Qualifying exam questions

This file contains a variety of qualifying exam questions. It is unlikely that any of these will ever be used again in exactly this form, but as a set they show the range and depth of questions that students encounter. For the Specialty and special field exams, many students present a portfolio or paper written for the purpose of the exam.

Distributed Knowledge (Special Field)

A Distributed Knowledge perspective sees the construction of knowledge as inextricable from the social practices people engage in as they work and interact in new ways. Consider the problem of telecommuting. What are the Distributed Knowledge issues that arise in this situation? How do ideas of knowledge organization, technology as social practice, or informal learning as discussed in the course provide insight into telecommuting? You may focus on one aspect here rather than trying to cover everything.

Educational Technology (General Field)

  1. Identify key aims, questions, or issues that define the domain of educational computer use that have motivated researchers to do research in this domain.
  2. Provide an overview of the conceptual approaches that researchers have used to guide their work in this domain. Include key theories, conceptual models, hypotheses, and research traditions.
  3. Evaluate the empirical status of two of the most important models or traditions.
  4. Discuss in depth the most important key theoretical and/or methodological controversy in this domain.
  5. What is the most promising new direction for research in this area? What important and significant questions will research in that direction address? Will this research direction yield important theoretical breakthroughs (e.g., advances in knowledge) or applications (e.g., solutions to socially relevant problems)?

For parts 3-5, the readers will not be looking for a ‘correct’ assessment of the state of the field, but rather expect that the student will make well-supported arguments detailing his own perspective on these issues.

In May, 2003, the Public Policy Institute of New York issued a report, A Laptop for Every Student?. It calls for a computer for every student in order improve teacher preparation and student learning, “especially in high-poverty schools.” In Is Sharing Out of the Question? Jamie McKenzie questions this on both economic and pedagogical grounds. Discuss this policy in terms of the underlying assumptions, both of those promoting it and those opposed. What do major learning theories have to say about this practice? How might they argue for particular implementations of computers in school?

Since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, educational policy has focused on reforming and restructuring education to meet the needs of globalization and the information economy by means of standardized testing, accountability programs, supporting science and mathematics instruction, and rapid infusion of ICT (information and computer technologies). Examine the rationale for this approach to educational reform through the voice of Jacques Ellul and Francois Lyotard. Give special attention to the following aspects: the purpose of public education, the role of teachers and students, and the nature of social relationships within classroom settings.

Teachers in K-12 schools are increasingly encouraged to “upgrade” their technology skills through renewed contacts with higher education, including school-university partnerships, graduate-level distance degree programs, and university-led workshops. Describe how Activity Theory, as described by Engestrom, might serve as a conceptual framework for studies of this kind of educational interaction. Describe the historical development and the major features and claims of Activity Theory. Outline an activity-theoretic research study that could illuminate a range of teaching and learning issues that are relevant to school-university educational technology initiatives.

Here are 8 questions, from which we’ll choose 3 for the exam.

  1. One of the current debates in education concerns “transmission” versus “construction” views of learning. Define these terms. How does computer-based learning support one or the other (or both) of these views?
  2. What is “object-oriented programming”? Describe its essential features and discuss how they would be useful in computer-based education. What are the limitations? Consider both technical limitations (if any) that might be addressed by more powerful language interpreters, and pedagogical limitations (if any), such as types of learning that OOP would not support.
  3. Define “intelligent tutoring system”, justifying your view of its principal components or features. Why would one want a tutoring system to have “intelligence”? What sorts of problems would be most appropriate for an ITS? What sorts not? What are the major limitations to the development of ITSs?
  4. Based on your own experiences as a programmer and readings of research literature (for example, but not necessarily limited to, the chapters by Drescher, Papert, Feurzeig, and diSessa in Lawler & Yazdani) what role do you think computer programming can play in learning (conceived broadly–not just as developing computer skills)? Does it lead to qualitatively different kinds of understanding? What types of subject areas and students can benefit most from programming as a mode of learning? What are the negatives?
  5. Develop a concise history of the PLATO project on the UIUC campus. Who was involved? How did it get started? How was it funded? What were the results of evaluations of PLATO? What are PLATO’s major contributions to the field of computer-based instruction? Given the recent developments of Nova Net, what do you see as a likely future for PLATO?
  6. What is a simulation? What is a computer-based simulation? Identify several sources dealing with the development of simulations, and synthesize the various views. What process should be followed in order to develop interactive computer-based simulations? What factors should one consider in planning a computer simulation of a particular phenomenon? What are the advantages and disadvantages of qualitative versus quantitative models in computer-based simulations?
  7. Based on information from published sources and your own views, describe the desirable and undesirable characteristics of videodisc-enhanced computer simulations. How do video simulations compare to computer-generated graphic simulations for different types of learning?
  8. Using references from the literature, describe in your own words the meaning of the term “computer literacy”. Should schools have any responsibility for teaching “computer literacy”? Why or why not? If so, what could schools do to help ensure that our future adults are computer literate?

