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Monday, March 28, 2016

Final... Thesis... Defense... Mental Exercise

I have no idea why I didn't think of this before, but I just googled the common questions that panelists ask during thesis defense. Tomorrow is my final thesis defense and I haven't fully prepared myself because I don't even know what I'm preparing for. I know my thesis by heart but I guess it's practicing how to answer questions I need to prepare myself for. Good thing I have confidence and passion with my research, that's pretty much a huge advantage on acing this oral examination. 

I have gathered a lot of questions from various sites. Most of them have more or less the same question but just worded differently. I will try to answer it nevertheless so my brain gets some exercise and mental preparations already.

*phew* here I go. 

(These sounds like beauty pageant questions!!)

Thesis Title:

To Stay or Not to Stay: Factors Affecting Student Persistence of Students Benefiting from Need-Based Financial Aid

Based on your findings, what will your next research project be? How would you build on this research?

> I can work on developing an instrument that will help predict the severity of a scholar's tendency to drop out from school. The instrument will measure the extent of family support, social integration and certainty of choice. Parents educational socialization will be covered by family support. It can build upon the initial instrument that was already developed in the study and integrated with the findings from the qualitative phase. 

Where do you see this kind of research moving in the future? What are the openings?

> This kind of research will help the university in addressing the problems of students benefiting student financial aid. When students drop out from the institution, it is both a waste of time and resources for both the institution and the student because time and resource was already invested the moment they first enrolled in the program.

How could you improve your work? How can your research be used in practice?

> I can improve my work by including in my scope of participants those students who actually dropped out from the institution and identify the weaknesses in their situations that made them drop out in their programs. My research can be used by the administrators to help take care of their scholars. As previous literature already stated, most enrollment managers are focused only on admitting students but not much concern on making them stay until program completion

What would you change if you were to do the study again? If you did it again what would you do differently?

> I would include in my qualitative interview, interviews of students who proceeded with dropping out of the institution. This can help validate what other students perceive as cause of their persistence.

What would you do differently if you were setting out to do it today? In hindsight, is there any aspect of the research that you would do differently?

> same as above. 

Looking back, what might you have done differently? What are the main weaknesses with what you did and why are they there?

> One of my main weaknesses is that I only included in my study those who are currently enrolled and already persisted in attaining a degree. I believe that the voice of those who actually left the institution without finishing the degree still warrants a position in this kind of study. 

What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work? What is the main contribution of your thesis?

> One of my strongest part is that my instrument went through a development stage and that I was able to interview students who were successful in persisting. My weak part I wasn't able to include those students who did not persist. 

> my main contribution is finding out what highly influences the student persistence of students benefiting from financial aid

What have been the significant contributions of your research? In what ways does this research make a significant contribution to your particular field of study?

> same as above

What have you done that merits an MA degree? Summarize your key findings.

> I have contributed to the knowledge in helping enrollment managers, parents, teachers and other people concerned, to identify factors that add to the persistence of student benefiting from financial aid. This information is highly valuable and important because students benefiting from financial aid also serve as investments for institutions because they are shouldering the education of these students thus these students should finish their degree in order not to waste the money spent on them.

What's original about your work? Where is the novelty?

> I was able to focus on low SES students benefiting from financial aid and dig deeper on possible causes why there are some students who don't persist despite the financial aid 

What are the contributions (to knowledge) of your thesis? What is the implication of your work in your area? What does it change?

> Implication of my thesis in my field is that student persistence from low socioeconomic status is not a guarantee just because you help these students with financial assistance. The life of a student coming from this socioeconomic background goes beyond financial challenges 

Why did you decide to undertake this specific project? What are the motivations for your research?

> I decided to take on this research because of my role as a financial aid coordinator of the university. I have interviewed numerous students almost everyday and they always have problems that goes beyond the classroom. Some of them would inform me that they fear that they may lose their scholarship, or they are unhappy with their course and even to the extent that they are already transferring schools despite the financial aid in the university. The concerns of the students had motivated me to help them and the university, avoid such instances. How can we prevent or lessen drop out rates of students coming from low SES? I believe that having a degree is one way of helping the life of these students and their family, so we need to support them achieve a degree. 

Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling? What are the main aims, questions, hypotheses?

> The main objective of my thesis is to find out what influences the persistence of students benefiting from student financial aid because this type of information will help us predict those who are risk of drop out behavior and prevent it from happening. My hypothesis is that family support, certainty of choice of program, social integration and parent's educational socialization influence student persistence. 

Where did your research-project come from? How did your research-questions emerge?

> based from my interviews with the students benefiting from student financial aid and literature review that would be most relevant to the current setting I ended up with family support, parents educational socialization, certainty of choice of program & social integration as factors I wanted to investigate if they significantly affect student persistence or these students 

> the culture of familialism, shared social goals, collectivistic orientation and value of having clear goals, influenced my chosen variables

Why are your research questions interesting or important? Comment on and justify your research methodology. Why have you done it this way? What are the alternatives to your approach?

> My research questions are important because it is important to know how we can predict and prevent dropout rates in an institution. Most especially to those who are benefiting from student financial aid as this is a form of an investment to the institution and you need to take care of your investments. In an economical perspective on another hand, helping more students from low SES to attain a college degree will help boost the number of qualified professionals that will help boost the economy in the long run. And lastly, for the student and the family of the student themselves, a college degree is one huge leap for them in attaining freedom from poverty. 

> an alternative approach to my research is developing a ground theory by reversing the method and doing a qualitative phase first before the quantitative phase. In that type of method, the qualitative phase can explore more factors that can hinder or contribute to persistence and then validate the findings through an exploratory factor analysis during the quantitative phase. I did a sequential explanatory method in my study because I wanted to build on the model that bean already proposed as a synthetic model of student attrition. 

What are the principal findings of this research project? How do they compare the findings of other projects within the field?

> my principal findings is that family support, parents educational socialization, certainty of choice of program and social integration influence student persistence. Most research and theoretical models on student attrition focus on the institution's goals of helping students have that institutional fit and that is reflected on the social integration variable. But what's special in this study is that the family orientation of our Filipino culture stood out because it turns out that even if these students are already in college and considered as an adult, family support still has the most influence in student persistence. 

Who are your closest competitors? How has your thinking changed as a result of this research project?

> I would have imagined that social integration and certainty of choice of program would have strongest influence for these college students because being a college student is going through stages of independence. But all the more it proves that as a Filipino, our sense of family and the approval or support of our family is really significant in attaining our life goals. 

What have you learned from the process of doing your MA? Has your view of your research topic changed during the course of the research?

> I learned that a master's degree goes beyond just attending classes and finishing your course units. Attaining a master's degree in itself is a journey that entails each and every graduate student having their own story to tell. A student in graduate school in itself involves student persistence. And during the course of my research it has helped me identify my own student persistence. Why do I want to finish my studies? Who influences my persistence? What hinders my desire to finish this program? Need do I say, that of course my hypothesis applies to my own personal experience. The support of my family, parents, institution and my purpose of choosing this program has both positively and negatively affected my student persistence during the course of my MA journey.

In one sentence, what is your thesis? What are you most proud of, and why?

Family, friends, institutional support & the student's purpose of pursuing that chosen program influence student persistence. What am I most proud of? I am proud that my hypothesis is right. That these factors indeed significantly affect student persistence and the next step is converting this finding into practice and be able to salvage and help those students at risk of dropout. Grades aren't an explicit evidence of knowing who is at risk, but it is actually what goes inside the mind and heart of the student that makes them at risk of dropout behavior 

Where do current technologies fail such that you (could) make a contribution? Where did you go wrong?

> I think the part I went wrong in doing my thesis was I was reading dissertations and I end up taking tips and copying their methodology which in return was a huge waste of my time because I didn't realize that most of what I have been doing was unnecessary. Such as when I was trying to analyze per participant like a case study approach but in the end I only need a thematic analysis to analyze my qualitative data.

How have you evaluated your work? How do your contributions generalize?

> I am very proud of my work because if you take a look at it, I actually did three research studies in one thesis. First one was the instrument development, second one was the quantitative phase and third one was qualitative phase. Because I established my own instrument, I can very much well be confident that my findings can be generalized closely to the population in question. My participants are students in the university, they are benefiting from need-based financial aid and the instrument was tested in the cultural context.

