Doctoral Coursework

Fall 2012

Educational Research 824  Mixed Methods Research

Professor Maxwell’s Mixed Methods research course has proved to be a valuable capstone to my coursework in my research methods specialization. Through the readings and the coursework I feel like I have a much richer and nuanced understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of particular qualitative and quantitative research methods and a solid understanding of sound ways to combine different research methods. Aside from this direct utility, I also feel confident that I understand where there are current debates in the utility and theory of mixing methods.


Summer 2012

Communication 675 Media Content Analysis

To round out my research methods coursework I thought it would be valuable to gain an inside understanding of quantitative content analysis. This course, taught by a mass communications scholar who exclusively conducts content analysis research, provided me with a solid understanding of the value and practice of content analysis.

Education 897  Independent Study: Qualitative Research Methods for Studying Community Online

For my doctoral research to make a contribution to research methods literature it was important for me to gain an in-depth understanding of literature on using qualitative methods to study online community and social interaction. Under direction of Dr. Sheridan I worked through an extensive list of readings and then applied the insights from those readings into interpretation of an individual case study from my work on the RPG Maker VX online community.

Spring 2012

EDIT 803  Design-Based Research

I was thrilled to have an chance to take a course on design based research from Brenda Bannan. The course did a nice job at rounding out my understanding of current discussions of research methods in education, particularly in educational technology. In particular, the theoretical underpinnings of much of the course readings, focusing on an epistemology grounded in practice, in iterative development and testing, and in more of an engineering mindset was refreshing. I was familiar with this work from my experience working with educational technology faculty at the University of Wisconsin, but it was great to be able to get Bannan’s perspective and to spend a semester working my way through the history and development of the field.

I used the course as a chance to develop a retrospective take on work I had been doing on a software tool at The Library of Congress. The DBR perspective and approach mirrored the approach I had taken in the iterative design process for the Viewshare software tool that it was easy to back map the project and lay out and contextualize what we have learned in the process of the work.


Fall 2011

631 Survey Research (Sociology) 

Taught by an expert in online survey research, this course gave me a detailed understanding of the process and methods of survey research design and analysis. Further, as it was taught by a sociologist, I was thrilled to have the chance to get a sense of the different perspective sociologists bring to social inquiry. For the course my group designed and piloted a survey research project focused on identifying the psychological characteristics of individuals who succeed and individuals who fail to raise funds to support creative projects on Kickstarter.

802 Leadership Seminar

I found the leadership seminar course to be surprisingly useful. In particular, the different approaches to thinking about organizational structure and politics discussed in the course have been directly applicable to my work. My learning is documented in the papers I wrote for the course.

621 Qualitative Inquiry in Education (in place of 812)

This course filled in a few of the gaps in my knowledge of the process and theory of qualitative research. It also provided me with an opportunity to memo on the issues I was interested in for my dissertation research and to conduct an exploratory interview related to that work.

Spring 2011

823 Research Project in Educational Psychology

The iterative process of designing a study in this course was invaluable. I initaly devised a mixed methods study (a survey and interviews) to explore how women involved in Etsy were developing as computer users and entrepreneurs. However, after difficulties in negotiating access to conduct the study in a sound way, I shifted to develop what has ultimately become the subject of my dissertation research.


994 Advanced Internship Education

For this internship I taught the tools of research/research methods course on digital history at American University. It is the first graduate course I ever taught, and I learned a considerable amount in the process. I wrote a series of reflective blog posts about teaching the course and the course design. One of those posts was selected for inclusion in the University of Minnesota Press book Debates in the Digital Humanities.


Fall 2010

811 Quantitative Methods in Educational Research

Reflections: Dr. Dimitrov’s course provided me with a valuable foundation in the statistical tests that figure prominently in educational research. I found that the course strengthened my basic background in statistics and supplemented that background with a so critical understanding of a range of basic statistical procedures (t-test, f-test, Chi-square, ANOVA, and Multiple Regression). The course has made me a much more critical consumer of statistical claims I am presented with in academic literature.

Artifacts: See the research paper I wrote using data from an evaluation of a civics video game. (You can also browse the SPSS printouts for the tests I ran).

Competencies: Ability to interpret, evaluate and articulate, and the results of a range of basic statistical tests used in quantitative research (including, t-test, f-test, Chi-square, ANOVA, and Multiple Regression).

Spring 2010

Educational Research 810:  Problems and Methods in Education Research

Reflections: Dr. Brozo’ course provided an excellent overview of core components of the research process. Looking back, the most valuable experiences in the course were the sessions in which he walked the class through the structure of several different journal articles. As we worked together to pick apart the rhetorical structure of these journal articles I became much more aware of the key elements of research reports in education. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to apply the lessons from our critical analysis of journal articles toward composition of a literature review for my ongoing study of the RPG Maker Community.

