Get Your Geek On: Re-Assessing

Re-Assessing Throughout the Life of the Program by Tracy Wilson

Early in the Program:  Career Exploration and Professional Affiliations

The reason I am enrolled in the Educational Psychology program is because I love teaching and aspire to be more than an adjunct instructor.  I also want to provide meaningful contributions to the field of higher education.  I do not think I am capable of abandoning the calling to teach.

My intentions are focused and well-meaning.  However, reality may not include a full-time teaching position.  Therefore, exploring other career options is essential for a holistic understanding of my program.  I have to allow for a back-up plan.  The only way to do that is to utilize the numerous planning tools provided by Career Center at Capella.

Most of the institutions I have researched want at least five years of teaching experience and a doctoral degree.  I have two years of experience.  My duties as a doctoral Teaching Assistant will help, too.

By enrolling in the Ph.D. program here at Capella, I am working on closing the final gap.  Because the university I work for only provides semester-long contracts, my future there is always uncertain.  The situation creates stressful circumstances for me and my family.  However, there is no reason to assume that I will not be brought back to teach more classes in August.

I began investigating professional associations early in this program.  I had been a member of the American Psychological Association, but I let me membership lapse.  When I discovered the divisions, I chose to become a member of Division 15 (Educational Psychology) and Division 2 (Teaching Psychology).  The publications offered by the divisions feature current research in various fields of study.  The membership provides networking opportunities as well as job boards where I can constantly search for work.  I can also look at trends and changing dynamics in the workforce.

Mid-Way through the Program:  Application Documents and Portfolio

In January 2020 I will be half-way through my program.  If the university where I work renews my contract each Fall, I will have five years of teaching experience by that time.  I also hope to continue as a Teaching Assistant.  The aforementioned will allow me to provide comprehensive Curriculum Vitae (CV hereafter) to a potential employer.

I have already composed a CV.  It is thin because I do not have the experiences, publications, and other necessary components that make me a marketable candidate.  However, by 2020, that will not be the case.  The mid-way point of the program will be an opportune time to send the CV through the critique process as I seek feedback from the Career Center and other professionals.  Based on the suggestions of career counselors and colleagues, I will reconstruct the CV accordingly.  Having a well-prepared CV will make me a viable contender for employment, raising the likelihood of either getting hired where I currently work or finding employment elsewhere.

The portfolio is fascinating.  I was not aware of its importance until I reviewed this unit.  I will be adding to it throughout the early part of the program, but the half-way mark provides the perfect time to sort through the documents and reflect on the materials.  I will have many more examples of my work, updated reference letters and testimonials, writing samples, and copies of my evaluations.  I will be a third-year member of the APA in 2020, so including that information in my portfolio will be very helpful, too.  All of the aforementioned showcase my work and give credence to my professional objectives.

Late in the Program:  Record Keeping and Networking

Accurate record keeping is a practice that is fundamental during any phase in life.  Using proper record keeping during my program will allow for an organized list of positions and employers.  By using Microsoft Excel, I will have a quick-reference of the applications I have completed, when I applied for work, and when I completed a follow-up phone call or email.  It will also allow me to catalog individuals, such as human resources personnel, department chairs, colleagues, support staff, and many others.

Networking is an ongoing process.  Conferences and colloquium provide chances for networking, creating a strong foundation for friendships and career contacts.  Moreover, a strong network of individuals can open doors for collaborative research regarding current and future problems in education.  Perhaps I will meet someone that would like to conduct research with me, adding to the list of publications for my CV.  Publications not only allow me to contribute to the field, but will also help me attain a satisfying career in higher education.

I hope to attend APA conferences before I reach the middle and latter part of my program.  Attending opens up more networking opportunities.  Furthermore, I hope to present at conferences someday.  I will not only have to have my Ph.D., but I will also have to provide useful, groundbreaking research to fulfill that aspiration.  Still, goals are the building blocks of success, and speaking for the APA is a personal goal.

Conclusion

Each road that we travel has a destination.  Sometimes we have a roadmap.  At other times, we wander.  However, through the years, I have realized that having the big picture in mind allows for proper preparation.  Without it, I cannot determine where I have been, where I am, and where I am going.

Capella University provides numerous career support options.  The Career Planning Checklist (Capella University, 2016) outlines everything that learners should consider during the life of their program.  I am very grateful that career exploration and planning was the primary focus of this unit.  One of my greatest concerns is that I will spend time and money moving toward a doctorate degree, but then be unsuccessful in finding work.  This unit addressed those fears, and I feel a little more comfortable with the prospective outcome of my studies.

References

Capella University.  (2016, March).  Capella University.  Retrieved from http://assets.capella.edu/campus/career-center/career-planning-checklist-general.pdf

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Get Your Geek On: Professional Identity

Professional Identity by Tracy Wilson

 

The Career Planning Checklist (Capella University, 2016a) provides a wonderful resource for career preparation and projection.  I have taken many of the steps already outlined.  I explored the Career Center during orientation, and my enrollment advisor gave me information about career opportunities.

