Adlt 610: #1 Wearing a new lens of possibilities-

Lucy is certainly devoid of authenticity.
Lucy is certainly devoid of authenticity.

I grew up watching the Peanuts.  One of my favorite characters is Lucy van Pelt. Lucy’s psychiatry booth serves as a source of comical relief for adults viewers.  All of the characters in the comic come to see her at one time of another seeking advice for their problems. Lucy dispenses advice which is frequently incorrect and devoid of compassion. Lucy’s primary goal for helping is to collect a nickle for the best insult that she can inflict on her client. While her need may be met, she lacks the capacity to move beyond Schein’s first operating principle, “always try to be helpful.”  It’s obvious to the viewer that she has no desire to consider her own ignorance of the reality of the client.  Charie Brown, typically the recepient of her advice, still owns the problem, yet has little in the way of tools to process through to a solution.

Adult learning courses typically include expectations and previous experience when making introductions. While many individuals ask for advice or for my opinion, instances to sit and listen for long periods of time are less frequent.  I hear the term “consultant” and “consultation” used frequently in every day life. Individuals who supply everything from beauty products to craft supplies refer to themselves as consultants.  When I meet with someone in the medical field, the consultation fee that I pay provides little to no time to build a relationship with a potential provider.  When considering the number of ways in which I have either sought help or provided help to others, often it has been conducted on the fly.  When parents attend conferences, they look for guidance, advice and help in educating their child.  Ten minutes is certainly an inadequate time to accomplish even polite formalities.  Helping takes time, attention and skill. Consultants posess the expertise.  Clients own the problem and need assistance in processing to find the solution on their own.

With just two weeks into this new course, “Consulting Skills in Adult Learning Environments” I find that the lens with which to consider how to be helpful to others will certainly need a dramatic change in prescription.  My concept of consultant was of one who prosessed expertise for which others would contract to receive it.  An individual or organization would hire a consultant, describe the problem and off the consultant would go to brainstorm ways to “fix” the problem.

Several pivotal changes in my thought processes engage the defintions and distinctions proposed by Peter Block in his work, Flawless Consulting.  For example, understanding that as a consultant, I would have some influence over others, however, I would have no direct power to make actual changes. The clients is now the individual who does the work of making the change happen because he owns the problem or the possibility. My role as the consultant is to help the client to be able to do the work.

The concept that form follows function, a principle that possibly shaped modern architecture of the 20th century, is a useful reminder to me as a consultant-in-training. What I gather from an initial exposure to Process Consulting, is that when I offer help to others that product should follow process.  This concepts appeals to me as an educator.  I enjoy the opportunity to teach.  I find it gratifying to empower others to take charge of their situation or environment. Schein’s suggestion that that some consultants risk overworking a situation and unfortunately providing more help than is needed or wanted is a good admonition for me. While I’ve developed a greater capacity for listening over the last several years, to be a skilled consultant I will need to listen to access my ignorance.

The act of learning how to work through, or process through each phase is not only the business of the client, but mine as well.  When Block suggests that “Too often consultants understand their wants and client understate their offers,” I know that the instance to help means that my personal needs are important.  My work needs to reflect a balance between opportunities to help and instances for personal growth.  Block’s engagement strategies will help me to think differently about my role as a helper.

The first several chapters of both Schein and Block provide much food for thought, primarily the need to develop a new schema for the concept of consulting.  The idea that I should not judge how well I am doing by the way others are reacting to me is quite liberating.  Of the first 5 principles discussed in class, the concept that “everything that you do is an intervention” is a powerful reminder to think before acting.  In acting, am I willing to own everything that I do?  The consequences be positive if I move clients to consider what is possible for them or their organization rather than what is wrong with them.

Something to Chew on-dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

As a new consultant, I want to work and to be effective.  How would I articultate to a client that the outcomes may not fit my goals for creating a helping relationship?

How much practice is necessary to be proficient in “nondirective” interviewing?  Is this a skill that takes a long time to acquire?  Are there other ways to keep the client in the driver’s seat and engaged in telling their story?

Works Cited: 

Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used. John Wiley & Sons.

Schein, E. H. (1999). Process consultation revisited: Building the helping relationship. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

EDUS 660 #12: Building a muscle

Determining what is of value is often the most challenging aspect of completing a               "Self-Assessment."
Determining what is of value is often the most challenging aspect of completing a “Self-Assessment.”

