I am a white, mostly male-presenting (though identifying as genderqueer), biologically intersex, liberal Christian, and each of these identities is crucial in my role as “teacher.” I easily find myself aligned with the liberation theology of Paulo Freire (Kirylo, 2011), as it tends to take seriously the call of Christ to serve and liberate the oppressed. In addition, I am a US Army veteran, and out of my experiences in Iraq, I have become a pacifist. Positioning myself in these ways and including these understandings in my study and in the write-up of my study can help mitigate this vulnerability. Further discussion will be presented in the section on the researcher’s role.

Role of Researcher

I began my career as an educator in the elementary classroom – or at least by way of my education. I observed that, at almost every level in the K-6 world, play is an important, if not vital, facet of learning, and this is supported by the extant literature (Hynes, 2019; Nestor, & Moser, 2018; Roskos, & Christie, 2011). I was recruited by a very high performing middle school in town, and although play was not valued as a tool for learning by the administration, I observed that it had a similar impact as other tools, including reflection, mnemonic devices, and so on. Nice! When I began teaching at the college level, I pursued a research agenda related to my teaching interests, but these did not include play at the time. It wasn’t until I included the use of LEGO® for kinesthetic modeling (Sterner-Neely, 2016) for source integration and the use of the Potterverse – that is – the Harry Potter books for building communities of learners (2017) that I discovered that play was useful at all levels. I continue those efforts today in my research and my teaching (Sterner-Neely, 2019). While this is useful, I see two potential pitfalls: first, that I am invested in the outcome of this study. I believe that I see something transformational happening in my students, and I would love to be able to make that claim and to have the theory that explains the transformation. Second, I do not truly know that a transformation is happening – I observe this anecdotally – but now I am attempting to codify and explain this phenomenon through this study. To mitigate these positions, I see that using research assistants as described above will be useful.

As I mentioned above, I have experienced, anecdotally, the success of play in the classroom, particularly with respect to students who identify with groups different than I identify with. I am a white, mostly male-presenting (though identifying as genderqueer), biologically intersex, liberal Christian, and each of these identities is crucial in my role as “teacher.” These are some of my identities, and along with “writer,” dancer,” “parent,” and “partner,” I approach the classroom, seeking to listen and to respond to my students’ needs. Nevertheless, I recognize that my whiteness and my male-presenting-ness greatly influence my views that I bring to the classroom. As a social reconstructionist and a social constructivist, I see the inherent political nature of the classroom as well as the opportunity that diversity and the opportunity to listen to identities unlike mine brings when being willing to listen. I teach at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and certainly, I am willing to admit that assumptions about my students have clouded my judgment at times. More than anything, I want to empower my students with the tools to enact change that leads to greater critical consciousness: conscienctização. I recognize that my position of privilege as “teacher” and as “white male” can, almost at the outset, place me and my students in an “outsider-insider” (Herr & Anderson, 2015, p. 40) relationship that demands an almost immediate invitation on my part to participate in the development of the classroom culture. To that end, in every class, no matter the subject (I teach technical writing, creative writing, composition, and children’s literature), my first and primary goal is to facilitate the whole class, myself included, becoming better people, followed by becoming better at the particular discipline in which I am teaching at any given moment.

Each term, I begin by situating my classes within a cooperative environment, taking the time to facilitate this relationship through collaborative learning (building competency and making meaning). This can happen similarly in this study, as the invitation to collaborate on content/curriculum development is tenuous, but taking the time to collaborate through learning can lead to the building of this collaborative relationship. 

Still, due to the dynamic that has been part of almost every student’s life since kindergarten, and because there simply isn’t time to build the type of collaborate relationship that places me on equal footing with my students, I need to be cognizant that I am an outsider in a group of insiders. This is where the research process – described as an ongoing effort even after the formal research has ended (Bourke, 2014) can help – or hurt – me. Indeed, Bourke, in his own reflections on positionality, describes the ways in which his attempts to understand and deal with his positionality might have even alienated his students with the same experiences (i.e., they were both white). I have experienced this as well; when we turn to discussions on race and privilege, many of my non-white, non-male students are willing to engage me and they seem to appreciate the effort, but at times, my white students tend to disengage. The first time I brought this up to the chair of my department, he reminded me of the quote that has become part of many activists’ lexicon (though the actual origin is unknown): “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression.” 

