Thursday, November 28, 2013

Women Constructing Identities: The Discursive Construction of “Stressed-out” in Women’s Conversations

Tamera A. West, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development

Stress is a common topic of casual conversation among women. Current research regarding the effect of stress on women in America focuses primarily on what stresses women, how stress affects them physically, and the role perception plays in the overall physiological stress reaction. Only recently has stress been studied as a social construct often perpetuated by the media. What has not been considered is that stress might also be an identity women construct during conversation as they draw from available societal discourses about stress and work with these discourses to negotiate their identities. This study explores how women discuss the concept of stress, in particular how they discursively construct themselves as being stressed-out. With critical discursive psychology as the theoretical frame, discourse analysis methodology was used to analyze the transcripts from 15 interviews with 30 women in dyads. Women were recruited via email and participated in 30-minute to 1-hour interviews, discussing the stress in their lives as well as their ideas on women, stress, and society. Three dominant interpretative repertoires emerged during conversations: (a) stressed-out as a woman’s plight, (b) stressed-out as a reality of living in the real world, and (c) stressed-out as a method of social assessment. Drawing upon these repertoires, two subject positions were most often negotiated by the majority of women. First, all of the women constructed themselves as “responsible,” using multiple strategies including detailed descriptions of their daily tasks. Second, most presented themselves to each other as “I’m like you,” most often when partners described themselves in similar stressful situations, thereby being “alike.” These findings support the idea that because these repertoires are so powerful, it is risky for women to make positive self-care choices. These risks include being viewed by other women as not responsible and being judged by the conversational group. Further study is needed about this stress discourse, particularly in the popular media, if progress is to be made in developing more effective stress management advice for women.

Key words: stress, women, identity, critical discursive psychology

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Formality of Management, Organization Structure, and Firm Performance in Microbusiness Operating in Stable Contexts: An Exploratory Study

Lauren A. Spatig, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development

Organizational theory and research characterizes small business as informal in management, intuitive in strategy, and organic in structure. It is generally accepted that small business need not formalize until growth demands it. However, formalization drives performance advantages for larger firms operating in stable environments, begging the question as to whether small firms operating in a stable context might also benefit from formalization. In practice, small business advisors often respond to the inherent informality present in small firms by prescribing formalization and structure more often associated with large organizations, without clear evidence of the performance benefits. Studies aimed at understanding the relationships among formality, structure, and performance in small firms yield conflicting conclusions. The contradictory findings may be explained by a failing of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) research to recognize the heterogeneity of small business including variability of environment, industry, and firm size. In addition, there remains a gap in organizational and management research for microbusiness, as defined by firms with less than 20 employees.
This study isolates microbusiness in a single industry and stable context to explore whether formalization of strategy, structure, and management practice relate to firm performance. This study employs survey research and quantitative analysis of owner reported organizational and management practices in relationship to firm performance. Responses from 264 microbusiness owners with an average of three employees within the insurance and financial services industry are analyzed and discussed.
This study finds formalization, as defined by written documentation, is higher than anticipated based on small business literature. While the incidence of formalization is high, formalization fails to explain variance in firm performance. However, key management and organization structure variables do explain higher firm performance. Building an organization through staff emerged as critical, with three staffing variables positively related to performance including, (a) owner belief that staff provide a positive return on investment, (b) proactive hiring with the intent to grow, and (c) number of employees. With employees on board, designing an organization utilizing both specialization and delegation bears significant positive relationship to performance. Of the many management variables analyzed only two emerged as related to performance; that is, regular employee reviews, and owner ability to leave the office with confidence that the business will run smoothly. What began as a study of formalization resulted in key findings as to organization building, management and leadership in microbusiness.

Key Words: Microbusiness, small business, SME, organization structure, organization design, management, formality, informality, business planning, strategy, performance, franchisee, franchise

Friday, November 22, 2013

Problematic Internet Usage: The Relationship between Comorbid Anxiety Disorders, Self-Medication, Neuroticism, and Sensation Seeking within a DSM-5 Conceptualization