Within the first couple of weeks attending class, I joined the American Psychological Association (general membership) and Divisions 2 and 15.  Division 2 is specifically for teaching psychology.  Division 15 is the branch for educational psychology.  Because I live in a rural area, there are no local chapters or associations to join for my field of study.

Before I began my doctoral studies, I joined LinkedIn.  However, when I enrolled, I expanded my networking base.  I became a member of the Facebook Group for Capella as well.  I also joined the Educational Psychology Specialization group, the Psychology Club, and the PhD Sister’s Group at Capella.

I am already teaching Social Sciences.  Based on the information provided by the checklist (Capella University, 2016a), this will be beneficial in the entire career planning stages.  My position allows me to shadow colleagues and discuss plans, challenges, and aspirations.

In January, I volunteered to be an anchor for a project through the Education Department at the university where I work.  The project was called Reinforcing Student-Centered Classrooms at the College Level.  The workshop was held once a month for an hour.  The meetings allowed a small group of faculty members to come together and explore visible learning along with best-practice teaching models.  At our final meeting, we attended a presentation about metacognition.  The anchoring experience was enlightening and very valuable.

The last part of the checklist (Capella University, 2016a) that I have already completed is the Curriculum Vitae.  My department chair encouraged me to apply for a visiting professor’s position in April.  He made it very clear that the likelihood of being chosen was remote, but that the application process would show me how detailed materials had to be.  He was correct.  I was the only applicant, but because I do not have my Ph.D. yet, I could not be offered the position.  They have sense suspended their search for the vacancy.

The Unexplored

Based on the checklist (Capella University, 2016a), there were areas I have not considered, and therefore, are unexplored.  One of those areas is record keeping.  I have not yet developed a way to track contacts.  Fortunately, I have Microsoft Office on my computer.  I can add and track my contacts with an Excel spreadsheet.  Using the software will allow me to organize and retrieve names, phone numbers, and email addresses.

I was also unaware of the Competency Translator (Capella University, 2016b).  By consistently revising it, I can update my CV.  It also provides the opportunity for me to reflect on what I learn, skills I gain, and gaps where I can make improvements.

Although I constantly search for jobs, the tools in the Career Center were unfamiliar to me.  I have already bookmarked them on my computer.  I can easily pull up the saved websites and keep checking listings.  Searching job listings on a regular basis also helps me see what employers are looking for and what may be changing.

The portfolio was another aspect I was not aware of, and I love the concept!  I have already printed out my student evaluations from the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017.  I intend to add them to my portfolio.  I have also included my teaching philosophy.  Additionally, I have included a “Thank You” card from the students in my Psychology 1101 class.

Action Steps

As I look ahead, I have developed a few action steps that will help me develop my professional identity.  One of those steps will be to utilize the Competency Translator (Capella University, 2016b).  Each class I take will be added to that list, along with skills and completed research.  I cannot even imagine what the list will look like by the time I am ready to graduate.

Another action step I will take is to continue searching for jobs.  I want to stay abreast of any changes in the field.  I want to be sure to stay up-to-date about what employers are looking for.  Furthermore, based on the job search results, I may have to relocate, so I want to be prepared for that.  The searches have revealed very little in my geographical area, but luckily the online teaching opportunities are becoming more prevalent, so moving may not be required.

Countless colleagues have also advised me to continually update my CV.  Anytime I complete a presentation or paper, I can use it for my CV.  My experiences as a teaching assistant with Capella will add to my skill-set, making me more marketable when I enter the workforce.  I already have my papers and discussion boards saved to a flash-drive.  I can easily access them and use the Competency Translator (Capella University, 2016b) as a guide for making my CV more robust and comprehensive.

In the years to come, I will continue my membership with the APA and the associated divisions.  Still, there are other affiliations I would like to explore.  The associations are excellent CV builders.  They provide viable research in their publications, and shine a light on various areas of research.  As a member of the APA, and other organization, I can attend conferences and network with other professionals.

Conclusion

This post has explored the use of many valuable tools provided by Capella.  Proactive, diligent reflection and re-evaluation are vital to professional development.  I have outlined the areas that I was not familiar with.  I also discussed steps I can take to build my professional identity.  The goal is to obtain a position to highlight my life’s work.  Through preparation, that goal can be achieved.

References

Capella University.  (2016, March).  Capella University.  Retrieved from http://assets.capella.edu/campus/career-center/career-planning-checklist-general.pdf

Capella University.  (2016, June).  Capella University.  Retrieved from http://assets.capella.edu/campus/career-center/career-tracker.pdf

Get Your Geek On: Ethics

Ethics by Tracy Wilson

As I reviewed the studies presented in this unit, I tried to be surprised with the results.  However, I am not.  Working in child welfare showed me a side of humanity that I do not care to see again.  I saw depravity on so many levels.  So, to be surprised by the studies is difficult for me.  For example, the experiments conducted during World War II are utterly heartbreaking, but rather than being surprised, I am moved by the human indignity.  Still, I often wonder if the individuals who conducted the experiments truly believed they were making groundbreaking strides.  For instance, when Dr. Zimbardo was interviewed for a video entitled The Stanford Prison Experiment (2011), he admitted that during the experiment, he did not see anything wrong with what he was doing.  It was not until his girlfriend shed light on the situation, telling Dr. Zimbardo he was engaging in unethical, damaging activity.  Nonetheless, when Dr. Zimbardo completed a presentation for TEDTalks (2008), he showed a great deal of remorse for his experiment.

