The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #3

So it's been longer than I wanted in terms of blogging about my dissertation thoughts but that's not because of an absence of thoughts but an absence of time to put them down on paper (or blog, I guess).  

In January, I was struck by a more specific idea about a potential dissertation topic after attending and presenting at a NERCOMP Event on OER.  It's been on my mind a lot and though there's a lot more I need to do with it, I figured I would take the time here to flesh it out so that I can discuss it further with some of my advisors and cohort members--as well as you, dear readers.
Word cloud in the form of a lightbulb.
Original image from here.


Development of Open Initiatives and Their Impact on Pedagogical Approaches

At this workshop, we were discussing how the open education resources (OER) movement has been expanding and shifting language from OER to openness initiatives.  This is in part because there is a good discussion about it being more than just about resources but really thinking about what knowledge and learning can mean in an open environment.  So with this comes the idea of "open pedagogy" and thinking about how teaching and learning can change when thinking differently about the tools of learning and the premise of openness (equitable and ease of access to, use of, and sharing of knowledge).  

Therefore, the area that I am circling is to look at the influence of how open initiatives at colleges shape and influence how the instructor approaches their class in terms of asset and deficit based approaches to teaching and learning with OER. (And yes, I'm about to break down that I'm talking about here!).

More specifically, I want to look at the relationship between asset-based and deficit-based views of faculty and the framing of open initiatives at Massachusetts community colleges to better understand what features may more increasingly influence and empower faculty to either move beyond deficit-based views of their students or understand if the framing of open initiatives inhibit asset-based views of their students.

So let's work our way through the questions:


What does this contribute to?

This project would contribute to several different areas. It would contribute to the open education movement, faculty development, and teaching and learning.  In terms of open education, it might help identify the challenges and considerations in developing open initiatives and how to frame such initiatives.  Currently, I see a lot of concerns about students "lacking" (that is, a deficit view) that drive the open movement.  This concerns me because it frames the student immediately as insufficient.  Exploring if this framing impacts the classroom could help to change the narrative and the practical uses of open content and practices in the classroom.  In terms of faculty development, this project might highlight the importance in the frame of students to faculty (and vice versa) that perpetuate deficit-views and therefore, negate the abilities and intelligences that students can bring to a learning environment.   


What's the problem to study?

The problem I want to look at is if the framing of open initiatives perpetuate some of the same problems that other types of learning materials and methods perpetuate which is the banking-method of education where students are empty containers to be filled (the working of Paulo Freire to be specific).  In such instances, open initiatives that frame the student as unable or helpless to access course materials because of costs, potentially perpetuate students as incapable not only of absorbing the text, but getting a hold of it.  I fear that this may unintentionally nudge faculty to become further incensed with students because now they "have no excuse" but still are consuming the course materials.  


What's the thing that needs solving?

The problem to solve is whether this actually is happening or to what degree that it is and how different framings of openness initiatives may impact the asset/deficit frames of the instructor towards the students.  Does it improve asset-based views or perpetuate deficit-based views (or to what degrees and ways does it do both)?


What does this subject/topic mean to me?

I am a strong advocate of the democratization of knowledge and learning and the empowerment of the students.  We're great at cheering on the students that meet our expectations of "good students" but fail to recognize or work with students who don't meet our views of what good students should be.  I believe that engaging with open initiatives has the potential to empower students and unlock different ways to learning and communicating about their learning, but that means rethinking methods and approaches to teaching and learning long held and perpetuated in our education systems.  I want to make sure that in moving forward with and supporting open initiatives, I am aiding in empowering student learning.  


Other Aspects

This semester, I am doing a pilot of this project with one community college for my Qualitative Analysis course.  If it goes well, I feel like this will be a good pilot to then move into a larger study for my dissertation.  Right now, I'm learning towards qualitative as I feel like that will give me the opportunity to dig deep into conversations and resources to consider how these different practices are framed and impact people.  

So that's what I got thus far...what do you think?

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. The PhD Chronicles Dissertation Journal #1
  14. The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now



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