Monday, September 12, 2011

Jessica G. Alvarado completes dissertation in the School of Educational Leadership and Change

Instructor Input and Suggested Training on the Subject of Collaborative Learning Activities
A Study of an Early Childhood Development Department -- Jessica G. Alvarado

Jessica Alvarado has spent nearly her entire career in the field of education. Though the majority of her current work is at the college level, she has a great deal of teaching and administrative experience at the early childhood- high school level. She began her work in the education field working in a literacy program with elementary school children. From there she transitioned to working for the county of San Diego with abused, neglected, and children with special needs.

Following her work with the county, she began her teaching and administrative career after accepting a position at a local high school. Until 2009, Jessica was a director of a program for students with special needs at that school. There, she designed and taught a program to assist the students with individualized educational programs. It was at that school that she spent seven years of her career helping her students achieve their personal and academic goals that led to earning their high school diploma.

Immediately following, Jessica and her family opened a private, online high school where she serves as the Director. The school serves many, but focuses on teenage parents and working adults. The school offers individualized programs for all and allows students to focus on their personal interests, while still meeting the state standards. In addition, she teaches both online and face-to-face child development courses for several community colleges and two universities.



Collaborative learning has many educational benefits as demonstrated through studies conducted in many different academic institutions at different educational levels. This study researched the use of, frequency of, and beliefs about collaborative learning with instructors who teach both online and face-to-face within an early childhood development department at a university in Southern California. The instructors were asked about the context in which they used collaborative learning in both their online and face-to-face classes, and what, if any, resistance to collaborative learning they had to its use. Finally, they were asked about what areas of training, if any, they would be interested in regarding collaborative learning.

Twelve instructors participated in this mixed methods study. I used quantitative surveys I designed to ask about the use of, frequency of, and beliefs about collaborative learning. I then used a qualitative interview protocol to gather input from the instructors about their beliefs about collaborative learning and to discover what, if any, training about collaborative learning they would be interested in receiving. This study analyzed the data both as a group and as twelve individual case studies. Results were mixed, showing that a small percentage of instructors were strong proponents of the use of collaborative learning activity in their classes. Consistent with the literature, however, the majority indicated use part of the time and a small number were opposed to using collaborative activity at all. Based on the analysis, I was able to provide the department chair with the findings to support the need for faculty training and development in this area. Suggestions for further research and practice were also offered.

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