Dr. Laura Knight-Lynn: One of our responsibilities at the Center for Research Support is to enrich the activities that contribute to quality and productivity of Walden University research. Research can be an incredibly rewarding but isolating experience. This research conversation gives four scholars the opportunity to share their research and discuss their own research journeys. As active members of the scholastic conversation, two graduating students and their committee chair and research methodologists have been invited to participate in this conversation. These stellar students were selected for their academic research experience and because having completed their dissertation research, they can reflect upon the doctoral research process firsthand. By participating in this important forum, you will hopefully take away with you some insights into how you can actively enter the scholar-practitioner discourse about research while creating opportunities for positive social change. Thank you for joining us today.
Our first graduate panelist, Dr. Mary Hotaling earned a Ph.D. in Health Sciences. Her dissertation Effect of Clinical Laboratory Practitioner Licensing on Wages examines and extends the literature on licensing effects on wages of clinical laboratory practitioners, including women’s wages and professions not uniformly licensed across the 50 states. Dr. Hotaling’s dissertation committee chair is Dr. William Barkley, faculty member in our College of Health Sciences. Dr. Barkley is a skilled researcher and methodologist. Among many research and mentoring experiences, he co-founded and served as chief research officer at The Work Institute in Nashville, where he engaged in ongoing quantitative and qualitative program of research in all aspects of employee/employer alignment.
Our second graduate panelist, Dr. Rick Cox earned a Ph.D. in adult education leadership. His dissertation The Effects of Military Experience on Civic Consciences explores how United States military training and experience changes veterans’ civic-mindedness and related behaviors. Dr. Cox’s research methodologist is Dr. Kurt Schoch from The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. Dr. Schoch has earned a strong reputation as an educator, researcher, and performance improvement consultant for businesses, colleges, and healthcare organizations. As an accomplished methodologist, Dr. Schoch has a deep understanding of what makes for quality research. Dr. Hotaling and Dr. Cox’s comprehensive research remind us all of what’s possible here at Walden.
We have asked Dr. Reginald Taylor from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to moderate the discussion. Dr. Taylor is a curriculum developer, mentor, and talented researcher. And his questions will guide the presentation as Dr. Hotaling and Dr. Cox recount the research experiences that brought them to where they are today.
And now, it’s with great pleasure, that I welcome Dr. Kurt Schoch, Dr. Rick Cox, Dr. Mary Hotaling, Dr. Bill Barkley, and Dr. Reginald Taylor.
Dr. Reginald Taylor: Welcome. What a pleasure to be here discussing your research with our community of scholar practitioners. Let’s begin our discussion with you, Dr. Hotaling. Please give us a brief overview of the research that you embarked upon.
Dr. Mary Hotaling: My research surrounded professional licensing. And professional licensing is a very important topic. At this point in the U.S., this professional licensing affects about 29% of people working in the U.S. And this is even more important than unionization has become, where that affects about only about 17 or 18% of the population that’s working right now. Professional licensing is also important in establishing the practitioner’s initial competency as well as maintaining their competency throughout their working career. The clinical laboratory licensing for personnel has been very much overlooked. I only found two studies in the last 30 years that addressed what the effect of wages would be considering licensing for these practitioners. And these studies gave disparate findings. One finding was significantly elevated as far as up to 16%, whereas the more recent study found that there was no significant increase. This research provided the first study of clinical laboratory practitioner licensing effect on wages after controlling for human capital variables that affect wages based on the literature. Human capital effects include, related to experience, amount of years experience that a person has and, of course, education. But also other personal data like gender, and whether people have children or not. This was a nonexperimental correlational study that extended the literature on licensing effect on wages, including women’s wages, and for professions that aren’t uniformly licensed across the 50 states in the U.S.
The theoretical foundation of the project relied on the human capital wage model. Again, that states that wages vary according to the amount of human capital investment in education and experience. I used the Census 2000, 5% public use micro sample … microdata sample that provided all of the variables, the dependent variable—wages—as well as the controlled variables and such as experience and education as well as gender and it also provided the independent variables whether a person worked in a state that was licensed or not licensed. I used hierarchical regression analysis and I found that clinical laboratory practitioner wages were significantly higher—5.8%—in licensing states on average compared to those working in nonlicensing states. And this was statistically significant as well, highly statistically significant. Female clinical laboratory personnel working in licensing states compared to those working in nonlicensing states earned 5% more on average and so this was good news for women. However, I also found that men, even within the same profession, made about 3.8% more than women do. This study had potential for social change in that it provided much-needed data on how much licensing affects wages, as well as in a quantitative way. And I found that this 5.8% I considered a moderate increase. It’s not so much so that you could say that this would be such an extraordinary increase that this would be a major barrier to licensing. This is really important from a public policy stance. At this point, there’s a number of states including this state, Minnesota, but also Massachusetts and Texas that also are looking at licensing bills for their clinical laboratory personnel.