Computer-Mediated Communication (Special Field)

Many educators have initiated online communities only to see them fail (in the sense that there is low or pro forma participation, or that early activity is followed by none at all). At the same time, online communities outside of formal education have flourished (e.g., blogs, instant messaging, multiplayer-games, dating services, Napster, Amazon, eBay, …). Does online collaborative learning and community building work outside of school, but not within? What do theories of constructing networked collaborative learning and online communities of practice tell us about this apparent disparity? What might educators learn from examining these out-of-school practices? What aspects of education might be lost if they were to model online communities in schools on these informal or commercial activities? What are the critical issues and the empirical questions we should address? How do theorists/researchers of CMC define the nature of technology? How might such definition/s frame the questions which guide research in the area of CMC and the development of on-line communities?

Evaluation (Special Field)

The National Center for Organizational Learning (NCOL), an agency created in July 2000, has just issued a Request for Proposals for an evaluation study of how local chambers of commerce are adapting to make use of new technologies, especially the web, including features such as user profiles, discussion forums, and web-enabled databases. Their specific questions are:

  1. To what degree are these organizations using the new technologies?
  2. Has the use of the new technologies altered the effectiveness of the organizations?
  3. How does the type of chamber (large/small, new/old, town/region/state, etc.) affect their use?
  4. What barriers are they encountering?
  5. What are the incentives for their use?
  6. What are the unanticipated consequences of the greater use of new technologies?

They are interested in both quantitative and qualitative approaches in the study. They specifically ask that you provide a theoretical framework to support whatever methods you propose for data collection and analysis.

Your task is to sketch a response to this RFP; that is, to outline an evaluation study that addresses their questions. Be sure to include the theoretical framework the request. Specifically, this framework should demonstrate your knowledge of the rationale for both quantitative and qualitative approaches. It should also show your understanding of key theoretical issues and concepts in both areas and your knowledge of the relevant literature.

>Designing a large evaluation study is a major task. In this case, you do not need to present complete evaluation instruments, details of data collection, timelines, and other important elements. Instead, focus your attention on the general approach and its theoretical rationale. One starting point is to suggest methods appropriate to each of their questions and to present a theoretical justification for each approach.

Human-Computer Interaction (Special Field)

What are the current assumptions and the existing body of research on the process of personalization of computer systems? Discuss this from the aspect of how users anthropomorphize systems as well as from the aspect of how systems can be designed to establish a more personal relationship with the user. Are there alternatives to the current paradigms in this area?

Language & Literacy (General Field)

Background: Reader-response theories, exemplified through the work of writers such as Louise Rosenblatt, Wolfgang Iser, Stanley Fish, Jane Tompkins, Patrocinio Schweikart, David Bleich, Elizabeth Freund, and many others, has revolutionized literary theory. Because these theories cause us to rethink basic assumptions about meaning, texts, authority, quality, standards, authors, and readers, they also have the potential to revolutionize classroom teaching.

The setting: Thurgood Marshall School has had a long history of innovative approaches to the teaching of language and literature, but teachers in the school today vary considerably in their approach to the selection of texts, the evaluation of student writing, the importance of teaching skills, and the goals for language arts teaching. Once populated mostly by children of European-descent farmers, the school has in recent years absorbed a large number of students from Southeast Asia and as well as many African-American students whose families have moved nearby in part because of a new automobile factory.

