Month of Thanks: Day 10

In August I was offered a wonderful opportunity.  I had already been a college instructor since 2015, but a new school came knocking at my door.  They took a chance on me, and I took a chance on them.  I am so glad!  All of my students mean the world to me, but the students at SSCC are dynamic in so many ways.  They are determined and proud.  They shoulder responsibility extremely well, and the smaller class sizes make it a great interactive learning environment.

The faculty and staff are supportive, too.  I couldn’t ask for better colleagues.  I am thankful that they saw something in me and invited me to become part of their academic team.  Go Patriots!

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Get Your Geek On: First Course Reflection

First Course Reflection by Tracy Wilson

Abstract

My passion for helping others is the driving force behind my desire to become an Educational Psychologist.  Pursuing a doctoral degree is a high-stakes quest, filled with challenges, triumphs, sacrifices, and rewards.  The first course of the program strives to prepare learners for the road ahead, addressing ethics in research and providing a fuller understanding of personal accountability as well as required individual change.  Once a learner has a firm grasp on the ethical requirements of doctoral research, topics can be investigated through literature review.  Exploring what is known and what is missing allow learners to move forward with a clear sense of purpose.  Once the coursework is done, the final piece falls into place with the completion of residencies, the comprehensive exam, and the dissertation.  Finally, the learner becomes the expert, contributing to a positive self-image.  The opportunity for a fulfilling career becomes a reality, and the doctoral scholar can conduct more research, offering more groundbreaking insight into his or her field of study.  Reflecting upon where I began in the first course provides an opportunity to evaluate the knowledge I have gained and how to apply it to other courses as well as my entire doctoral journey.

Reflection

Each person makes the decision to pursue a doctorate for different reasons.  Once the decision is made, what are the expectations?  Capella University’s first course acts as not only a preparation tool, but also as a chance for self-discovery.  The learner meets peers and faculty who provide support.  Moreover, the learner is introduced to people who have also decided to take the next step in their academic career.

The first course has encouraged me to analyze the Educational Psychology program and reflect upon its value.  The assessment has helped me set realistic career goals and examine the likelihood of finding gainful employment in my field of study.  In addition, the first course has helped me make personal changes that will allow me to stay focused as I move through my doctoral studies.

As a result of the first course, I understand the ethical burden I carry as a researcher.  When I reviewed various articles, I looked for possible problems with ethics.  I also contemplated how those pitfalls can be avoided in my own research.

I have been able to look at topics of interest during the first course.  With critical thinking skills, I have discovered gaps in current research.  This exercise has provided insight into possible dissertation topics.

Lastly, I have considered how the skills I attain and use during my doctoral studies will contribute to greater self-worth.  The residency will provide social and career connections, strengthening the solidarity among all of us as doctoral learners.  The comprehensive exam and the dissertation will feature my writing skills, research abilities, and proficiency with critical thinking.  All of these will be useful in conducting more research and making viable contributions to the field of Educational Psychology.

Value and My Degree

I looked at many schools, including Walden and Union.  A colleague who was finishing her Doctorate in Education at Capella convinced me to add the university to my list.  I began researching the programs offered by Capella, but I needed to make a decision about my career goal in order to choose a program.

I want to be a full-time educator at an institution of higher learning.  I am an adjunct, and I am very thankful for that opportunity, but I know that I am capable of much more.  Thus, in order to be a member of the full-time faculty at any university, I must have a Ph.D.

I completed a comparison of Capella’s Doctorate of Education, Developmental Psychology program, School Psychology program, and Education Psychology program.  My department chair encouraged me to look at the Doctorate in Education because it would be the shortest route to obtaining a doctorate with the least amount of cost.  He explained that it would lead me to administrative positions within the university.

Another colleague encouraged me to look at a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology because of my graduate studies.  Frankly, I have had enough of criminal behavior and trying to analyze law and the criminal mind.  I am ready for something a little more positive and much less stressful.

The Developmental Psychology option attracted me because I enjoyed teaching Child and Adolescent Psychology as well as Lifespan for Health Sciences.  Nevertheless, I did not feel that was the right route for me either.  As much as I love teaching Developmental Psychology courses, I am not interested in becoming a practitioner in that field.

The School Psychology program looked very intensive.  The application process seemed more involved, the cost of tuition was higher, and the time commitment did not appeal to me.  Also, when I compared it with the job prospects in Educational Psychology, the answer became clear.  Educational Psychology allowed for careers beyond K-12.  Although the licensure was appealing, Educational Psychology was the best fit for me.

I used another tool to evaluate which program I wanted to pursue.  I looked at the Social Science Department faculty directory at the university where I work and studied their degrees and areas of expertise.  The department chair is the only member with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.  Accordingly, I made my decision.

Personal Change and the Doctoral Journey

As creatures of habit, humans find change to be troubling.  In fact, more times than I can count, I have resisted change.  However, given the right mindset, change can inspire growth.  As I move through the Educational Psychology program, it is up to me to recognize and pursue opportunities for expansion.

