MeMyself&I

Author Archive

I wonder if every PhD candidate feels the same way when they commence their PhD candidature… full of hope and aspirations, with ambitions that appear unreachable. How many actually get there and reach the top of their game? Or is it something like the one depicted below?

 

Source: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1012

Source: "Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1012

 

Well right now, I do have ambitions, though I should say not at the Nobel Prize level. But I am also full of fear… fear of the unknown. I’ve embarked on what appears to be very much a solo journey but should it remain to be so? Perhaps it is because of how I am approaching my journey – somewhat closed – like putting a password to my blog on the framing of my PhD. Why did I do this, what was my fear exactly? That someone might adopt my ideas before I could secure a candidature? Perhaps. 

Dare I say I’ve had an epiphany… that despite my advocacy for social networking in this brave new world, I didn’t practice what I preached. I’m embarrassed to admit this but I’m glad that I came to the realisation sooner rather than later. How can I grow if my world remains closed, how can I reach my life ambition in a closed world? 

I need someone to share my journey, in fact I need the whole world in this journey… so I will use this space to share anything and everything I could to chronicle my PhD-related work, and anything in between.

Being passionate about my belief is one thing, finding a reliable source for validation about such belief is quite another.  The wisdom of Punya Mishra goes a long way when convincing others about the value of contextual learning:

Teachers learning to use technology for pedagogy is best achieved by situating them in contexts that honor the rich connections between technology, the subject matter (content) and the means of teaching it (the pedagogy). This led to a pedagogical approach we have called Learning Technology by Design.

I have been a follower of the TPACK approach for sometime but can only manage to apply it in a one-to-one project-based situation, e.g. when involved in major course redesign projects. The TPACK framework has become intrinsic in my practice, so much so that I no longer think about it, it just happens. Time and again I’ve observed the holistic development of those with whom I collaborated, becoming advocates and mentors themselves. Reconnecting with Punya’s writing tonight reinforced once again why we need such a framework.

In the coming weeks, my goal is to continue the journey that I’ve started, collaborating with academic staff to learn technology by design. This time though there are opportunities to foster community of practice.

I felt it important to record my thoughts here about approaches to academic development as I take part in an institutional-wide project , a big component of which is shifting existing mindsets about the use of learning management systems and associated tools and features.

I was intrigued by my colleague Damien’s recent blog , within which reference was made to educational terms as “education buzzwords” or “eduspeak”. Damien asks:

 How exposed are academics to this language by curriculum designers (now known as edunerds – pronounced ed-u-nerds)?

Damien then provides “an initial list of eduspeak buzzwords”, some of which are technical language within the education domain, others are newly coined educational terms arising from the trends of information age and influences of new technology.

Upon reading Damien’s blog, I too couldn’t help but reflect on the difficulties I faced almost daily with the language of other disciplines, more recently the technical language in auditing, accounting, economics and finance as I engage in curriculum design work in business education. But the fact remains that I am very comfortable with the language of my discipline, as the academics I have been working with are comfortable with their respective discipline language.

Why might this be the case? One explanation is that of acculturation. We absorb the culture, values and practices of our discipline and we find meanings through written and spoken words. Without this common language, our world in this culture/discipline would be meaningless. The notions of natives and immigrants are apt here – it is a lot harder to learn  and master a second language!

But the interesting thing in the eduspeak debate is that criticisms of this nature are more prevalent in the world of academia, compared to say the world of medicine. As observers as well as consumers of the medical field, we simply accept that there are many medical jargon that will take us years to understand, but we try to anyway, perhaps out of fear, interest or simple curiosity.

On that note, I would like to share an interesting observation about the transformation of an academic who was totally “non-edunerd” when our curriculum renewal project began a year or so ago. She now finds herself proposing a PhD research on education-related topic. The language spoken in her PhD proposal was not one coming from a Finance expert but one who has developed an interest in educational practice. Sure, it is her second language, and she is finding it a challenge, but her decision to acculturate no doubt will alleviate many of her difficulties over time.

I guess it is about ones willingness to understand the culture and practices of a particular discipline that makes the difference. But at the end of the day this boils down to interest, motivation and the affordances of time.