Your role: You have just given an inservice workshop for teachers in the Marshall school on “Reader Response in the Classroom”. There was an enthusiastic reception to the new ideas you brought to the workshop. There is strong interest in improving the curriculum, but also some skepticism. Teachers don’t know what this means for their classrooms: Is reader-response a set of new techniques, or does it imply that they have to throw out everything they’re doing? Should they still use basals? What do they do if they don’t understand a student’s response to their reading? And so on. The Principal wants to have a report describing a plan of action.

Your task: Write a memo addressing the teachers’ concerns. Include in your memo theory and research on reader-response, but don’t try to write a literature review or a major critical analysis. Instead, connect ideas from reader-response theory to the likely practical concerns of the teachers: choosing texts, evaluation, working with students from diverse backgrounds. You could, for example, show how reader-response might change the practices of a hypothetical teacher. You don’t need to answer every question the teacher would have. Instead, you may want to identify challenges that require further thinking and research.

Leisure Theory (Special Field)

  1. An interesting article recently appeared in the New York Times titled “For the Well Connected, All the World’s an Office: Cell phones, pagers, and wireless e-mail have created a workday that never ends.” Please discuss how such technological advances may impact leisure in America. For example: What will happen with the additional blurring of the distinction between work and leisure caused by these new technologies? What are the implications of businesses like Ford Motor Company that give employees free computers and Internet access? What might the psychological, social, physical and economic effects of such changes be? Will new technological “advances” exacerbate the problem?
  2. The benefits derived from well-planned tourism development are readily apparent and one important component of many travel destinations is the draw or appeal of cultural amenities. Arguably, the global demand for cultural experiences will continue to grow in the future as new markets open, standards of living rise and barriers to travel are reduced.
  3. Please outline or describe a model for cultural tourism development/marketing that addresses the dialectic of promoting economic advancement while maintaining or protecting the base of cultural resources.
  4. Similarly, please describe how you would propose to evaluate the success or failure of your cultural development model. That is: How would go about measuring the impacts? What information would be needed and what methods of data collection would be most appropriate? What analytical procedures would be employed for data analysis? What would you expect the greatest methodological difficulties to be and how might they be resolved?</ul>
  5. As an academic representative of the events industry I have been asked by the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism to contribute to their mission of promoting global peace and understanding through travel. If this organization contacted you as a travel expert, how would you make a case that recent advances in technology and information.

Philosophy of Art (General Field)

Discuss the philosophies of art of John Dewey (as presented in Arts as Experience), Harry Broudy (as presented in Enlightened Cherishing) and Suzi Gablik (as presented in the Reenchantment of Art). Reflect on the similarities and differences between the assumptions and goals of these philosophies. Discuss what you see as the curricular implications of these philosophies, including specific pedagogies (i.e., DBAE, VTS)?

Qualitative Research in Arts Education (Special Field)

Describe what you see as the main characteristics of qualitative methodology (focusing on case-study, ethnography and portraiture). Reflect on the similarities and differences of the genres. Discuss what types of issues do these genres facilitate and what can they contribute to the field of Arts education.

Science Education (General Field)

  1. Discuss various perspectives on constructivism. In particular: 1) How do these perspectives compare and contrast with more traditional views? and 2) What implications do these perspectives have for student learning, for classroom instruction, and for teacher education? Be sure to include in your discussion substantive references to major figures in the history and philosophy of science, to recent work on students’ conceptions, and to other work in science education from a constructivist perspective.
  2. Using the development of a science methods course as a context, discuss the interrelationships among the following items and thereby give us some insight to your philosophy of science education:
    • the science knowledge and skills you want to engender in public school students, (indicate the level of school you choose-elementary, middle, secondary)
    • the knowledge and skills you believe are necessary for science teachers to have and that can be developed in a science methods course, and what you would do in a science methods course to develop the above.

    Focus on only three or four major themes, topics, dimensions, etc., use examples to help illustrate your points, and use references to support your points, where appropriate.

  3. Discuss various perspectives on constructivism. In particular:
    • How does constructivism compare and contrast with more traditional views?
    • What implications does constructivism have for student learning, for classroom instruction, and for teacher education?

    Be sure to include in your discussion substantive references to major figures in the history and philosophy of science, to recent work on students’ conceptions, and to other work in science education from a constructivist perspective.