I am like many other women trying to break through the ranks toward leadership in psychology.  One of the major elements for achieving such a goal is sacrificing time with family (Gregor & O’Brien, 2015).  My friends and family are already complaining that I cannot and do not spend as much time with them as I did before I began my doctoral studies.  I know that their complaints are well-meaning.  However, according to Green (2015), carving out time to devote to reading and writing is one of the primary methods for success in the Ph.D. program.  Therefore, during the summer months I am using an eight to ten-hour day timeframe to complete the required coursework.  In other words, I concentrate on school work from Monday to Thursday.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday belong to my loved ones.  When I begin teaching in the Fall, I will use the strategies presented by Green (2015) to make modifications.

Another change I am making for my doctoral studies involves self-sufficiency.  I am undoubtedly independent, but the level of commitment in a doctoral program is unlike anything I have experienced.  As Green (2015) points out, one of the most important skills for online learning is self-motivation and self-discipline.  Given this information, I decided to utilize a hand-held planner; one I can write in so I can mark which assignments are done and which assignments I need to work on.  The planner is a security blanket, and it seems to be working very well.

I am an eclectic spiritualist, so my belief system is enhanced by my experiences.  Indeed, my views are rather broad, and as a result, I am very open-minded.  When I constructed the syllabi for my undergraduate classes, my spiritualism guided me.  I zealously provide learners with a path to success, which speaks to the compassion and empathy I have learned from my spiritual practices.  While this is admirable, PSY 8002 has taught me that it is not sound.

Ruscio (2006) explores the importance of critical thinking and evidence to investigate research findings and sources.  Ruscio’s (2006) work can also be applied to curriculum design.  Results, as opposed to beliefs, must show that curriculum models work, which is why I am so drawn to blended learning.  Ruscio (2006) makes it very clear that spiritual beliefs and personal experiences have no place in psychological science.  My spiritual viewpoints will continue to be an integral part of my personal life, but they will not bleed into my research and other aspects of my doctoral studies.

Ethics in Research

As a scholar-practitioner ethical research is a key component for my work.  I am bound by a code that guides my ideas and practices.  After analyzing the Code of Conduct set forth by the American Psychological Association (2017) as well as Capella University’s (2016) research standards, conflict of interest in research statement (Capella University, 2011b), and human research protections (Capella University, 2011a), there are three major aspects that stood out to me.  The first is the need for a mentor and the benefits of mentorship.

My first major research project will be my dissertation.  Luckily, I will have a mentor to guide me.  With his or her help, I can gain knowledge, support, and use best-practice methodology.  I can construct a research plan that will be well within the standards set forth by the university.  By using the direction provided by my mentor, I can avoid ethical pitfalls.

Informed consent is another major component of ethical research.  I know that my research will require human subjects, so it is imperative that I am transparent about every feature of my research design.  I will inform the participants in writing and verbally about potential risks, the basic procedures of the experiment, and the benefits.  I will work diligently to ensure that all subjects are capable of fully understanding the process.  I will explain that confidentiality will be respected.  I want the participants to feel comfortable about the research study.  The informed consent will help me reach that goal and provide protection for me and the research subjects.

Conflict of interest concerns me, especially with the topic I intend to study.  Voluntary participation is one way to avoid this pitfall.  Nevertheless, as stated above, my study of blended learning will involve student participants.  The university I work for is extremely small, so the probability is high that some of my research participants will be my students.  Working with volunteers at another institution of higher learning will help me avoid multiple relationships.  The validity and objectivity of my research is at stake if I do not adhere to the aforementioned plan.

Literature Review Findings

Reviewing research about blended learning brought me to several conclusions, the first being that there are an abundance of models and designs.  Nonetheless, all of them define blended learning as activities performed outside of class for the purposes of complimenting face-to-face instruction.  Once a design is agreed upon, implementation varies based on the university administration.

Secondly, all of the research indicates that blended learning has a positive effect on student success.  The use of blended learning creates a student-centered environment.  Furthermore, a student’s current skill set can be reinforced, and new skills can be attained.

Thirdly, technology is the foundational pieces of every blended learning model.  The use of online activities facilitates peer engagement.  Moreover, the meaningful feedback given by the instructor promotes positive interactions between the students and the educator.  Conversely, some individuals find working with technology very difficult.  Therefore, training should be provided to both teachers and students.

The fourth conclusion I drew from my literature review is that students thrive in blended learning courses that provide collaborative activities.  The activities range from partner-projects, to small group discussions, and even to online blogging assignments.  The collaboration puts the student in charge of his or her learning and enhances motivation.