This blog is a self-assessment. Use these prompts to help describe your learning process. What did you learn by being active in this course? How much did you know about research before we started? Did working with an interdisciplinary group interested in all forms of Social Research enhance your learning? Did you do your work the way other people did theirs? Did conversation during collaboration strengthen your learning? What changed your mind about research? What do you still need to learn to do quality research? Or write your own prompt and respond about your study. Tag self-assessment.

  1. What did I learn by being active in this course.  I’m not sure what this question is implying, perhaps nothing at all.  Active as opposed to being passive?  All of the classes that I have taken in my graduate courses at VCU and through other universities (9 courses/5 universities beyond VCU) require me to be active.  Quite frankly, the medium of an online course required the least amount of activity on my part.  What I did learn from this experience is that I love technology and using it to support my learning. I do not like taking an online course.  I love coming to class, interacting with my professor and my classmates. Relationships are important to me.  I told the women that I worked on the proposal that the project was like navigating through a closet or tunnel without a flashlight.  My reaction had nothing to do with them.  They were wonderful.  What I really enjoyed were the interactive programs during the discussion of Ethics and Research Integrity.  I’m a visual person.  I will remember my participation through that activity particularly the errors that I made.
  2. How much did you know about research before we started?  I think that I knew more about research than I realized or admitted to knowing before the course began.  I participated in a research study where I was part of an experimental group and enjoyed doing so.  What I realize now as a result of this course is how much I would have benefited from the research with all of the knowledge that I now possess.  I have a new lens through which to consider research.  This spring, I noticed a research project in the VCU TelegRAM.  The paperwork that was required of the participant was overwhelming.  At the time, I was rather preoccupied with my coursework.  The researchers contacted me last month to see if I was still interested.  I will reconsider and use it for an opportunity to use what I have learned.
  3. Did working with an interdisciplinary group interested in all forms of Social Research enhance your learning? My “overall/generic” learning was greatly enhanced through the integration of sociology and social work into the coursework.  I was disappointed in being segregated from others who are part of my graduate program.  While our program is small and personal, we do not work as a cohort. Working on a research proposal with others from my program would have engaged our learning with a project that could generate knowledge from seminal leaders. This proposal would allow us to consider where the gaps in our field of study lie.   If we walked away with a research proposal from our discipline, we would have done the ground work necessary to participate in the Graduate Research Fair, for example, or to present at a national conference.
  4. Did you do your work the way other people did theirs? Did conversation during collaboration strengthen your learning? I really don’t know how others in my section did their work.  I do know that the individuals in my group did their work and worked cooperatively with each other.  We use Google Apps for collaboration, which was very helpful. I appreciated my group’s willingness to use those tools.
  5. What changed your mind about research? I live in a university town where advertisements for investigational studies are announced using both the television and the radio.  It’s easy to tune out the studies without a firm understanding behind the science and methodology of research. Where I have either grown in my thinking or have a new perspective-
    1. The way in which I view a research program now certainly engages what I’ve learned.  The CITI training, while rather long and sometimes tedious, helped me to feel more comfortable about participating in research. While too much government influence in other areas of life is constraining, the knowledge that there are policies and procedures to protect participants shows evidence of our society’s desire to contribute to the greater good through research.
    2. The word “research” in an academic setting implies an understanding of and a willingness to adhere to an establish set of procedures.
    3. The literature review is crucial when determining what to study.  Research scientists are looking for gaps to fill rather than a way to advance their curriculum vitae.
    4.  Research needs to contribute to a body of knowledge, again, not pump up one’s job prospects.
  6. What do you still need to learn to do quality research? I have a head full of facts and details that really need some form of a schema.  As an educator, I participated in internships and student teaching. My friends have participated in moot court while studying the law.  My doctor proctors the medical student who meets with me prior to my appointment. As a student of social research, a simulated research project would enhance my learning and provide a place for me to ground my experiences from this semester.  Our work was intense and covered a wealth of topics that are crucial building blocks for a research foundation.  An instance to work with a social research scientist where I physically do what I am learning in class would have enhanced my experience.Do I have a talent for doing social research right now? No, probably not until I have all of the patterns in place necessary to grow a talent for doing so.  I have a good foundation as a result of what I’ve learned in this class.

