Thursday, July 2, 2015

Week 5 - IDT 8092


It felt really good to submit the "final" version of my lit review. I say "final" because although it is the final version for this class, I know it isn't the final version that will become a part of my dissertation. I feel like it's close, but I know my advisor and committee will have suggestions. I'll come up with new things to add as well as I narrow in on my dissertation research.

So now that I'm at the end of the course, what did I learn?

  • A lot about my topic! The mixed research results on adaptive learning systems are still a little baffling to me. I think this might help fuel my dissertation research so maybe that's good.
  • Identifying the research questions and connecting articles to those is important. I did an okay job with this. I would do better if I had to do this again. This is really important to help manage a large number of articles.
  • Don't worry so much about making the 1st draft perfect. I really struggled to get started with my writing. I had so much information that I felt like I wasn't sure where to begin. When I finally did begin writing I spent a lot of time writing and revising and making sure it sounded okay. If I had to do it over again, I would get my thoughts on paper quicker and worry about editing later. I really think getting to that fairly developed outline and thinking about the paper as a whole is important.
  • Take time to think about the information and synthesize it. Writing a lit review in only a few short weeks made it difficult to stop and think about it, but I recognize the importance of doing it. I actually enjoyed thinking about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together once I got past that 1st draft.
  • I love an organized online course. This was a difficult and intense course, but it was so well organized. I love it when the expectations, assignments, and due dates are crystal clear. I also really appreciate timely feedback. Thanks, Dr. Weaver, for all of that! (This is a good reminder for me as I deliver online courses to my students.)

 What's next?

  • Dissertation research/instructional unit. I'm still trying to narrow in on exactly what my dissertation will be. I'm going to set aside some time to map out possibilities. I'm totally sold on my topic, but I need to figure out what my instructional unit or research study will look like. I'm sure I'll have a conversation with my advisor in the coming weeks to think through this a little more.
  • Golf. I'm looking forward to getting out and golfing more now that this course is over.
  • I.N.K. My kids (Ian, Nathan, and Kaia) are tired of me telling them I have schoolwork to do. I felt a little bit like I was on a road trip with them. "Are you done yet?"..."Are you done yet?"..."Are you done yet?"... It's time to have fun with them before summer is over!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week 4 - IDT 8092

This was a better week for me. The second draft of my literature review went better than the first. I felt like I was able to get in a groove and really think about how all of the information was fitting together.

My Approach

This was my approach as I went from first draft to second draft. I went back through my paper and made an outline using the section headings. I made the outline on scratch paper and spread it out on my desk so I could visually see the structure of my paper.  (My revised outline was close to the initial outline I submitted, but it did change slightly.) Once I had my outline on scratch paper, I went back through my articles and the notes I took for my annotated bibliography. As I was reviewing articles and notes, I was referring back to my outline to see how it fit in. In some cases I realized I hadn't included the article in a particular section. In some cases I realized I needed an entirely new section based on what I uncovered in my articles. That was basically it. Reviewing articles, thinking about how it fit into my outline, and visually trying to think about the entire flow of the paper. I was in a groove.

Helpful Tips

In addition to having a plan for organizing my thoughts and ideas, the other big thing that helped me last week was looking at other literature reviews. I looked at three completed dissertations and specifically focused on how they did their lit reviews. Although the topics were different, just seeing the flow and how they presented a review of the research was REALLY helpful.

Reviewing two of my classmates lit review drafts was also helpful. Looking at how someone else approached the task of writing a lit review was a valuable experience. And, looking specifically for APA formatting issues was a great task for reinforcing APA. I'm not sure I'll get to the point where I don't need the manual, but I am getting much better at recognizing how to handle many of the common items. Page 177 and 202-206 of the APA Manual were my friends this week. I still struggle with how to do citations with multiple authors (page 177), and how to reference non-journal articles (pages 202-2006 - books, reports, etc.).

This week I'm incorporating ideas from my classmates and Dr. Weaver and doing some final editing. There is still a fair amount of work to do, but...

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Week 3 - IDT 8092

This was a difficult week for me. Writing was more difficult than finding articles. Dr. Weaver said it would be more fun. I'm not sure I agree.

I finalized my first draft today after many hours on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I kept hoping I would get in a groove. I'm not sure I did. It does feel good to have a draft done, and I'm actually looking forward to going back and revising things this week. I did a little bit of revising as I was writing just and to see if things were making sense. The process of revisiting what I had written seemed to help me think about the overall flow.

This is what I struggled with:

1. Too many terms and definitions. My topic is on computer-assisted instruction, intelligent tutoring systems, computer-based education, adaptive learning, cognitive tutors, personalized instructional systems, etc. These are terms that basically describe the same thing. I struggled to come up with a common definition to fit my situation. I also struggled on when to use my terminology and when to use the terminology used by the author of the article. I don't want to take things out of context and misrepresent info, but at the same time I want to be clear and consistent in my writing. I went with "computer-based adaptive learning (CBAL)" which, to me, represents what I'm focusing on. I hope I'm going down the right path.

2. Feeling confident that I have "everything." There are so many articles on my topic that I feel like I could spend several weeks finding more information. I do feel like I've identified most of the key studies which is probably the important thing. It was/is hard for me to accept that I've reviewed the literature thoroughly when I know there is more out there.

