Archive for April, 2011

The Sales Call

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve applied for jobs.  Lots of job.  *Lots* of jobs.  Lots, lots, lots of job.

So when I got a call yesterday from a company about a trainer position, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that I’d actually sent my resume in.  But the guy wasn’t specific enough; he made it sound like there were too many types of jobs open, and he was awful smooth for an HR guy.  And, honestly, he gave what sounded like a tag line for a skeezy get-rich-quick scheme.

I went ahead and made the appointment for the interview, though, just in case, and then I went home and Googled the company.

And, wow, I’m not naming any names, but there were a number of complaints with the BBB and MLM accusations.  Some people defended them, but I couldn’t find any reliable sources that gave the defense – and, for all I know, the defenders were people within the company themselves.  The only reliable sources seemed to speak against them.

Now, I’m hoping that everyone reading this knows what an MLM is – it’s Multi-Level Marketing, also known as a pyramid scheme/scam.  It works by getting new people to constantly invest in a product that it mostly (or completely) useless and worthless, letting the existing investors profit.  The problem, of course, is that it falls apart when there aren’t new investors.

Probably my favorite example of a MLM was in an episode of King of Queens.  Doug foolishly bought into the neighbor’s business – selling water filters.  But it’s not by selling water filters that he’d get rich; it would be by selling the licenses to sell the filter that he would get rich.  The water filter was immaterial.

Doug quickly learned that no one else wanted to buy a license, and no one even wanted to buy the filters.  (And after using one for a week, he discovered that it turned the water black.)  He was out the cash, and the neighbors moved away in the middle of the night.  Whoops.

But anyway, back to my point…

After looking up all this information, I wasn’t going on the “interview” (read: sales call).  But I still have this horrible case of politeness that I haven’t been able to kick yet, and so I called to cancel.  And got my sales call anyway.

“Listen, I have no idea if we make over $40 worth of long distance calls to Chattanooga each month…”  (Ten points to Gryffindor for anyone who can ID that movie quote!)

The guy tried to tell me how anything I’d found through Google was not legitimate, how they were a great company, and how I’d be able to work for them while working for myself!  How great would that be?!  And why didn’t I want it – just because I didn’t want a non-traditional job? <Scoff!>  Of course I did want one!  Wasn’t that what everyone wanted?  He sure wanted one for me, and for the rest of America, which is what they wanted to do – help people! Didn’t I want to help people??

I hung up.  Politeness can only go so far, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a hard sell before in my life. The guy put used car salesmen to shame.

So, maybe I don’t have a full-time job yet, but I also don’t have any water filter licenses to unload…

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Okay, here goes the second installation in my journal for my advanced research methods practicum!  You lucky people!

So, being the library lover that I am, I went ahead and got into Capella’s University Library.  They have this awesome little “Journal and Book Locator,” option so I went and tried to find a journal with “Education” in the title since it wasn’t one of the pull-down subject options.  Yeah, that was a mistake.  There were tons.  Next, I tried “Higher Education,” and, wham, I got 65!  Much more reasonable a number.

Of these, I decided that two of them that sounded good were:

Active Learning in Higher Education (which has been around from 2000 to present)
and
International Journal on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (which is available from 2005 to present)

Both of them sound like they might have something I’m interested in (i.e. grading and teaching in higher education).

I went into the Active Learning in Higher Ed journal and pulled up the current one (March 2011).  There were three research studies that sounded interesting:

1. Students’ experience of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures (Michael Cavanagh)
2. Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study (Ursula Wingate, Nick Andon, Alessia Cogo)
3. An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university (Afam Ituma)

There are no outwardly stated research questions in two of them, so I had to make some assumptions based on what the studies looked at.

In the first one, the research question seemed to be:
To what extent did the students think that the lecture activities helped them to learn and understand the course content and maintain their interest and attention during the sessions?

In the second one, the research question seemed to be:
What is the effect of academic writing instruction/intervention for first-year undergraduate students who are in an applied linguistics program?

In the third one, the research question seemed to be:
What is the perception of a typical e-learning system by students and what are the students’ patterns of use of for the typical e-learning system?

Now for the hard part – evaluating the relation between the research question and the research method, showing how the method logically follows from the stated research question.

Students’ experience of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures by Michael Cavanagh asks to what extent the students think that the lecture activities helped them to learn and understand the course content and maintain their interest and attention during the sessions.  The method was a student questionnaire with five open-ended questions.  The questions were simple, asking students if they found the “lectorials” helpful and if they kept them interested.  Responses were also simple – mostly yes and no, with most agreeing that the materials were both easy to understand and engaging.  The connection is there, but perhaps a quantitative study would have been more appropriate as it could have better gauged the level of understanding and interest.  Simply asking, “Was this easy to understand?” does not test whether or not the students actually achieved understanding.  They may think they have, but without a test to determine what they really took away from the class, it’s impossible to know if the easy of learning is merely their perception or if they truly did learn.

Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study  by Ursula Wingate, Nick Andon, and Alessia Cogo asks what the effect of academic writing instruction/intervention is on first-year undergraduate students who are in an applied linguistics program.  Quite obviously from the title, this is a case study.  They followed a cohort of 68 students in a class that changed from a two-hour lecture class to a “more student-centered approach” (71). The study was based off the text used, off teacher evaluation, and off student evaluation.  The teacher evaluation mostly looked at whether or not it was feasible to include the writing lessons within another course due to workload and time to teach.  Student evaluation used a questionnaire and interview (mixed methods), with the questionnaire utilizing a Likert scale to determine if students understood the objectives that they were being taught as well as their perception.  This does seem to be a good method because it allowed the study to look at overall results of the students as well as detailed information of perception.

