Author Archives: Melissa D Atkinson

45th Week PhD: Motivation

The past few weeks we have been discussing motivation in our Advanced Human Learning course. One of the articles we read, which happened to be a summary of a meta-analysis, was about how extrinsic rewards can be detrimental to intrinsic motivation. This has been studied on many levels, in many settings, but educational researchers are especially interested in motivation. For example, pizza parties, gold stars, and other rewards, can decrease intrinsic motivation. How do you teach intrinsic motivation at a young age, or at any age? This is hard to do since parents, teachers, caregivers, are unaware of what makes a child want to do certain things because they want to do it and not because they have to do it. Why do some children want to paint, solve math problems, play the violin, or read above their reading level? Are these things other children can learn to want to do on their own for its own reward?

Many of these questions have been pondered by classmates, and there doesn’t seem to be an answer for them. Teachers and parents can set goals for children to set them up for success, which will hopefully lead to intrinsic motivation later. One of our authors suggested that even adults can be intrinsically motivated to achieve goals even though it requires more effort and energy to learn. Habits need to unlearned in order to learn new ones. This can be hard for adults who have been doing the same thing for years.

My own intrinsic motivation has taken a hit this semester due to the lack of communication with one of our professors. She goes for weeks at a time without any feedback, encouragement, or instructions. We are left to fend for ourselves, taking autonomous learning to new heights for a doctoral level course in a program known for its excellence in online learning. We have turned in three papers, as a group, and haven gotten one back graded. Our next assignment is to be done individually. I am not worried if I will pass the course. I am worried that an opportunity was missed to learn more, express more, and do more than what I was given. That is what has sucked motivation from me this semester. I am hoping next semester my attitude will change and my motivation will improve.

Blessings to you and yours.


40th Week PhD: Spring Bed & Break(fast)

In a week and three days, my husband and I will be celebrating spring break by going to a Miranda Lambert concert and then going to the B&B she owns in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, again. We decided to go back because we really liked it there and wanted to see some things we didn’t get to last time we were there. Also, the breakfast is amazing and the service is first rate. We hope that there will be a band playing at the Platinum ballroom while we are there, since it wasn’t opened for bands last time we were there.

Spring break means no homework for a week and no reading of textbooks. I will be reading “Wild Rover No More” by L.A. Meyer as I need to review it for a publication in a couple of weeks. That just means I get to read a young adult fiction novel. Yippee! And, this is the last book in the Bloody Jack series, so all of the burning questions should be answered, right?

Before spring break can begin, I need to turn in my statistics assignment due this Sunday. There are vocabulary terms to learn, hypothesis tests to execute, results to interpret, graphs to label, and APA style to conquer. No biggie. In the meantime, our professor I mentioned in the last post still has not been in contact with her students, except through personal e-mail. This brings autonomous learning to a whole new level. Our second group assignment was due today, and we still have not received a grade or feedback on our last assignment.

It’s the 40th week of this journey my friends, and it will only get more exciting and challenging as the weeks go by.

Blessings to you and yours.

38th Week PhD: Theory Weary

For some reason this semester I have not blogged as much as last semester. There are several reasons for this: my mom has had some health issues, one course this semester is hard on the brain, and one course this semester is disorganized which makes me weary. Educational statistics is hard. Knowing when to use what test to determine normality and to test hypotheses is not as easy as it sounds.

The Advanced Human Learning and Motivation course seems to be disorganized in that the professor did not post for two weeks even though several of us posted questions in the appropriate discussion board. She did respond to personal e-mails from several of us who needed to know some answers before we turned in an assignment. I even gave an answer to one of my classmates who had posted a question in the discussion forum. The professor had e-mailed someone else in my small group the answer. Our first assignment was a group assignment where we had to divide tasks to each member of the group in order to answer three questions. Our group has four members so two of us worked on one question. Our professor gave us a discussion board question last week in which we had to compare the criteria of a theory given by one textbook author to the “theory” proposed by another author in another textbook. I call this being “theory weary” since we discussed the pants off whether primal leadership is a theory. Our professor responded to some of us in one day and told us she would be responding to each person within the next two weeks, but we have not heard from her since last Wednesday. Some of us think primal leadership is a theory and some of us do not think it is a theory. Personally I do not think it is because of the lack of empirical research to support the claims of the author. Also, the inventory used to determine emotional intelligence has not been validated except by the company that publishes and sells the inventory. Now when I come in contact with a theory, the criteria is in the back of my head and I am critiquing the theory.

