Shelli Casler-Failing
Doctoral Portfolio

Department of Educational Theory and Practice
University at Albany

In this section I chose to include a paper written to disseminate the findings of a collaborative research project, Models of Mind in YouTube How-to Videos and my pilot study proposal, Transactional Writing and its Effect on Student Attitudes and Understandings in the Middle School Mathematics Classroom, to substantiate the development of my research abilities.

The research completed to report on Models of Mind in YouTube How-to Videos was an excellent, and necessary, experience for me to be a part of.  Since I am a full-time mathematics educator I am not able to take part in the many research projects being carried out in the ETAP department and this allowed me to be an integral member of a research team from start to finish.  Dr. Meskill was the facilitator of the research project, but many of the decisions were decided by the three graduate students and me.  After discussing our project and choosing the design we realized that the number of how-to videos was incredibly large; we were not able to just search "how-to" in the YouTube search engine because that only returned 50 pages of videos.  After discussion it was determined that we would need to input "how-to a," "how-to b," and continue this method until exhausting the entire alphabet.  This data collection method afforded us many more videos to review.  After we created a spreadsheet of hundreds of videos we discussed the coding schematic collaboratively to determine what would portray each of Bruner's four models of minds.  The next step was the coding; we worked in groups of two to code the videos and chose to code the first 50 videos as a whole group to determine inter-rater reliability.  After all of the coding was completed, we randomly chose another 20 videos (10 from each team) to verify inter-rater reliability. The next step was to analyze the data; we needed to determine how we wanted to evaluate the data.  Since we had also collected gender and approximate age data while coding the videos, we decided to run statistical tests to determine if gender and/or age influenced the lay teacher's theory of mind.   After the analyses were completed we worked together to create meaning for the findings and determine areas for future research.  If further research is completed on this topic I hope to continue to be a part of it.  Being a member of this research team provided me experience in the quantitative realm of research, which will prove useful in my own research. 

I have included my pilot study proposal, even though I have not yet been able to implement the study, because it shows my ability to write a proposal and design an effective research method.  This proposal also afforded me the opportunity to experience the process of obtaining research approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) which was granted in August of 2012.  My research was to span from September 2012 to January 2013, but I have faced many obstacles and have not yet begun to collect data. I was recently granted a time extension to extend my data collection period for another year.  I am confident I will be able to complete this research beginning in September 2013 as this will be the second year of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the new teacher evaluation methods and, hopefully, less pressure will be felt by the teachers.  

As stated in my introduction, I investigated many different theories in order to develop a theoretical perspective that I felt confident would be representative of my topic.  I developed a figure to portray my framework (below and also on page 9 of my proposal).  I developed this figure to show that no one theory stands out from the others, but instead, they are interconnected.  Bem (1972) believes that educators can tell how a person feels by viewing their actions, Katz (1960) believes that attitudes are comprised of affective and cognitive components, Vygotsky (1978) believes that students construct their own knowledge, and Connelly (1989) believes that students can create meaning in mathematics by using skills from other courses, namely writing.  I chose to integrate these four theories as I find they are interdependent and directly relate to my research interest.  If students do not feel confident with their mathematical understanding they are more apt to “act out” either physically or verbally, thus displaying a negative attitude.  By allowing students to write about mathematics they are integrating skills from other courses and constructing new meaning of the mathematics.  This research will allow me to determine if the following is true: As students become comfortable writing about mathematics, they will begin to construct knowledge, which will improve their attitude and self-perception of their abilities, ultimately improving their performance in mathematics.  However, this is not a linear process and improved attitude and/or self-perception may occur before the construction of new knowledge and writing integration, for example, and that is the reasoning behind the bi-directional arrows.

Although this study has not been implemented, I do feel confident in my abilities.  I have performed each piece of research, even though the pieces are not all combined into one study.  I have written several literature reviews, evaluated many research articles, read about much theory in order to determine the theoretical perspective for my own research, designed research studies (either individually or in collaboration with others), analyzed research, and participated in reporting the findings of research.  I know that when I am invited into a classroom to conduct research I will do so in a professional manner and with much confidence.

Models of Mind in YouTube How-to Videos

   YouTube how-to videos represent a unique window into popular beliefs about teaching and learning. The phenomenon of individuals from all walks of life posting homemade video instruction to whom they assume are their learner/viewers becomes a rich source for inquiry in this regard. Hence, this study set out to assess the beliefs and assumption that underlie the amateur video instructing that has become so widely popular on social media sites such as YouTube. We examine the ways that videographer teachers shape their instruction for their audiences.    Read more

Transactional Writing and its Effect on Student Attitudes and Understandings in the Middle School Mathematics Classroom

There have been many advances in education during the past century including a major focus on incorporating writing in all content areas, not just Language Arts or English classes.  This research will focus on the incorporation of writing into the mathematics curriculum as a means to improve students’ attitudes about mathematics as well as increase their desire to understand the mathematics.    Botstein (1989) believes incorporating writing into the mathematics curriculum “is essential to developing curiosity and comprehension in the learner” (p. xiv).  Writing also allows students to put learned ideas into their own words, thus creating an understanding more meaningful to them (Botstein, 1989).   Read more

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