• James Robinson

A Personal Evaluation of My Experience Completing EDU8000


* This is an original submission as part of my doctoral program in International Education. It is not in APA format as a Blog post and is part of my early coursework. It does not represent my progression as an academic writer.


A Personal Evaluation of My Experience Completing EDU8000


In this personal narrative, I will discuss my experiences as a new doctoral student. I will articulate my apprehensions as I returned to school after 20 years, my accomplishments thus far including shifts in my thinking, my progress toward a focus in my studies, and significant academic skills I am learning.


Shifts in Thinking


When I began my doctoral program, I had many questions regarding what it was like being a doctoral student. My apprehensions included the transition back to school, my scholarly writing skills, using the APA format, and the focus of my studies.


Anxiety management.


The transition to being a doctoral student has been exciting, but it also came with anxiety. I was concerned about completing the program. In response to this concern, I concentrated my thoughts on personal benefits I receive from learning. I let go of anxiety concerning what would happen in the future. I have lived through several life transitions and the ability to eliminate concerns about the future is now part of my skill set. I am confident that I will experience daily benefits as a doctoral student, and I understand that completion of the program will be a step by step process.


Challenges with reading comprehension.


A shift in my thinking took place during the third week of study while reading Lourenço (2012). The first two times I read the article my mind struggled to understand it. During the third reading, I experienced a shift in my thought processes, and I understood the language and comparisons. After this shift, I have not struggled to understand other articles.


Focusing my studies.


The specific subjects I wish to focus my doctoral studies on are shifting and becoming more focused. I entered Alabama public schools in 1966, a few years after laws were implemented to end legalized Segregation and I am aware I have privilege as a White male. After visiting South Africa, I developed an interest in comparisons between post-Segregation Alabama and post-Apartheid South Africa and the effects of White privilege on violence and anti-violence education programs. This interest directly connects to my goal of earning a doctorate. I am undertaking initial research concerning violence toward various minority students in South Africa. My current challenge is to determine a specific topic for my dissertation.


Theory and Research Methods


I am particularly interested in learning about Peace theory and Action theory and methods used to conduct research based on these and other theories. At this time the quantitative research I have read appeals to me because it introduced me to ethnographic and narrative research methods. I am interested in the factors which motivate individuals and communities to be inclusive of people they perceive as different and factors that cause them to develop prejudices which may result in discrimination, oppression, and violence.


While I have much to learn about Peace theory and Action theory, I see aspects in them which seek to understand societal influences which contribute to violence and other forms of oppression including poorly implemented or non-existent educational opportunities. Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of various theories and their application to research methods will provide me with tools to advance our understanding of the conditions which contribute to the suppression of opportunities for personal growth and safety. Oppression and violence are part of daily life for many people, especially in developing countries like South Africa.


Ethics and My Role as a Professional in the Field of Education


Throughout my undergraduate, graduate, and professional life I have striven to maintain and practice strict ethical standards. I consider my reputation vital to my ability to successfully fulfill my goals which include community service and support for oppressed and underserved populations.


The successful development of a 501 (c)(3) public charity which I founded in 2009 and its continuation for eight years depended on the community's trust and respect of my personal and professional integrity. As a public figure and community leader, people challenged my integrity, sometimes regularly. I maintained the trust and respect of those close to me because they experienced my ethics in action. Defining and holding myself to high ethical standards is part of my life. I practice ethical standards for my inner peace, and the benefits of living with integrity extend to my career as a professional and as a doctoral student.


Acquired Skills


Implementing a time management plan.


I have been a successful procrastinator throughout my professional and academic careers. I developed the expectation that my work would be better when motivated by an imminent deadline. I entered my doctoral program with significant concern that I would continue this habit. Fortunately, one of the first things this course provided was instruction on the importance of having excellent time management skills as a doctoral student.


During the past eight weeks, I have created a new routine where I spend a few hours almost every day working on assignments. I am enjoying being a student again, so this has not been as difficult as I anticipated. I try to finish drafts of my assignments early so that I can use the due date for APA editing and final proofreading. Since I am not leaving any work until the last minute, I take a few hours or even a day away from academic work when I need to rest and refresh my mind. So far, this has worked well, and it is becoming a habit.


Application of APA style.


I have articles published online on major LGBTQ news sites which I wrote as part of my work as a human rights activist, I have created dozens of presentations for workshops and conferences, and my website contains a blog with additional creative writing. Even with this experience and my compositions to earn my master's degree, I knew that writing in a doctoral program would be a new experience. I was concerned about this transition. I also knew I would follow APA guidelines and I knew this would be another learning curve.

The resources provided to me as a student are making this process more straightforward than I anticipated. The available technology such as Microsoft Office and Grammarly have helped me thoroughly enjoy the challenges of this new experience. I have not been overwhelmed as I expected.


Formulating actionable goals and visualizing overall goals.


As I expand my knowledge of various theories, research methods, and practices, including how they have contributed to program implementation and scholarly research by academics in South Africa, I find my goals expanding. Initially, this was frustrating, but now it is exciting. I have developed confidence that I will arrive at a dissertation topic while at the same time expanding my professional networks and post-doctoral opportunities.


Areas Needing Improvement


Creating annotated bibliographies.


Writing annotated bibliographies is a new experience for me. I am not comfortable with the amount of time, and energy it took me to create the one assigned for this course. I realize this course only introduced this process. I need more practice reading and developing annotated bibliographies to reduce the time I allot to this activity in my schedule.


Comprehending and analyzing complex texts.


Comprehending the meaning of complex scholarly texts is a challenge for me. During this course I have become more competent in this area. Analyzing texts is another matter and is more difficult because it requires the use of higher-level thinking skills. The enhancement of my comprehension skills and the fine-tuning of my analytical skills for doctoral study poses a significant challenge for me. While I have both skill sets, I will require additional practice to comprehend and analyze at the doctoral level.


Performing online library searches.

We received advice at the beginning of this course that research would take longer than expected. In my case this has been true. The library guides and staff support are excellent. I have used both to learn better search skills. It has been difficult identifying the best search words and limiters to use to narrow the results. I have seen improvement in my searches during the course, but I need more practice.


Conclusion


Completing this course has been a beneficial process as I begin doctoral studies. I have identified and addressed my initial concerns while overcoming the anxiety associated with this life transition. This course allowed me to practice the skills required for scholarly writing, research, and time management. The resources and staff support available to me as a student at Northcentral University have exceeded my expectations, and I am eager to continue the process of identifying, refining, and completing my goals as a doctoral student.


References


Lourenço, O. (2012). Piaget and Vygotsky: Many resemblances, and a crucial difference. New Ideas in Psychology, 30, 281–295. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2011.12.006

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