Date of Graduation

12-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Catherine W. Shoulders

Committee Member

Donald M. Johnson

Second Committee Member

K. Jill Rucker

Third Committee Member

Vinson R. Carter

Keywords

Experiential Learning, Memes, Self-evaluation, Stress Levels, Teaching Style, Teaching Delivery, Visual Reflections

Abstract

Graduate students are anecdotally reputed to be among the most stressed groups of young adults. Common sources of stress for graduate students have included coursework, assistantships, finances, career preparation, and family (Wyatt & Oswalt, 2013; Mazzola, Walker, Shockley & Spector, 2011; Oswalt & Riddock, 2007). Guided reflection can be used by educators to assist students in both learning (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 2013; Kolb, 1984) and managing stress (Shoulders, Whitehead, & Morrison, 2018). By understanding how students’ progress through a semester in terms of both their learning and their management of stress, instructors and academic advisors can better anticipate times of struggle among their students, giving them greater opportunity to meet their students’ needs with appropriate guidance and instruction. This study explored students’ perceptions of their performance and mental state throughout a semester-long course.

The purpose of this study was to explore graduate students’ perceptions of their own academic and coping experiences throughout a Research Methods course. The purpose was fulfilled by the following research questions: 1) how do students perceive their engagement with course content as a piece in their holistic lives? 2) how do online versus FTF students perceive their engagement with course content as a piece in their holistic lives?

Students enrolled in the Fall 2018 Research Methods in the Social Sciences at the University of Arkansas (N = 43) were assigned to submit weekly visual reflections that portrayed their relationship with the class, along with a written justification for the image selected. Students submitted the visual reflection on Friday for 16 weeks in the semester. Data was analyzed using a constant comparative method (Glaser, 1965).

From these reflections, 130 themes were identified from the 16 weeks. Nine overarching themes were then developed over the entirety of the semester. Once a holistic description of each theme throughout the semester was completed, the students were grouped as online or face-to-face (FTF) students. Each theme was re-examined to group them based on their association with online students, FTF students, or both. By examining these experiences, professors can better prepare their teaching methods to match students’ needs.

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