Get Your Geek On: Problem Statement

Problem Statement:  Blended Learning by Tracy Wilson

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 have not been explored adequately.  The research surrounding learning activities, technology, and overall student success provides a firm foundation.  Without further study, it will be difficult to determine how effective blended learning is and how it 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).

According to an article written by Tseng and Walsh (2016), blended learning addresses diverse learning styles, creating a very positive situation for students.  Because blended learning is designed for individual learning needs, the flexibility allows learners to take charge of their own education (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  However, research is lacking regarding student motivation and its influence on blended learning instruction.

Delivery methods are extremely important to the blended learning model, but more exploration is needed regarding design specifications and student learning incentives (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  In other words, blended learning might work, but delivery methods must be planned according to the desired learning outcomes.  Therefore, it is imperative that educators consider meaningful course components (Tseng & Walsh, 2016).  Finding a user-friendly design might have a direct impact on student motivation and achievement, but without research, this cannot be known.

Understanding the student’s current level of knowledge is essential for blended learning delivery, proposed outcomes, and general design (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).  Information exists to spotlight the positive aspects of blended learning, especially plasticity, cost effectiveness, and the emphasis on learning as opposed to teaching (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).  More information is needed, nonetheless, as to whether blended learning helps the student acquire new skills, which can contribute to their achievement (Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2011).

On one hand, some students may already feel empowered when entering a course.  On the other hand, if a student feels burdened by the course, perhaps blended learning could contribute to student engagement, thereby allowing for positive outcomes in student learning and success.  For example, if the course is a required introductory course, the educator may be met with opposition because it is a general education requirement.  The student may feel that the course is a waste of time.  However, blended learning may serve as the catalyst for bringing those students to the table and encouraging them to contribute to their learning experience.  To make a determination about the aforementioned, more research is required.

Blended learning has many positive aspects, but there are also negative aspects as well.  Students find collaborative activities to be especially useful, but they have problems with the workloads and self-directed learning (Vaughan, 2014).  In addition, most blended learning courses have a technological component that provide opportunities for the collaborative activities the students enjoy (Vaughan, 2014).  The technology is meant to encourage positive learning outcomes and student perceptions of blended learning.  However, the effectiveness of digital technology has mixed reviews.  Therefore, studying digital technologies and the type of technologies used will help determine which methods provide the best platform for learning outcomes and student success.

In conclusion, blended learning appears promising.  Still, designs and implementation is not enough.  Understanding student motivations and perceptions are essential for crafting blended learning designs that empower students to collaborate and to take charge of their own learning.  Also, finding the right technological applications to supplement face-to-face learning must be explored.  While the research in the above mentioned areas may seem daunting, it will be necessary for fine-tuning existing models.  More exploration will also help educators prepare graduates to enter the workforce.

Reference

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

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

Lopez-Perez, M. V., 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

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

 

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Get Your Geek On: Writing Skills

Accessing Your Writing Skills

This discussion post will explore the writing assessment I took in the Writing Center as well as what I have learned in this course thus far.  Also, I will explore the feedback from Dr. Secrest for the assignment in Unit 4 and the specific aspects of writing from the feedback I have received from Smarthinking.

Self-Assessment

I received an “adequate” rating on my writing assessment.  I hoped it would be more than adequate given that I taught English Composition and Argumentative Composition for two years.  Although I clicked “often” for each question, the results were still the same.  However, I think writing can always be improved.  It is an organic process and involves life-long learning (Ryan, 2011).

Experiences in 8002

I have learned a great deal about my writing based on the course experiences thus far.  I consistently struggle with citations.  I tend to fall short in that area, even if the mistakes are small.  I utilized APA when I was in graduate school, but that was six years ago.  As an English instructor, the department wanted me to focus on MLA.  When I began teaching for Social Sciences, APA was preferred.  I am still brushing up my skill set, however.  

            Another weakness has been with providing enough examples.  At times my writing has also lacked specificity.  I tend to write long posts.  To avoid that, I began cutting details.  This was not a good strategy.  So, I have used the feedback to fine-tune the content.

            Dr. Secrest gives excellent guidance.  I take the information and apply it immediately.  I know that revised discussion posts do not count toward a grade, but it allows me to take the recommendations and immediately apply the skills.  After all, the point of learning is to realize mistakes and make changes thereafter.