After long and laborious work, thinking and writing about a myriad of ideas relating to the educational issue I wanted to pursue in my PhD study, I think I finally got it.

My working title is something like this:

Enculturation into discipline specific ways of thinking and acting whilst at university: Implications for professional practice

 I have synthesized  the problematic for the research, as follows:

The educational issue that my research proposes to address is that traditional learning environments do not represent the values or practices of the profession for which educators intend to prepare students. In these types of environments students acquire abstract and decontextualised knowledge coming from teaching approaches that tend to separate “knowing” from “doing” (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). In approaches where the interdependence of situation and cognition are ignored, the students do not perceive the knowledge acquired as being useful in solving real problems outside university, so what they develop is only “inert knowledge” (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989). This is a type of knowledge that people can recall when prompted but cannot recall in problem solving situations (Bransford, et al, 1990; Cognition & Technology Group of Vanderbilt, 1990; Herrington & Oliver, 2000). Within the accounting domain, for example, researchers and practitioners both identify inert knowledge in graduate accountants, claiming that graduate accountants accumulate a storehouse of technical knowledge they cannot apply to solve real world problems (Freeman, 2008; Sundem, 1994; Catanach, et al., 2000).

The central aim for my research that I have so far identified is:

To propose, exemplify and test alternative approaches to learning and teaching in higher education that provide students bridges rather than gaps between learning at university and professional practice.

The preliminary research plan goes something along these lines:

I envisage adopting an iterative empirical approach, which will be guided by an experimental framework known as ‘design-based research’ (Brown, 1992; Collins, 1992). Design-based research ‘blends empirical educational research with the theory-driven design of learning environments [thereby shaping] an important methodology for understanding how, when and why educational innovations work in practice’ (The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003, p.5). Consistent with the principles of design-based research, both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used in the iterative cycle of design, implementation, analysis and modification. Ethnographic approaches will be used as it provides qualitative methods for looking carefully at how a design plays out in practice and how social and contextual variables interact with cognitive variables (Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004). Additionally, the quantitative method of administering survey questionnaires provides a means for evaluating the effects of independent variables on the dependent variables (Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004). The adoption of mixed methods is useful for the description of phenomena reflecting the complex issues that should be addressed (Brown 1992). As this research involves human participants, approval for Ethics in Human Research will be sought. The study will proceed in three phases, as follows:

Phase 1: Development of framework

This phase will involve a review of literature on educational innovations facilitated by previous research initiatives. The different educational approaches that have evolved will be contrasted, and I will identify the theoretical frameworks that chime with the conventions of selected disciplines as case studies. The goal is to ‘specify the significant disciplinary ideas and forms of reasoning that constitute the prospective goals or endpoints for student learning’ (Cobb et al, 2003, p. 11).

Phase 2: Design and development of prototypes

The curriculum design principles formulated in the previous phase will underpin the development of prototypes, within which intended learning outcomes, instructional materials, activity structures and assessment are central to the design. Because the focus of this study is on the design of a model of learning, this is reified in the technology-enhanced learning environments. As Kelly (2004) observes, the exploration of research questions about learning are reified, explored, and tested by the design and use of the learning environment.

Phase 3: Implementation, data collection, analysis, and modification

Multiple cycles of implementations and evaluations will be carried out in partnership with academic teachers at different campuses of a regional university. Both students’ and teachers’ perceptions of their “classroom” experiences will be investigated and, following the main tenets of design-based research, evaluation will be carried out using multiple strategies, e.g. observations and recording of classroom episodes, survey questionnaire, individual interviews and focus group interviews.  Within the different cycles of the implementation, the iteration process for analysis – prototypes modifications – evaluations will be documented in my thesis, and will focus on validating assumptions embodied in the prototypes, developing new ones, and finally refining and enhancing the different prototypes.

And finally the intended outcomes of my research:

The conclusion of my PhD will deliver a greater understanding of how students build their knowledge in learning environments where preparation for professional practice is the explicit aim. It is also anticipated that the outcomes of my research will include practical guidelines for designing learning environments that facilitate better prepared students for their chosen professional careers.