  4. What is constructivism? How does it compare and contrast with more traditional views? What implications does it have for student learning, classroom instruction, and teacher education?
  5. Imagine that you have just gotten a job at a university preparing pre-service teachers (choose your own grade level–early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school) in science teaching.
    • Design a course to do this.
    • Construct a rationale for the things that you would do in this course.
    • Describe the things that you (the teacher) would actually be doing.
    • Describe the sorts of things the students would be doing.
    • Talk about how you would assess the students.
  6. What are some of the major insights into the language, representations, beliefs, values, and epistemologies of scientists that have been provided by recent studies of science practices? How does the image of science that we see in these studies relate to classroom science? Should typical classroom science practices be more similar than they are to those of practicing scientists? Are there ways in which they should not be the same?
  7. Consider the NRC standards for inquiry in science education. Drawing from your own research and the research literature, discuss how an inquiry-oriented curriculum interacts with traditional educational notions of authority and power, paying particular attention to students’ experiences. What would be necessary, both on an institutional level and a personal level (teacher-student; student-student) for the goals of inquiry-oriented curriculum to be fulfilled?

Marginalized Students in Science Education (Special Field)

Consider the experiences of minority and/or otherwise marginalized students with the culture of science and the culture of school. Discuss how research informs our understandings of both of these experiences and their intersections. What does the construct of “scripters” and “counterscripters?” tell us (or not) about the culture of science and the culture of science education? What other research-based perspectives appear promising (and why) for this area?

Science Education, Philosophy of (Special Field)

Using the development of a science methods course as a context, write a coherent statement that discusses the interrelationships among the following items and thereby gives us some insight into your philosophy of science education:

  1. the science knowledge and skills you want to engender in public school students, (indicate level of school you choose – elementary, middle, secondary)
  2. the knowledge and skills you believe are necessary for science teachers to have and that can be developed in a science methods course, and
  3. what you would do in a science methods course to develop the above.</ul>

Focus on only three or four major themes, topics, dimensions, etc., use examples to help illustrate your points, and use references to support your points, where appropriate.

Social Interaction (Special FIeld)

Young children are reputed to be incapable of reciprocal interaction. This poses problems for many theories of cognitive development. Explain the extent to which this is true, elaborating about the contexts in which children may or may not be capable of reciprocal interaction, and with special attention to how this informs theories of learning and cognitive development.
Finally, be sure to cite relevant literature where appropriate or suggest specific studies to address questions that have not yet been answered by research.

What are the current assumptions and the existing body of research on the process of personalization of computer systems? Discuss this from the aspect of how users anthropomorphize systems as well as from the aspect of how systems can be designed to establish a more personal relationship with the user. Are there alternatives to the current paradigms in this area?

Social Network Analysis (Special FIeld)

One of the most powerful potentials of new information and communication technologies is to expand social relationships or social networks. How would you define social network analysis? What does research in that area tell us about the role of new media in establishing and maintaining social networks? What does it say about the demands entailed in learning how to use new technologies? Much of the social network research has focused on adults. How would you expect the research findings to carry over to computer learning and use among young children?

Technological Change (Special Field)

Please answer each of the following three questions, making certain to cite all the appropriate material (and providing references) to support your answers.

  1. In the era of information economy, technologies are one of the driving forces of globalization. How do those new technologies redefine the tourism industry? And what are their impacts?
  2. From the structuration perspective, how do technological changes interact with the changes in organizational forms? What challenges are created by those changes in organizational forms?
  3. Explain the evolutionary process of organizations in adoption and implementation of information technology, and how the capabilities of the organizations influence the trajectory of the evolutionary process.

Tourism (General Field)

  1. Tourism travel and the tourism industry have been defined in a number of ways and their definition is of much debate in the literature. Please answer the following questions about tourism and the tourism industry making certain to cite relevant literature and provide examples when possible:
    • Define and describe tourism from the behavioral perspective. Please include in your discussion a description of the nature of the “product being consumed” during the tourism experience.
    • Describe and explain the forces affecting travel over the past 200 years.
    • Please identify and discuss the recent literature which describes the underlying processes of consumer behavior which relate to recreation and tourism travel.
  2. Tourism, as part of the field of recreation, has gained substantial interest by the public. As part of this new interest in tourism studies many universities and colleges are planning to develop or to expand the course they offer on tourism. If you were asked to develop an introductory course on tourism, how would that course be structured? Please describe and discuss the course presuming an eleven week schedule; include in your discussion the basic justification for the class (including being located in recreation), brief descriptions of assignments you might develop for each section. In addition, please identify and discuss the pro’s and con’s of the major tourism texts currently available.