Something this time for “me” to chew on-fly

Consulting Skills class beings in two weeks.  I’m anxious to see how what I’ve learned this summer  can translate when working with clients.

EDUS 660: #11 Literacy…the buck stops no where

As you think about all the many types of public/social programs there are out there (literacy, teen pregnancy prevention, delinquency prevention, wellness, etc.), which ones do you know have actually undergone a rigorous program evaluation and have demonstrable outcomes? Which ones do you feel have not been adequately evaluated and need to have some greater scrutiny put on them?  Why?  Tag evaluation.

We've come a long way in our reading instruction for both children and adults.
We’ve come a long way in our reading instruction for both children and adults.

Learning how to read was such an adventure….NOT!  In the 1960’s while many educators were embracing new teaching philosophies, theories about reading instruction were stuck in the 1950’s.  Stories with dogs named Spot and with a brother and sister named Dick and Jane were so far removed from my reality.  I didn’t know anyone who looked like the characters in the Little White House series of primers.  I learned how to read, however, the expectations for literacy were rather low in during this time period.

P. David Pearson writes and researches on educational issues. “While No Child Left Behind has done a credible job of helping educators make sure that all students have basic literacy skills, it hasn’t given us the types of thoughtful and critical readers and writers we need”  (The Washington Post, March 9, 2012). He continues on in his article to talk about how the flaws of the NCLB initiative failed to provide thoughtful, critical readers and writers. Where others could see a “period” after the flaw, he sees a semicolon asking us to take a longer time to think than a pause.  We need to think about how assessments allow society to understand the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the current system.

The No Child Left Behind initiative amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).     It made changes in the way that Federal programs supported the education of the nation’s youth. According to the State Council of High Education for Virginia emphasis was placed on the quality of the teacher when improving student achievement.  According to the U.S.Department of Education, this revision to Johnson’s initiative received bipartisan support.  Congress reauthorized it, George Bush signed it into law and public educators began to get nervous. When teachers become nervous students take notice.  It’s not a good thing!

Those students considered underserved became more vunerable to public exposure when being compared to their peers in more affluent regions.  So how do we know what is and is not working?  When considering whether the intended results are achieved, evaluation research must occur.  Babbie contends that the purpose of research is “to evaluate the impact of social interventions such as new teaching methods or innovations” (Babbie, 2013:354). How do you evaluate the impact of opportunity for every child in the form of a test?  How can we evaluate children or a school system that does not have the same opportunities and resources to do the work of educating our children. Programs on a national level would most certainly be held to rigorous standards of evaluation. A brief overview of the Evaluation of Flexibility Under No child Left Behind provides citizens with useful information in a palpable format.

Secretary Duncan’s speech reminds Americans that we need to take the path toward equity. He believes that we need to begin a conversation that discusses how students achieve.  As a former educator in the public classroom, I know that a generic assessment frequently misses the mark when assessing the interventions conducted. The beliefs postulated by the Secretary in this speech are worthy ideals for success in life.  It will be interesting to see how the administration behind the new ESEA will evaluate the new social interventions.
Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle

As an “Adult Educator in training” I look for instances to engage my classroom skills with real world experiences. As a Literacy Volunteer, I work with an adult English Language Learner each week.  My interest in doing so was sparked several years ago after conversing with an ESL educator. The Literacy Volunteers in my community are a member of the ProLiteracy organization. The LVCA provides instruction to those individuals in the community who have either low literacy or no English literacy.  This organization exemplifies a social intervention that works. The 30 years of service to adults in the community strive to continuously move students from achieving basic literacy skills to engaging in critical reading and thought.  The staff and tutors are recruited, trained and governed through a Board of Directors. One of their publicized goals is to evaluate their program and make improvements.  At this point in my relationship, which is almost one year, I am uncertain of the instruments employed to do so.  Being aware of these instruments, the frequency of assessment and its impact on the program would be of interest to me as a result of learning in this course.

Here is an infogram of those served in 2012-2013:

Tutoring an adult is one of the most rewarding ways that I spend my time. It’s so gratifying to learn from the director that my student exceeds the benchmarks established by the program. An instance to develop not only the literacy skills of my student, but that of her family members, is so gratifying. After twenty years of teaching, I have a student who always does her homework!