References 

Bransford, J.D., Sherwood, R.D., Hasselbring, T.S., Kinzer, C.K. & Williams, S.M. (1990). Anchored Instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education and multimedia: Exploring ideas in high technology, pp.115-141, Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Instructional Sciences, 2(2), pp. 141-178.

Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning, Educational Researcher 18(1), pp.32-42.

Catanach, A.H., Croll, D.B. & Grinaker, R.L. (2000). Teaching Intermediate Financial Accounting Using a Business Activity Model, Issues in Accounting Education, 15(4), pp.583-603.

Cobb, P., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., Schauble, L. (2003) Design Experiments in Educational Research, Educational Researcher, 32(1), pp. 9-13.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition, Educational Researcher, 19 (6), pp.2-10.

Collins, A. (1992). Towards a design science of education, In E Scanlon & T O’Shea (Eds), New directions in educational technology, Springer, Berlin.

Collins, A., Brown, J.S., & Newman, S.E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: teaching the crafts of reading, writing and mathematics. In L.B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: essays in honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Collins, A., Joseph, D. & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of the Instructional Sciences, 13(1), pp. 15-42.

Design-Based Research Collective (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational enquiry, Educational Researcher, (32)1, pp. 5–8.

Freeman, M., Hancock, P., Simpson, L., & Sykes, C. (2008). Business as usual: a collaborative and inclusive investigation of existing resources, strengths, gaps and challenges to be addressed for sustainability in teaching and learning in Australian university business faculties. ABDC Scoping Report, March, 1-54. 

Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2000). An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 23-48.

Sundem, G.L. (1994) Scholarship in four dimensions, CA Magazine, 127(3), pp.39-44.

 

I recently designed an assessment task for a postgraduate course in finance, requiring students to reflect on their performances supported by evidence. The type of artefacts the students will be producing would be an ideal collection for a job portfolio. A colleague from the finance field in fact commented that this type of assessment is applicable to, and indeed should be used in, every discipline. Had it not been for my concern about the readiness of the teaching team on implementing alternative forms of assessment, I would have directed the design of the task more explicitly towards portfolio-based assessment.

Nevertheless I couldn’t help but think of possibilities of this assessment approach if applied across a program of study, and I shared my thoughts with the PLE research folk, pointing out that an ePortfolio would be useful for this type of assessment. Nathaniel Fitzgerald-Hood discussed the limitations of ePortfolios in an email to me and asserted that

blog is perfect for this – much better organised and with the likes of WordPress/blogger, very open, standard and interconnected…  

So I decided to get to know WordPress a little more than my current use for it, i.e. posting and sharing my thoughts, experiences and interests in my blogs. I have had a digitised portfolio that I hand-coded a long time ago so I have a pretty good idea of design elements for the interface.

I am happy to note that my experiments in my blog site have worked… WordPress can indeed host my artefacts as well as document my life experiences and evolving thoughts on a variety of interests. It is very easy to create and manage pages, and I’m glad I gave it a try.

My next experiment will extend this site into my PLE… watch this space 🙂

My research collaborator and I presented a paper at the 9th International Business Research Conference “Research for Change” this week, on our accounting education research. The plenary session where our paper was scheduled to be presented started off with fewer number of people but I noticed that every chair was occupied during our presentation, then a few left again immediately after the discussion. There was a healthy discussion during our presentation, the only time I observed exchanges of ideas amongst participants. In contrast, the discussion in other presentations consisted mainly of presenter-questioner interaction.

It appears that accounting education research is of interest to many academics but very few papers are submitted to forums like this. As another presenter commented, discipline-based research remains to be the only type or research being promoted and supported at his university. Yet at the corridor after the plenary session, I was congratulated by two well-known Professors in Accounting, marvelling at the work we had done and commented that there should be more initiatives like ours proliferating the accounting education literature. Interestingly, we cited the work of one of these Professors published in a leading accounting education journal. He appeared surprised that we actually did so given that it was published 16 years ago. I responded that the problems in accounting education he reported all that long ago continue to persist today, e.g. passive learning, rule-based and out-of context teaching of accounting, students not ready for the demands of the profession, among others. An important point for reflection is that many accounting academics appeared oblivious to these problems due to their lack of familiarity with the accounting education literature, or lack of awareness that the traditional instructional approaches they are using are one of the main causes of these problems.