Within the study, it will be important to the voices that students have in the classroom through active problem solving. A natural byproduct of this is that “oppressed” and “oppressors” (Freire, 1970) work together, and the Freire’s banking concept is replaced by a process that uses democracy as the driving force for social change and consciousness raising. 

Alignment Table

ElementsBrief description (describe each element in a few sentences)
Research QuestionsThe research questions deal with the development of a theory underlying the transformative experiences of participants, inclusive of their lived experiences, and specifically in a classroom setting across a specific semester. In his GT study on First Year Composition, Youngerman (2018) describes the two typologies involved in his theory the “what” and the “how.” My own study implies, as well, that I am describing, as is ubiquitous in qualitative research, what is happening during my students’ transformational experiences and how that change happens.
Context and ParticipantsIt makes sense, then, that the context is my own classroom and the participants are my own students. As the primary data collector is the research in qualitative studies, I want to be around for the entire study, including the in-between times where data is not collected, but the anchoring to the reflections is still taking place.
Research DesignGrounded theory fits what is missing in the literature, here. It fits with the problem – that kinesthetic reflection has not been described over the course of a term with respect to the transformational experiences of students, and it fits with the questions and the context as well. GT implores that I do, indeed, consider the data as well as the literature to develop a new idea about what is taking place and how that change occurs.
Data ResourcesThe data is to be explicitly collected through artifacts (images of LEGOs and the written reflections) and semi-structured interviews. The images and reflections align to the RQs, and the interviews help clarify those reflections.
ProceduresThe data collected will be at the beginning and the end of the term in order to understand the differences in the experiences of the students, but it will be practiced throughout the term to ensure that a sustained effort in LEGO®-based, kinesthetic modeling is maintained.

Part II: Reflection

Pros and Cons of Approaches

            I came into this class, and actually, the research class last year, with the idea that I would be far better at qualitative research then quantitative research. I have been surprised, then, that I have enjoyed the preciseness of quantitative research within a post-positivist paradigm. I have degrees in elementary education at the baccalaureate level and in instructional technology at the masters level, and I have a degree in literature and creative writing at the masters level as well – I have always been fascinated by storytelling and buy words themselves but something that has crystallized for me this semester is that stories can be told through quantifiable data as well, and in fact, much more precisely. Aside from the data and analysis portion, I think that I am beginning to understand quantitative methodology much more easily then I am understanding qualitative methodology. In a sense, I came to educational research with preconceived notions about qualitative research, and that has been difficult to work through over the past year. Therefore, it was important to me to take a route that it would be helpful for me in learning more about educational research, which I have absolutely fallen in love with, perhaps more than teaching, even, though of course the two are closely linked. This, of course, does not take into account data analysis, and quantitative data analysis is extremely difficult for me. During the optional assignment on quantitative analysis (which, again, I wanted to complete to understand quantitative methodology better), it took me many hours to determine what I thought was the right types of inferential statistics and tests. I see a number of gaps in my knowledge, here, not the least of which is the fact that I need some more statistics classes. 

            In terms of the actual pros and cons (separate from my own experiences), I suppose a summary statement would consist of something similar to the differences in traditional research vs action research – that each type, generally speaking, addresses something “missing” – that is, quantitative methodology can explain why something is happening (as in experimental designs), while qualitative methodology can explain what and how something is happening, in various contexts, as when a culture is studied in an ethnography or a theory is developed in a grounded theory study. To exemplify this, I chose GT because I felt that although phenomenology would be a wonderful approach for this study, the phenomena were already established. The theory of that explains that phenomena (the transformational experiences of students) has not been established, however; therefore, GT was the best choice to address the gap in the literature.