Something to Chew on-

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”  Mark Twain

Society is concerned about illiteracy and with good cause.  How do we evaluate “aliteracy”, the quality or act of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so?

EDUS 660 #10: From the First Aid kit to the Tool Box

Now that you’ve explored Community Based Participatory Research (Action Research) and read about an actual example of how this approach was used to bring about change in a community, think about a community problem.  This could be a problem in your home town or one in the City of Richmond or wherever.  Describe the problem and discuss how an Action Research approach might be used to address this problem. Would you be interested in participating in an Action Research initiative like this?  Why or why not?  Tag action.

When I lived in Philadelphia it was common to see individuals who lived on the street.  Shopping carts packed to the brim accompanied an individual from location to location.  These individuals line the walks leading to the subway.  The pace of most commuters, like me, was rather fast paced.  Everyone in a city has someone that they needed to be 10 minutes ago and rarely does one see individuals meandering along the streets interacting with those individuals sleeping on benches or along the base of a building.Panhandler

I’ve lived in Charlottesville since 1996 and saw individuals panhandling on the Downtown Mall, however, I had not seen them on the corner of an intersection until two years ago.  Area residents encounter individuals standing on several key intersections of the city on a daily basis now.The Urban Dictionary defines panhandling as a synonym for begging, sponging and spanging. Aggressive panhandling could engage an individual in soliciting donations in an inappropriate or intimidating manner. While I have never witnessed aggression, that is not to say that it doesn’t happen.

Early in 2015, a judge in Charlottesville ruled that panhandling is protected by the 1st Amendment, which guarantees an individual’s right to free speech.  It seems to me, that there are greater social issues and concerns at stake here that may be masked as Free Speech protection.

Our community probably isn’t any different than others when stating that there are individuals who are genuinely homeless. I am sure that there were students in my school who were homeless.  Guidance Counselors and administration are careful to protect the privacy of students and family members, which is why I can not bring a name to mind.  What I can recall, is a concerted effort on the part of members of the Charlottesville community to provide temporary shelter for such individuals.

Homelessness is a community problem as opposed to an individual problem. Those without the means to shelter themselves or their family members may struggle on many levels. My friend’s son is disabled and unable to work at this time.  He doesn’t panhandle for his support because he has a strong family that embraces him. What happens to those individuals without a safety net?

The issue of homelessness is one that affects many members of this community.  PACEM is the latin word for Peace.  Congregations in the Charlottesville area created “People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry” as a way to provide shelter for homeless individuals during the winter months.  According to their website, there are 80 faith congregations (inclusive of all out there) and 3,000 volunteers who come together each year.  Intervention is a crucial first step when providing assistance to those in need.  Unfortunately, it is often a social band-aid that covers a problem rather than as stepping stone to lead towards prevention. The issue of homelessness, that “may” lead to panhandling would make a suitable topic for a Community Based Participatory-Research program.

The Community Tool Box, organized by Kansas University, suggests that research should “enlist those who are most affected by a community issue-typically in collaboration or partnership with others who have research skills-to conduct research on and analyze that issue….” The checklist provided in the second section of the toolbox is an effective tool for someone who is considering how this social problem could be addressed by the community.

A few of the key components of the check-list that struck me as important to consider beyond the normal scope of planning

Why?  Action research trains citizen researchers who can turn their skills to other problems as well.-

  • transitioning from homeless to resident brings a different set of problems to solve.  Citizens need tools at their disposal to help solve new problems.

Involvement in CBPR changes people’s perceptions of themselves and of what they can do-

  • we all act on our perceptions-those who become empowered to make their own changes change how they view themselves! Individuals who are or were homeless provide a new lens through which to view the issue.

A participatory action research process can help to break down racial, ethnic, and class barriers-

  • barriers are evident in all communities, even those created by homeless individuals

Who should be involved in community-based participatory research?

  • how often are decisions made for individuals affected by an issue rather than including them in the planning?
  • the CITI training opened my eyes to the importance of including academics in the decision planning, someone needs to know what is and is not allowed, someone needs to carry the banner of “Do No Harm!” The training was very specific regarding several subgroups of the population, however, homeless individuals may need consideration as well.
  • the individuals who agree to engage in CBPR are a team. They need a facilitator who is trained to work with them!