                                                                                              Unit 4 Assignment Feedback

            I have learned so much about my writing from the feedback for the Unit 4 assignment.  The common theme, again, was citations.  Though they were simple mistakes, there is no such thing when it comes to working toward a doctorate.  To be taken seriously, the composition must be perfect. 

          The first citation mistake involved failure to put the author’s name as well as the year after a sentence with statistical information.    Because I have utilized MLA more in the last two years than ever before, I know that is why I made this mistake.  I did not double check the APA manual.  I will not make that mistake again. 

The second citation mistake I made was that I placed parentheses around the volume number of an article.  I knew better, but I did not catch the mistake before turning it in.  I believe it was a simple case of being blind to my own errors. 

            I also made a usage error.  Instead of using “breaches,” I used “breeches.”  Even though this is a common mistake, it is also something I should have caught. 

            As far as holistic evaluation of the assignment, I needed to compare the results of the databases I used.  I also needed to provide examples of how I applied the criteria for evaluating validity and reliability.  Once again, the lack of examples plagues me.  I am learning my lesson, however. 

                                                                                                 Smarthinking

            I began using Smarthinking during Unit 3.  The first submission was my reflective discussion post in that unit.  The feedback I received was quite useful.  What was the common theme?  There were no examples.  I was cutting down content, and in doing so, I was losing the meat of my discussion.  So, I am working diligently to correct that.

            I was also encouraged to use more source information.  In other words, the evaluation indicated that I needed to take information directly from sources and back up my claims.  In an effort to critically think, I was missing the point.  I still needed to rely on sources to provide adequate evidence and justification for creating information in my discussions.

Conclusion

Applying the feedback that I have received has been very helpful.  Using the assessment from the Writing Center as well as the feedback from Dr. Secrest and Smarthinking is helping me become a proficient, scholarly writer.  Human error is normal, but as a doctoral learner I cannot afford that in my writing.  It diminishes my credibility and expertise.  I will keep making changes.  I will continue to utilize feedback for the purposes of perfecting my skills, and I will utilize the tools from Dr. Secrest and the university to do so. 

References

Ryan, M.  (2011).  Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic

perspective.  Teaching In Higher Education, 16(1), 99-111. 

doi:10.1080/13562517.2010.507311

Get Your Geek On: Assistance

Accessing Assistance on the Doctoral Journey by Tracy Wilson

This discussion will focus on my confidence level in coursework and dissertation.  I will also talk about my apprehension regarding the comprehensive exam.  Additionally, I  will discuss my willingness to ask for help when necessary and the sources I will use to seek help.

Confidence

            The doctoral process presents challenges at every level.  However, I am most confident with coursework, writing (discussion boards, papers, and dissertation), and residencies.  The reason why I am confident in most of the coursework is because I was a distant learner at the University of North Dakota.  The experience in graduate school taught me a great deal about expectations and time management. 

Writing has always been easy for me, but I attribute that to wonderful high school teachers and undergraduate mentors who gave valuable feedback.  During graduate school, writing requirements were rigorous.  I have also practiced my writing skills in all of my jobs, especially child welfare.  I was required to complete precise, clinical dictation to meet the State’s requirements.  Teaching and fictional writing have also reinforced my writing skills. 

I was required to complete an on-campus residency for my graduate program.  I flew to Grand Forks, North Dakota for the last two weeks of my program.  I enjoyed meeting my cohort group and the faculty.  Traveling to a new place was an added perk.  Therefore, I am looking forward to the residency requirements for Capella.

My comfort level for all of the aforementioned also comes from being able to work well independently.  I use a weekly planner to stay on track with assignments.  If I do not do this, I tend to run off the rails quickly.  In addition, I work ahead in case any unforeseen issues come up.

Concerns

            The statistics courses and the comprehensive exam fill me with anxiety.  As I have said before, I have significant weaknesses in math.  My experience with statistics in graduate school was not positive.  The instructor did not really teach us, so we had to navigate through the content individually or with our partner.  Luckily, my partner and I complemented one another, and we survived the course. 

            The comprehensive exam sounds straight-forward, but I have heard stories of folks getting through their coursework, reaching the comps, and then failing the re-take.  All of the sacrifice, time, effort, and money were for naught.  As I have emphasized already, failure is not an option for me.  I cannot justify going into debt for a program and then walking away empty-handed.  Although I am comfortable with writing, the endless tales of tragedy surrounding the comp exam makes me very apprehensive.

