Scholarly article on topic 'Critical Discourse Analysis as an Interdisciplinary Research Methodology for Interdisciplinary, Intercultural and an Inter-institutional Assessment Tool for Student-perceived Learning Compared with Instructor-perceived Teaching of Interdisciplinary Online Courses'

Critical Discourse Analysis as an Interdisciplinary Research Methodology for Interdisciplinary, Intercultural and an Inter-institutional Assessment Tool for Student-perceived Learning Compared with Instructor-perceived Teaching of Interdisciplinary Online Courses Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Regina Williams Davis

Abstract Examining perceived effectiveness of learning objectives and outcomes from a pluralistic view using critical discourse analysis (CDA) will produce analytics from language, discourse practices, and discursive events. Although traditional assessment methods of student learning objectives and outcomes provide feedback regarding learning objectives, results are one-dimensional, often ignore diverse learning styles, lack interdisciplinary synthesis, and rarely consider diverse cultural frameworks of students and instructors. Reasons for assessing student-perceived learning and instructor-perceived teaching of Interdisciplinary Online Courses include (a) the perceptions that are often held as notions of truth, are promoted as truths; (b) student perceived-learning is analogous to a consumer's perceived-value of a service; and most importantly, (c) learning outcome-assessment is the measurement for institutional effectiveness.

Academic research paper on topic "Critical Discourse Analysis as an Interdisciplinary Research Methodology for Interdisciplinary, Intercultural and an Inter-institutional Assessment Tool for Student-perceived Learning Compared with Instructor-perceived Teaching of Interdisciplinary Online Courses"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 177 (2015) 278 - 283

Global Conference on Contemporary Issues in Education, GLOBE-EDU 2014, 12-14 July 2014,

Las Vegas, USA

Critical Discourse Analysis as an Interdisciplinary Research Methodology for Interdisciplinary, Intercultural and an Inter-Institutional Assessment Tool for Student-Perceived Learning Compared with Instructor-Perceived Teaching of Interdisciplinary

Online Courses

Regina Williams Davisa*

aNorth Carolina Agricultural and Techical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, 27411, USA

Abstract

Examining perceived effectiveness of learning objectives and outcomes from a pluralistic view using critical discourse analysis (CDA) will produce analytics from language, discourse practices, and discursive events. Although traditional assessment methods of student learning objectives and outcomes provide feedback regarding learning objectives, results are one-dimensional, often ignore diverse learning styles, lack interdisciplinary synthesis, and rarely consider diverse cultural frameworks of students and instructors. Reasons for assessing student-perceived learning and instructor-perceived teaching of Interdisciplinary Online Courses include (a) the perceptions that are often held as notions of truth, are promoted as truths; (b) student perceived-learning is analogous to a consumer's perceived-value of a service; and most importantly, (c) learning outcome-assessment is the measurement for institutional effectiveness.

© 2015The Authors. Published by ElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Scientific Committee of GLOBE-EDU 2014.

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, interdiscplinary, research methodology, institutional assessment tool, online courses

* Regina Williams Davis. Tel.: +1-336-256-2165; fax: +1-336-256-0278. E-mail address: rmwilli1@ncat.edu

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Scientific Committee of GLOBE-EDU 2014. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.02.336

1. Introduction and Problem

1.1. Assessment is a major concern for higher education. John Ebersole, wrote in his article, "Top Issues Facing Higher Education In 2014" in Forbes Magazine (2014) that:

assessment has become a major concern for higher education. Increasingly, regulators and accreditors are moving away from input models and instead are asking, "What is the country receiving in return for the billions being spent on higher education and how do we know if it is effective?" Learning outcome-assessment has become the basis for determining institutional effectiveness. However, the availability of valid, widely-accepted tools and methods needed to determine learning and skill acquisition are proving hard to come by. (Ebersole, 2014, p. 77-78)

1.2. The availability of tools and methods needed for determining skill acquisition is the problem my study is addressing. According to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE, 2010), the question that the assessment of Institutional Effectiveness had to answer was, "How well are we collectively doing what we say we are doing?" This research project is based primarily on employing critical discourse analysis as the methodology from which a tool or tools are developed to analyze teaching and learning effectiveness.

1.3. Background

There are three evolving, multiple, competing, and overlapping priorities in education that serve as the backdrop of this research project. These three priorities are developing and progressing rapidly. They are (a) distance learning, (b) institutional effectiveness, and (c) intercultural and global interactivity. In an effort to give clarity throughout this paper, I will refer to distance learning as Priority I (or P-I), student-learning assessment as Priority II (or P-II), and intercultural and global interactivity as Priority III (or P-III). Keeping these evolving, multiple, competing, and overlapping priorities in the forefront of new and improved educational programs and curricula, it seemed necessary to employ all three priorities while testing assessment tools for perceived learning. How do I accomplish this daunting task? I did not need to search far. I was assigned it. I was assigned the daunting task of designing, redesigning, and developing an entire program of study for online delivery (P-I). These courses have student learning outcomes that needed to be measured for institutional effectiveness (P-II). The courses are intentionally interdisciplinary and the target audience primarily consists of culturally- and linguistically-diverse populations who are both traditional and non-traditional students (P-III).