The community toolbox was a nice surprise as this social research course nears completion.  I found many useful ideas, such as the Windshield and Walking Surveys section in chapter 3/section 21, that I might suggest that a team use to consider if homelessness is legitimately an issue worth pursuing-

There's much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.
There’s much one can learn about a community by simply looking through a windshield.

The easiest and quickest way to get an overview of the entire community-what is the nature of the community?

It might help me to get a better of the areas where homeless individuals may congregate, but how would the team do so without being obtrusive? How can a team do this?

Would a team be welcome to observe the communities where homeless individuals live? Is there any value in doing so?

Kurt Lewin’s theories of participatory action research is an interesting component of Change Strategies for human resource development.  Lewin suggested that there must be a “felt need” strong enough to propel the group to move forward. In order to analyze an issue correctly, it would be important to include those individuals who are directly involved in or who have knowledge of homelessness. Those involved in the issue have a perspective that’s necessary to drive change.

Considering the skills needed to facilitate a group or team are also components of the Adult Learning program at VCU.  I enjoy the processes that an adult educator would use as a member of a Community Based Participatory Research program.Homelessness as an issue is not one that is pressing concern for me at this stage in my life.  In the event that it does become so, I know that I have the skills necessary to serve as a participant on a team.

As far as the issue of homelessness is concerned, I believe that this type of program would be a suitable step to transition from intervention to prevention.  It’s time to move from the band aide to the toolbox as a way to solve problems.

Something to chew on-

How did you select the “issue” that you wrote about in your blog?

What might you learn about the issue if you conducted a Windshield or Walking survey through your community?


Gallos, J. V., & Schein, E. H. (2006). Organization development: a Jossey-Bass reader. Jossey-Bass.

EDUS 660 #9: No time for the Rabbit Hole

Food for Thought blog response.  Remember to think like a researcher and use what you’ve been learning as you respond:

Review all of the blogs to date posted on this classes’ course site.  What might you do to analyze these blogs?  What types of things might you want to research and draw conclusions about regarding the types of posts, the students who post, etc?  Tag qualitative.

I have a file of ideas for future blogs.  Would it be nice to highlight the ideas and press the "Blog" button on a keyboard?
I have a file of ideas for future blogs. Would it be nice to highlight the ideas and press the “Blog” button on a keyboard?

There is a sign on a wall in the bottom floor of Oliver Hall which reads,  “Teacher as Reflective Practioner.” Several floors above the lobby is a poster which displays the details of a study regarding the impact of reflection and blogging on the part of the educator.  Blogging was a new concept for me when I entered the MEd program. I heard the word but had neither read nor written a blog.

Reflecting on what I am doing as a student meanings considering myself as central to the learning process. Reflection “in” action on a weekly basis is sometimes very challenging for me.  While writing is rarely a struggle, synthesizing my ideas in a very short period of time as we do for this research design course, makes me feel as though I am racing through a roller coaster of topics with relatively little time to stop and meander through a topic with time to dig a rabbit hole.

When considering what my classmates have written, these consistencies are expected within each-

  • a unique title
  • the question you are responding to
  • a quote or an image from the reading/web
  • a follow-up question at the end
  • a link to another resource outside of the course
  • and the section category and topic tag

The parameters for this component of the class were both comfortable and useful for me.  This is the first course where I have been given a topic for a blog as opposed to creating blogs of my own choice. The common thread throughout the blogs helps to unify reflections while providing, hopefully, a means for a common discussion. What makes the blogs both unique and interesting is how individuals personalize their writing.  Some blogs are very personal and written in a casual manner while others are rather academic in nature.  The inclusion of a question, or “Something to chew on,” should engage the reader in further conversation about the topic.  Reading with a purpose provides a platform to build relationships, further discussion and engage one in reflection

In one of the supplementary video suggestions for this week, Qualitative Research Methods (27:08) by Daniel N Vivo Coding is used to help qualitative researchers to capture and code the essential components of a research story.  This course is my first exposure to N Vivo.  The tutorial in the supplemental video sources section would be a useful tool as a researcher. For the purpose of this assignment,  I might considering using a web tool such as Wordle  or the Tag Cloud generator from the Add-on section of my Google Drive. I could code data by themes, such as the tag for each week, to identify those words or phrases that prevalent in each week’s entry.  I might consider what makes the blog entries similar.  When looking for patterns, I might considering pulling direct quotes or groups of phrases that help to synthesize the ideas expressed by a particular group.

