Articulate Enhanced Students' Critical Thinking: An Evaluation of Student Feedback and Outcomes from Online Modules

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Offering online learning experiences that not only enhance student’s critical thinking but enable students to connect theory to natural situations can be challenging. The data will present students’ reflections on their reactions of content disseminated through Articulate, and their reactions to Articulate barriers that inhibited learning.

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Presenters

Dr. Strong is an Associate Professor in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) Department at Texas A &M University. Dr. Strong's research focuses on technology-enhanced learning and cyber learning technology delivery applications.

Additional Authors

Summer F. Odom is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, & Communications (ALEC) at Texas A&M University. She teaches courses in personal and professional leadership. Dr. Odom received her Ph.D. in Human Resource Development in May 2011. Her research interests include leadership and life skill capacity building of young adults with a focus on collegiate leadership education, assessment and evaluation of leadership pedagogy, and intrapersonal leadership development.

Extended Abstract

Introduction

Offering online learning experiences that not only enhance student’s critical thinking but enable students to connect theory to natural situations can be challenging. The concept of biomimicry can be a solution to assist students understand content in a natural context. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. Biomimicry is a process by harnessing the advantages of natural organisms as a catalyst to identify the need for innovation. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul. One of the earliest understandings of biomimicry was the invention of Velcro.

 

Concise Description of Context

Students participating in a leadership development course participated in modules developed and disseminated via Articulate focused on four leadership domains. Organizational structure encompasses the ability to identify, define, and apply the six key elements of organizational structure. Also, to understand the key questions to ask to determine which element of organizational structure is being addressed. It is important to understand why organizational structure matters in order to identify strengths and weaknesses of current structures. Organizational culture can be the most influential construct in determining an organization’s successes and failures. Research into organizational culture investigates elements focused on attributes that inform leaders why to care about an organization’s culture. Team formation seeks to understand the differences between groups and teams. Individuals studying team formation examine identify, define, and how the stages of team formation are developed in an organization. Conflict management identifies, defines, and applies the five conflict management styles (avoiding, accommodating, forcing, compromising, and collaboration). A conflict management researcher strives to understand that one style is not better than the other and that each style has a time and place in an organization. Loyens and Gijbels (2008) state a key component of a constructivist learning environment is self-regulation. Students will not be successful in a constructivist learning environment if they are unable to set goals, develop a plan of action, and complete necessary steps to solve the problem. Problems should be complex with the possibility of multiple solutions. Students need opportunities to build deeper understandings when taking an online course. Learners build deeper understandings of the subject while working through a problem. Connectivism starts with an individual’s personal knowledge that is organized and used as needed. The speed at which information is doubling and becoming obsolete has created the need for new ways of providing instruction. Siemens (2005) discussed how the acquisition of knowledge is changing from what is known to how to find the information when it is needed. This leads to continual learning for an individual based on one’s ability to find the correct information, to connect it with past and current information, thus increase his or her knowledge. Rossi and Freeman (1993) defined evaluation research as “the systematic application of social Research procedures for assessing the conceptualization, design, implementation, and utility of… programs” (p. 5). Kirkpatrick’s (1976) Four Level Evaluation Model was utilized to assess student learning of organizational leadership upon completion the biomimicry modules. The first of the four levels is reactions and reactions are centered on participant’s thoughts and perceptions of the experience. Learning is the second level and targets participant knowledge increase due to their participation in the online modules. The third level is behavior and behavior relates to participant change or ways to apply what they learned. The fourth level is results indicating participants’ level of performance to their experience with the online modules. The study presented here focused on evaluating student reactions and learning.

 

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to assess students’ learning of leadership content disseminated via Articulate modules. More specifically, this study sought to: 1. Evaluate students’ perceptions of learning in the domains of organizational structure, organizational culture, team formation, and conflict management; 2. Evaluate students’ reflections on their reactions of content disseminated through Articulate; and 3. Evaluate students’ reflections on their reactions to Articulate barriers that inhibited learning.