            I can’t even begin to explain how difficult this portion of the studies was, though the specific ways in which I received feedback and the scaffolded steps were quite helpful. I think that I have done well here, though it has been a lot of work. However, I have had some interesting and unique things happen to me while I was working on this – I had the chance to complete some curriculum mapping this semester for a course that I care deeply about – my children’s literature course. This was for the purpose of making the course into a guaranteed pathways course that can be transferred to any four-year college from any two-year in Colorado. Much of this process involve the alignment of competencies, goals, objectives, assessments and specific college approaches to children’s literature pedagogy. This experience was incredibly successful for me, and the alignment pieces happened quite easily, though they are quite complex. Something crystalized for me during this class, and I was able to align those pieces and get the course to the state-level curriculum committee in a timely way. Additionally, I was able to transfer much of what I now understand about alignment to the first chapter of my dissertation, something that has been incredibly stressful for me since last summer. 

            As a final point on the alignment: I went back to many portions of this study and reexamined them for how they aligned. There is a saying among authors: “kill your darlings.” This means that I must be willing, as a writer, to take out even the most beloved portions for the sake of the text itself. In this case, it is for the alignment of the sections of the study. In all honesty, I am still not fully confident that I nailed this portion, but I am better than I was. There is growth that I see, and for now, I can be okay with that.

Working Process

            I don’t think I would have survived the rest of my degree without this class. I mentioned above that I applied much of what I learned here to my dissertation, and I feel like I have been in real trouble with respect to my study. Something about the necessity of concreteness of each section made it really tough for me to understand. I am far more in touch with abstract concepts and storytelling in general, and my writing reflects that. However, the scaffolded portions of the studies allowed me to take each piece at a time, and your feedback was crucial in helping me decide what to revise and fix for the final product. To be sure, this process has been cyclical, and I have only just now finished my final revisions (and I will probably go back at least one more time). With respect to the online research resources, it hasn’t just been about the ability to access these things – it has also been about specific direction regarding what to look for, as in assignment 9 when you asked me to look at grounded theory studies to see what else I can get from those studies. This has been, perhaps, one of the most challenging (not difficult as much as complex) classes I have taken, and it has also been the most interesting. I really appreciate the depth of learning I have experienced in this class. Finally, regarding the group work – I know that almost no one “enjoys” group work. As an educator, I see the value however, and I enjoy group work, especially when I have a team that is willing to work. This class has been enjoyable as well as interesting. 

As a final note, I want to again express my gratitude for your feedback and your efforts in guiding my work. I hope I have made you proud, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Part III: Video

            The video link can be found here:


2017 Facts. (2018). Pueblo Community College. Retrieved from

Astin A.W. (1999) Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development 40(5): 518–29 (Qualitative)

Anderson, P., & Kraushaar, K. (2017). We must write together. Voices from the Middle, 25(2), 47-50.

Axelson, R.D., & Flick, A. (2011). Defining student engagement. Change, 43(1), 38-48. DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2011.533096.

Bahng, E., & Lee, M. (2017). Learning Experiences and Practices of Elementary Teacher Candidates on the Use of Emerging Technology: A Grounded Theory Approach. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education10(2), 225–241. Retrieved from

Block, J., & Gordon, B. (2018). Populations in Research Requiring Additional Considerations and/or Protections. Retrieved from

Bourke, B. (2014). Positionality: Reflecting on the Research Process. The Qualitative Report19(33), 1-9. Retrieved from

Boutet, I., Vandette, M., & Valiquette-Tessier, S. (2017). Evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of reflection writing. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(1), 1-16.

Buelow, S. (2016). Popular culture and academic literacies situated in a pedagogical third space. Reading Horizons, 56(1), 1–24. (Qualitative)

Cheung, C. (2001). The Use of Popular Culture as a Stimulus to Motivate Secondary Students’ English Learning in Hong Kong. ELT Journal, 55(1).