The enrollment of this class, while certainly smaller than a lecture course, is much larger than any of the seminar courses that I have taken as a graduate student.  I might find it more beneficial to consider looking at components within the class, such as the groupings of students by each professor.  As the groups are comprised of individuals from different disciplines and schools within the university, I might cluster those students from the same master’s program together to observe patterns in writing, thought and application of theoretical ideas from core disciplines. I might ask if there are links between theoretical concepts explored through a social research framework.  The lens of the practitioner, for example, social worker, adult educator, or  public administrator, may be a common thread more easily identifiable when students are clustered by graduate discipline.

Conducting a study of blogging as a form of reflective practice could lend itself to an interesting research study. In keeping with the expectation of “do no harm,” support of some students in an experimental group might consider which variables, beyond the initial parameters stated above, develop more reflective practitioners.  In this course, the type of post is determined by the professor.  The student is expected to respond appropriately to each post by meeting the expectations presented in the course site. If posting was optional, or if there was greater flexibility or choice of topic/method then one might find more variance in topic selection and participation. This variance might then be considered by graduate discipline, academic background, ethnicity and gender, for example.  A twelve-week course may not be a sufficient amount of time in which to conduct a study, however, it may provide the impetus for further study.

Dr. Terry Carter, the former chair of the Adult Learning program at VCU, published a collection of slides last week that summarize the concepts behind experiential learning, reflective practice and blogging as a strategy to engage students in their learning.

If conducting research regarding the types of posts and the students who post might make an interesting Blogging as a form of reflective practice may have been a very new idea to many of the students in the course. Blogging is an essential component of the Adult Learning student’s e-portfolio.   A survey before this course began as well as one at the conclusion of the course may help to understand the ways in which blogging may affect student researchers.  I can conclude from my own experience as a blogger, that the measure of the structure expected by the course has helped me to focus my engagement with topics that are relevant to educational research.

For more ideas about Reflective Practice, consider Argyris and Schon, two heroes of the Adult Learning world!

Something to chew on…

  How have you transitioned as a reflective practitioner through the blog prompts in this course?  In what way have the parameters been useful to you?  Is there one specific blog topic that was challenging for you in terms of theory, philosophy or concept?  Is there one topic that really resonated with you?

Blog Cartoon

EDUS 660 #8: The Magic 8 Ball

Consider the eight sources of internal invalidity discussed. Make up an example (not in the chapter) to illustrate at least 4 of these sources of internal invalidity. Tag experimental.

ask-magic-8-ball-fortune-teller-yes-no-question-predictionGrowing up in the 1960’s, the old black and white movies were shown on the smaller networks.  The Three Stooges always provided me with an afternoon of old fashion entertainment. Their ridiculous slapstick comedy infused political satire during World War II.  I recognized the”Magic 8 Ball” in their film, You Nazty Spy, as a gadget young people enjoyed using for fun. The 3 Stooges call in Mattie Herring in to help them to understand the future.  When Mo cracks the ball on Curly’s head, a message falls out of it. Imagine that, the viewers say.

The Magic Ball, as a form of entertainment, answers questions with twenty possible choices with 10 positive, 10 negative and 5 that are neutral. There are stages within research when it would be helpful to have a tool, such as a magic ball, that would easily provide research groups with the correct method and course to choose. In my first blog, I recall stating that while I had some familiarity with research methods, I was certain that there was much that I didn’t know.

The sources of internal invalidity discussed in this podcast is an “8 Ball” for those engaged in experimental design.  