Dr. Taylor: One of the things that we know that when we start these capstone projects that we often find way more information than we can use. How did you narrow the scope to enable you to see a doable project?
Dr. Hotaling: Well, as a student at an all KAM-based program, I had an opportunity to do six KAMs and I had four KAMs that were devoted to studying the topic of state licensing for professionals and looking at all aspects of that licensing from the sociologic aspects. From the political aspects, because this is a policy and a law in states, and also lastly the economic effects, and that’s where I really narrowed down my research question to determine the how much.
Dr. Taylor: How did you facilitate Dr. Hotaling’s research at its earliest stages?
Dr. Bill Barkley: Well, it was really easy to work with Mary. She was somebody who was really up on the literature. She knew what she was doing and she knew why she wanted to do it and she wasn’t afraid of hard work. So my job really was pretty easy in that regard. I had to listen to what she wanted to do and then help her develop the methods—she used secondary data analysis to do this—and we were very fortunate that we had a committee, Dr. Ches Jones was on the committee and we had a URR, Dr. Gary Burkholder, who we consulted early on in the process. We didn’t just wait until the end. And helped us come together with the design that worked best for Mary.
Dr. Taylor: Can you tell us one piece of advice that you gave Dr. Hotaling that our audience might benefit from as well? Especially regarding specific concerns that a student must consider when conducting an investigation using secondary data.
Dr. Barkley: With secondary data, one of the problems that you run into is that the people who collected the data in the first place may not define the variables, the constructs, the same way that you do. And one of the things Mary had to do was find the way in which this experience data was measured, was operationalized in that database which was a little bit different than direct work experience. And she was able to find a model the Mincer wage model that helped her do that.
Dr. Taylor: Great. Dr. Cox, let’s move on to you and can you please give us a brief overview of your research interest?
Dr. Rick Cox: My research interests are in transformative learning. I have been interested in how people are changed by the events of their lives, what kinds of impacts they face, how people can be resilient and understand their values and adapt their values or change their values as a result of experiences that they encounter through life. Mezirow’s transformative learning theory was a lens through which I viewed the data and formulated my research for this project. I found that very interesting to interview and conduct depth interviews with the applicants, the participants in this study who reflected very deeply and expressed some quite significant transformative kinds of events in their lives as a result of their … the years that they spent in the military, various of the five armed forces whether it was for a shorter duration of three years or for over 20 to up to 30 years. So transformative learning [was] a primary interest. Another interest, I’ve been working with a K through 12 school district for a number of years and various volunteer and planning capacities and serving on the school board. I’m interested also in the community relationships between … community and professional relationships in a school district. How the parents, the teachers, other professional staff come together. And how a community—that in this particular instance that I worked with most recently—a community that may be under resourced is still able to deliver a quality education program.
Dr. Taylor: Great. As I was reading your dissertation I became very interested in your topic because of the military population that you were using, being a 24-year Air Force veteran. And I asked myself, what prompted Dr. Cox to become interested in civic consciousness of military service personnel? Can you please tell us where that interest sparked from, civic consciousness of military personnel?
Dr. Cox: I think there is among military personnel most of my acquaintances would suggest that serving in the military is an inherently civic activity. I mean we join the military, we join the armed forces and we make other career choices for various reasons. We’re seeking education, we’re seeking a career, security, and so forth. But there’s something different about joining an organization that’s not for profit. It exists to accomplish a national defense mission, to support and defend a way of life. And I found that people who come into the services for many different reasons, sooner or later discover that they have a tie to something bigger than themselves. It’s not about making money, though it is, you’ve got to make a living. It’s not about oneself as much as it is about the mission, the people you serve with, the sense of connection to a set of values. That’s not universal, but it’s broadly based and my research tended to corroborate that.
Dr. Taylor: Great, great. You mentioned something very interesting about it not being about the money and it just resonated with me because after 24 years in the military and I just realized I wasn’t going to get rich. I was asking myself, why was I doing this? So this civic consciousness has probably answered a lot of questions for me now that I never really was able to answer. So I figured out why I did 24 years, civic mindedness, thank you very much for that.
Dr. Barkley: Kind of a slow learner there.
Dr. Taylor: Yes, exactly. It took me a while.