An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university by Afam Ituma asks what the perception is of a typical e-learning system by students and what the students’ patterns of use are of for the typical e-learning system.  The three questions that Ituma asks are:
1. What is the students’ frequency of usage of a typical e-learning system?
2. What is the perception of students of the different components of a typical e-learning system?
3. What is the relationship between gender differences and the usability of a typical e-leanring platform?
The study used a self-report questionnaire survey that utilized a Likert scale that asked if the system was very valuable, valuable, not valuable, or never used.  The study also looked at general demographic information, including origin, age, and gender.  For the questions being asked, the method being used (quantitative) seemed to be very appropriate.

So, there you go!  Three interesting articles to take a peek at, if you ever can’t sleep at night.

References:

Cavanagh, M. (2011). Students’ experiences of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 23-33. doi: 10.1177/1469787410387724

Ituma, A. (2011). An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 57-68. doi: 10.1177/1469787410387722

Wingate, U., Andon, N., & Cogo, Alessia. (2011). Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study.  Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 69-81. doi: 10.1177/1496787410387814

iPhone4 as failure

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Maybe I just look for symbolism too much in my life.  I acknowledge that I analyze and overanalyze everything – the curse of being an English teacher, I suppose.  And maybe, just maybe, I’m doing it again.  Y’all can be the judge of that.

Waaaay back in December, when I got the news of the layoff, it came at what I’d like to call a seriously inopportune time.  Three weeks before Christmas.

But that wasn’t all.  The night before the layoff, I’d gone out and bought (pre-purchased, actually), an iPhone4 to replace my two plus year old iPhone3G.  Not even a 3GS.  That old.

So when I go the phone call the next morning, the first thing I decided to do was return the phone.  It wasn’t necessary, and since I hadn’t actually laid hands on it, it seemed like a really obvious return.  Save a few hundred dollars so Christmas wasn’t ruined?  Yeah, I was all for that.

In my brain, the two things became linked: getting laid off, and getting an iPhone4.  (What worse advertising could anyone come up with? “Get an iPhone4 and a termination call all at the same time!”)

Here comes the whining and pathetic-ness.  (Yes, that is now a word.)

I’m finally getting a refurb one, thanks to a bit of extra cash coming my way, and I worry that it will just serve as a constant reminder of failure.  It’s bad enough I look at other people’s phones, so will getting my own make it worse or better?

Not having one and seeing them has been a totally expected (and still unexpected) kick in the guts.  It’s the same feeling as when I got the phone call and the “involuntary separation” from my job.  (God, I love HR speak!)

I hate to sound totally shallow and materialistic, but, well, on some level, I am.

But, hey, we live, we learn, blah blah blah all that feel good stuff.

Passing the Soul Test…

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

I have no idea where I first heard this, but once upon a time I heard a lovely little theory that the bathroom sinks that are motion activated are actually soul tests.  If you have a soul, they see you and turn on.  If you have no soul, you have no water.  It seems fair.

The other night at the college, I went to the bathroom, and I was pleased to find out I still had my soul – the water turned on when I put my hands under it.  But then when I went to get the soap, I pressed the little lever and the cover fell on me.  So what does that say?  What kind of test did I just pass or fail?

Ah, you poor people!  I have the joy of writing a journal for my ED8119 class (Advanced Practicum in Research), and I’ve decided to share it with all of you as my blog!  Congratulations!  (Now is the time to stop reading unless you’re really masochistic or really interested in my dissertation…)

So here goes:

The first week’s journal assignment for class is to write a short definition for each of the following terms: theory, measurement, inference, generalization, and one more research-related term of my own choosing.

Then I’m supposed to write a two to three paragraph entry on how comfortable I am with the research process and area I’d like to focus on as this course progresses.

Theory – Dictionary.com tells us that a theory is 1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity and 2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.  Sounds right to me!

Measurement – After fighting through all the definitions of measurement that include “measure” (or some form of it) in them, Dictionary.com has this to say: A method of determining quantity, capacity, or dimension.  For me, I know that I will need to find some way to measure student ownership of their grades.  Have no idea what method I’m using yet…anyone have something for me?

Inference – Once again, I love on my Dictionary.com that tells me (once again, after taking the base word options away) that inference is a. the process of deriving the strict logical consequences of assumed premises and b. the process of arriving at some conclusion that, though it is not logically derivable from the assumed premises, possesses some degree of probability relative to the premises.

Generalization – And generalization, again after avoiding the bad definitions, turns out to be a. a proposition asserting something to be true either of all members of a certain class or of an indefinite part of that class and b. the process of obtaining such propositions.

Sample population – I just *had* to include this one!  I heard, about 20 times a day for three days, that there is no such thing.  You can have a sample, and you can have a population.  You cannot have a sample population.  The population is the group that you get the sample from.

 

Ta-da!

 

Now my reflection:

I am very comfortable for searching for materials, for making inferences and generalizations…even coming up with my theory.  As to measurement – well, not so much.  That one will be hard, mostly because I have yet to find a good measurement tool.  I’m not sure if one exists for exactly what I’m looking for, but I can keep trying to find one, and worst comes to worst, maybe see if I can adapt one.

Student ownership is such an interesting concept, but measurement tools for it seem to be in scarce supply right now.  Most papers I’ve found seem to state that students do better when they take ownership of their learning, but the measurement done is that their grades improve.  How the connection is made and measured, I’m not so sure.  There is no real tool presented, and it seems to be based on an assumption rather than a true measurement.  So we’ll see what happens as this class goes on and as I get more into my dissertation process…