Prior to WWII, some Americans were considered Isolationists.  It may have been very difficult to imagine pursuing another war when remembering the results of “The Great War.” Using film as a device to sway public opinion is not a new tool to push a social action or agenda.  The Interview movie (2014) and Je Suis Charlie (2014) exemplify the desire to use the media to engage individuals in conversation regarding social action and concerns.  Babbie suggests that pretesting and post testing is a device used in even the simplest of designs.(2015:226). Exposing Americans to a Three Stooges film in 1940 could be a possible stimulus representing the independent variable attitudes toward intervention.  A test to measure the attitudes and beliefs of citizens prior to and after watching a satirical movie might reveal that opinions can change when viewing a film.                   (Ball #4: Pre and Post testing)

Participating in a university setting, I am made aware of research projects with regularity.  One such project was made known to me on several occasions this spring in VCU’s Daily Ram.  An investigator sought to enroll participants who were interested in mindfulness and yoga.  The stipulation for participation was that the individual needed to be involved in a romantic relationship.  Who can tell how long a romantic relationship can last?  What happens if a participant’s partner leaves the relationship voluntarily or involuntarily? Will that change affect the outcome of the research?  Will the participant be asked to cease their involvement in the study?) Good question.  (Ball #3: Maturation, an endogenous change)

Educators in public school settings know that one component of the week of work before school begins is the visitation of the previous test scores.  Ideology regarding student placement changes frequently.  Top tier, bottom tier, heterogeneous group and homogeneous grouping for content area instruction ride the wagon of schedule design. While teachers and students are unsure of where the chips will fall, what is often certain is that everyone is expected to make improvements.  When scores plateau, how does this affect the measurement tool selected by state organizations? (Okay, this isn’t an original idea on my part, however, read further Ball #4: Statistical Regression, an endogenous change). 

When the going gets tough, the game is changed.  I know of one school system where lines are redrawn, changing the composition of the school community.  In this same system, each time a school was closed for renovation, it would reopen as a themed school with a new community. Some students in this system receive a special curriculum, themed units of study, teachers who are all trained to implement special programs.  With these initiatives in place, students are still expected to complete the same standardized test procedures mandated by the state.  Where one group does well as a result of preselection, another may fail to thrive academically. Everyone is held to the same standard in the end (Ball #2: Selection of subjects, selection bias).

Many public classrooms have relented in terms of the use of social media during the school day.  It’s nearly impossible to keep some students from interacting with others during instructional time.  We had a joke in my classroom that when someone felt a buzz in their pants, they would suddenly need to use the restroom–real bad!  Translated this means that a student would head to the restroom to read and respond to a text.  While I could assume that the text was in regards to a social issue, how could I know that it was not to reveal the contents of an assessment given that day? If students share content information, do well on the assessment then it can be assumed that all is well.  There is no need to revisit this topic with the same intensity as a strand that is weak. Providing the same assessment to all students allows the administration to prepare for year-end state testing.  If students speak with each other during a state test, the test results are contaminated and the entire class may be required to retake the test. (Ball #7: Design Contamination).

Babbie reminds me that I use experiments in non-scientific inquiry every day.  Whether it is to try a new recipe, assembling a small appliance or attempting to generalize what is happening it the world around me I engage in experimentation (2015: 225). There is no “magic” method guaranteed to produce a flawless social experiment, the design method does provide the “magic” 8 concepts to consider in order to validate my work.

The Magic
The Magic “8” of Experimental Design:
1. History
2. Selection of Subjects
3. Maturation
4. Statistical Regression
5. Testing Effects
6. Experimental
7. Design
8. Instrumentation

Something to Chew on- a little bit of humor goes a long way, and travels in both negative and positive directions. At what point could it could it become be detrimental to an experiment and at which stage?  Can you recall a time when a social experiment in the real world may have failed as described by one of the “Magic Eight?


Babbie, E. (2015). The practice of social research. Cengage Learning.

EDUS 660#7: Survey Says…

Food for Thought-Survey

Pay attention to the news on TV, radio, news magazines and/or newspapers and online.  What types of surveys or polls made the news this past week?  What do you know about the sample used in these surveys or polls (e.g., sample size, sampling frame, target population, etc)?  What is your opinion of the sample that was used? 

June is the month for high school graduations in the US.  While my graduation was many (cough) years ago, a high school English teacher made one key point that I have never forgotten.  She said that no one would care what I thought until I attended graduate school. This remark is a rather sad and sobering thought to consider as I embarked upon my college career. Interestingly enough, an organization did exist during that time frame that wished to know what seniors thought, how they felt and what was of importance to them.

monitoring the futureMonitoring the Future, a national study of American youth seeks to understand a population in secondary and college settings as well as those considered young adults.  Since its inception in 1975 surveying 8th-grade students, it has grown to encompass those at the end of high school as well as to  conduct follow-up surveys with respondents who participated in previous studies. The end of high school represents an important milestone in development for students. The research team selected this age as it is a logical place in which to consider how the influence of public education along with living in a parental setting may affect the attitudes and behaviors of students.