 

Methodology

The online modules focused on managing conflict, group decision-making, organizational structure, and organizational culture, along with an overview module introducing biomimicry as a conceptual frame. The interns worked with instructional designers, attended an entomology course, and visited a honey bee hive to develop competence for building the modules. Learning objectives were developed for each leadership topic and a written evaluation is being deigned to assess the depth of the students’ learning of each topic. This was a mixed-methods study that sought to understand student learning, and the extent Articulate enabled students to connect the leadership content to real-world practical issues. The limitation of this study was the small sample. The data would be expanded and detailed in the oral conference presentation. The quantitative instrument included a summated scale with anchors representing 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neither Agree or Disagree, 4 = Agree, and 5 = Strongly Agree. The qualitative component including items such as “How did the Articulate program help you learn?”, and “What were your perceptions of using Articulate to better understand content from the face-to-face class?”.

 

Findings

As a result of their participation in the modules, all nineteen participants (n = 19, 100%) indicated that their disagreement in the pre-assessment moved to agreement or strongly agree in the post assessment in the areas of understanding of the organizational structure, team formation, and conflict management. Participants reported a lack of increase in knowledge for organizational structure. This facet could have been attributed to student’s lack of experiences with organizational structure. According to the data, student’s may not have believed organizational structures matter as much compared to the other constructs identified in this study. Three participants reported their learning not increasing from the pre to post assessment phase in items “I understand how to identify the six key elements of organizational structure.”, “I understand how to describe the six key elements of organizational structure.”, and “I understand how to analyze an organization’s structure.” Quantitatively, Articulate was beneficial in teaching students content beyond the traditional classroom context. The qualitative data indicated though much can be done with Articulate to help and better understand student’s behavior change and results may have as future professionals.

 

Conclusions

Offering a hybrid approach that included face-to-face instruction and online content to help student understanding through the inclusion of reflection was a benefit identified in this study. Given the resources requited to offer supplemental Articulate modules to enhance student learning, faculty need to be strategic and entrepreneurial in seeking funding to offer these types of instructional efforts. Providing students additional opportunities to understand content’s role in real-world contexts in continuously increasing (Loyens & Gijbels, 2008). The role and influence of organizational structure needs to be better understood. This study offered insight but studies with larger samples are needed in order for any generalizations are to be made with a population. A limitation of this study was the class but studies with larger populations of students may offer additional insight into student learning and their perceived importance of organizational structure.

 

Discussion/Interpretation

Due to increasing student enrollments and limited space available for face-to-face courses, the need to offer online courses at Texas A&M University will continue to rise. Ensuring online courses provide opportunities for students to learn the content and the connection to a practical environment is critical. The same can be said of face-to-face courses. Opportunities exist to include technology that is not cumbersome for students to access and use but connect the content to practical real-world issues. Articulate provided the opportunities for student engagement to the content, student engagement to other students, and student engagement to the technology (Siemens, 2005). Students may not understand organizational structure due to a lack of experience at this point with organizational structures. This may be a “learned” experience after respective students earn their first professional opportunity. Articulate could be used to construct professional experiences that could serve as case studies of examples of organizational structures. Further research is needed to understand student’s views on organizational structure and the extent the construct matters in leadership. Additional inquiries are recommended to better comprehend the effect of Kirkpatrick’s (1976) behavior and results domains. Longitudinal data is necessary to best understand the influence of Articulate modules to improve student behavior and the extent that behavior influences student’s impact in their community’s post-graduation. This workshop will be designed to share quantitative and qualitative instruments with participants. The first learning objective will be participants understanding of opportunities to connect course content with natural occurring phenomena. This will be accomplished through brainstorming in groups. The second objective is to identify opportunities and barriers that Articulate presents to instructors. Objective two will be achieved via the nominal group techniques. The third and last objective is to develop approaches to engage students with Articulate, the content, other students, and the instructor. The presenter and participants will share best practices in improving student learning by enhancing student engagement via technology.