Artifacts: See the review of literature I composed as the major course paper.

Competencies: Research writing, literature review composition, different values of qualitative and quantitative approaches to research

Educational Psychology 821: Sociocultural Learning, Instruction, and Motivation

Reflections: Class discussions of the readings Dr. Gorell selected provided me with a much deeper understanding of contemporary research on a diverse range of sociocultural factors connected to motivation and learning. Looking back, I find Bronfenbrenner’s nested ecological systems theory provides the most coherent model for understanding the ways in which different levels of social and environmental contexts shape and structure learning experiences. I found the readings and course discussions provided me with significant exposure to key constructs in research on motivation, including attribution theory, locus of control, and self-regulation. As a result of these experiences I now feel comfortable discussing the relationships between these constructs and the evidence that supports them in different contexts.  As a final project for this course I developed a proposal for a study to explore the different ways students and teachers interact with two educational video games. I have drafted and submitted documents to the Human Subjects Review Board to conduct the study.

Artifacts: Based on this course I developed  HSRB documents and my  research proposal to study differences between teacher and student experiences with two educational civics games.

Competencies: Research writing, proposal writing, familiarity with a broad range of literature on sociocultural learning,

Educational Psychology 653: Culture and Intelligence

Reflections: The readings, and Dr. Kelly’s lectures, broadened my understanding of IQ and intelligence and refined my understanding of the nature of inquiry in the learning sciences. My most critical take away from the course is Dr. Kelly’s suggestion read research reports as a research designer. In practice, this has changed how I read research reports. Instead of viewing research reports simply as presentations of evidence and argument I now begin engaging with them through a process of reverse engineering the study. Thinking of research reports in this respect means that each study I read offers me an opportunity to reflect on how specific kinds of research designs and approaches to designing instruments create different kinds of evidence. I have found this critical perspective invaluable in designing my own research.

Engaging in an in depth examination of the history and development of the construct of intelligence provided me with a sophisticated understanding of the nature of constructs in educational psychology more generally. The history of research on intelligence demonstrates just how easy it is to be seduced into reifying measures, like IQ, into tangible interactions with phenomena instead of seeing them as selectively designed diagnostics of particular constructs. Evidence of this critical perspective, and my ability to synthesize research on intelligence, can be found in my course paper.

Artifacts: Synthesis of critical perspectives on IQ as intelligence

Competencies: Broad understanding of critical perspectives on intelligence, critical approaches to understanding research in the learning sciences, synthesis writing


Fall 09

Education 800: Ways of Knowing

Reflections: After widely exploring a range of ways of knowing I returned to Descartes discourse on method as the central frame for understanding the kind of research I intend to engage in. See my detailed course reflections below for a detailed walk-through of how my view on the nature of knowledge in education developed over the semester. For my project I explored simulation as a way of knowing. This research helped me engage deeply with a way of knowing that is becoming increasingly important in both the physical and social sciences.

Artifacts: See my extensive final course reflections and my paper simulation as a way of knowing for my reflections and thoughts inspired by this class.

Competencies: Epistemological underpinnings of educational research, literature review composition,

Education 805: Doctoral Seminar in Education

Reflections: The doctoral seminar provided a critical opportunity to experience the range of work that faculty in the College are engaged in. Each of the assignments I completed helped me to refine my interests in games and learning and the learning sciences. Looking back, the most important part of the course for me was the way it challenged me to articulate those interests. Thought that process I decided it would better serve my interests to make educational psychology my primary field. The reflective assignments from the course provide a step-by-step tour of my development in the course.

Artifacts: The four major assignments offer documentation of my development through the course. In the AERA SIG assignment I explored how my interests fit into the leading educational research organizations structure. In the Journals and Organizations assignment I dug into a series of different journals related to my interests. My final reflection documented how the course experience helped me to refine my interests and finalize my decision to move from instructional technology to educational psychology. For further information about my experiences and reflections on the course see my weekly course journal.

Competencies: Understanding of relevant professional organizations, experience discussing research from a range of disciplines and perspectives, deeper understanding of the different kinds of work GMU faculty are engaged in, deeper understanding of faculty career paths

Educational Technology 705:  Instructional Design

Reflections: This course provided me with a detailed understanding of several approaches to instructional design. The weekly assignments focused on responding to individual instructional design case studies. Contextualizing the issues we covered in the textbook in these practical cases helped me to hash out how the theoretical concepts fit into the actual experience of working on a project. As the term project I and two other students went through the entire instructional design process to develop a proposal and set of wireframes for a game to teach Mendelian genetics to middle school students in a virtual classroom. The project was well received and I am quite proud of it.

