Here I sit at my last seminar of my doctoral program. In two weeks, I start my comprehensive exam, a concentrated quarter of two weeks prep, four weeks writing, and four weeks hoping that I’ll pass and can move on to dissertation.
I’ve been shakey about my research idea over the past couple of weeks, but at the same time, I couldn’t think of anything else. I was hoping for clarity once I arrived in Chicago, and perhaps, I found it.
There were a couple of people at this seminar who I had met at one of the last two seminars. At those seminars, I was sure I would be doing a research project on massage and critical thinking skills. Imagine their surprise when I told them I abandoned the idea of massage as a dissertation topic and now wanted to focus on second language learning. I was able to discuss my new idea — iconic gestures and second language learning for the kinesthetic learner — with quite a few people, but it wasn’t until my appointment with the career center director that something clicked. He asked me what would it mean if my research confirmed the hypothesis that kinesthetic learners did learn a foreign language better with iconic gestures than without. Well, the answer is simple, I suppose: kinesthetic learners should have the opportunity to have instruction in such a manner. But how does the teacher know who is kinesthetic, or rather, whether there are any kinesthetic learners in his class? Good point.
That made me think about the benefit of giving students a learning styles assessment. I know it has done wonders for the students at Cortiva. I hear rave reviews not just from me, but from many students who had no idea what learning strategies could be helpful to them. A general study on the benefits of learning style awareness doesn’t say much. What would the measurable variable be? GPA? Another test? And, then it dawned on me . . . What about the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (AKA the Washington state proficiency exam)?
In the current state of things, public/private high school students in Washington state are now required to pass the WASL in order to graduate. In last year’s assessment, approximately 70% of the students who took the test DID NOT pass the math section. The requirement was then slightly changed. Students are required to pass the writing and reading sections of the WASL, but not the math section. If students fail the math section, though, they must take a math class their senior year, pass that math class, and take the math section of the WASL one last time. Here might be my research project.
I plan to present the following at my poster session on Thursday:
Title: Learning Strategy Awareness and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning
Research Question: To what extent does learning strategy awareness increase students‘ performance on the math section of the WASL?
General Method: A quantitative quasi-experimental design using a control and experimental group. Students will be selected from high school juniors in the Seattle School District who have previously failed the math section of the WASL. It is hoped that 200 students will be selected from a larger population. All students will complete a demographic questionnaire and complete a checklist of current learning strategies used. These 200 students will be randomly assigned into two groups — experimental and control. The experimental group will receive an overview of the TIPP(TM) Learning Styles and Temperament Assessment, an online password to take the assessment, and a review session which will explain learning strategies tied to a specific learning style strength and/or temperament. The control group will be offered already established study materials from the Washington School District website, but no opportunity to participate in the learning styles and temperament assessment. The experimental group will also receive the study materials provided by the district website. When students retake the math section of the WASL (3 to 4 months later), a between groups T-test and a within groups T-test will be performed to evaluate whether there is a significant difference in the scores and to evaluate to what extent learning strategy awareness has affected students’ performance.
*The null hypothesis is there will be no significant difference between the old and new scores both for students who participated in the learning styles and the students who did not participate. A second null hypothesis is there will be no significant difference between the control and the experimental group.
*The alternative hypothesis is there will be a significant difference between the old and new scores both for students who participated in the learning styles and temperament assessment and the students who did not participate. A second alternative hypothesis is there will be a significant difference between the control and the experimental group.
Of course, nothing is set in stone. My next steps are to talk to the TIPP(TM) developer. I have sent her an email and am currently waiting to hear her response. I will also need to talk to a few high school principals to see if this idea is even feasible. What kind of red tape will hinder my progress?
But, despite not being 100% sure, I am looking forward to this Thursday to see what my professors might have to say.