Carrie Ann’s April 13th class reflection

It was a pleasure for me this week to share some research in my field of music education.  In discussing how philosophy in music education research has changed from a qualitative to a quantitative approach, it was encouraging to see how other fields such as sociology (as Jason stated), has also dealt with this shift in approach.  Arts-based research as added a third approach to researching in our field and after our discussion on other practical applications of this research philosophy, I plan on learning more about the techniques applied and how I might be able to combine this approach with a qualitative or quantitative method.

Ted’s discussion on using “podcast” type technology to critique and pass on comments to students on their work has really had me rethinking how I respond back to my students.  As we realized through our discussion, it will still take just as much time, or even more, to comment on student papers in the electronic manner.  We want to give our students the best possible feedback that we can, electronic commenting can add a personal touch to the dissemination of comments, but is it the most effective in large classes… this I am not too sure of yet.  Will students respond to this type of commenting/assessment procedure, or would they prefer the traditional writing out of comments by teachers?  Does this technique work better in some educational settings then in others?  These are questions that I am still pondering after our class discussion of last week.  I know for me that I prefer seeing written comments right next to a specific topic in my paper (it is easily accessed), I feel that if I had to listen to a recording and then keep finding the corresponding spot in my paper I would be less inclined to keep listening over and over as I am making adjustments.  This is not to say I am writing off this technique completely, I just need some time to decide if it is the right course of action when grading my student’s papers.

Teddy’s CTCH604 Reflection 04.17.2010

Teddy’s CTCH604 Reflection 04.17.2010

For class session 04.13.2010

 This week’s discussion started with Carrie Anne’s article on Music Education. It is amazing how there can be so many different approaches to SoTL work. As we could see the decisions to use quantitative verses qualitative research methodologies is still a toss-up! Regardless of the discipline, these two approaches seem to be involved in the basic make-up of any inquiry. The discussion presented to us a third option of research-based inquiry that is known as “arts-based research.” According to the author it is self-reflective through the emergence of the immediate evidence produced through performance oriented attributes. For many years now, I have heard discussions among music scholars and those outside of the field as to whether or not if this type of research is valid. Some agree that it is valid as a result of “discovery methodologies” related to music theory. Personally, I too believe this is conclusive and relative to the mission of SoTL work as defined by the Carnegie Foundation.

Our second discussion was on my article that promotes the use of podcasting to provide timely and useful feedback from tutors to their learners. One of the main problems with this form of extended classroom communication is the time professors would need to read, grade and comment for each student and assignments. Even though the time is reduced significantly in comparison to traditional methods it is still a huge job! I really love the idea that was suggested in class of simply having the teacher to teach and an additional service or services outside of the institution to provide grading and feedback. This seems more proficient and efficient for all involved in the teaching and learning process. Any method that will increase our ability to reflect for longer periods of time on assignments, increase our learning capacity and help us in practicum to better prepare our future work is surely worth a grand investment.  

Finally, I think all discussions converged as we began to stretch our thinking group-wise concerning the music education research, veterans entering college and podcasting feedback issues. Varied views around the table were out-of- the-box and constantly enthralled us. This ecology of philosophically enhanced hypotheses was grounded to current knowledge and inspired by our passions for own disciplines or fields of study. I truly found myself engaged and challenged to listen, learn and explore the input of my colleagues as we all raised the bar of scholarly inquiry within the classroom and the external laboratory of our minds. This was indeed good food for the soul!

Jason’s Reflection on 4/13 class

I enjoyed this week’s class because it opened my eyes to two new ideas.  Both of these ideas I understood somewhat before this discussion, but I now feel that I grasp both on a deeper level.

The first idea came from Carrie Ann’s article.  This is the idea that while all disciplines differ in there pursuit of SoTL research, we also have a ton of similarities.  The discussion of qualitative and quantitative research could have taken place in one of my sociology specific courses.  It was interesting to see that the music department and the sociology department are having some of the same methodological discussions (limitations of traditional quantitative research), coming to similar conclusions (a move to incorporate qualitative methods or develop new methods altogether),  and feeling constrained by the same external pressures (the higher status often associated with quantitative research).

The second idea that become more clear to me was the overpowering influence of expanding class sizes.  Before being exposed to CTCH course I would have believed that large class sizes affect k-12 much more than college.  College is lecture based, and for the most part it is “on the student” to put in the effort to succeed.  This biased and false assumption was primarily based on my ability to navigate my poorly structured college experience, where I relied primarily on teaching myself though individual study sessions and reading.  Since this “worked” for me, it should work for everyone, right?  Now as a teacher, I see exactly how problematic large classes are.  They severely limit my ability to bring in students that are not able to succeed in the traditional format of lecture, read, lecture, read, and repeat.  The only solution I see to larger class sizes is more teachers, which has a huge financial barrier to overcome.  Until that solution becomes a reality, we may have to adapt, develop, and accept less than ideal new techniques that take the reality of larger class sizes into account.