Artifacts: Game Wireframes and Design Document

Competencies: Processes of instructional design, needs analysis, task analysis, learner analysis, design processes, and approaches to assessing instructional design projects



Summer 09

Educational Technology 772: Web-Based Instructional Tool

An overview of Adobe Flash as an instructional technology. Explored the Flash interface, features, tools, and specific concepts relating to how graphics and animation are created using the product. I applied the knowledge and skills learned by creating several Flash products plus a semester project.

Reflections: Through this course I developed competency with Adobe Flash. Aside from learning how to use the software, I also learned when it is and is not an appropriate platform for educational projects. Flash remains an important platform for delivering educational content, and my hands-on experience with the tool has provided me with an inside view of its capabilities and uses.

Artifact: Drag and drop historian game. For documentation of the project and methods see my procedure paper.

Competencies: Using flash, creating interactives, processes of instructional design

Relevant Master’s Coursework

History 696   Clio Wired: The Theory and Practice of Digital History

Description: A panoramic examination of the impact of digital media and technology on the theory and practice of history. Explored the construction of scholarly websites on historical topics, how research methods and historiography are being transformed by the digitization of primary sources and digital tools, and the significance of new trends such as social and semantic computing for the discipline. I investigated the potential advantages and disadvantages of a variety of web technologies and envision their own historical resources that use those technologies.

Reflections: This course delved deeply into the issues that the internet and new media prompt scholars to consider in rethinking their work. Reflecting on the course, I can say that it prompted me to begin blogging, a practice I have found critical in refining and sharing my thoughts. The primary course project consisted in conceiving of a digital project that would be eligible for funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Start-up grants. This exercise provided me my first opportunity to develop a full plan for a digital project. This included a plan for community involvement, design, choosing the appropriate web platform, and putting together a detailed argument for the need for the resource in context of current work. This was one of the most valuable exercises I have engaged in for thinking through the nitty-gritty details of a digital education project.

Artifacts: NEH Start-up Grant Proposal: The final project for this course was a draft of a proposal for the National Endowment for Humanities Digital Start-up Grant program. I developed a proposal for a collaborative directory of historical games and interactives that I referred to as PlayingHistory. With the encouragement of Dan Cohen I then collaborated with Dave Lester and Kelly Schrum to revise the proposal and submit it to the National Endowment for the Humanities. The proposal was well reviewed, but did not make the cutoff for funding. However, I did eventually move ahead and develop the project without funding.

Competencies: Grant writing, web design, RSS, creating blogs, research methods for digital scholarship

History 698  Clio Wired: Creating History With New Media

Description: An intensive exploration of the adaptation of history to a digital environment. The central goal of the course is the development of an original digital history project of professional quality. Course also focused on  issues in project management, information design, code (HTML, CSS, PHP) and aesthetic design.

Reflections: This course served as the next step in the sequence from the theory and practice of digital history. In this course I took the concept for PlayingHistory and, in collaboration with a classmate, fully developed and released the project. As my first experience with developing a significant web project it was a challenging undertaking. I learned how to design web resources for different audiences, how to create page mock-ups in Illustrator and Photoshop, how to translate those mockups into HTML and CSS, and how to use Omeka as a content publishing system. As evidence of my success, the PlayingHistory has been used by more than 20,000 teachers since I launched it nearly two years ago.


Competencies: Web design, project management, information architecture, competency with HTML, CSS, and PhP

History  615  Politics of Technology

Description: Graduate reading seminar explored the role of technology in the major political movements of twentieth-century America: Progressivism, the New Deal, Cold War liberalism, and backlash conservatism. Explored ways in which political actors–voters, activists, and government officials–made choices about technology and how those choices shaped American History.

Reflections: My work in this course provided me with a deep understanding of the political dimensions of the creation and dissemination of technologies. It is all to easy to get wrapped up in conversations about the “efficiency” of a particular technology and forget about the deeper issues and historical issues at play in the creation adoption and dissemination of technologies. This is a critical foundation for my thinking in instructional technology.

Artifact: Comprehensive Exam Paper on History of Technology in America:  The best documentation of how this course developed me is the essay I composed for my master’s comprehensive exam. Through a series of examples in the history of technology I document the way the affordances of different technologies served the interests of those in power and were subverted to serve the interests of the disenfranchised. As evidence of my success with this content I pasted my comprehensive exam with distinction.

Competencies: Deep understanding of history of technology in America, experience synthesizing historical arguments, experience analyzing primary source materials

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *