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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Help with determining foundations comps question

Okay all - or as they would say down here - y'all,

I need some help from those reading this... I am in the process of negotiating my comprehensive questions and while I am well underway with complete questions or next to final drafts on three of my questions, I am having trouble figuring out what to do about my Foundations question. You see for our comprehensive exam process we have four questions (i.e., foundations, research/theory, practice and methodology) which you negotiate with individual members of your committee and then have between four to eight weeks (depending on what you negotiate) to complete those four questions in roughly 60 pages.

Now, let me give you some background to my research interests. Students enrolled in the web-based classes from the virtual high school in Newfoundland perform better than students in the traditional classes on end of year standardized exams. While this is a common finding in delivery comparison studies, in most instances it is because the students in the web-based courses tended to be the "better" students (i.e., more independent in their learning, self-motivated, high achieving, etc.). than the students in the traditional classroom. However, back in Newfoundland because web-based delivery is the only way that the majority of students in small rural schools can access some of these courses, you really have the same type of mixture in web-based courses that you would have in traditional classroom courses (i.e., everything from those on IEPs to those you could give the textbook to and tell them to come back in ten months to take the exam). So, my interest is trying to figure out why this is occurring. What's happening in Newfoundland to produce these results? Or more specifically, what factors affect student performance in web-based learning in Newfoundland?

Right now I have some hunches as possible suspects, including at the institutional (i.e., virtual high school) level:
  • design of the asynchronous course content
  • design of the asynchronous tutorial items
  • synchronous delivery of the content (i.e., interactive classroom)
  • asynchronous delivery of the content (i.e., e-mail, discussion forums)
  • synchronous tutorial services offered by the virtual high school
  • tutorial services from other students in the course

At the school level:

  • guidance from the administration
  • guidance from the distance education co-ordinators
  • tutorial services from school-based teachers
  • tutorial services from other students

In looking at these possible factors, I'm wondering what sort of foundation work in instructional/educational technology could help me prepare for a dissertation that may include these factors.

Throwing out some ideas, when I look at all of the possible factors and see alot of ones that deal with tutorial services, I think that maybe Vygotsky and his zone of proximal development may be a theoretical basis for some of this. If this does provide some basis for these factors, how much of a role would things like situated cognition and activity theory play?

When I look at the synchronous and asynchronous delivery of the content, I think that maybe Moore's theory of transactional distance (particularly the new elements that are being added to it) may be applicable (or even Moore's thoughts on interaction that have been built upon over the years).

There is also the issues of scaffolding and resource-based learning that may factor into it.

Finally, if I lean towards the learning sciences, theories of cognitive development (such as those by Piaget and Erikson in particularly) could be factored in.

Having said all of that, I'm sure that there are others that I have missed.

What I am looking for guidance on from everyone out there is cyberspace is twofold. What do you see as the potential theoretical underpinnings of some of these factors? Secondly, is there any type of question that looks at the foundation of instructional/educational technology that could allow me to get at some of those?

I look forward to any feedback that you might have...

Tags: dissertation thoughts, ,

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