MeMyself&I

Archive for the ‘PhD’ Category

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.

 

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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.


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