Our presentation was received favourably. As was the reaction at our University when we reported our research findings earlier this year, the audience at the Conference also commented that it takes time and effort to integrate innovations to learning and teaching, time they do not have or can afford.  People like me whom at times feel rebellious immediately thought, but not said aloud, there may not be students to teach at our university for long if we do not change our ways – research and teaching nexus is more critical now than ever before, please think about it! Of course, the issues are more systemic and deeper than this – paradigm shifts need to happen first and should start at both coal face and institutional level.

Another comment raised during our presentation was the issue of copyright. Someone from the audience asked

have you thought about copyright for your work, it’s very good and I think you should protect it. It is certainly more exciting than reading cases in the textbook.

We didn’t get a chance to respond to this comment directly as audience-audience interaction ensued on this topic. The issue of copyright is something that Stephen Downs (2005) feels strongly about, commenting that in our brave new world heavily influenced by Web 2.0 technology, sharing of content is not viewed as unethical but hoarding it is considered antisocial.

Indeed, we have much to learn and do in higher education about perceptions, assumptions and practice!

Reference

Downes, S. (2005) E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine. Accessed 1 February 2008, http://+www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=29-1.

Grades have been finalised and are about to be released for T2 2008, with pleasing results and important points for reflection that are critical to future implementation of the auditing course. One important point in particular is the frequency of course offering. Attrition rates and performance-related issues are significantly higher in T2 for off-campus students historically. One of the possible links might be high demands in the workplace with end of financial year reporting and planning activities for many working students.

In the second cycle of implementation of our design-based research in the auditing course, preliminary data suggests the need to revisit the timing of course offering for off-campus students. Currently, the course is offered every term, i.e. Term 1 – AICs, Regional, Flex; Term 2 – AICs, Flex; Term 3 – AICs. 

The design of the auditing course is such that it requires a minimum of 12 hours in-depth participation with the course material, with teaching staff and with other students to complete course work. One of the inherent weaknesses in the design is the prescriptive-nature of the activities which suits one cohort of students but problematic for another particularly those who are working full-time.On the one hand, some teaching staff at AICs report that the design is effectively helping students’ active engagement in the course. Some off-campus students also report that the design of the course gives them focus and is helpful to their time management for work, home and study. However, on the other hand, some off-campus students report that they just want to complete assignments on their own, prepare for the exam without the need to interact with others, and that they can manage their time better this way.  The latter was the approach used in previous offerings of the auditing course, where the failure rate was significantly higher and a great number of students were failing the course multiple times.

Should we consider embedding choices for students in the design of learning and assessment? What might be the implications for practice, and the quality of student learning experience? One of the tacit design aims for the auditing course is to develop capacity for students to become better learners, many approaches for which require time investment on the part of the students. But many in the off-campus cohort are time-poor students whose motivation for enrolling in a degree is not always intrinsic.

It is perhaps worthwhile to survey both 2008 T1 and T2 off-campus students to determine future improvements to the auditing course that meet the needs of different cohorts of students.

There have been numerous attempts to formulate pedagogical models that exemplify the thinking of situating learning in activities that resemble the contexts where the knowledge the students are learning can be realistically applied (Bransford et al., 1990; Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Herrington & Oliver, 2000; Barab & Duffy, 2000).

I have been exploring a number of pedagogical models that support this line of thinking, which many suggests effectively prepare students for the profession and life in general. The reason why I think this topic is worthy of investigation is based on my philosophical belief that context-dependent teaching strategies foster meaningful learning, compared to traditional instructional approaches that tend to ignore the interdependence of situation and cognition (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).  The literature suggests that one of the by-products of the traditional methods of instruction is the development of “inert” knowledge (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990; Herrington & Oliver, 2000; McLellan, 1994). Inert knowledge is a type of knowledge that people can recall when prompted but cannot recall in problem-solving situations (Herrington & Oliver, 2000). It is common for accounting researchers and practitioners to identify inert knowledge in graduate accountants, although they do not use this term specifically. For example, Sundem (1994) argues that ‘the average graduate accumulates a storehouse of knowledge, but has difficulty applying it to real situations’ (p. 39). Similarly, Catanach et al. (2000) assert that although graduate accountants may be technically proficient, many of them cannot ‘integrate rule based knowledge with real world problems’ (p. 583). This situation, coupled with the push to improve the quality of student learning outcomes, present a genuine educational problem. 