Asking for Help

            Self-sufficiency is an attribute, and I tend to be fairly self-reliant.  I have been told that I am driven, and when I set my sights on something, I am relentless.  Nonetheless, I know my limits.  I have already asked for help in this course, and I will continue to do so.  Reading Critical Thinking in Psychology (Ruscio, 2006) has only reinforced my willingness to seek out supportive services.  I cannot use my personal beliefs, interpretations, and perceptions as a foundation in my field of study.  Ruscio (2006) makes it clear that evidence must be provided when stating claims.  Furthermore, I certainly do not know everything about Educational Psychology, which is why asking questions is and will continue to be imperative. 

Sources of Help

            In reviewing this unit’s studies, I found several useful tools.  I have already utilized them.  The first time I spoke with my enrollment advisor, I explained my concern about statistics.  She told me about the Smarthinking option.  I absolutely love it!  I use it for the discussion boards and the assignments, but I know I will use it in future courses, too.  An extra set of eyes helps catch things that I miss, and sometimes tutoring can clarify areas of confusion.  I did not have any prior experience with such a supportive tool, but I am very impressed thus far.

            Peers, advisors, facilitators, and faculty members serve as crucial sources of support.  As I listened to the testimonials surrounding the residencies (Capella University, 2017a), I was encouraged and realized I would not have to walk this road alone.  In addition, the tutorial about dissertations served as a great way to understand expectations, the process, and who would be available to provide assistance (Capella University, 2017a). 

            Fear of the unknown can often derail the most determined individuals.  With this in mind, I listened to the presentation about the comprehensive exam (Capella University, 2017b).  The explanation of time frames, expectations, and the overall process helped ease some of my anxiety.  The comprehensive exam manual also provides some reassurance, and knowing that I will have individuals available to support me helps provide some reassurance (Capella University, 2016).  Still, the prospect of not passing it frightens me.

Conclusion

The confidence level I have with coursework, writing, residencies, and time management will serve me well in this program.  My apprehension about the statistics courses will probably be set to rest when I try to pass my first one.  The same applies to the comprehensive exam.  Until I reach that point, I will likely remain fearful.  However, the tools offered by Capella provide a secure lifeline.  Reviewing the various materials available in this unit has given me hope.  The unit studies also provided answers to questions, making the doctoral path clearer.   

References

Capella University.  (2017a).  Residencies:  Your path to success  .  Retrieved from

http://capella.edu/landing_pages/colloquiaexperience/index.html

Capella University.  (2017b).  Welcome to the comprehensive examination .  Retrieved

from http//medida.capella.edu/NonCourseMedia/comps/welcome-comps-

exam/wrapper.asp

Capella University.  (2016, October).  Capella University.  Retreived from   

http://www.capella.edu/iguidepa/pdf/academics/ComprehensiveExaminationManual.pdf

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

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

Get Your Geek On: Topic Investigation Reflection

Learning from Topic Investigation by Tracy Wilson

This discussion will focus on how I completed my investigation of blended learning for Assignment 1.  I will describe what I learned from the research, how the assigned text helped me analyze the sources, and what I would have done differently.

The Investigation

    I began the assignment with a central topic (blended learning).  I then chose to type in keywords into PsycINFO, PsycJOURNALS, and Psychology Database.  I filtered the results using the tools in the library.  I used the peer-reviewed articles tool, the source type, subject, and classification. 

    After a close examination of the titles, I moved onto the abstracts.  Thereafter, I looked at the entire article, specifically searching for literature reviews, reliable data collection, and conclusions that supported my question. 

For Assignment 1, I chose the articles that delved deeply into my topic of interest and that left room for further research.  When I found keywords like “further research is needed” or “more exploration is required,” I set those articles aside for additional examination. 

The Process

    I learned a great deal from this process.  There were several discoveries that I made, most of all that the practice I am using in the classroom is researched, but mostly that more research is needed.  For example, in the article written by Graham, Woodfield, and Harrison (2012), I discovered that many institutions are trying to adopt blended learning, but they are at different phases of the process.  The article enlightened me regarding my place of employment and where they are in the process.   