Dishonesty

Why does dishonesty seem so widespread?  To answer this question, I looked at research, but I also know where I stand on the subject.  I believe that people are dishonest because they can be.  The lack of accountability is problematic.  I also think a person’s willingness to be dishonest goes back to familial influences.

According to an article written by Olafson, Schraw, and Kehrwald (2014), moral decline is correlated with dishonesty.  Also, their research showed that dishonesty is too widespread (Olafson, Schraw, & Kehrwald, 2014), giving credence to my claim that people are dishonest simply because they can be.  Further to that point is that peers actually encourage dishonesty (Olafson et al., 2014), which validates my assertion that there are familial factors at work, or in this case, social components driving dishonest behavior.

Roles and Responsibilities at Capella

Entering the Ph.D. program requires me to be a researcher.  I am charged with exploring subjects that can help the general population.  To do so, I must minimize risk and do no harm.  Although the research may be beneficial, I have to evaluate the danger to the research participants.

I will operate in accordance with the American Psychological Association Code of Conduct (2017) as well as Capella University’s (2016) research standards.  I will provide informed consent and ensure confidentiality of all test subjects.  I will present all of the dynamics of the research study both in writing and verbally.  I will act with integrity and ensure that all of the participants have the capacity to understand the experiment.

Utilizing the Standard Operating Procedures (Capella University, 2016) and engaging in Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) will allow me to create experiments with minimal risk.  In addition, I will be responsible for submitting my research plan to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval.  Because my research will consist of human subjects, I will need the approval of the IRB to proceed.  Working within the confines of their rules, I will ensure that my proposal is ethical regarding participant selection and that the risk to subjects is minimal.

Personal Values, Safeguarding against Ethical Dilemmas, & Unfair Judgments

It is not my place to judge others, so I accept all creeds, beliefs, orientations, religious practices, and so on.  Still, I value hard work and determination.  Therefore, I have a difficult time dealing with procrastinators and people who feel they are deserving of all concessions in classroom work.  I can see where my feelings in this area might be a problem.  For example, it frustrates me when students skip class and then want to make up a test.  In accordance with University policy, I require a doctor’s excuse.  Many of them come to me without one and still expect me to bend the rules for them.  I could judge those students harshly based on the situation.  I do not like that because I do my best to be accepting of everyone’s circumstances.  The aforementioned situation would not have bothered me ten years ago.  Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007) point out, values change over time which means that judgments change, too. 

As I read Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007), I realized that I possess another fault that could create problems.  I have always been someone who offers help to others. I tend to go above and beyond.  I always light the way for my students to take the path toward success. However, some of them do not.  I genuinely try to help them, but in doing so, I weaken them.  For instance, I tried to give opportunities for extra credit during my Psychology 1101 course, but the students who were flunking did not take advantage of the situation.  Ironically, the students with A’s and B’s achieved the extra credit goals.  My motivations were pure.  The hard lesson is that I have to allow my students to procrastinate and even fail.  When that happens, I have to resist making unfair judgments.  They have the freedom to choose success or failure.

Another situation I need to rectify is the fact that I share personal examples in lectures.  Again, my motivations are pure.  I want to show students how the things we discuss in class can be transferred to real-world situations.  According to Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007), I need to be a little more cautious of this practice.  By sharing too much, I create an environment where my students can feel too comfortable.  I did not realize that this diminishes the professional boundary.

I intend to use sound research models with objective data collection and analysis practices to guard participants from unfair judgments.  Procedures can be utilized to shield students and participants.  Informed consent and protection against conflict of interest are two of the tools I will use.

Informed consent protects me from vulnerability as a practitioner, but most of all, it protects research subjects.  Providing informed consent will allow the participants to feel comfortable and fully understand the experiment.  They will be given the information regarding the research procedure and how long the study is expected to last.  Also, possible risks and benefits will be thoroughly explained and provided in writing.  Confidentiality will also be included.

Protection against a conflict of interest is very important.  As I said, most of my subjects will be students.  I will have to look outside of the school I teach for to find volunteers for the research.  My students and I have a wonderful rapport, but I would not want that relationship to cause problems.  In fact, it is imperative that I avoid multiple relationships.  It impairs my ability to be objective.

Conclusion

The burden I carry as a researcher comes with a cost if ethics are not respected.  Thankfully, there are guidelines put in place to protect me as well as participants.  Despite the fact that dishonesty seems to be running rampant, I do not have to fall victim to such a fate.  I can use the standards put in place by the American Psychology Association and Capella University to ensure experimental integrity.  Although I am sure I will face more ethical dilemmas in my lifetime, this class is helping me discover ways to deal with those roadblocks.