Andrew Thrasher, Fielding's School of Psychology

Abstract: The DSM-5 introduced a paradigm shift concerning addictive disorders by including gambling disorder, a non-substance-related disorder, in the Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders section. The inclusion of gambling disorder in this section of the DSM-5 opened the door for research of other non-substance-related disorders such as problematic Internet usage. With the proliferation of the Internet into almost every aspect of our lives, there is a need to study the potential addictiveness and the risk factors associated with this technological phenomenon. This study used a validated problematic Internet usage instrument, the Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire, to evaluate the correlation between problematic Internet usage and multiple at risk variables that could contribute to problematic Internet usage. These variables included worry, social anxiety, sensation seeking, neuroticism, and endorsement of self-medication. I hypothesized that problematic Internet usage scores on the Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire would be higher for individuals endorsing higher scores on the at risk variables mentioned above (worry, social anxiety, sensation seeking, neuroticism, and endorsement of self-medication). To examine this hypothesis, a forced entry multiple regression analysis was conducted to assess the simultaneous effects of worry, social anxiety, sensation seeking, neuroticism, and self-medication on problematic Internet usage while also controlling for age and gender. All measured variables (age, gender, neuroticism, social anxiety, worry, sensation seeking, and endorsement of self-medication) except gender contributed toward problematic Internet usage. Neuroticism had the highest correlation with problematic Internet usage (r = .40, p, < .001), and it was the best single predictor (β = .35, p = < .01) of problematic Internet usage among all other predictor variables (social anxiety, worry, sensation seeking, and self-medication). The study included a sample of 206 Internet users from North America (128 females and 78 males) with an age range from 16 to 68 years. The mean age of the participants was 35 years with a SD ± 11 years.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Development of Drury University’s undergraduate Global awareness curriculum: An appreciative Study

Suzanne Kay Jones, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

The United States is becoming more culturally diverse. One hundred years ago, “1 out of 8 Americans was of a race other than White; at the end of the century, the ratio was 1 out of 4” (Hobbs & Stoops, 2002, p. 71). With this changing ratio, communities and school populations have dramatically diversified; however, the methods for teaching teachers how to work effectively with different cultural groups have not kept up with these changes. The purpose of this study was to gather information to examine a model for the incorporation of global awareness or intercultural communication competence into an educational environment at the undergraduate level. This appreciative study examined the CORE program at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri because they have created a curriculum designed to help every student, including education students, to develop a global perspective, cultural awareness, and knowledge. Not only is every student starting from the undergraduate level taking global awareness classes, but global awareness is woven into the fabric of every department. By the time these students finish their education at Drury University, 3 out of the 4 undergraduate CORE areas will contain classes, whether Biology or Architecture, that have integrated a global perspective into their curriculum. This program is an example of a small private university that is working to accomplish a task that many large public universities have not attempted. I discovered 12 themes that outline the strengths and challenges of the program, as well as goals and aspirations of the participants for the future of this program. The information inof this dissertation may prove useful for others who might be considering a program like Drury’s or who want to integrate ICC into their academic programs.

Key terms: global awareness, cultural knowledge, cultural experience, intercultural communication competency, and teacher education.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

21st Century Youth Using Critical Thinking Skills and Practicing Cyber Safety When Making Digital Decisions: An Analysis of the Digital Devices and Decisions of Youth and Parental Perspectives of the Same

Veneschia Rachelle Bryant, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

The 21st century has allowed for endless possibilities in the areas of technology and technological innovations. Access is unlimited and society as a whole is benefiting from the abundance and availability, from private sectors to public. This access is truly tremendous as it continues to make many advances in areas such as medicine and education, but to whom much is given, much is required. This technological access has also been provided to 21st century youth and they are often seen using some type of digital device: cell phone, tablets, computers and eReaders. As the beneficiaries of 21st century devices, youth should be required to be reliable, responsible, and to use critical thinking when it comes to their digital devices, activities, and decisions.

Access to technology often times means access to the Internet. Youth are using devices for more than the initial purposes; for example, cell phones are not just for having audio conversations, but also for texting, accessing the Internet, posting on social media sites and even inappropriate acts like sexting. This research looked at the type of access 21st century youth are exposed to, analyzed the types of digital devices they have access to, and then explored the types of activities in which they engage. It looked at which devices they use to access the Internet, what they are doing when they are engaged on the Internet, and finally what types of digital decisions youth make with their digital devices. Having access is not always considered atrocious, but what youth do with this access is important to consider.

In addition to analyzing the digital devices, activities, and decisions of youth, this research looked at parental perspectives to determine if parents, who are probably the key people who provide the access to the youth, have some awareness about their children’s digital decisions. Youth and parents were given the same instruments and each participant was required to complete three surveys and one questionnaire. The results were first used to gain an understanding of and analyze the digital devices, activities, and decisions of youth who participated in the research and then to compare their responses with those of the parents to determine parental perspectives of the digital devices, activities, and decisions of their children to determine if parents know what is going on online.

Sometimes the online or digital world can be the private playground of youth and they may engage in events that are inappropriate or illegal. Although this research is analyzing the digital decisions of youth who may not be using critical thinking skills online, it is important to note that there are several youth who are innocently using their digital devices for the right purposes, but it is important for parents to check in or understand what is available, what dangers are lurking, and what their children are possibly doing in online or digital environments. The results of this research will be used as baseline data to determine what efforts need to be done to educate youth and parents on this issue. A series of webinars, articles, and books will be generated from this research that will focus on digital and online issues that youth face, such as cyberbullying, sexting, social media, and communicating with strangers online. These resources will be used to educate parents on what to look for and how to talk to their children, as well as to teach youth how to be cyber safe and use critical thinking skills in a digital era.

