Get Your Geek On: Reflective Discussion

Reflective Discussion by Tracy Wilson

This discussion will focus on my specialization, Educational Psychology, and the research regarding that field of study.  I will discuss my interests in the field, debates in the field, and how Critical Thinking in Psychology (Ruscio, 2006) helped me evaluate appropriate sources.  Lastly, I will discuss my thoughts regarding dissertation.

Topics and Why They Interest Me

I am constantly trying to find new ways to teach, motivate, and move undergraduate students toward success.  Therefore, I chose to research various topics relating to instruction and learning.  Botma, Van Rensburg, Coetzee, and Heyns (2015) discussed a conceptual framework for designing programs at a modular level to encourage a transfer of learning.  They proposed the process has four steps:  activation of knowledge the student already has, encouraging the student to engage in new information, a demonstration of competency, and application in a real world setting (p. 499). 

Demirer and Sahin (2013) conducted research regarding blended learning and using a transfer of learning component to improve curriculum design and teaching.  The findings indicated positive outcomes with students.  Blended learning provides an alternative to traditional learning environments and more engagement.

Debates in Educational Psychology

Evans, Cools, and Charlesworth (2010) explained that cognitive and learning styles in the world of research have been a focus of debate.  Some feel that view cognitive styles and learning styles as synonymous and interchangeable even.  The point that the authors are trying to prove is that they stand alone and that style makes a significant difference with learning in higher education.  The situation is complex, and while there is significant support for cognitive and learning styles in research, more investigation is needed (2010). 

Brown and Kuratko (2015) stated that there has been little agreement about creative thinking in the classroom.  Innovation strategies were not being effectively employed either.  For example, Brown and Kuratko (2015) state that “the importance of teaching design thinking for all professionals rather than just for designers has been argued by several scholars, some have begun debating why design thinking has not necessarily translated to more successful products and services” (p. 148).  The point is that there is a great deal of agreement that innovation in educational design, but there are still areas where innovation strategies are lacking.

Collectively, more research is needed regarding blended learning, transfer of learning, and success for students.  Some of the other generalized areas that are causing some disagreement include assessment procedures and implementation.  Additionally, more researching is needed to settle debates regarding institutional policies and best-practice.  

Evaluating Source Materials

After reading Critical Thinking in Psychology (Ruscio, 2006), it was much easier to sift through the articles in the library.  Knowing what is considered science and pseudoscience is essential for finding valid research.  Also, Ruscio (2006) discussed critical thinking skills and employing those as I waded through articles was extremely helpful.  Additionally, the information in the text regarding popularity and reviews reinforced that just because other folks like something does not mean that it is right.  Along with that is to avoid availability heuristics.  Shortcuts are wonderful for everyday problem-solving, but not for evaluating sources.

Based on the skills I gained from Ruscio (2006), I looked for psychological reasoning biases, experimental processes, data collection, analysis, and evaluation of the data.  I also utilized the peer-reviewed filtering tool.  There were many articles that I found that exercised opinion-based, experience-driven research with little to no data.  I am now able to understand and recognize key elements of credible, reliable research and secondary puff pieces. 

Dissertation

As I stated in the previous post, I truly want to know if using a transfer of learning component with blended learning can influence student success.  Further to this point, I want to know what effect it has on graduation rates and student retention.  I do not want to assume that it has any impact at all.  I want evidence. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, completing this reflective post has solidified my decision to move toward a doctorate in Educational Psychology.  Researching the various aspects of this field are fascinating and I want to understand more!  There are so many avenues yet to be explored and reading the assigned texts has helped me evaluate source materials for the projects ahead.  My dissertation choice is very skeletal at this point, but my desire to be a better teacher will propel me forward.  If I can fine-tune my theory, track the data, and find supporting evidence, then I can contribute significantly to my field.

References

Botma, Y., Van Rensburg, G., Coetzee, I., & Heyns, T. (2015).  A conceptual framework for

          educational design at modular level to promote transfer of learning.  Innovation in Education and Teaching International,

         52(5), 499-509.  doi:  10.1080/14703297.2013.866051

Brown, T., & Kuratko, D. (2015).  The impact of design and innovation on the future of

          education.  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 147-151. doi: 

          10.1037/aca0000010

Demirer, V., & Sahin, I. (2013).  Effect of blended learning environment on transfer of learning: 

          An experimental study.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(6), 513-529.  doi:10.1111/jcal.12009

Evans, C., Cools, E., & Charlesworth, M. (2010).  Learning in higher education – how cognitive

          and learning styles matter.  Teaching in Higher Education, 15(4), 467-478.  doi: 

          10.1080/13562517.2010.493353

Ruscio, J. (2006). Critical thinking in psychology: Separating sense from nonsense (2nd ed.).

          Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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