Writing Studies (General Field)

  1. The conflict between personal and public voice in academic writing is connected to issues of authority, empowerment, institutional norms and values, and disciplinary strictures. For those of us who engage in situated inquiry, this conflict plays out in relation to how we construct ourselves as researchers and authors, as well as to how we construct our subjects. However, little attention has been paid in composition or literacy studies to resolving these conflicts in ways that are realistic or
    satisfactory. For example, many scholars eschew personal voice in academic writing without accounting adequately for the personal qualities of all research and writing, along with the decision-making endemic to them.

    Considering works that address situated methodology, literacy, feminist theory, and other areas you deem relevant, outline what you perceive to be primary concerns related to the construction of voice in academic writing (the author’s as well as that of his or her subjects). Taking your analyses one step further, construct arguments for addressing and managing this conflict between personal and public voice in academic writing; specifically, in accounts of literacy research. Assume as your audience researchers engaged in and interested in such research.

  2. Recently much discussion in feminist research has focused on the goals and sometimes contradictory practices embodied in radical pedagogies and feminist theories. There are problems, some feminists argue, in associating too closely the discourses of “critical pedagogy” and “feminist pedagogy,”
    especially as they relate to issues of empowerment (Gore, 1992). Those who “empower,” the argument goes, are forever in a position of authority over those they seek to bestow power upon. Patricia Bizzell agrees. Nonetheless she recommends for the writing class certain forms of authority to encourage and improve students’ learning. She advocates practices that are firm but supportive. Other feminists, however, have begun to endorse confrontational classroom practices. Susan Jarratt and bell hooks, for
    example, see opposition as productive and ground their pedagogy in conflict. By confronting our differences, the two scholars argue, we and our students stand a greater chance of learning how to use rhetorical power for social justice.
  3. Relying on the scholarship of the feminists you have read as well as such critical pedagogues as Paulo Freire, Ira Shor, Ron Strickland and others you think appropriate, identify and analyze the common goals and points of departure among critical and feminist pedagogies. Then, based on your
    reading, develop a teaching philosophy or theory for working with basic writers that you would feel comfortable sharing with your advisees in the Academic Writing Program. Finally, bring together your analysis and philosophy in such a way that they inform a teaching plan. The plan can be for a specific assignment in Rhetoric 103 or 104 and need not be terribly lengthy; it could also be for a presentation aimed specifically at the AWP teachers you advise. The plan should have clear connections to your
    discursive analysis and to your philosophy of teaching.
  4. Reader-response criticism calls for a re-focus on the meaning-making processes of readers as opposed to the idea of stable or determinate meaning residing in a text. Differing experiences and perspectives of readers naturally lead to divergent readings. It is odd then that classical reader-response theories have tended to slight issues of gender, race, class, and linguistic or cultural diversity among readers. The question arises of how these theories would change if they seriously addressed issues of diversity.For this question, briefly sketch the development of reader-response criticism in terms of the diversity issue. Then, discuss the changes you would see, if any, in the nature of these reader-response theory if it were to explicitly account for the diverse backgrounds of actual readers. What would be the major implications for research and teaching of such an expanded theory?

Writing Studies (General Field)

  1. Attached are three accounts of classroom response practices. Consider what kinds of information each account provides (and does not provide) about response, how that information was gathered, and what implications each account individually, and the three accounts together, have for our understanding of the relationships between response and learning.
    • Atwell, N. (1987). In the middle: Writing, reading, and learning with adolescents. Portsmouth, NJ: Boynton/Cook Heinemann. (“Responding to writers and writing,” pp. 88-121)
    • Sperling, M., & Freedman, S. W. (1987). A good girl writes like a good girl: Written response to student writing. Written Communication, 4, 343-369.
    • Michaels, S. (1987) Text and context: A new approach to the study of classroom writing. Discourse Processes, 10, 321-346.
  2. Discuss recent research on the group work approach in writing nstruction. What are the major positions currently espoused by researchers? What is the evidence for and against each of these positions? To what extent are these arguments dependent upon the types of writing or the types of students? For this question, you may focus your discussion on a grade-level range, such as “secondary level,” or consider contrasting views across levels.

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