References

American Psychological Association.  (2017).  Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct.  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx

Capella University.  (2016, April).  Doctoral Programs.  Retrieved from http://assets.capella.edu/campus/doctoral-programs/HRPP-SOPs.pdf

HeroicImaginationTV.  (2011, August 20).  The Stanford prison experiment [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZwfNs1pqG0

Olafson, L., Schraw, G., & Kehrwald, N.  (2014).  Academic dishonesty:  Behaviors, sanctions, and retention of adjudicated college students.  Journal of College Student Development, 55(7), 661-674.  doi:  10.1353/csd.2014.0066

Sommers-Flanagan, R., & Sommers-Flanagan, J.  (2007).  Professional identity development:  Values and definitions.  In Becoming an ethical helping professional:  Cultural and philosophical foundations (pp.  81-105).  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.

Zimbardo, P.  (2008, February).  The psychology of evil [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil

Get Your Geek On: Literature Review of Blended Learning

Literature Review by Tracy Wilson

Abstract

Blended learning is a student-centered model that incorporates face-to-face instruction with supplemental online activities.  The question remains as to whether blended learning impacts learning outcomes.  Researchers are striving to answer that question, and in doing so, a common theme is emerging.  Collaborative activities, both in the classroom and online, create positive perceptions among students, which contribute to student success.  The learners’ upbeat opinion then contributes to the probability of meeting desired learning outcomes.  Nevertheless, there are challenges surrounding technology, and there are significant gaps in research.  Some of the gaps include understanding the students’ existing content knowledge, the learners’ general awareness, motivation, and, of course, learning outcomes.  Additionally, research is skeletal concerning blended learning with a transfer of learning component.  Instructional design still requires more study, and institutions need to decide upon best-practice models.  Even so, the current research for blended learning and student success presents promising results, paving the way for educators to evaluate learning outcomes, empower students, and prepare graduates for the workforce.

  Blended Learning:  A Literature Review

Blended learning has become popular in institutions of higher learning (Alammary, Sheard, & Carbone, 2014).  Despite the plethora of information available for blended learning designs and implementation practices, learning outcomes and transfer of learning have not been explored adequately.  The research surrounding learning activities, technology, and overall student success provides a firm foundation, but further study is required to determine how blended learning contributes to learning outcomes.  In fact, the only way to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of blended learning is through examining approaches, deciding upon learning objectives, exploring student satisfaction, investigating retention, and analyzing student achievement (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004).

Instruction Designs, Implementation, and Learning Outcomes

Researchers are working very hard to provide a baseline to determine the effectiveness of blended learning.  Without a clear direction, understanding how to set goals for learning outcomes will be difficult.  The overall consensus is that blended learning encourages student success.  Student-centered learning lies at the heart of the blended learning concept, which is well received among both students and educators.

Blended learning implementation varies across disciplines.  Additionally, implementation practices differ among educators.  Conversely, in order to support student success and encourage learning outcomes, a model must be chosen, assessed, evaluated, and re-evaluated.  The implementation of blended learning should be thoughtful with varying delivery methods, learning principles, and instructional technology (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).

Blended learning allows instructors to choose various instructional strategies and add technologies that compliment the course structure and learning objectives (Tseng & Walsh, 2016). However, with the wide range of definitions and delivery methods, students do not have a clear and reliable understanding of blended learning (Porter, Graham, Spring, & Welch, 2014).  In fact, there is a significant relationship between features of blended learning design and the way students perceive learning (McNaught, Lam, & Cheng, 2012).  Although blended learning models do not have to be identical, collaboration between instructors, administrators, and students should be the goal for finding the most effective model (Porter et al., 2014).

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative activities used in blended learning have been highly praised by many researchers.  McNaught, Lam, and Cheng (2012) found that students who engaged in collaborative activities enjoyed the learning process more.  El-Mowafy, Kuhn, and Snow (2013) discovered that collaborative learning through online technologies allowed for students to self-reflect and practice skills.  Additionally, collaborative activities were essential for student engagement (Vaughan, 2014).  Wanner and Palmer (2015) found that collaborative learning inspired intrinsic motivation and choice.

Collaborative activities in a blended learning classroom range from technological collaboration to face-to-face activities.  They also include simulation activities, which can contribute directly to a transfer of learning (El-Mowafy, Kuhn, & Snow, 2013).  Collaborative learning applications support assessments as well (Vaughan, 2014).  For example, Vaughan (2014) explained that students who completed projects felt more involved with their own learning, encouraging the students to engage with the instructor as well as peers.

Vaughan (2014) also pointed out that activities such as blogging and journaling allowed the students to reflect on what they had learned.  The activities enabled the students to apply the knowledge to other courses, and eventually to their careers (Vaughan, 2014).  The collaborative activities provided an opportunity for educators to contribute to student success by choosing purposeful exercises to reinforce learning objectives (Vaughan, 2014).

Technology and Blended Learning

Nearly all blended learning models utilize technology.  Many studies have examined the effectiveness of technology as a supplement for face-to-face instruction.  Technology has propelled blended learning forward by providing flexibility and reinforcing a student-centered approach (Wanner & Palmer, 2015).  The teacher becomes a guide and uses technology to complement the in-class content (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, & Argente-Linares, 2013).  According to Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, and Argente-Linares (2013), “establishing a link between the use of technology and academic achievement is fundamental to investments in technology” (p.  627).  In other words, if the institution sees positive results, they will be more likely to invest in technologies that support blended learning.