Some universities are in the first phase, which is in the “awareness/exploration” phase (p.  11).  Most of the classes at the university where I teach are strictly traditional, providing lectures and standardized testing as a means of assessing achievement. 

The ultimate goal is to reach the third stage of implementation, which is “mature implementation and growth” (p.  11).  The third stage means that blended learning is integrated heavily into the curriculum, and constant improvements are being made to the programs.  Additionally, the improvements are driven by data collection and re-revaluation procedures. 

All three of the phases mentioned in Graham, Woodfield, and Harrison’s (2012) article began at the faculty level.  In other words, an instructor saw something that may be better for student outcomes and looked at implementation.  Still, there are barriers with policies, a significant lack of support for blended learning, and noteworthy benefits are not being seen on a large scale (p.  11).  I believe this can be changed. 

Sense and Nonsense

The information in Critical Thinking in Psychology (Ruscio, 2006) helped me decide what articles were worth reading and which ones were not.  I used Chapter Five to avoid untrustworthy authorities, going deeper into the methodology and data collection.  I searched for fallacies, self-proclaimed knowledge, and expertise.  If I found multiple articles by the same author(s), I took note of that, but I also looked for validity.  As I have noted before, and a point that Ruscio (2006) emphasizes in the text, just because something is popular does not mean that it is credible. 

    I used to think that experience served as a viable foundation for all things.  Chapter Six of Ruscio’s (2006) book taught me that I have been dreadfully wrong.  Using all of the sections in the sixth chapter helped me avoid articles that focused primarily on beliefs without foundations.  Also, if the article brought up situations that had absolutely no foundation in theory, I tossed it based on this week’s readings.  I adhered very closely to the lessons in Ruscio’s (2006) book to safeguard against foolish assumptions and flawed logic.

Do-Overs

    As I reflect on the research process, I would not change my approach.  Utilizing the tools available through the library helped me avoid problems with validity and reliability.  The peer-review tool is an excellent safety-net. 

As for the writing, I cannot think of anything I would have done differently.   My writing is guided by the research, and I work strictly from an outline.  It helps me create a coherent assessment of findings.  The outline also allows me to see where the research is lacking. 

The goal of any assignment is to think critically about the findings and move beyond what is known.  Thus, I discovered that I need to dig deeper into the research about blended learning.  I want to employ evidence-based practices in my teaching styles to improve student outcomes.  Finding gaps will help me fill in those blanks with my own sound, credible research.     

Conclusion

    I enjoyed Assignment 1.  The evidence involving blended learning implementation, perceptions, assessment, and success empowered me to find out more.  In addition, I want to know if a transfer of learning component has been integrated into the current models.  However, finding research regarding the transfer of learning component is challenging.  Nonetheless, it is providing an opportunity to fill in that gap with my own theory and research.  I am looking forward to the challenge.  In the meantime, this assignment has taught me how to look at articles with skepticism and try to find literature with foundations in empirical, primary research involving a peer-review process.

References

Graham, C., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. (2012).  A framework for instructional adoption and

          implementation of blended learning in higher education.  Internet and Higher Education,

          18, 4-14.  doi:  10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

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

          Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 

Get Your Geek On: Blended Learning

Blended Learning:  Effectiveness, Implementation, Assessment, Perceptions, & Engagement

Tracy E. Wilson

Capella University

 

 

Blended Learning:  Turning the Tide for Student Success

Professional Interest

Blended learning is typically defined as a learning environment using a combination of face-to-face and online learning (Vaughan, 2014, p. 248).  During a faculty symposium in April, Dr. Saundra McGuire (2017) presented information showing that the university where I work has a below average graduation rate of 30.1% compared to the national average of 47%.  The freshman retention rate is 57% compared to the national average of 72% (2017).

I want to find innovative ways to improve the abovementioned statistics.  In order to do that, I wanted to explore the effectiveness of blended learning, the implementation and assessment associated with blended learning, and student perception and engagement when it comes to blended learning.

The articles I chose for this assignment helped me find gaps in research, allowing for further exploration of blended classrooms and student success.  I also found very little information about blended learning with a transfer of learning component, which is a foundational component of the classes I teach.  Pioneering research will provide benefits for the university, ranging from increases in enrollment, funding, retention, and graduation rates.