Aracelie_Reflections_30 Mar

Concept Map…CMap Tools…Visual Understanding Environment (VUE)…  What are these, you may ask?  They are the topics we covered in class that related to “the Leslies” chapter of Classroom Research.  One of the tools suggested for use is the Concept Map.  At the start of class, Darren introduced Jason and me to free online tools available for download in the forms of CMap Tools and VUE.  They can be used to get concepts down on “paper” and build connections through arrows, bubbles, narratives, etc.   I immediately thought of additional uses for conducting brainstorming sessions and drawing process maps.  When I sat down to apply it to my research question, I thought, “Where do even begin?  My question is not even narrowed down yet.”  So as is typical in brainstorming, I put down one or two ideas.  From there, the connections began to flow more easily.  Soon enough, Jason and I were comparing “bubbles charts”.  (I was a little jealous because his somehow looked cooler than mine.)  Eventually, we came to a stopping point, and Darren showed us how to save them on the NCC computers long enough to email them to ourselves.

The rest of class focused on Jason’s selected article, “Overcoming ‘Doom and Gloom’:  Empowering Students in Courses on Social Problems, Injustice, and Inequailty”.  In it, the author discusses the manner in which courses on social problems tend to be taught (rather negatively and without offering many solutions).  He also offers a five-step process that leads to the ultimate goal of having students move toward making structural changes as opposed to simply making individual contributions to society (e.g. helping implement a citywide literacy program rather than tutoring a single child in reading).

Going through the article we touched on how it is a jumping off point for doing SoTL research.  The author hypothesizes about several areas that might result in good SoTL questions – why teachers neglect linking social problems to individual behavior and whether constructionist or objectivist approaches create more cynicism, for example.  I was happy to see that this was the format the author chose to use.  I was a little hesitant about my own article on veterans returning to school because it seemed to be more along the line of traditional research, but after our discussion, I am seeing it as containing several potential research questions.  Although it addresses many different areas of a soldier’s transition back to civilian life – interacting with family members and other students, dealing with road rage and appreciation of “the finer things in life” – they are all areas that can be focused on within various departments at a university (psychology, academic affairs, sociology, veterans’ services).

Aracelie_Reflections_6 Apr

During last week’s class, we discussed an article I selected on veterans going to Queensborough Community College after having been deployed as a servicemember to either Iraq or Afghanistan in a time of war.   The article covered several aspects of transitioning back to civilian life – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and “reverse cultural shock” (as I refer to it) to name a few.

It was rather powerful article because it contained many quotes from the servicemembers.  In our discussion, we raised a lot of questions regarding the point of self-reflection in class.  In a typical practice of SoTL, the teacher will ask his students to do some type of self-reflection assignment.  Without knowing the particulars of a servicemembers’ time overseas like those mentioned in the article, it is difficult to know what those requirements might signal.  For some, it might be something they prefer or even cannot do.  For others, it may be a therapeutic experience, an outlet they may have needed to get their thoughts out.  How then does the teacher determine which case it is?  Without any prior experience of combat and without a clinical psychology background, time and exposure  would probably be two of the key components – time to learn more about the individual student and exposure to issues related to combat veterans.

PTSD is a dominant feature of the two wars.  It is all over the news.   It dominated the article and its bibliography entries.  Ted brought up several questions about it in class, too.  How can we do better when there aren’t enough medical resources out there to help?  How do we encourage vets to seek the help they need?  All are good questions, and they are even being raised in focus groups at Mason (I attended one on the 8th).  The answers are not simple nor easy.  Similar to the question of how to change and expand SoTL by focusing on changing the cultural mindset, that is what will be required for vets.  There is a large stigma still attached with asking for help and the services, from the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking person, need to stop behaving as though requesting help is a horrible thing to do and detrimental to doing one’s job.  As educators, we have to try and present the opportunities for assistance, somehow opening the doors without making it too obvious.  Taking a more incognito approach, perhaps by using different language.  A cheesy suggestion, perhaps, but after awhile and depending on the audience it might actually work.  (Example:  the old Army slogan “Be All That You Can Be” met a great deal of resistance from those who were already serving.  However, “An Army of One” brought many new people in just as it was supposed to do.  A change in phrasing, but serving the same purpose.)

One other thing about last week’s class that I realized is that it would be very easy to 1) get overcome by how many topics are related to the initial research question (i.e. “scope creep” in business terms), and 2) it would be very easy to want to switch to topics that have more literature available, in my case, PTSD.  (Luckily, I know my limits, and am not ready to tackle that on such a deep level just yet.)

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