I understand that online learning is mostly autonomous. Doctoral level classes extend beyond the idea of professors professing their knowledge upon the students so the students can recite it back. So far our professors have nudged us, encouraged us, stood back while we discussed, and stepped in when we needed guidance. The semester is not over yet, so the professor in question may be more active with us in the future, but so far she has not lived up to the kind of feedback we are accustom to receiving in our doctoral journey.

Blessings to you and yours.

What Week Is This Anyway? PhD, Human Learning, Stats, and Grammar Lab

Technically this is week 34 (including breaks), so there’s that. Only about a hundred more weeks to go!

Theories, SPSS, and grammar are the focus of the courses I am taking this semester. “What does grammar have to do with a PhD?” you ask. Well, it does help when writing papers, but this grammar course is part of a copyediting program that will lead to a certification in copyediting upon completion of the program. The librarians were offered to take this program to possibly help with copyediting duties now that the university press has relocated (physical and administrative) into the library building.

So, I am taking 3 courses this semester, in case you didn’t catch that. So far, Advanced Human Learning and Motivation has a lot do to with developmental theories, including cognitive-stage, social learning, sociocultural, information processing, and ethology. We are not really studying the theories per se, but what makes up a theory–the good and the bad. Educational Statistics involves downloading SPSS software and learning how to use it for research. In Grammar Lab, we took a diagnostic test to see where we are at with our grammar capabilities and as it turns out, I need some work on grammar rules and regulations. Must. Not. Use. Too. Many. Periods.

It’s going to be an interesting semester.

Blessings to you and yours.

24th Week PhD: It’s Up for Debate

This week for our Advanced Worldview class, we had to watch one of two debates and then discuss who we thought won and why. The debates involved Christopher Hitchens, the author of god is not great: How religion poisons everything. He had debates with Dinesh D’Souza and William Lane Craig (who was one of the editors of our textbook for the first Worldview class this summer) on the existence of God. I chose to watch the debate with Craig. After watching the debate, I decided to find out more about Hitchens because I wanted to pray for him. I found out that about a year after the Craig debate, he was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer. He died about a year and a half after that diagnosis. According to his wife, he stuck to his belief in atheism until the end.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an atheist before and certainly have never heard a debate with one before. I usually do not watch or listen to debates as that word has a negative connotation to me when thinking in a Christian manner. I chose Craig as the winner of the debate, simply because I did not think Hitchens produced a reasonable, coherent, convincing argument to refute the existence of God. Craig’s evidence on the existence of God was sound, convincing, and rang true to me, a Christian (obviously). I have attached the debate here in case you are interested in watching it.

I only have one more reflective journal post left the week after Thanksgiving and then I will have completed three courses (plus one residency) toward my doctorate (a total of 11 hours, about 44 more to go then dissertation). Yay!

Blessings to you and yours.

22nd and 23rd Week PhD: Manuscript and Retreat

The semester is almost done. I have skipped a week or two of blog posts. Last week was reserved for working on our advanced worldview manuscript. My manuscript, as you know from last post, was about comparing and contrasting individualism with a Christian worldview. Even though individualism as a worldview centers on self and self-sufficiency as the solution to redemption, there are a few commonalities with a Christian’s view of the world. Beginning with Luther, salvation was thought of as an individual, personal journey rather than being something that had to be made through the intercession of a priest. An individual’s relationship to God is important. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you don’t or can’t love yourself, then loving others is hard. But this does not mean you have to love yourself above others (Philippians 2:3-4).