Content Areas and Questionnaire Design-A significant portion of the survey focuses on substance use. Respondents do not view the questionnaire, according to the report, as being a “drug use study.”  Different questionnaires are distributed to the participants.  The sequence is ordered which produces subsamples that are virtually identical.  The core or common variables for each of the six forms comprises one-third of the questionnaire. Researchers are able to link the core set of measures with the demographic measures statistically to all of the other measures.  Representativeness and Validity-The samples for this study should represent high school students in the 48 coterminous states.  Those students who drop out before the end of the senior year are missing from the cohort. The research team identified four (4) ways in which the survey data may not be fully accurate.  Some schools refused to participate. 100 % participation was not fully achieved of students sampled which may cause bias.  The validity of the survey could be questioned if participants made conscious and unconscious distortions when responding to a question. The accuracy of estimates could possibly mean that there are limitations in sample size and or design.  When schools refused to participate, a replacement school was located. Replacement schools were selected to match geographic area, urbanicity etc. This is a two-year study with two data collections. (2012:23)

Measurement-attitudes regarding those that one would expect to find in a survey of high school seniors: drug use, alcohol consumption, cigarette usage are surveyed.There are twenty different categories in all. Included within the twenty is “Happiness!”

Closed-ended questions varied in format. For example,

Imagine being asked to consider how happy you are as a senior?  Is the rest of the world as interested or consummed by the notion of happiness?
Imagine being asked to consider how happy you are as a senior? Is the rest of the world as interested or consumed by the notion of happiness?

Happiness: Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days-would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days? (Bachman, Johnston, and O’Malley, 2012:

3. Very happy  2.  Pretty happy  1.  Not too happy

Babbie suggests that survey questions be clear for the respondent (2013: 250). The question written above is one that I would expect a high school respondent able and willing to answer. The verbiage reflects the manner in which students would speak to each other.

Finding purpose and meaning in my life

1.  Not important  2.  Somewhat important  3.  Quite important  4.  Extremely important.

This is an example of a question that should be relevant to a student concluding high school.  The results of this type of question are useful for social scientists when contemplating the values of future generations (Babbie 2013:252).

Contingency Questions provided written suggestions.  For example,

Have you ever smoked cigarettes?    1.  Never-GO TO Q B006.

Procedures for Protecting Confidentiality: The theme of confidentiality and voluntary participation is described to participants in a descriptive flyer. At the start of the questionnaire, the administrator reinforces this component as many of the questions, particularly in the section concerning drug use are very personal. Teachers are discouraged from walking around the classroom while the survey is being completed. Participants are told to leave blanks where there may be a question that is objectionable for any reason. Names and addresses or respondents, while coded, are not able to be traced to the participant.  Of interest is the fact that the research team indicates where the data is stored (University of Michigan) and that a summary of the findings is mailed to the participants.  Wow!  I’ve participated in numerous studies and have yet to receive a summary of the findings even after requesting one.  Some students receive follow-up questionnaires in the future.

While the study that I located doesn’t fully fit the suggestion for this week’s food for thought, I did find it extremely useful to me. My task is to complete the Sampling Worksheet for my research group’s project. One component of our sampling is to collect data from preteen students.  The Monitoring the Future Survey provides several formats to consider when constructing the questionnaire for Group 13’s research project. In my opinion, the instance to survey high school students certainly provides social scientists with data that has a far-reaching impact for society.

Something to Chew on-

  • As a high school senior, how candid would you be when responding to questions about drug and alcohol usage?
  • This questionnaire is administered during school hours.  If given the chance to complete this survey in private, would your responses be different than those completed during the school day?
  • How influential were your friends at this time in determining your beliefs and attitudes?


Babbie, E. (2015). The practice of social research. Cengage Learning.

 Monitoring the Future Publications

Johnston, L. D., Bachman, J. G., O’Malley, P. M., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), ICPSR34409-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 11-20.