Coffey, S., Anyinam, C., & Zitzelsberger, H. (2018). Meaningful engagement with academic integrity through a focus on context and relationship. New Directions for Community Colleges, (183), 15–23.

Creswell, J. & Creswell, J.D. (2018). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches, 5thed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Duducu, J., & Chapman, G. (2018). Using Popular Culture to Intrigue Your Students. Agora, 53(1), 57–61.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Giroux, H. A. (2004). Critical pedagogy and the postmodern/modern divide: Towards a pedagogy of democratization. Teacher Education Quarterly, 31(1), 31-47.

Green, H. E. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research.Nurse Researcher, 21(6), 34-38. doi:10.7748/nr.21.6.34.e1252

Güven, İ., & Keleşoğlu, S. (2014). A Qualitative study towards infusing popular culture on teaching practice in classroom. Education & Science, 39(171), 344–360. (Qualitative)

Harasim, L. (2012). Learning theory and online tecnhnologies. New York: Routedge.

Herr, K., & Anderson, G. (2015). The action research dissertation: A guide for students and faculty (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Hoddy, E. (2019) Critical realism in empirical research: employing techniques from grounded theory methodology, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 22(1), 111-124, DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2018.1503400 

Hynes, M. J. (2019). My shadowing lesson: The importance of play. School Administrator, 76(2), 14-15. Retrieved from

Institutional Review Board. (2019). Retrieved from

Kirylo, J. (2011). Paulo Freire: The man from Recife. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 

Lee, B., & Lee, G. (2016). A global perspective on resilience and creativity. Child and Adolescent Resilience Within Medical Contexts, 17, 309-320. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-32223-0_17

McConne, J. (2018). “Why are we doing this?”: Using digital reflection to increase student engagement. Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, 11(2), 13–22. doi:10.18848/1835-9795/CGP/v11i02/13-22 (Qualitative)

Melo, M., & Johnson, A. Teaching technical writing through designing and running escape rooms. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 5(2).

Merriam, S. & Tisdell, E. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Metzger, K. J. (2015). Collaborative Teaching Practices in Undergraduate Active Learning Classrooms: A Report of Faculty Team Teaching Models and Student Reflections from Two Biology Courses. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching41(1), 3–9. Retrieved from

Nerantzi, C., & Despard, C. (2014). Do LEGO® models aid reflection in learning and teaching practice? Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 2(2), 31–36. (Qualitative)

Nestor, O., & Moser, C. S. (2018). The importance of play. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools & Early Intervention, 11(3), 247-262. Doi: 10.1080/19411243.2018.1472861

Peabody, M. A., & Noyes, S. (2017). Reflective boot camp: Adapting LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in higher education. Reflective Practice, 18(2), 232-243. doi:10.1080/14623943.2016.1268117 (Qualitative)

Piantanida, M., Tananis, C. A., & Grubs, R. E. (2004). Generating grounded theory of/for educational practice: The journey of three epistemorphs.International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17(3), 325-346. doi:10.1080/0951839042000204661

Poldner, E., Van der Schaaf, M., Simons, P., Van Tartwijk, J., & Wijngaards, G. (2014). Assessing student teachers’ reflective writing through quantitative content analysis. european journal of teacher education, 37(3), 348–373. (Quantitative)

Roberts, P. (2016). Reflection: A Renewed and Practical Focus for an Existing Problem in Teacher Education. Australian Journal of Teacher Education41(7), 19–35. Retrieved from

Roskos, K., & Christie, J. (2011). The play-literacy nexus and the importance of evidence-based techniques in the classroom. American Journal of Play, 4(2), 204-224. Retrieved from

Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Huie, F., Wakhungu, P.K., Yuan, X., Nathan, A. & Bhimdiwali, A. (2017, December). Completing College: A National View of Student Completion Rates – Fall 2011 Cohort (Signature Report No. 14). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. (Quantitative)

Smith, A. C. (2015). Applications in the classroom: The potential of scholarly studies in Harry Pottery in higher education. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2(2).