What previous research has been done on the topic of your study? What does your thesis deal with "What kind of theory is it based on?"

Bean, Tinto and Pascarella to name a few who did a significant amount of research on student attrition or persistence. When student persistence is low, attrition is high, and that's the relationship of the two. These studies are based on either Bean's or Tinto's theory of student attrition. My thesis used bean's model of student attrition because it is a comprehensive synthesis of various models of attrition and persistence. 

Question 1: In few sentences, can you tell us what your study is all about?

My study is about exploring the factors that affect the student persistence of students benefiting from student financial aid. More specifically, validating the significance of family support, parents educational socialization, social integration and certainty of choice of program in its influence to the student persistence of students who are coming from low income families. 

In non-technical language, are family, friends, institutional support and chosen degree program important in the desire of a student to finish a degree?

Question 2: What is your motivation for this study?

I want to help scholars who are at risk of dropping out, prevent from dropping out. But how does the administration identifies these students? This is what my study aimed to pursue. 

Question 3: How will this study contribute to the body of knowledge?

My study will contribute on information how we can prevent student dropout behavior from students coming from low socioeconomic status even if we already removed the hindrance of matriculation expenses. 

Question 4: What is the significance of the study?

Information on how to predict and prevent student attrition will help students from low socioeconomic status complete a college degree. In a business perspective, this can help the institution gain success in their investment since these students are benefiting from financial aid, it goes with saying that the institution has invested money to these students to pursue completing a degree and add to the number of students to graduate in their institution,. In an economical perspective, this can help boost the economy's number of qualified professionals and alleviate families from poverty. 

Question 5: Did you bridge any gap from your study?

Studies have shown that financial aid contribute to student persistence of students in low socioeconomic background but studies did not explore on why students still dropout despite the financial aid. 

Question 6: What limitations did you encounter?

I was not able to cover students who proceeded in dropping out from the institution.

Question 7: What are your findings?

Family support, social integration, parent's educational socialization and certainty of choice of program influence student persistence.

Question 8: What Methods or Sampling Technique did you employ?

I used Sequential Explanatory Method where I did a quantitative phase first to test the significance of my variables and the qualitative phase would validate the results of the quantitative phase.

Question 9: Why choose this method?

There is already a comprehensive model on student attrition as done by Bean, I wanted to apply the model in the setting of my research instead of creating a new grounded theory. Through the quantitative phase I tested the significance of my chosen variables and the qualitative phase help interpret why those variables were significant. 

Question 10: Based on your findings what are your recommendations?

I would recommend future studies to develop an instrument that can help predict students risk of dropping out. This is one direct application of my current findings. 

Question 11: Based on your findings what areas will you suggest for future research?

Future research can explore the different ways of how parents socialize with their children when it comes to education related concerns and goals. 

Question 12: How can your research study be put into practice?

As mentioned in my recommendation, one can develop an instrument to identify students at risk of dropping out. But in a much more lower scale of number of students, faculty members or people of position can explore the situation of the student by interviewing the student in aspects with regards to family support, social integration, parent's socialization and extent of how the student's program is related to their goals. 

Question 13: How would you summarize your study to a practitioner in a few sentence?

Family support, friends, institutional fit and certainty of choice of program influences the desire of a students coming from low SES and benefiting from financial aid to finish their degree program. 

Question 14: What would you change if you were to conduct the study again?

I would like to add more participants in the qualitative study and also include those who left the institution.

Question 15: What is your measurement Instrument?

I developed an instrument by creating item statements based from previous instruments used by other researchers and also from literature. I asked experts to review the statements and conducted a pilot test of the instrument to identify the validity or the instrument and reject poor items.

Question 16: What are your research variables?

My research variables are Family Support, Parent's Educational Socialization, Social Integration and Certainty of Choice of Program.

Question 17: What are your research questions?

My research question is "Does Family Support, Parent's Educational Socialization, Social Integration and Certainty of Choice of Program have influence on student persistence of student benefiting from financial aid?

Question 18: What do you plan to do with your research project after Graduation?