Online activities help students understand course concepts and allow for an opportunity to test their knowledge (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al., 2013).  In the research conducted by Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al. (2013), students were able to learn at their own pace and received meaningful feedback from peers and instructors.  The feedback helped the students understand the facts presented in class (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al., 2013).  Also, students were able to test their understanding of course content based on the feedback provided (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al., 2013).  In general, instructor and peer responses aimed to teach the learner through a strength-based approach, encouraging the student to feel good about strengths while still addressing weaknesses.

Blended learning technologies encourage a transfer of learning and could also help with overall learning outcomes.  By incorporating technology into lectures and outside-class activities, the student can solidify their knowledge of theory and transfer the knowledge to practical applications and professional skills (El-Mowafy et al., 2013).  Furthermore, completing online activities allow the learner to develop important skills, such as reasoning, problem solving, and decision making (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al., 2013) that can be transferred to other classes and to on-the-job situations.

Student Success

Abundant research is available to indicate that blended learning has a direct impact on student success rates.  An article written by Lim and Morris (2009) explained that students were more satisfied in blended learning environments.  Additionally, students showed increases in learning when given opportunities to participate in classroom activities and then supplement those activities with online materials (Lim & Morris, 2009).  Moreover, the students could transfer their learning to jobs and professional situations, creating a much more meaningful learning experience.  Based on all of the current research, when learners feel that in-class content can be applied to the real world, they are more likely to be successful.

There are many other factors regarding student success and blended learning.  One of those factors is instructor quality (Lim & Morris, 2009).  If the students feel that their contact with the instructor is meaningful, student success increases (Lim & Morris, 2009).  Therefore, instructors must take time to prepare for class as well as the online activities.  They must encourage in-class interaction and examine what the students have learned (Eryilmaz, 2015).

Simulations activities and online exercises help students avoid feeling as if they are taking meaningless tests.  Assessments can be made without high-stakes testing (McNaught et al., 2012; Vaughan, 2014), which can lessen anxiety (Wanner & Palmer, 2015).  A student’s comfort level with blended learning can play a direct role in achievement.

Blended learning environments help students become successful by allowing for reflective practice (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).  Self-reflection is meant to promote positive perceptions and to clarify goals (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).  Success is imminent when a student can set goals.  They will feel encouraged by the control they have over their own learning.

Conclusion:  Gaps in Knowledge

The information already provided in this literature review shows many areas of agreement among researchers on the subject of blended learning and student success.  Nevertheless, there are gaps with learning outcomes and transfer of learning.  There are also problem-areas that need to be addressed.

In order for administrators to agree that blended learning offers significant benefits, an institutional definition must be established.  Strategy, structure, support for educators, and technological assistance should be integrated into the design and implementation of blended learning (Porter et al., 2014).  Smaller colleges have not been researched (Porter et al., 2014), therefore it is not possible to assess implementation and learning outcomes for that sector.  In addition, more research is required to investigate design specifications and implementation, especially specific course components (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).

Students come to the classroom with pre-existing skill sets.  They also come with pre-conceived notions about a blended learning course.  Assessing their knowledge-base and current understanding of the course content will provide a roadmap for course design (McNaught et al., 2012), allowing the instructor to focus heavily on learning outcomes.  Therefore, student performance and student characteristics must be studied.  For example, knowing whether or not the student is a high-achiever or low-achiever would be helpful for setting learning objectives.  In addition, pre-tests and post-tests may help assess skills and existing content knowledge.

According to Wanner and Palmer (2015), some students believe that blended learning courses require less work and fewer responsibilities.  However, the opposite is true.  Blended learning often involves in-class lectures, dialogue, small group assignments, large group activities, and discussions with the addition of supplemental material delivered online.  Also, quizzes, high-stakes tests, presentations, and essays fit into the mix.  The increased workload can often inhibit achievement (Vaughan, 2014).  Blended learning is more intensive than traditional learning, but if educators provide precise directions for all of the activities, lend support through each phase of the course, and provide beneficial feedback to encourage students who might become overwhelmed, learners can flourish in the blended learning classroom and learning goals can be achieved.

The use of technology in a blended learning course creates many hurdles.  Some students do not have adequate knowledge of technology, which can adversely impact their ability to accomplish course requirements (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez, et al, 2013).  Although online activities present limitless learning possibilities, the students who cannot navigate through the technical world can feel defeated.  Training would assist the students who are not comfortable with online activities.  Technology should be used to personalize learning, not to complicate it.

For learners who crave face-to-face interaction, the use of online technology can cause a rift between the instructor and the student (Lim & Morris, 2009).  For that reason, consistent communication is essential to heighten incentive.  When the students posts in a blog, it is vitally important for the instructor to provide a meaningful response and encourage interaction.  The effort will support motivation for future assignments.

It is very important that instructors and administrators understand the principles of motivation as well as how those principles influence learning (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  Study habits, class attendance, and individual learning differences will help instructors understand how to motivate students (Lim & Morris, 2009).  Furthermore, implementation practices may suffer without a holistic understanding of motivation (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  Many administrators fear that they are wasting their time with blended learning due to the lack of research (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  Evaluative tools and a deeper look at motivational factors in relation to blended learning could dispel fears.

