Stetar Pre Assignment Mike

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Stetar Pre Assignment Mike

  1. 1. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 1 Running head: CRITICAL REVIEW OF MAHER A Critical Look At Maher's "What Really Happens In Cohorts" Michael Parent Seton Hall University Executive Ed.D Program
  2. 2. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 2 A Critical Look At Maher's "What Really Happens In Cohorts" Introduction In recent years, cohorts have become widely popular in graduate and post-graduate studies on America’s college and university campuses. Maher’s article outlines and highlights the positives and negatives of cohort learning for students and teachers. Maher’s information and insight proves relevant and has the potential to spark real debate for those institutions that seek to implement a cohort system or for those intuitions that are evaluating heir current cohort system. Most cohort programs are designed to offer what Maher calls, “…a deep exploration of sensitive issues that they [students] may not acknowledge when they are with groups of student strangers.” (Maher, 2004, p. 19). However, Maher goes on to explain that cohorts and cohort members also may develop a sense of group think, have difficulty dealing with a loss of independence, or struggle with strict and often unforgiving timeliness and deadlines. While all of this is evident in the research cited by Maher, cohort learning has become a standard frame for school design and
  3. 3. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 3 program facilitation. In other words, what Maher outlines, we see in our elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and daily workplace interactions. But is Maher’s article a quality piece worthy of consideration? Methodology Maher’s ethnographic study was conducted over a one-year period with adult graduate students at a university. According to Patton, an ethnographic study is one that requires, “intensive fieldwork in with the investigator is immersed in the culture under study.” (Patton, 2002, p. 81). Indeed Maher’s study was ethnographic; Maher states that the aim of the study was to, “better understand how students made meaning of their cohort membership and how they felt this membership affected how and what they learned…” (Maher, 2004, p. 19). But was Maher’s research deep enough? Does it meet Patton’s standard of “intensive” and was it “immersed”? Maher notes that her research was conducted over the course of approximately one year, “Through in-depth interviews with students and instructors and observations of both while they interacted in this [cohort] environment” (Maher, 2004, p. 19). One could hardly qualify a study
  4. 4. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 4 that utilized only the qualitative methods of interviews and observations as highly credible or worthy of significance. Not when compared to the methods used by of Bullough, Clark, Wentworth, and Hansen in their study of cohorts. Bullough et al. (2001) conducted a study with a single teacher education cohort. Their data was collected using observations of classes, a student’s attitude survey at the midterm and at the conclusion of the program, a socio-gram to identify student clique membership, a group interview conducted midterm without the instructors present, a “cohort life-line”, and individual interviews at the conclusion of the classes with the students in sub- groups. Two of the studies authors, Wentworth and Hansen, also taught in the cohort and supervised students (Bullough et al., 2001). Additionally, Mello conducted research in 1999 with University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students enrolled in the Integrated Cohort Pre-Professional Program. The method of data collection relied on interviews, surveys (pre and post field experience), journal posting, online discussions, and student artwork (Mello, 2003).
  5. 5. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 5 Maher’s work may have proven more credible had the study been truly intense or immersed. As noted by Patton, qualitative findings stem from three areas: interviews, observations, and documents (2002). Maher’s work lacked a critical element found in similar cohort studies, namely document analysis. One might gather that Maher’s conclusions are insufficient when faced with the fact that the work never accounted for any document data. Simple surveys, personal journal reflections, or some other private writing might have been utilized to support the study’s findings. In short, a true immersion into the cohort could have been employed. Personal Credibility As noted by Patton, “…a qualitative report should include some information about the researcher” so as to avoid discrediting the study (Patton, 2002). Yet after a close reading of Maher’s article, on is left wondering who the researcher is. Information about Maher’s educational background, the reasons for the research, the association with the studied subjects, and Maher’s own professional associations would have added credibility to this study. Patton notes that all of these facts contribute in some way
  6. 6. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 6 to the perceived credibility of the researcher. Findings Maher’s conclusions contribute most to the discussion and research about cohorts. Indeed, those who also study cohorts have echoed Maher’s conclusions. Maher’s final conclusions are that cohorts are a positive experience for many students but may pose a serious problem for others and faculty. Maher notes that cohort programs help students develop strong bonds, make greater discover through collaboration, and assist in building leadership traits and qualities in students. Mello’s work supports these conclusions; “the use of cohorts has assisted in establishing rapport, safety, identity, and collegiality” (Mello, 2003). Additionally, Seifert (2005) writes, “[the] direct assessments of cohorts… are more positive than negative” (p. 241). However, Maher also says that teachers of cohorts “should be on the lookout for groupthink and collusion” (p. 22). A peer relation’s problem is a conclusion also drawn by Seifert. He says that cohort students point out continuous interpersonal issues (Seifert, 2005). And
  7. 7. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 7 Bullough et al. (2001) write, “…we think that cliquishness of the cohort is a problem” (p. 108). Conclusion Maher’s article presented readers with a small glimpse into the life and learning’s of a cohort. The article was weak on credibility and lacked any explanation into the methodology employed. Related research is flush with author and researcher background as well as with research methodology. Both of which leave little room for doubt of credibility. While Maher’s article was flawed in several ways, the conclusions presented were evident in all of the relevant research. Namely, that cohort learning is beneficial for many but also unearths serious personal and interpersonal issues for students. For most institutions of higher education, cohorts seem to be emerging as the choice learning model. But while the benefits of cohort learning are readily noticeable, cohort learning can be a problem for students and for faculty. Prior to adopting a cohort program, colleges and universities should immerse themselves into the research and employ a model of learning that works for
  8. 8. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 8 their students of concern.
  9. 9. Qualitative Research Pre-assignment 9 References Bullough, Jr., R. V., Clark, D. C., Wentworth, N., & Hansen, J. M. (2001). Student Cohorts, School Rhythms, and Teacher Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 28(2), 97-110. Maher, M. (2004). What Really Happens in Cohorts. In About Campus, 9(3), p. 18-23. Mello, R. A. (2003). The Integrated Cohort Program: An Evaluation of a Pre-professional Course of Study. The Educational Forum, 67(4), 354-363. Patton, Q. (2002). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods (3 ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Seifert, K. (2005). Learning About Peers: A Missed Opportunity for Educational Psychology. The Clearing House, 78(5), 239-243.

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