3. Mixed research results. Some studies indicate CBAL has a positive impact. Other studies show little or no impact. I know that my job with the literature review is to present the body of research on the topic -- good and bad. I struggled with the disparity in results though, especially when there is evidence that adaptive/personalized learning is a growing trend. I think a lot of the disparity has to do with the different systems/programs being researched and when the studies were conducted. The struggle for me was to present the findings that are measuring the same thing. This relates to #1 above.

This is what I thought went well:

1. Identifying holes. With 60 articles you would think I have more than enough info. Within the first section of my paper I realized I had holes in the information I was presenting. I thought the process of seeing those holes was very clear. I think going back and looking for specific studies that relate to exactly what I'm looking for will help my literature review become more complete.

2. Organizing my info. I used a Google Form to take notes on my articles last week. This week I sorted my spreadsheet based on my 4 stems and then began to look for themes. The process was fairly smooth. I'm going to revisit my spreadsheet again this week as I make revisions.

I'm glad this week is behind me. I'm looking forward to making my rough draft not so rough.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Week 2 - IDT 8092

Busy week.

I started with 20 articles on Sunday and now have a total of 60 to support my literature review. I've learned a LOT of my topic, which is a good thing. It feels like I'm becoming an expert on the topic of adaptive learning/intelligent tutoring systems/computer-assisted instruction as it relates to math in grades K-12. Expert sounds and feels a little arrogant after only 2 weeks of intensive research, especially as I read the work of several key individuals who have obviously dedicated much of their lives to researching the topic. Maybe I should say I know a lot more about the topic today than I did 2 weeks ago. I'm sure I'll know even more by the end of the month.

I've also learned a lot about the process of finding articles. Google Scholar was my friend this week. The "Cited by" link provided me with insight into how many times the article was referenced in other works. The hyperlink continued to open doors to new articles, reports, and authors. I know other databases (Scopus) has this "cited by" hyperlink feature, but Google Scholar just worked for well for me.

A week ago I was thinking, I'm not sure how I'm going to find 60 articles. Now my thought is when will it end. If I had more time, I could probably find another 60 articles. (Please, Dr. Weaver, don't make us do that.) Granted a lot of this comes down to finding articles that specifically address my guiding research questions. Many articles touch on elements or begin to take me down different paths. Keeping my guiding questions in mind is important. I know that. I'm not sure I'm always good at doing it.

A couple key takeaways from the week:

1. I created a Google Form to capture my notes on the articles I was reading. The fields on the form are based on what Dr. Weaver was looking for, guidance from my advisor, Dr. Mims, and a few things I added. Capturing info for all of those fields probably took extra time, but I'm hoping having all of the data in a spreadsheet helps as I identify themes and begin writing. The spreadsheet allowed me to do interesting things like create the graph below with a few clicks. I'm not sure how useful it is, but it's interesting.

2. On Thursday I paused (briefly) from reading articles and created a very quick outline of my themes and possible flow for my paper based on my research questions and what I had read thus far. I used that outline to help guide me on my last 20 articles. That seemed to really help. I was able to quickly identify areas that I didn't have very much evidence to support my questions.

I'm glad I have 60 articles, but now I think the difficult part begins -- writing and trying to make sense of all of it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Week 1 - IDT 8092

8092 Quote

We're done with Week 1 of 5 and Dr. Weaver was correct, it was intense.

We started the course learning about being reflective students and thus this blog was born. I consider myself a fairly reflective person, but this is the first time I've formalized the process with a blog/journal. I'm looking forward to taking a breath each week and thinking about all the work I've done and what I've learned.

This course, IDT 8092, primarily focuses on the literature review portion of our dissertation. I have looked at literature reviews and I've had experience doing portions of them in my other IDT classes, but specifically working on the lit review for my dissertation, that's new. It's exciting and nerve-racking. It feels like the stakes are higher this time. Am I picking the right topic? Is my method for note-taking going to be helpful? Am I using the right software to organize everything? Do I have the knowledge to critically evaluate the articles I'm reading? All of those questions and others have been swirling around in my head this week as I search, read, take notes, repeat.

Fortunately we haven't been thrown to the wolves on tackling the literature review. Doing some background research on what it is, the steps involved in doing it, and then, finally creating a concept map to capture the process was helpful. The guidance from my advisor, Dr. Mims, helping me focus in on a topic was also helpful. And, the support provided by U of Memphis librarian, Dr. Pam Dennis, has helped me continue to learn about the process of finding articles related to my topic.

Here are a couple key takeaways for me as I continue working towards completing my lit review:
  1. Focus. Focus. Focus. - Identifying my topic and research questions was helpful. As I read articles, I have to remind myself to return to those questions. It is so easy to start going down alternative paths.
  2. Reference Mining - Using the reference list from articles to find new, related articles has been helpful. I feel like I have a lot to learn about finding the seminal work on my topic. The reference mining concept makes me feel like I can narrow in on the most influential articles.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Getting Started

This is the beginning of my journal for IDT 8092. I'll be using this online journal to reflect on my work throughout the semester.

My journal posts will use ideas and questions from the blog, The Reflective Student by Peter Pappas.