In the last five years, I have engaged in accounting education research in an attempt to address these problems through course redesigns and learning interventions, informed by design-based research methodology (Design-based Research Collective, 2003). A number of related problems emerged from these investigations, highlighting the need to better understand:

  1. how different cohorts of students perceive and experience situated learning; and
  2. how academic teachers from diverse backgrounds and employment status perceive their role and experiences in situated learning environments.

My PhD work hopes to use this understanding to develop a practical framework to build the capacity of students for active learning in authentic contexts that prepare them for the accounting profession in particular, and life in general. And likewise to build academic teachers’ capacity to design, develop implement, support and evaluate curricula facilitated in authentic learning environments.

The idea of ‘capacity building’ has been talked about in recent times in a variety of contexts. I will explore this idea in a separate post.

References

Barab, S & Duffy, T 2000, From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen & S. M. Land. (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 25-56).  Lawrence Erlbaum, NJ.

Bransford, JD, Sherwood, RD, Hasselbring, TS, Kinzer, CK & Williams, SM 1990, Anchored Instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help, in Nix, D & Spiro, R (Eds), Cognition, education and multimedia: Exploring ideas in high technology, Lawrence Erlbaum, NJ. 

Brown, JS, Collins, A & Duguid, P 1989, Situated cognition and the culture of learning, Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42. 

Catanach, AH, Croll, DB & Grinaker, RL 2000, Teaching intermediate financial accounting using a business activity model, Issues in Accounting Education, 15(4), 583-603. 

Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt 1990, Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition, Educational Researcher, 19 (6), 2-10. 

Design-Based Research Collective 2003, Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational enquiry, Educational Researcher, (32)1, 5–8. 

Herrington, J, and Oliver, R 2000, An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments, Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), pp.23-48. 

McLellan, H 1994, Situated learning: Continuing conversation, Educational Technology, 33(3), pp.39-45. 

Sundem, GL 1994, Scholarship in four dimensions, CA Magazine, 127(3), 39-44. 

Well I have procrastinated long enough, and my boss David Jones knows this trait of mine only too well. David happens to be one of the most prolific bloggers I know… check him out, and gave me an ultimatum to blog my thinking about my PhD enrolment. I will start by reflecting on the following questions/ideas in separate posts:

What is the aim of your thesis? What’s your question or problem? I think this is something to do with your perception that what you are currently doing is not scalable.

– Why isn’t scalable? What is the source of the problems you are facing?

– What’s your definition of capacity building?

– Why is capacity building important to learning design/universities?

– What have people already written about this?

– What are the problems with what they’ve written?

One of my problems is narrowing down the problem/question, so hopefully this blogging exercise will finally get me focused.

It has been a while since I posted, which can only suggest that I’ve been busy elsewhere. Indeed I have been pre-occupied, implementing and evaluating the first cycle of design-based research involving the machinima initiative. But I should have been formatively sharing the research journey here… no excuses in the second cycle of implementation 🙂

This project is funded by CQUni Learning and Teaching Grants in which the aim is to:

investigate ways in which a particular model of learning, namely cognitive apprenticeship may be embedded in traditional pedagogical approaches such as lectures and tutorials. The key objectives of the study are threefold: identify learning and teaching strategies based on the principles of cognitive apprenticeship; develop teaching and learning resources that support this model of learning within the accounting education context; and evaluate the impact of this pedagogical approach with a group of students in an auditing course. An increased value placed on teaching and quality of student learning outcomes is the core aim of the research.

We have disseminated preliminary findings at a couple of internal forums at CQUni available here: Presentation 1 – Cognitive Apprenticeship in Accounting Education, Presentation 2 – Second Life Machinimas.

A refereed paper will also be published at the proceedings of ascilite Melbourne 2008 Conference, titled Bringing ‘second life’ to a tough undergraduate course: Cognitive apprenticeship through machinimas.


Blog Stats

  • 10,605 hits

My Tweets

RSS My Links

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Flickr Photos