Distance learning (P-I) environments have both advantages and disadvantages. A significant advantage of distance learning, particularly online digital environments, inherently have the capability within the platform time-stamp documentation. This is a passive activity, meaning that neither the instructor nor the student must actively remember to document and date-time-stamp interactions, whereas face-to-face learning environments require a conscientious effort for documentation. The second significant advantage of distance learning is the ability to reach students all over the world (P-III). Distance learning enables the opportunity to effectively deliver courses to the target audience of culturally- and linguistically-diverse populations who are both traditional and non-traditional students.

1.4. Scope.

This study is limited to two online undergraduate courses (P-I) delivered from the same institution with the same instructor. The time is constrained to 15 weeks of data collection in addition to six weeks lead time for preparation and preliminary testing. Both courses are considered interdisciplinary by the institution. The target audience for both courses is a culturally- and linguistically-diverse population of students who are both traditional and non-traditional students.

2. Literature Review, Theoretical Underpinnings, and the Proposition

This research project is based primarily on employing critical discourse analysis as the methodology from which a tool or tools are developed to analyze teaching and learning effectiveness. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) will produce analytics from language, discourse practices, and discursive events. Although traditional assessment methods of student learning outcomes provide feedback regarding learning objectives, results are one-dimensional, often ignore diverse learning styles, lack interdisciplinary synthesis, and rarely consider diverse cultural frameworks of students and instructors.

After reviewing several accrediting academic bodies, the trend clearly shows the emphasis on assessment processes and the need for them to be effective. Below is a list of elements for effective assessment processes. This list contains specific elements that academic accreditors have identified as a contributing factor toward an assessment process to be effective:

• Its usefulness for making decisions for improvements

• How cost effective the assessment process will be for the institution. This implies that the information resulting from the assessment process is meaningful enough to justify the cost or time spent on the assessment process

• Reasonably accurate and truthful results that may be used for decision-making

• Purposefully linked to the goals of the institution

• Organized, systemic, and sustainable; ongoing for the purpose of continuous improvement

Therefore, the success of the project would be determined by the development or identification of an assessment process that encompasses each contributing factor on the list of elements for effective assessment processes (P-II).

One way to assess teaching and learning is through discourse. Assessment through discourse may capture information that the assessor never thought to seek. Similar to narrative research and other qualitative methodologies, researchers acknowledge that there is significant information that may not be captured in traditional quantifiable survey instruments. Traditional tests and assessments have the same limitations. Discourse integrates linguistics, sociology, philosophy, and cultural studies. It is a social interaction (Titscher et al., 2000). Discourse includes representations of how things are and have been, as well as representations of how things should be or could be (Fairclough, 2002). Hence, the proposition is to use critical discourse analysis or CDA as the theoretical framework in which to develop an assessment tool for perceived teaching and learning. In the simplest depiction of CDA, critical discourse may be analyzed on multiple levels. Three common levels most often used in CDA are description, interpretation, and explanation (Fairclough, 1989).

CDA may provide insight and unmask a deeper understanding of what a student and the instructor is feeling or perceiving. It can systematically explore "opaque relationships between discursive practices, texts, and events and wider social and cultural structures, relations, and processes" (Fairclough, 1993, p. 135). It hopes to expose non-democratic practices in hopes of spurring people to corrective actions (Fairclough, 1993).

Because critical discourse analysis perceives language as a social practice, it presupposes that it cannot function in isolation, but only within a cultural or social setting. Therefore, issues of politics and power are interwoven into language and will also be considered within the assessment process. Texts carry the power that reflects the interests of those who made the statement. This is a political exercise whether it is intentional or not. Dominant discourse, however, is the power to interpret messages that may favor one over another. Dominant discourse can construct in a society versions of reality. In a course, the instructor will have the dominant discourse (Thompson, 2002).

3. Understanding Critical Discourse Analysis as an Assessment Process

CDA connects the relationships between three levels of analysis: (1) the actual text, (2) the discursive practices rules, norms, and mental modes of socially acceptable behavior in specific roles, or (3) relationships used to produce, receive, and interpret messages. These are spoken and unspoken conventions that govern how individuals learn to think, act, and speak in all the social positions they occupy (student or instructor); the larger social context that accepts the text; and the discursive practice (McGregor, 2003).