Learning outcomes have not been researched thoroughly (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).  Without this research, it is not possible to encourage the use of blended learning.  If learning outcomes cannot be documented and tracked, the use of blended learning becomes futile.  Student perceptions will be useful for understanding how to conduct research concerning learning outcomes.  Additionally, monitoring the learners’ grades throughout the course as well as final grades can provide educators with a link to blended learning implementation and learning outcomes.

Students who sign up for required general education courses often enter the class begrudgingly, especially if they have no interest in the course content.  However, engagement can be achieved if the learners can clearly see that the content and assignments can be transferred to daily experiences and their careers.  Ultimately, the transfer of learning component provides purpose (Vaughan, 2014), which encourages the student to thrive in the class.

The purposeful nature of the transfer of learning component acts as a motivational tool.  The educators can also use the transfer of learning component to design the class with specific learning goals in mind.  The students and educators can then reach the desired learning outcomes.  Blended learning provides an ideal situation for a transfer of learning using face-to-face interactions, online activities, collaborative work, and peer and instructor feedback.  Still, the research is deficient regarding blended learning with a transfer of learning component and how that may contribute to learning outcomes.

References

Alammary, A., Sheard, J., & Carbone, A.  (2014).  Blended learning in higher education:  Three different design

approaches.  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4), 440-454.  doi:  10.14742/ajet.693

El-Mowafy, A., Kuhn, M., Snow, T.  (2013).  Blended learning in higher education:  Current and future challenges in

surveying education.  Issues in Educational Research, 23(2), 132-150.  Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?

id=EJ1016380

Eryilmaz, M. (2015). The effectiveness of blended learning environments. Contemporary Issues in Education

     Research, 8(4), 251-256.  doi:  10.19030/cier.v8i4.9433

Garrison, D., & Kanuka, H.  (2004).  Blended learning:  Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education.

     Internet and Higher Education, 7, 95-105.  doi:  10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.02.001

Lim, D., & Morris, M.  (2009).  Learner and instructional factors influencing learning outcomes within a blended

learning environment.  Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 282-293.  Retrieved from

http://www.ifets.info/journals/12_4/24.pdf

Lopez-Perez, M., Perez-Lopez, M., & Rodriguez-Ariza, L. (2011).  Blended learning in higher education:  Students’

perceptions and their relation to outcomes.  Computers & Education, 56, 818-826.  doi:

10.1016/j.compedu.2010.10.023

Lopez-Perez, M., Perez-Lopez, M., Rodriguez-Ariza, L., & Argente-Linares, E.  (2013).  The influence of the use of

technology on student outcomes in blended learning context.  Educational Technology Research and

     Development, 61(4), 625-638.  doi:  10.1007/s11423-013-9303-8

McNaught, C., Lam, P., & Cheng, K.  (2012).  Investigating relationships between features of learning designs and

student learning outcomes.  Educational Technology and Research Development, 60(2), 271-286.  doi:

10.1007/s11423-011-9226-1

Porter, W., Graham, C., Spring, K., & Welch.  (2014).  Blended learning in higher education:  Institutional adoption

and implementation.  Computers & Education, 75, 183-195.  doi:  10.1016/j.compedu.2014.02.011

Tseng, H., & Walsh, E. (2016).  Blended versus traditional course delivery:  Comparing students’ motivation, learning

outcomes, and preferences.  The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 17(1), 43-52.  Retrieved from

http://www.academia.edu/24595866/

Vaughan, N. (2014).  Student engagement and blended learning:  Making the assessment connection.  Education

     Sciences, 4, 247-264.  doi:  10.3390/educsci4040247

Wanner, T., & Palmer, E.  (2015).  Personalising learning:  Exploring student and teacher perceptions about flexible

learning and assessment in a flipped university course.  Computers & Education, 88, 354-369.  doi:

10.1016/j.compedu.2015.07.008

Get Your Geek On: Self-Reflection

Reflective Practice using ARTiD by Tracy Wilson

This discussion post will explore reflective practice.  The specific model that I will expound upon is Assessing Reflective Thinking in Solving Design Problems, or ARTiD (Hong & Choi, 2015).  I will address strengths and weaknesses related to my professional and interpersonal skills regarding reflective thinking.  Lastly, I will express my thoughts about how I intend to practice good self-reflection and become more self-aware.

Summary of ARTiD

            Hong and Choi (2015) addressed reflective thinking with the use of a tool called Assessing Reflecting in Solving Design Problems, abbreviated as ARTiD.  The tool is a fourth-version questionnaire for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  It is a valid and reliable instrument for introspection surrounding research designs.  Hong and Choi (2015) recommended using supplemental research methods in conjunction with ARTiD, but based on the research, the tool appears sound.