Student learning outcomes and blended learning have not been studied adequately.  I hope to explore and provide evidence that student learning outcomes can improve when a transfer of learning component is built into the curriculum of an introductory psychology blended learning course.  If learners feel that the course will benefit them in their career and their home-life, they will be more likely to show above-average learning outcomes.  The increases in learning outcomes can cause a domino effect, improving the chances of student retention and raising graduation rates.  This phenomenon can improve a university’s reputation, thereby bringing in more revenue.

Doctoral Skills and Positive Self-Image

Many skills that I obtain during my doctoral studies will impact my self-image, thus affecting my self-esteem.  Participating in residency provides the opportunity to make new social connections, which benefits self-image.  According to Gazzangia, Heatherton, and Halpern (2016), group membership is essential for self-esteem.  In fact, social identity theory indicates that ingroups consist of people who identify as members of the same group (Gazzangia, Heatherton, & Halpern, 2016).  As doctoral learners, we fit that description well.  Furthermore, Green (2015) clarified that residency “truly develops a sense of community among learners, staff, and faculty” (p.  127).  The camaraderie directly impacts the sense of self.

Clearing the hurdle of the comprehensive exam provides yet another boost to self-image.  Green (2016) explained that the exam serves as an assessment of “readiness for the dissertation and it represents a growth opportunity for learners through extensive writing, review of literature, and scholarly writing” (p.  141).  Because the exam is built upon my ability to write, research, and think critically, passing the test will spotlight those abilities.  Successful completion of the test will place me one step closer to graduation.  The self-confidence gained from passing the exam will contribute to my self-image, especially since I am already anxious about taking it.

Dissertation is the ultimate ego booster.  The culmination of the coursework, residencies, and comprehensive exam opens the door for the final step toward graduation.  A triumphant dissertation will take me from the role of “learner” to a doctoral scholar.  As Green (2016) noted, perfectionism and the need to contribute to the educational community can prevent a student from moving into and through the dissertation phase.  It is hard for me to understand why people do not go through with dissertation, even after reading Green’s (2016) explanations.

The benefits lie just on the other side of the dissertation.  It is an accomplishment that will essentially put a gold medal around my neck.  As Green (2016) so aptly explains, earning a doctoral degree provides empowerment and a sense of accomplishment.  I have always wanted to obtain a doctorate, and doing that will boost my self-image more than I can possibly imagine.  However, the work does not stop there.  It is only a gateway to conduct more research and make more contributions to the educational community.

Career Planning

The Educational Psychology program will open the door for me to apply and be considered for full-time faculty positions at land-based and online institutions of higher learning.  With the help of Unit 9, I found some career resources that can project the likelihood of finding gainful employment after I receive my Ph.D.

The outlook for post-secondary psychology teachers is promising due to the expected increases in college enrollment.  An increase in enrollment is expected.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2015), there will be a growth of 13%, meaning that the growth is faster than average.  The median salary is $75,430 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015).  Unfortunately, most of the jobs will be for part-time faculty (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015).

I formulated a Plan B based on the information for post-secondary psychology teachers.  Post-secondary administration is my alternative.  Administrators can become a faculty researchers, which means that as an Educational Psychologist, I can conduct educational policy research.  I can also organize training and development.  Most of the jobs will be available at universities, but I could also find work through the Ohio Department of Education.  The median salary for an administrator is $90,760, and the growth is expected to be 9% (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015).  Although the salary is significantly higher, I prefer teaching.  Still, both options allow me to pay my student loans and contribute to my household.

Conclusion

As the first course comes to a close, I will take all of the knowledge I have gained throughout my doctoral voyage.  I will apply the valuable lessons I have learned to every step of the doctoral process.  The course has helped me clarify my vision.  I have learned the value of the Educational Psychology program at Capella, and I have started setting sensible career ambitions.  I have come to understand the importance of the ethical burden I carry as a scholar-practitioner, and the weight of being the expert in the room.  The first course has reinforced the idea that change promotes growth and that independence and determination lie at the heart of obtaining a Ph.D.  Dreaming is just the first step toward earning a doctor, but preparation comes from the first course.

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.  (2011, August).  Capella University.  Retrieved from https://www.capella.edu/content/dam/capella/PDF/policies/3.03.01.pdf

 

Capella University.  (2011, August).  Capella University.  Retrieved from https://www.capella.edu/content/dam/capella/PDF/policies/3.03.05.pdf

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

 

Gazzaniga, M., Heatherton, T., & Halpern, D.  (2016).  Psychological science (5th ed.).  New York, NY:  W.W. Norton

 

Green, J.  (2015).  Graduate savvy: Navigating the world of online higher education (3rd ed.).  Warrenton, VA: Glocal Press.

 

Gregory, M., & O’Brien, K.  (2015).  The changing face of psychology:  Leadership aspirations of female doctoral students.  The Counseling Psychologists, 43(8), 1090-1113.  doi: 10.1177/0011000015608949

 

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

 

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.  (2015).  Occupational outlook handbook.  Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm

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

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. 

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

 

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