I blogged earlier today about my Current Issues in Motivation and Learning course. So far this semester we are on Week 9, and each week has been a new set of motivational theories. As a newbie psychologist, this has been a bit overwhelming. I felt confused about the ways the theories built on each other and the sometimes subtle differences between them (Dear Psychologists: self-concept, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. This is maddening.). At any rate, I made a giant map of all the things we’ve read so far and I’ll be updating it as we finish up. I’ve embedded it below. Also (for my classmates), if you have your own Prezi.com account, I’ve made this able to be copied so that you can take it and make it your own.
This semester I am taking Dr. Cary Roseth’s Current Issues in Motivation and Learning course. I have also been following the Digital Media and Learning Open Badges competition. As I’ve been reading and thinking about different motivational theories, I can’t help but wonder about the ways that those theories might explain how the Badges for Learning idea might work in practice. So I’ve decided that I will be putting these ideas to work in my final paper for my motivation course. My plan is to take the motivational theories we’ve been reading about and use them to make predictions about how badges for learning might impact student motivation and possibly achievement (when appropriate for the theory). My paper is due in about a month, but as I develop these predictions, I plan to both blog about them in this space as well as post my final paper here (don’t worry, it’s supposed to only be 10 pages).
I do want to address one issue, however, before I begin. In the initial launch of the Badges for Learning competition and even in subsequent writings, blog comments, and twitter conversations around the web, I’ve noticed that there is a real tension as folks try to imagine how to implement Badges for Learning. It seems to me that the at the core of badges is to develop an alternative assessment structure for not only open courses online, but perhaps even more traditional, face-to-face classrooms. I keep seeing the argument repeated that badges are a way to highlight the self-directed learning that is occurring all over the web. Despite these intentions, the idea of badges as a potential motivator creeps into the conversation. While this may not be the primary intention of badges, I think that the idea of badges a motivator is tangled up in the conceptions of badges. At first this horrified me: I worried that we were moving reward stickers and gold stars online, and I wasn’t impressed with how well those worked in the face-to-face classrooms. But as I realized how ignorant I am of explanations of what and how people are motivated, I thought it was worth keeping an open mind about.
The first action-research study I ever carried out as a classroom teacher (back in 2002) looked at motivation and standardized testing. My questions centered on whether or not students’ own personal preferences for different types of assessments might impact their achievement. My findings were pretty inconclusive, and as I’ve dug into the relationship between motivation and assessment, I’ve found that there has been very little research in this area overall. The impact of standardized tests versus performance evaluations or other non-standardized assessment practices on student motivation is still unknown. Seeing the stress of my own students before the ACT or hearing stories from my friends about their second graders crying under their desks during testing weeks makes me wonder about it more. This is all to say that I’m really curious about this issue: what if a student is highly motivated in school and the negative impact of standardized testing is short-circuiting that motivation? I think that most teachers can quickly think of examples of students for whom this is true. They are motivated, they love school, and their achievement on the big test is always low. It just doesn’t reflect what they know and what they can do. For these reasons, I’m all for some sort of alternative assessment structure.
So as I develop my ideas, I welcome comments and criticisms as I go. The plan is to post a theory and prediction about badges every few days. Wish me luck!
Summer is coming to an end and as I wrap up both my own courses and the course I’ve assisted in this summer semester, I thought I would pause to reflect and identify places for moving forward on this journey.
I blogged a bit this summer about my own growth as a researcher, which was facilitated by two of the three courses I took this summer. In one course, I developed a research proposal that will function as my practicum proposal. In my program, the practicum is part of the “Research Apprenticeship” which follows roughly the same process as the dissertation: proposal, oral presentation of proposal to get approval, carrying out research, writing up research, defending research. In another course, we focused on developing a literature review: another essential skill for the dissertation process (and for being an academic in general).
At the end of this process, I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer, first and foremost. Academic writing is a tricky thing, and the feedback and guidance of both my instructors and advisor were invaluable. Writing is thinking, and I know that my research brain has developed along with my prose. I am not ashamed to say that I am in love with my research proposal, and I am thrilled that I’ve been able to design a study that gets at research questions that I find interesting and sustaining. I spent a lot of this year seemingly unfocused (much to the worry of my mentors in the program: focus, Andrea, focus! was the most common thing I heard), but I find myself back at the same questions that I articulated in my application to school, but they are more focused as well as being functional (as in: a person could actually design a study to answer them). After considering other questions and ideas, in the end I feel like the topics I am looking at now are ones I could stick with over the course of not only my practicum, but could develop into additional studies that could be the focus of my dissertation. To be frank, I don’t have time to change my mind, so I wanted to be sure that I really liked what I am doing. And I do. (Additionally, once I get IRB approval for what I am proposing, I plan to post everything here on the site).
If year one was about experiencing school, year two will be all about strategy. Every decision must consider two things: first, is this decision going to help me finish faster? and secondly, does this decision help me get a job when I am finished? Spring 2012 brings defending my practicum, completing comprehensive exams, and developing my dissertation proposal. I want all my ducks in a row to get moving as quickly as possible into dissertation mode.
So here are the goals:
- move from exploration to professionalization
- solidify my career goals: make appointment at Career Services, develop a non-academic resume and cover letter (just in case!), keep an eye out for job postings to understand what is out there for people with my eventual degree.
- related to this, add a line to my CV every month (I know this sounds a little crazy, but I figure there is no harm in keeping this a focus every month, and wouldn’t it be awesome if I pulled it off? I heard this was something that folks on the tenure-track do, so it seemed like a good goal.)
- identify something every month that gets me to graduation faster: read dissertations from graduates of the program, etc,
- I also have a long list of brilliant people at my university that I have yet to meet. I am making it a priority to meet them this year.