Key words: twenty-first century youth, internet safety, cyber safety, critical thinking skills, experiential learning, choice theory, parental perspectives, digital decisions an

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Evaluation of the Savannah Early College Program: An Action Oriented Research Approach

Douglas B. Kearse, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

The Savannah Early College Program (SECP) opened its doors in August 2007 to make a difference in the lives of all students who enrolled. Its primary mission was to combine academic rigor and support to help students enter college early and graduate from high school with up to 2 years of college credit. Since SECP joined the Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI) that was launched in 2002, with the financial support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, SECP has received local recognition for educating students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education settings. Using an action-oriented research approach, this research focused on the SECP and its ability to meet the needs of stakeholders including parents, students, and teachers of the SECP. The study aspired to determine the benefits of the SECP and what can be done to improve the service SECP provides parents and students. The data collected from 40 focus group participants revealed SECP’s strengths, which include a curriculum that helps students to enter college early and save tuition cost; a supportive staff that expects students to achieve at their highest levels; and a diverse and safe school environment that offers a family-like atmosphere and supports teacher and student bonding.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Telling and Not-Telling: A Classic Grounded Theory of Sharing Life-Stories

Trudy Lee Powers, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

This study of Telling and Not-Telling was conducted using the classic grounded theory methodology (Glaser 1978, 1992, 1998; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This unique methodology systematically and inductively generates conceptual theories from data. The goal is to discover theory that explains, predicts, and provides practical applications for what is truly going-on with the people (or problem) in the field of study.

The theory of telling and not-telling involves a universal social process that is valid across fields of inquiry. In this study, it applies to people who share their stories of personal life-experiences, as well as to those who choose not to share, and those who are undecided or are contemplating sharing. It also applies to those who are seeking (trying to find) pieces of their stories—whether personal, family, or historical. Ultimately, sharing life-stories is about connecting with others. However, people may place limits on how, what, and with whom they share; especially in cases of trauma, they may create boundaries.

There are a number of underlying elements to this theory: the spectrum of life experiences, levels of awareness, roles and positional relationships, trust, boundaries, time, and the positive outcomes and negative consequences of sharing. Beyond these, the heart of the theory includes a number of intertwining and layered elements: people seeking their own stories as well as the stories of others; keeping secrets and silences, and not-telling; deciding whether or not to tell; generational passing down of family and bounded community stories, cultures, and traditions; and finally breaking the silence—often of traumatic experiences. Each of these main areas further encompasses a number of significant elements.

This theory may be useful for anyone seeking, sharing, or contemplating sharing life experiences with others. It may also be useful for those in various fields who help people work through their life experiences, as it presents several aspects of sharing story in a holistic manner. Furthermore, the concepts may be used by anyone contemplating whether or not to tell.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Effects of Film-making on the Social Skills of Children with ASD

Alisa Wolf, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

The incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased over the past decade (Notbom, 2005). According to the Center for Disease Control (2012), one in 88 births in the United States will result in ASD. Since social skills deficits are one of the most prominent deficits in children on the spectrum, it is crucial that this type of intervention occur early in their life (Freeman, Cronin, & Candela, 2002). In this study, the effects of the film-making process on children with ASD were examined to determine its impact on their social skills. Children with ASD ages 13 to 17 met for one week Monday through Friday from 10:00 am-3:00 pm to learn the process of film-making. The children, parents, and the instructor completed The Children’s Self-Report Social Skills Scale (Phelps & Danielson, (2003) at the beginning and end of the study. In addition, the children, parents, and instructor were interviewed before and after the workshop. The quantitative data showed a significant increase from Time 1 to Time 2 on a one-way repeated measures analysis of variance. Significant effects were found for form, F (2, 30) = 13.30, p < .001, partial eta squared = .470; time, F (1, 15) = 148.32, p < .001, partial eta squared = .908; and form by time, F (2, 40) = 21.76, p < .001, partial eta squared = .592. In addition, comments from children, parents, and the instructor were converted to 1 to 5 scales, and their comments at Time 1 were compared with their comments at Time 2 using paired-samples t -tests. Significant growth was noted between Time 1 and Time 2 for the children’s, parents’, and instructor’s responses to the children’s ability to interact with peers. Significant growth was noted from Time 1 to Time 2 in both the parents’ responses and the instructor’s responses for children’s ability to make eye contact, greet others, tell about their feelings, and participate in discussions. Significant growth was noted for the parents’ responses for child’s ability to initiate contact, and significant growth was noted for the instructor’s responses for the child’s ability to follow instructions and talk with adults. Both the parents’ and the instructor’s responses indicated that the children grew significantly on paired-samples t tests from Time 1 to Time 2 on the number of exchanges they made on both non-preferred and preferred topics.