Sparks-Langer, G. M., & Colton, A. B. (1991). Synthesis of research on teachers’ reflective thinking. Educational Leadership, 48, 37–44. Retrieved from

Sterner-Neely, M. (2016, July 3). Everything Is [NOT] Awesome [When It’s Time for Bed]: How My Toddler Taught My College Students to Write with LEGO. Workshop presented at Denver Comic Con, Denver, Colorado.

Sterner-Neely, M. (2017 February 14). “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts!”: Potterverse pedagogy as pedagogical presentation.” Paper presented at the Southwest Popular/American Cultural Association Conference. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sterner-Neely, M. (18 June 2018). Villains in the classroom: the successes and challenges of translating empathy for pop-culture villains into critical consciousness.” Page23 LitCon.  Comic Con. Denver, Colorado.  

Sterner-Neely, M. (2019 February 22). Mud****** Need Not Apply: Why Salazar Slytherin Was Correct in Wanting to Deny Muggle-Born Wizards Admission to Hogwarts and the Implications for Critical Consciousness. Southwest Popular/American Cultural Association Conference. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sterner-Neely, M. (21 April 2018). When we kiss the dead: Storytelling as resistance in the Trump era.” Transitions and Transactions IV. Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. New York, NY.

U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Definition of Hispanic-serving institutions. United States Department of Education: Programs. Retrieved from

Volte, D. (2011). English composition I: An effective predictor of persistence and retention at a community college. (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania. (Quantitative)

Whiley, H., Houston, D., Smith, A., & Ross, K. (2018). Zombie apocalypse: Engaging students in environmental health and increasing scientific literacy through the use of cultural hooks and authentic challenge based learning strategies. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 15(2).

Ye, Y. & Cheng, L. (2018) Fill the classroom with life: deepening the reform of Chinese primary and secondary classroom teaching, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 50(3), 352-363, doi: 10.1080/00220272.2017.1359340

 Youngerman, E. (2018). Integrative learning in award-winning student writing: A grounded theory analysis. AERA Open, 4(3), 1-13.

Appendix A: Colorado Community College System Elements of Informed Consent

Institutional Review Board


Researchers must obtain the signed informed consent of participants. For those less than 18 years of age, the researcher must obtain the signed informed consent of parents or legal guardian and all reasonable attempts must be made to obtain each participant’s assent, which is defined as the participant’s agreementto participate in the study. 

The informed consent must include the following in sequential order and in language which the participants can understand: 

1. Statement of purpose of the study. 

2. Short description of methodology and duration of participant involvement. 

3. Statement of risks/benefits to the participants. 

4. Statement of data confidentiality. 

5. Statement regarding the right of the participant to withdraw from the study at any time            

    without negative consequences. 

6. An offer to answer any questions the participant may have. 

7. Contact information of all Principal Investigators, and also contact information for the Colorado Community College System Institutional Review Board (Office of the Provost 720-858-2759).

8. Line for signature of participants and/or parents or legal guardian except for questionnaire    

    research in which return of questionnaire gives implied consent.  

9. Statement that participant is 18 years of age or older unless parent or legal guardian has      

    given consent. 

In situations where participants will be deceived, items 1 and 2 are omitted and participants are told (on the signed form) that disclosure of the purpose and/or methodology could bias the outcome of the study. In this case, after the study is complete, each participant must be presented with a description of the purpose and methodology as carried out and this document must be signed by the participants “after the fact” in order to guarantee informed consent. 

Appendix B: Colorado Community College System Sample Informed Consent


The following suggestions are offered as guidelines. The exact language is the decision of the researcher. Keep in mind, however, that the Institutional Review Board must determine if the participants will be giving informed consent(Note: that in the case of children, it is assent).