An examination of the words that convey how we see ourselves as instructors and as students will unveil our identity, knowledge, values, beliefs, and truths. We construct and interpret through discourse (Rupert, 1997). Although Wodak (1999) cautions that different assessors may interpret differently, it is evident that words are a habit of language and are rarely neutral. If we view all of the students enrolled in a course as part of a microcosmic culture, instructors may approach the class members as members of a community or a society.

Instructor may create opportunities for discourse for data collection. Students and instructors need a safe space to express their feelings and emotions about their teaching and learning, or a way to systematically and meaningfully process their learning and/or instructional activities that will provide accessible feedback in a timely manner. If they can communicate perceived truths using natural language skills, the discourse can be analyzed for assessment purposes.

Providing a format for expressing feelings and emotions about teaching and learning using natural language in a meaningful and systematic process may be built into a course format and captured in a repository to be analyzed. Furthermore, in sociolinguistics, language influences culture and culture influences language. Using this precept as the foundation of analyzing statements and deconstructing texts to uncover hidden perspectives and perceived truths may provide a significant data set for assessing perceived teaching and learning (Batstone, 1995).

Distance learning online classes (P-I) have the inherent advantage of dated digital documentation functionality. Information gathered from two data collection repositories from the online courses will be from the "safe space" which will be a virtual conduit for students to become comfortable and casual with their comments about their course, their instructor, their instruction, and their perceived learning. Students are paired unassumingly and led to communicate overtly, to plan team project, and covertly, to promote honest dialogue of learning perceptions. Instructors are divided into three groups to assess reflection. Group "A" journals course reflections into a traditional diary. Group "B" journals reflections in a 'self-assessment: course monitoring system,' and Group "C" journals in both mediums.

The instructors' journal reflections are captured in a self-assessment course monitoring system which provided a space for them to reflect upon their perceived effectiveness of their instruction. The information in these two data collection repositories (one representing student participants and the other representing their instructors) provided both real-time feedback about specific activities designed to measure student learning objectives.

4. Assessment Development

Instructors, acknowledging their dominant discourse, may want to pose the questions to themselves about their microcosmic classroom, "How are successful students made?" and "What is my influence on my students?" Students resisting marginalization may be asked to respond to "What do I want from this course?" or "What do I need to have a fair and equitable opportunity to acquire knowledge?" The texts from the discourse may be analyzed using the following methodology, assuming what is said or written is purposeful, be it conscious or unconscious: Most linguist agree that reasonable discourse must have one or more of the following elements: cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativeness, situationality, and/or intertextuality (triangulation).

To be more descriptive, cohesion is the grammatical relationship between parts of a sentence necessary for it to be interpreted. In contrast, coherence is the order of statements as they relate to each other for sensibility. Intentionality refers to the actual message to be conveyed, deliberately and consciously. Obviously, acceptability is the reception of the communication by the audience. Data, evidence, or material would constitute 'informativeness.' Informativeness pertains to new information added in the discourse. Situationality is the circumstance that makes a remark pertinent and similarly, intertextuality is how the text(s) refer to the world outside of the interpreters' schemata. The analysis may begin with identifying hidden relations of power present in the text, and then who is

exercising the power or whose discourses are being presented, taking notice of what is deliberately unstated. Observe the use of passive voice, or processes expressed as 'things.' Consider the use of colorful, descriptive language to indicate a strong discourse. Discourse is framed with a perspective, organized with strategic loci in text for emphasis and often describes agency. Discourse will intentionally not state certain information and purposefully make insinuations. Lastly, discourse makes strategic use of modality and provides a register. The register gives credibility of text or gives deceptive credibility of text accomplished by the choice of person (first person, third person, or a quote from someone of authority). Triangulation intends to establish validity to qualitative findings resulting from CDA.

After examining what the language reflects about the individual and collective beliefs and practices in the class, inevitably, notions can be addressed reproduced, resisted, changed, or transformed (Remlinger, 2002). Having this ability is the information required to begin intervention strategies to lead toward achieving the student learning objective.

5. Results

Results are preliminary and beg for further study. Using the CDA framework is effective but not efficient at this time. Developing an instrument that may allow for the analysis to take place in a timelier manner will produce a more efficient assessment. However, the predictions were correct. According to the Pearson's Correlation Coefficient from the sample data collected in the preliminary study, (-0.06699), there is a minimal relationship between student-perceived learning and instructor-perceived teaching. Multiple measures are needed for a single student learning objective and a multi-disciplinary foci. Identifiers for yielding unique or new student-learning-outcomes from synthesis of interdisciplinary course content surfaced. Bonding activities for student-teacher relationships for enhancing student-teacher connections were developed for online courses.

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