I would like to share it to the Office of Admissions and Scholarships so that they have an idea how to help their scholars in their struggles to attain a college degree. 

Question 19: What source of data was employed for the study?

I used second hand resources via literature review and also direct data collected directly from students benefiting from financial aid.

Question 20: What theories or theoretical framework is your study based on?

My study is based on Bean's Model of student attrition where environmental variables, attitude/outcome variables, background variables, organizational variables have direct and indirect influence on dropout behavior.

Question 21: How would you relate your findings to existing theories on the study?

Family support and Parents educational socialization are environmental variables that influence student persistence. Certainty of Choice of Program is an attitude/outcome variable that influence student persistence. Social integration is an organizational variable that influence student persistence.

Question 22: What recommendations do you have for future research?

Same as Question #10

Question 23: What is the scope of the study?

Exploring the factors that influence student persistence of students benefiting from need-based financial aid

Question 24: What question(s) do you have for the committee?

Question 25: Do you have any closing comments?

Thank you for the intellectual discussion and taking time to help me improve my research work.

"What is your thesis about, what are the major contributions and what have you done that merits a Master's degree?".

1.    Can you start by summarising your thesis?

2.    Now, can you summarise it in one sentence?

3.    What is the idea that binds your thesis together?

4.    What motivated and inspired you to carry out this research?

5.    What are the main issues and debates in this subject area?

6.    Which of these does your research address?

7.    Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?

8.    Who has had the strongest influence in the development of your subject area in theory and practice?

9.    Which are the three most important papers that relate to your thesis?

10.    What published work is closest to yours? How is your work different?

11.    What do you know about the history of [insert something relevant]?

12.    How does your work relate to [insert something relevant]?

13.    What are the most recent major developments in your area?

14.    How did your research questions emerge?

15.    What were the crucial research decisions you made?

16.    Why did you use this research methodology? What did you gain from it?

17.    What were the alternatives to this methodology?

18.    What would you have gained by using another approach?

19.    How did you deal with the ethical implications of your work?

20.    How has your view of your research topic changed?

21.    How have you evaluated your work?

22.    How do you know that your findings are correct?

23.    What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work?

24.    What would have improved your work?

25.    To what extent do your contributions generalise?

26.    Who will be most interested in your work?

27.    What is the relevance of your work to other researchers?

28.    What is the relevance of your work to practitioners?

29.    Which aspects of your work do you intend to publish – and where?

30.    Summarise your key findings.

31.    Which of these findings are the most interesting to you? Why?

32.    How do your findings relate to literature in your field?

33.    What are the contributions to knowledge of your thesis?

34.    How long-term are these contributions?

35.    What are the main achievements of your research?

36.    What have you learned from the process of doing your Master's

37.    What advice would you give to a research student entering this area?

38.    You propose future research. How would you start this?

39.    What would be the difficulties?

40.    And, finally… What have you done that merits a Master's Degree?

(Self-made questions)
How does your thesis relate to gaining a Master's degree in Learning and Teaching.

Once you chose a profession in the education industry, once you chose a teaching profession, your role as an educator goes beyond teaching and learning knowledge and facts. Being learner-centered you also need to understand where your students are coming from because if a student enters your classroom with all these burdens of lack of support and financial problems, none of the things you teach inside the classroom we'll ever get into the minds of the student. CHAR! Ms universe! 

Justify your thesis according to the learner centered principles.

Learner Centered Principle No.7 What and how much is learned is influenced by the learner's motivation. Motivation to learn, in turn, is influenced by the individual's emotional states, beliefs, interests and goals, and habits of thinking.

Students' belief about themselves as learners and the nature of learning have a marked influence on motivation. Positive emotions generally enhance motivation and facilitate learning and performance. Mid anxiety can also enhance learning and performance by focusing the learner's attention on a particular task.

Learner Centered Principle No. 11 Learning is influenced by social interactions, interpersonal relations, and communication with others.

Setting that allow for social interactions, and that respect diversity, encourage flexible thinking, and social competence can enhance learning.

Learner Centered Principle No. 13 Learning is most effective when differences in learners' linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds are taken into account.

Language, ethnicity, race, beliefs, and socioeconomic status all influence learning.

Sources for practice questions:


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