Self Evaluation & Program Evaluation
This past year in the Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) program at UGA has surely been one of the most inspirational times of my life.
The first thing I experienced at the starting point of this Ph.D. journey was noticing a shift in my identity as a doctoral student. It was a totally unexpected occurrence. When I was in the LDT master’s program, in retrospect, I tended to consider myself as an observer or explorer who was “experiencing” and “tasting” the academic culture of the LDT field. But now that I’ve decided to return to the same school as a Ph.D. student, I feel like I’ve taken my first steps inside the LDT field as an “insider.”
This identity shift has started to change my viewpoint whenever I interacted with peers in classes, read papers and articles, and wrote my own essays. Since I came back to this program with a more specific research interest, which is finding a connection between learners’ emotional state and their learning experiences, my studies have been more focused and oriented. Rather than stuffing all new pieces of knowledge inside my head passively, I started to wear and use my own interpretive lens to actively explore information in a way that made sense to me, which is the gradual progress I’m making thus far. I believe that gaining a sense of belonging to the LDT field as a novice researcher allowed me to start enjoying autonomy in my studies.
In the first semester, I purposefully took the same courses as my masters, which were EDIT8990 (Doctoral seminar), EDIT8100 (Foundation in LDT), and EDIT8190 (Design Studio). By taking courses that shared a similar line of study as my master’s program in the first semester, I was able to build on the foundational theories, develop skills as a researcher, and structure my learning in a way that added value to my research interest.
For instance, during the foundation course, my peers and I were asked to identify, summarize, and present 6 articles that were considered seminal and foundational in each one’s area of focus. Prior to participating in this executive summary activity, I had no idea that there were specific skills to possess and develop when it came to identifying seminal studies among the myriad of articles in our field. In order to figure out theories that might serve as pillars of my idea, I had to really focus on the information relevant to my research questions, critically examine the author’s assumptions and arguments, organize them into topics, and capture common themes among articles. Along with the design-focused activities in EDIT8190, I had ample opportunities to restructure the initial prototype I created during my master’s program.
For my future studies, I think I will need to hone my statistical and research methods skills, as well as broaden/deepen my knowledge of theories that address the affective aspect of student learning. To be honest, I am still fumbling around and struggling a great deal when it comes to scholarly writing. Yes, there is still a long way to go. Despite my stumbles and falls, I am grateful for this journey and can’t wait to see where my small steps will eventually lead me!
I am truly appreciative of the invaluable experiences and support I have received from the faculty members and my colleagues in our LDT program. Our program’s learning culture is what distinguishes it from other similar programs. Thanks to the warm learning climate of our LDT program where mistakes are viewed as a part of the learning process, I was able to comfortably express and incubate my rough ideas without worrying about being judged. I recall my peers and professors not hesitating to share feedback and their perspectives during the seminar sessions and class meetings, which has been incredibly helpful for me to learn and grow. I am grateful for this community and feel blessed to be a member of this program again.
With this appreciation in mind, I’d like to make some recommendations for our program. I’d like to suggest rearranging one of the courses. While I was taking EDIT8900 during the second semester (spring of 2022), I discovered that this course contains a considerable amount of materials related to statistical knowledge and strategies. Due to the fact that this was my first year of doctoral studies and my lack of prior knowledge in statistics, fully digesting all of the content was a bit daunting. While this course provided an excellent opportunity to review various educational research methods, I believe that students would benefit even more if it were offered in the second or third year after gaining prerequisite knowledge — on a side note, half of the students were in their second/third years, so their takes would likely differ from mine.