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Learning Reflection Essay

by Judith M. DeAntonellis

Procedures and Evaluation in Research

Dr. Sisco

December 9, 2009

            I entered this course with a great interest in learning the details of the research process.  Researching in a non-formal fashion is something I have always enjoyed.  So, one could say that I dove in feet first.   The only concern I had was dealing with the statistical data as I have very little experience in data analysis and an aversion for data entry.  Data entry has always been something that I have dreaded to do no matter when I have found it necessary to do so.  I was enthralled with all other aspects of research.  Being toward the end of my Master's program, I found that much of the general research information I was familiar with from previous course work.  Some of the terminology I needed a refresher on, but the concepts were easy to grasp.  That is until it came time to collect the data by creating the survey, pilot the survey, adjust the survey, redistribute the survey, collect the data and analyze it all.  Although the data entry was the worst aspect, as I had anticipated, I found I truly struggled with grasping the relevance of many of the reports that I ran.  Therefore, I ran many unnecessary reports.  I also realized that by not having demographic details in the survey there were many aspects of my results that I simply could not examine in any detail.  To say the least, I spent about 40 hours inputting the data, analyzing it and writing Chapter IV.  I am glad that I decided to quit my job before I ran into all of this as I am sure I would have struggled with whether the course or my work was to blame for the stress I endured this fall.  As it turns out, this all happened during the last week of my position.  My last day at Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School was the day that this portion of the research paper was due.  Looking back, I can honestly say that I wish I had taken that due date into consideration when submitting my resignation.  I would have left a week sooner. As it turned out,  I had no time left to revise the previous chapters.  I know that is going to impact my overall grade.  However, there is very little I can do about it at this time. Another thing that would have helped would be to have just had the survey or just to use the Benchmark test results.  Doing both is part of what made this project such an overwhelming experience.  Add to that, considering the time constraints, it would have been in my best interest to have only Likert-type items with a five point scale and none of the other open-ended items in the survey.  If the study proved valid and reliable, then this would all have been worth doing.  Sadly, it is not for multiple reasons that I was aware of prior to endeavoring on this course of action.  However, I could not  change those aspects of my circumstances.  Someone had suggested that I track down the students that graduated the year before and see what course their lives had taken and compare that with their goals from the Graduation Project 12 course.  However, with the difficulties in getting students to participate when they are in a class and interacting with you on a regular basis, I felt the return percentage would be even less than the survey used in this study. 

            I am a firm believer in hands on learning.  So, I find that actively doing research is truly the best way to develop knowledge and understanding about research.  I felt this way before I participated in this course of study.  My experience here has just confirmed it to be true. I had only a base understanding of research studies.  Though I have written numerous research papers, this is the second time through the course of my education that I was required to do any form of research.  The previous occasion was when taking a course with Dr. Brown at West Chester University.  In that situation, I conducted a brief survey of open-ended questions with about 30 students whom I found in the courtyards going to and from classes. Since that course was more focused on media influences and the impact on racial, gender, socioeconomic, and cultural trends, very little time was dedicated to developing our understanding of how to properly conduct research. I feel it would be far more beneficial to have this course at Rowan as an undergraduate requirement than the basic statistics course that I completed over 20 years ago.  The main thing I recall thinking from my experience with that course is that you can make a statistic meet your needs.  We cannot trust a statistic without knowing the details of where the information came from.  Though that is correct, there is so much more to research than that.  Understanding the process of conducting research has altered my perception. For the first time in my life, I may actually take heed to some research studies.  Prior to this, I felt it inappropriate to compare one persons results to another.  I still feel we should each be judged on our own merit. I still do not care for the concept of comparing one persons scores to another's.  I am against bell curve grading systems, but I now understand the reasoning behind it all.  It is not a method I intend to use, but I can appreciate why others choose to do so.

            You are a wonderful instructor.  Your dedication and willingness to help each and every one of us no matter what we demanded of you is truly exemplary. I do believe the power points in class were redundant of the text that we were required to read.  I know that some students indicated that they stopped reading because you were providing all the necessary details in class.  I did find that the text is so well laid out that there is little that needed noting especially when you provided such detailed handouts in addition.  I think the course could be set to read more quickly and have in class discussions about each chapter rather than the power points.  In doing so, more time could be dedicated to the research process and analysis.  More class time could be dedicated to understanding how to run the best reports for your study and make it less daunting of a process. I clearly need to further develop my understanding of collecting and analyzing data.  At this time, I will be moving on to another course.  This course is on the Foundations of Education.  I am taking it at the University of Phoenix.  Once I have completed that course work and have obtained my Master's degree from West Chester University, I intend to explore at first casually any knowledge I can glean freely from the internet.  I may take a course at MIT as I understand they offer all their courses online for free so long as you do not wish to obtain any credit for the course.  At this time, my financial situation is not conducive to pursuing a PHD.  If I were so lucky to not have financial constraints, I would certainly move in that direction and become a researcher of education rather than just a teacher. Life being what it is, I will have to refrain from that dream.  I am sure as I become settled in a new position in the years to come, I will conduct my own research to benefit my own students.  Although the research is inconclusive in this study, I will share it with my former colleagues and bosses.  Hopefully, they will make use of some of my recommendations. I will always cherish the quirky stories and articles that were shared by you and by the class as a whole.