This past weekend I was part of a retreat that ACU does about four times a year. They invite faculty and staff (about 15) for a 24-hour retreat called StillPoint. The point of this retreat is to come to the quiet and answer the will of God. We learned about creating time for quiet, solitude, and prayer with God just as Jesus did. It was a time of renewal, focus, and peace. The book that was used to create this retreat is Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton. Finding time for quiet and solitude in this busy world can be a challenge, but when you do, you will find that moving from solitude to community to ministry as Jesus did. This concept was made clear to us by Henri Nouwen in an article from Leadership Journal that explains how Jesus needed time with God in order to be on the same page as his Father (to discover his Father’s will). The same is true for us. Take some time, 5, 10, 15 minutes away from the internet, your phone, bills, television, and even family to spend time with God. He wants to spend time with you. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:7, NIV).

Blessings to you and yours.

21st Week PhD: Worldview, Manuscript, and Joseph

This week we will be focusing on writing our Advanced Study of Worldview manuscript. We are to choose a competing worldview with a Christian worldview (I chose Individualism), define the competing worldview, describe the impact of the worldview on education, compare and contrast with a Christian worldview, and challenges and opportunities facing faith-based professionals who seek to redemptively engage adherents of such a worldview. Our final manuscript should be about 10-15 pages of content with about 3-5 pages of front and back matter. I haven’t started writing yet, but the articles and books I chose to use in the manuscript are interesting and should provide insight into how to narrow this very broad topic. Individualism as defined by Wilkens and Sanford (2009) “is the belief that the individual is the primary reality and that our understanding of the universe…should be centered in oneself” (p. 27). The Bible is pretty clear of how we should view ourselves as part of this world. Jesus says, “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, New International Version). In other words, treat others like you want them to treat you. Similarly in Phlippians 2:3-4, Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (NIV). In American life, these can be hard to do sometimes since most of what we do is geared toward individual fulfillment such as education, consumerism, social media, etc. In education, individualism is found in standardized testing and focus on individual accomplishments (valedictorian, honors, etc.). Somehow fitting all of these ideas into a paper will be my task for the next week.

Wilkens, S. & Sanford, M. L. (2009). Hidden worldviews: Eight cultural stories that shape our lives. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

In the meantime, I am listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Donny Osmond version) to boost my writing and academic spirits. You could say that Joseph’s brothers showed signs of individualism in that they thought of a plan to get rid of Joseph to further their own gain (the ideas were collective, but they did individually agree to do them). They even went so far as to plan his murder (until Reuben stepped in) and then covered up the non-murder, lied to their father, and created an even bigger mess than if they had been nice to Joseph. Luckily for Joseph’s brothers, Joseph was nice and ended up forgiving them in the end, but not before playing a tiny trick on them.

My favorite song from Joseph is Close Every Door. Here are some of the lyrics: Close every door to me. Keep those I love from me. Children of Israel are never alone.

Bonus! Below is a clip of figure skater Todd Eldredge (World Champion, 6-time U.S. National Champion, and Olympian) skating to Close Every Door, which is the first time I ever heard the song that consequently led me to buy the CD and listen to it over and over and over.

Blessings to you and yours.

20th Week PhD: Tishomingo!

What in the world is a Tishomingo?! That’s what you’re probably asking, right? Tishomingo is not a thing, it’s a place, in Oklahoma. Where is that, you ask? Well, it is north of Dallas about two hours. It is about an hour south of Ada and about two hours southeast of Oklahoma City.  Why would you go visit there, you ask? We spent three nights at a bed and breakfast in this tiny town. Some of this town’s claims to fame are The Pink Pistol, a Chickasaw bank museum, and that’s about it until about a month or so ago. My husband and I received word in January that country music singer Miranda Lambert, who opened and owns The Pink Pistol, bought a store front across the street and was remodeling it for a bed and breakfast. A few months ago, it officially opened for business and my husband and I reserved our rooms to coincide with my fall break from the doctoral program (a week free of homework, except some reading).

The Ladysmith Bed and Breakfast is a delightful boutique, classy, fancy-but-not-too-fancy, unique bed and breakfast experience. There are 8 rooms total, 5 downstairs and 3 upstairs. A three-course breakfast is made every morning by the innkeeper Staci often helped by her assistant Ashley. We were taken care of well by them and the other staff Chris, Amanda, and Josh. I guess the “odds were ever in our favor” since by happy coincidence, Miranda’s aunt and uncle were staying there while we were, and she dropped in one morning for breakfast to say hello to them. After another guest asked for a picture, I cautiously asked for a picture and she graciously obliged! She is very sweet, smart, and full of charisma. She even told us a few places to go while we were there! If you are looking for a unique, pampered experience for the two of you or for a girls’ getaway, this is definitely the place for you.