            The model is three-dimensional and uses timing reflection, objects of reflection, and levels of reflection (Hong & Choi, 2015).  Specifically, ARTiDl allows the students to look at the design stages and design periods, focusing on goals, information gathering, defining the problem, finding solutions, evaluating solutions, and then making decisions (Hong & Choi, 2015).  It also allows them to reflect during the early, middle, and late stages of design (Hong & Choi, 2015).  Additionally, ARTiD permits self-reflection based on knowledge, experiences, feelings, and external materials, such as “stakeholders” and “contexts” (Hong & Choi, 2015, p.  850). 

ARTiD and Me

            The reason I chose this reflective practice model is because it involves not only personal introspection, but also understanding research designs.  ARTiD also promotes effective teaching and learning (Hong & Choi, 2015), which is particularly important for me as an Educational Psychologist.  Using this model will help me reflect and refine my teaching methods.

ARTiD is applicable in my life both personally and academically.  For example, question 12 in section III addresses inaccuracies of personal beliefs and to what extent students discover those  (Hong & Choi, 2015, p.  862).  Ruscio (2006) makes it clear that personal opinions and beliefs have no place in scientific research.  Still, everyone has a belief system.  Reflecting on those beliefs allows me to remain open-minded.  ARTiD assists with that.

The ARTiD instrument helps me decide what goals I should set and how to evaluate them.  It even presents questions about budgeting and ethics.  The aforementioned are important to me as a researcher and a human being.  I want to be an ethical, compassionate individual as well as an exceptional teacher.  Therefore, reflective practice using the ARTiD method will help me work through challenges and find answers, allowing me to grow as a person and an educator.

Personal Strengths and Shortcomings

            Just like everyone else, I have strengths and shortcomings.  Knowing what my weaknesses are will help me find solutions.  I am usually good at making decisions.  I have discovered, nonetheless, that I make decisions based on availability heuristics.  As indicated by Ruscio (2006), this is not always negative, but when it comes to research and science it can be detrimental. 

I am my own worst critic.  The ARTiD tool provided solutions for that shortcoming.  Question number six in section IV asks me to reflect upon whether or not my strategies efficiently help me reach the identified goal (Hong & Choi, 2015).  Reflective practice is helping me see that being so self-critical does not serve a positive purpose.  It only impedes the desired outcome.

Professionally speaking, I have several strengths.  I engage well with others and am highly organized.  However, I lack the skills needed to conduct research.  I do not have any experience designing experiments, collecting data, and calculating that data.  By engaging in active self-reflection and continuing in the doctoral program, I can develop the skills needed for combating such a weakness.

Planning for Self-Reflection

            There are several ways that I can plan for self-reflection more often than I do now.  One of those ways includes learning more about reflective practices.  I was not aware of the dynamics of reflective practice until reading and researching for this unit. 

I am fairly certain that I engage in reflective practice all of the time, but I need to become much better at it.  I usually look at my behavior at a surface-level and then strive toward making positive changes.  My husband accuses me of over-analyzing things.  Constructively reflecting should be the goal, and when I get caught up with daily life, it is hard to make time for reflective practice.  Therefore, I will have to carve out time to engage in meaningful self-reflection.   

Planning for Self-Awareness

            Observing my own behavior on a deeper level is not necessarily easy.  Psychological reasoning biases play a part in everyone’s life, and whether it is confirmation bias or heuristics, it is important to look at ways of modifying negative thinking and behavior.  Reflecting on my reactions and thought processes will help me become self-aware.  Moreover, determining the lesson I should take away from a situation will help me grow. 

            I cannot change the outcome of some situations, but for the situations where change can occur, becoming self-aware can teach me what problem-solving strategies work and which ones do not.  As I stated in the above mentioned, I must make time for reflection.  Without quieting my mind and considering the precipitating circumstances along with the outcome, it will not be possible for me to attain self-awareness, thus impeding personal and professional development. 

Conclusion

             In summary, exploring the reflective process through the Assessing Reflective Thinking in Solving Design Problems, or ARTiD (Hong & Choi, 2015), has helped me become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses.   I have presented thoughts about how I plan to practice good self-reflection and become more self-aware with the ultimate goal of achieving growth and success in all areas of my life.

References

Hong, Y., & Choi, I.  (2015).  Assessing reflective thinking in solving design problems:  The

development of a questionnaire.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(4), 848-863.  doi:  10.1111/bjet.12181

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

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

Get Your Geek On: Critical Thinking Practice

Critical Thinking Practice by Tracy Wilson

This post will discuss an article written by Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015).  The main idea of the article will be explored and analyzed.  Problems with methodology, and the results of the study will be explained.  Finally, errors, disagreements, and areas for further research will be covered in this discussion post.

Compelling Points

An article featured in Research in Learning Technology (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015) proposes a framework for blended learning curriculum design.  The major points in the article were made in a somewhat compelling manner.  Due to the type of methodology the researchers used, the study lacked a convincing tone.  The methodology will be discussed later in this post, but it directly impacts the persuasiveness of the article.

RASE Model

The RASE model was the main point of the article (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015).  The model supports a student-centered approach to blended learning (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015).  According to Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015), RASE stands for resources, activities, support, and evaluation.  Essentially, the model provides resources for students, activities that promote the acquisition for multiple skills, support for learners, and structured assessments allowing educators to monitor progress (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015).

Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) provided a clear break-down of the model, and then each section of the article expounded upon the model.  The researchers argued that using the RASE model provided a unambiguous structure for blended learning implementation (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015).  The authors presented the model using an authoritative, believable tone.   

Problems with Methodology

            The methodology used by Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) is problematic.  A simple online database search served as the primary foundation for the tools proposed by the researchers.  Thereafter, they chose only eight undergraduate participants for the study, breaking them into two separate groups.  Although they used students in varying disciplines, the sample size is too small to apply the results to the general population. 

Findings

            The findings of the research study are based on qualitative measures.  The article did not offer a discussion section, but rather a single paragraph merely restating the research.  It did not offer in-depth solutions.  The summarization was supported with interviews as well as the literature from various databases, so the conclusion was as authentic as it could be given those circumstances. 

Errors and Disagreement

            Using Ruscio’s (2006) book as a best-practice guide, the decisions and conclusions presented in the article are similar to the clinical approach in Critical Thinking in Psychology.  According to Ruscio (2006), the clinical approach to research offers “nothing more sophisticated than using unaided human judgment to evaluate available information and arrive at a decision” (p.  171).  Because the researchers used databases searches and the research of others to formulate their assertions, their work appears wholly opinion-based. 

The methodology is the primary problem with the study.  Comparing and contrasting the work of others does not lend valid solutions.  It presents an argument with no foundational evidence.  Furthermore, the small sample size makes it impossible to apply any of the findings to the general population.  The research does not account for cultural and gender differences, nor does it account for faculty involvement.

Ruscio (2006) points out that a statistical approach to research involves mathematical calculations.  Without the use of quantitative methods, the article falls short.  While the article does an adequate job of presenting the opinions of eight students, it does not provide much more than that.    

            Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) failed to offer any new information that could be useful to administrators or faculty members striving to implement blended learning.  The authors indicated that blended learning is different than online learning by virtue of design and delivery (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015), which is a moot point.  No argument exists regarding the definition.  Most researchers agree that blended learning is supplemental to face-to-face delivery and in-class interactions (Porter, Graham, Spring, & Welch, 2014).  There is no reason to include such a distinction.  

            Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) felt that by providing their framework for blended learning, teachers could formulate activities.  However, the information presented is rooted in the students’ perspective.  There are no guidelines or noteworthy suggestions for educators.  Once again, the teacher is left to his or her own devices, perpetuating the inconsistency of blended learning. 

Unanswered Questions

            Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) explained that there were deficits in their research, leaving many questions unanswered.  The research should have included faculty members (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox 2015) as well as a larger number of student participants.  If faculty members would have been included, the stages of blended learning could have been thoroughly explored, general practices could have been identified, and possible improvements could have been found. 

            Future studies should include professional development resources (Mirriahi, Alonzo, & Fox, 2015).  Still, without a reliable framework, that may not be possible.  Nonetheless, the gap allows for further exploration about how faculty development can improve the implementation of blended learning. 

Conclusion

The article written by Mirriahi, Alonzo, and Fox (2015) strives to provide a clear model of blended learning.  Nonetheless, their methodology for data collection affects the reliability of their findings.  Without a larger sample size and the inclusion of educators, the research appears skewed.  On the other hand, there are areas for further exploration, which may improve the overall outcome for blended learning implementation.           

References

Mirriahi, N., Alonzo, D., & Fox, B.  (2015).  A blended learning framework for curriculum

design and professional development.  Research in Learning Technology, 23(1), 1-14.  doi:  10.3402/rlt.v23.28451

Porter, W., Graham, C., Spring, K., & Welch, K.  (2014).  Blended learning in higher education: 

Institutional adoption and implementation.  Computers and Education, 75, 185-195.  doi:  10.1016/j.compedu.2014.02.011

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

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

When You Aren’t Wonder Woman

Hello peeps.  The last time I posted something personal, I discussed beginning my Ph.D. program.  I’m two quarters in, and I can’t juggle everything.  I receive two job offers this summer, so I am now teaching at the university I have been with since 2015 and an additional college.  That’s four days of work a week, plus grading and other essential functions.  Besides that, I’m a wife and mom.  I’m a friend and a daughter.  In order to prioritize, the Ph.D. has to be put on hold.  I’m okay with that.  After all, I want my family and friends to remember me for spending time with them, not for having a nose in a book (which is what I have done all summer).  Things may change between here and the first of the year, but I highly doubt it.  I am going back to my first love:  fiction.  I miss writing fiction more than I can even explain.  So, I am already picking up where I left off with my Between Worlds Series.

There are a few more weeks of scheduled posts coming, and then I will post this quarter’s work, but thereafter, it’s back to fictional writing and posting for me.  I am NOT Wonder Woman.  As much as I would like to be able to handle three jobs (I was also given a teaching assistant position for the Ph.D. program), being a wife, a mom, spending time with my family and friends, fitting appointments in there, and trying to find time to sleep, I can’t.  Something has to go.  For me, it’s the quest for higher education.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t go back to it.  It may just be temporary.

So, thanks for reading my scholarly stuff!  Fiction will be on the way very soon!

Best,

Tracee