Potential Ethical Concerns

There appear to be very few ethical issues regarding blended learning studies.  I explored PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, and Psychology Database.  A personal concern in conducting research of this kind is the relationship dynamics with participants.  To address those concerns, I looked to the American Psychological Association for guidance.

An article written by Smith (2003) offered many solutions to several ethical problems, included the aforementioned.  To avoid the pitfalls with relationship dynamics, using volunteers and random assignment would safeguard against ethical breeches.  Also, providing informed consent along with using stringent privacy standards set by the APA will prevent any issues.

Key Words

Blended learning, transfer of learning, student success, assessment, instructional design, higher education, teaching, retention, graduation rates, learning strategies.

Databases

I used PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, and Psychology Database to find articles relating to my topic.  The majority of the articles I reviewed were rooted in both qualitative and quantitative research.

Criteria

To evaluate the reliability, validity, and credibility, I used the peer-review tool provided in the library databases.  I also ensured that the articles included a literature review, a detailed explanation of data collection methods, and the subsequent results.  I chose to look for articles written within the last three to five years.

Sources

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

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

Eryilmaz conducted research regarding the effectiveness of learning environments compared to face-to-face instruction, blended instruction, and online lesson.  Using 110 students, evaluations were completed for each instructional setting. The participants in the blended learning environment engaged in cooperative activities, exercised their ability to use prior knowledge, and created new knowledge.  The participants also exhibited improved study habits.  They also gave positive feedback regarding the usefulness, effectiveness, and preparedness for the future.

Graham, C., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. (2012).  A framework for instructional adoption and

implementation of blended learning in higher education.  Internet and Higher Education,

          18, 4-14.  doi:  10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

The authors examined issues surrounding blended learning instruction, construction, support, and implementation.  Case study methodology was used with administrators from several educational institutions.  Findings indicated that each institution was operating at a different phase of implementation.  Some programs were in their infancy.  Other institutions were in the stages of early implementation.  Yet more institutions were using blended learning, including it in course catalogs and course descriptions.  The authors found that there were barriers, nevertheless, to blended learning practices ranging from instructional policies to student support.

Lopez-Perez, M. V., 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

The authors conducted research to learn more about how students’ perceived blended learning activities, the effect on drop-out rate reduction, and improving grades.  The authors used questionnaires and comparative research.  For instance, the authors tracked results for 985 valid samples from first year undergraduate students using non-dropout rate and final grades as criteria (p. 820).  The researchers then compared the rates to the previous years.  Their findings indicated a reduction in drop-out rates and significant progress with exams.  Students felt more motivated, more satisfied, and increased their content knowledge.

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/

The authors examined how blended learning impacted students’ motivation as well as learning outcomes and personal preferences.  They surveyed instructors and students using Course Interest Survey, Learning Outcomes and Skills Assessment Scale, and Delivery Mode Perceptions Scale (p. 46).  According to their findings, blended learning promoted engagement, motivation, and students had less trouble meeting deadlines.  Peer interaction improved, participants felt more empowered to take charge of their own learning, technology positively influenced student learning, and instructor feedback was provided timely and more consistently.  Students showed stronger writing skills, analytical abilities, interpersonal relations, and computer literacy.

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

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

Vaughan researched what types of assessments could be beneficial for blended learning environments.  Data was collected using quantitative methods, specifically online surveys, and qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups.  273 students were included as well as 8 instructors (p.250).  The findings suggest that assessment should be balanced in a blended learning environment (e.g., using standardized testing along with blogs or peer review activities).  By integrating both assessment situations, the outcomes could be empirically supported, thus gains could be made with student learning outcomes and development.

References

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

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

Graham, C., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. (2012).  A framework for instructional adoption and

implementation of blended learning in higher education.  Internet and Higher Education,

          18, 4-14.  doi:  10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

Lopez-Perez, M. V., 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

McGuire, S. (2017, April).  Get students focused on learning instead of grades:

Metacognition is the key.  Improving Student Success:  It Takes a Whole Village.

Symposium conducted at the faculty development meeting of Shawnee State

University, Portsmouth, Ohio.

Smith, D.  (2003).  Five principles for research ethics:  Cover your bases with these ethical

strategies.  Monitor on Psychology, 34(1), 56.  doi:  10.1037/e300062003-028

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

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: 

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