Well, enough of our wonderful fall break. However, I think it fits in relatively well with our topic in Advanced Worldview this week which was Postmodernism, specifically Postmodern Tribalism. According to Wilkens and Sanford (2009), postmodern tribalism is the belief that someone’s “tribe” is more important than any other “tribe” or culture (p. 142). While in Tishomingo, we visited the Chickasaw bank museum. This bank was the official bank of the Chickasaw nation in the early 1900s. It was restored to it’s original 1902 condition by the Johnston County Historical Society. There were so many interesting artifacts preserved from the Chickasaw tribe and other tribes on display. The attendant working there knew much of the history since she herself is Chickasaw.

We all can identify with a “tribe” of some sort, but it should not define all of us or be our motivation for serving God. Paul essentially denounces all of his “tribes” (circumcised, tribe of Benjamin, and Pharisees) in his letter to the Philippians when he says, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7, New International Version). As it says in Galatians 3:28 (NIV), “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Similarly Colossians 2:11 (NIV) says, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Christians should honor their unique cultures of origin, but when it comes to evangelism, there are no “tribes,” only love in Christ.

Blessings to you and yours.

18th and 19th Week PhD: Naturalism and Respite

I didn’t post anything this past week because we were out of town in Lubbock, and I didn’t plan ahead and think of posting before we left. Anyway, last week we discussed whether Naturalism (Methodological Naturalism) is consistent with a Christian worldview in the Advanced Worldview course and we discussed how well a doctoral dissertation in higher education we were assigned to read aligned with our Research Design textbook. The dissertation aligned well with our textbook even though our textbook has a copyright date of 2015 and the dissertation has a publication date of 2003. The author did not use our textbook for her research design, but consulted other texts that were either assigned or recommended to her by her professors. So, her research methods and design were perfectly reasonable for a dissertation.

I chose the belief that a worldview of methodological naturalism is not consistent with a Christian worldview. Methodological naturalism, or science for that matter, by itself, is not competing with a Christian worldview. However, if science or naturalism becomes the foundation of a belief system, then that is where there are inconsistencies with a Christian worldview. Even though science tries, it cannot explain everything that happens in the world, especially what is in a person’s heart and soul (thoughts, ideas, consciousness, subconsciousness, morals, ethics, etc.).

This week is our fall break, and I plan on doing lots of relaxing! Blessings to you and yours.

17th Week PhD: Nationalism or Moral Relativism

This week on the PhD front: Our question for Advanced Worldview was “Which do you think is more prevalent in society in general and in education: nationalism or moral relativism?” I chose moral relativism even though nationalism, when taken to extremes, can cause destruction and harm by those who believe in it strongly. According to Wilkens and Sanford (2009) nationalism is “the imbalanced and distorted form of something that is good–patriotism” (p. 62). Nationalism can be attributed to one of the ideals that led to Hitler’s power of the Nazis. If nationalism is not checked, it can lead to destruction.

Wilkens & Sanford described moral relativism as “a seismic shift in our culture” (p. 79). Moral relativism can also be described as a belief that truth no longer exists, “and if it does, it is certainly not self-evident” (Wilkens & Sanford, 2009, p. 79). I can see this more prevalent in society where the “anything goes” attitude is rampant. Many of the younger generation (under 25) are content with individualizing their faith, beliefs, and morals: my truth is not your truth and your truth is your own truth. Many of them do not like to be told “no” or “you’re wrong” when that is the message they need to hear. I have heard of teachers who are not allowed to tell a student “no”, “that’s wrong”, or give a grade of F since those are a hindrance to learning. It seems that letting students fail gives them a chance to get it right the next time, and learn in the process. If you do not let a student fail, they will think they are incapable of it. This may be a bit of a shock when they get into the real world.

Whether individualism, consumerism, nationalism, or moral relativism, these are threats to Christianity no matter which one is more prevalent. Knowing they exist is the first step in preventing them from becoming dominant thoughts and replacing God with them.

Blessings to you and yours.

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