Dear (student, parent, sir, madam, etc.): 

            We are conducting a study to determine _______________________. In this study, you (your child/ward) will be asked to _____________________________. Your participation should take about _______ minutes. 

            There are no risks to you (your child/ward). 


            The only risks to you (your child/ward) include _________________________________.

            All information will be handled in a strictly confidential manner, so that no one will be able to identify you (your child/ward) when the results are recorded/reported. 

            Your (your child’s/ward’s) participation in this study is totally voluntary and you may withdraw at any time without negative consequences.  If you wish to withdraw at any time during the study, simply _________________________________. 

            Please feel free to contact ______________________ (names(s), title(s) of principal researchers) at _________  phone) if you have any questions about the study. Or, for other questions, contact the Director of Institutional Research (303.797.5870).

If the participant is of age (18 years old or older), use: 

            I understand the study described above and have been given a copy of the description as outlined above. I am 18 years of age or older and I agree to participate. 


                                                                                    Signature of Participant                    Date 

If the participant is not of age, use: 

            I understand the study described above and have been given a copy of the description as outlined above. I agree to allow my child/ward to participate with his/her assent when possible. 


                                                                                    Signature of Parent/Guardian           Date 

ASSENT format: 

            I understand what I must do in this study and I want to take part in the study. 


                                                                                    Signature of Child/Ward                   Date

Appendix C: Colorado Community College System Informed Consent


Dear student: 

            We are conducting a study to develop a theory for the transformational experiences (that is, the experiences in the class that have the potential to change you and to help you grow as a writer) of the use of LEGO blocks as a reflective tool. In this study, you will be asked to use LEGOs as a tool to model specific experiences within the class.  Your participation will be in class, and you may be asked to participate in a follow-up interview of about 10-15 minutes.

            There are no risks to you.

            All information will be handled in a strictly confidential manner, so that no one will be able to identify you when the results are recorded/reported. 

            All students, regardless of the participation in the study, will be using LEGO for reflection during the course. However, your participation in this study is totally voluntary and you may withdraw at any time without negative consequences, which means that your reflections will not be included in the study itself and you will not be asked to conduct a follow-up interview.  If you wish to withdraw at any time during the study, simply contact Matthew Sterner-Neely at (719) 549-3002 or 

            Please feel free to contact Matthew Sterner-Neely, English Faculty, at (719) 549-3002 if you have any questions about the study. Or, for other questions, contact the Director of Institutional Research (303.797.5870).

            I understand the study described above and have been given a copy of the description as outlined above. I am 18 years of age or older and I agree to participate. 


Final Research Design Portfolio

Total Possible Points 100

Name: _____________________

Introduction0No discussion1Some information is missing; some inaccurate/misleading information is presented.2All information is included; most of the information is accurate and clear.  10 
Methods 0No discussion1Some information is missing; some inaccurate/misleading information is presented.2All information is included; most of the information is accurate and clear.  10 
Approach Discussion 0No Discussion1Pros and cons of each approach are stated;ORjustification of selecting an approach is included.2Pros and cons of each approach are stated clearly; ANDjustification of selecting an approach is included. 7.5 
 AlignmentDiscussion0No discussion and alignment table 1Discussion of the alignment is included;Some elements are aligned.2Discussion and alignment table is included; Most elements are aligned.7.5 
 Reflection of the working process0No discussion 1Some reflections are included without following the at least one suggested question. 2Reflection of the working process is included based on at least one suggested question; additional reflections are included (optional). 5 
 Video0No video is uploaded with the final project.1A video is uploaded but does not include all the elements of the portfolio and/or lasts more than 8 minutes.2A video is uploaded including all the elements of the portfolio and is within 8 minutes. 5 
Conventions of written language (e.g., spelling, mechanics, grammar)0APA conventions not followed;multiple spelling, mechanics and grammar issues are identified.1APA conventions are partly followed;some spelling, mechanics and grammar issues are identified.2APA conventions are followed; no/minor spelling, mechanics and grammar issues are identified.5 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s