Dr. Cox: On that note, I would further add that some of my participants left the military and went into lucrative consulting careers. They leveraged their skills and were getting paid substantially more money. All of those in my participant set eventually returned to teach junior ROTC in high schools or to work in a federal healthcare facility or do something else because they discovered that they missed the sense of values identification, the sense of mission and purpose built around values. And they had a difficult time identifying with the pure profit motive. What have you done for me today? Well, I’ve made some money. What have you done for me tomorrow? I made some more money. And that same question comes back every day. But when you’re in a service profession and I would say that’s broader than the military, when you’re in a service profession, whether it’s teaching or healthcare or the military, the armed forces, there is great value that comes from being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.
Dr. Taylor: Dr. Cox, let’s talk about your research questions. Did you experience any concerns as a scholar about selecting the exact primary research question? And second part to that is, how did your research questions determine your methodology?
Dr. Cox: My research question emerged slowly, also over time. I came in during the tail end of the Indiana University and my first residency was actually at Indiana University in Bloomington, where I got to meet Dr. Schoch for the first time and my mentor and then committee chair, Dr. Carrie Bassett. I found that my interests in transformative learning and how people are changed grew more polished and more refined as I went through the process. But the research question itself really didn’t come coherently together until I came to this location, two residencies back with my prospectus in hand. And I’d had before that three quite heartfelt conversations with Dr. Bassett as she asked me questions and suggested reading materials for me to think about as I … as she caused me to discover and understand for myself what that question should be. But she kept at me and she held that rubric up and it was a standard. And so the process of going through and through the rubric and then coming here and then participating in the residency session two summers ago made it all come together for me. After that, it fell together very cleanly.
Then the second part of your question was regarding how that drove methodology, well, when I first wrote my prospectus the thought was it would be a phenomenological study in the Moustakas kind of approach and would interview roughly eight participants and analyze the data. But what I discovered is it was insufficiently satisfying. There was a need, a hunger for much more data. So I had to find, draw this line, so I went to a grounded theory approach. Dr. Lynn, actually, Laura Lynn had presented some training here on grounded theory, a session which I attended which consolidated my determination to go with that approach. I did not realize how much more work it was going to be. But it was so worth it to have what turned out to be 22 deep, deep interviews with participants and hear their stories about how their lives were changed. And as they related their lives to the lives of their friends and, amazingly, nearly all stayed in touch with their hometown friends and they’re able to think for the first time in kind of a reflective mode, how their lives were different than their friends who also went off to college and did other things. And how it created stresses and interconnections and relationships to one another. So grounded theory is the way to go.
Dr. Taylor: I guess what you’ve said is just how important it is to let those questions lead you right to that methodology, and not work backwards. It’s just almost a logical connection once you get those questions. Great, great. Dr. Schoch, how are you?
Dr. Kurt Schoch: Doing well, thanks, Reggie. Good to be here.
Dr. Taylor: Great. What do you remember of Dr. Cox’s research at its earliest stages? What just pops out?
Dr. Schoch: It’s been a pleasure to meet and work with Rick, as Rick indicated ever since 2006 and that residency at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. That’s relevant and important to me because, again, I’ve enjoyed this student collaborator, research investigator relationship with Rick over that time because it truly has been a collaborative process. Rick mentioned that initial residency Rick and I worked together in a class at Indiana University in adult education. We did a KAM together and now this dissertation. And it’s tempting to say that Rick’s earliest stages of his research began with, say, the prospectus. But I think it truly goes back to that residency, to his first time in the program. And I think he expressed it well, that you start formulating those ideas early on and they grow and they develop right up to the last minute. So what stands out to me in Rick’s early work in his research at its earliest stages is his passion for his topic, for adult learning, for adult education, for seeing how adult learning and adult education through the various theories that he used transformative learning, constructivism, basic adult learning concepts stood out and impacted his life and therefore the research that he wanted to conduct. On the methodology side, again, he’s made reference to a lot of the dialogue, a lot of the interaction between himself, his chair, myself, Dr. Lynn, and others to formulate how he wanted to approach this. So there was a great deal of passion about the topic as well as about the methodology that, I think, kept this process very alive for him as well as for us.
Dr. Taylor: Great. Dr. Cox, can you briefly just talk about the participants in your study? Who were these individuals that you interviewed and how were they recruited? And finally what kinds of data did you collect from these individuals?
Dr. Cox: The participants included, and I have a list to keep me on focus here, veterans of the five armed forces including the Coast Guard, so it’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine corps and the Coast Guard, active duty and retired veterans as well as some reserves. And I required that they all have at least one tour of duty in order to have enough experience base to be able to conduct reflective reasoning with me. It included men and women, officers and enlisted ranks. Over half of the participants had over 20 years of experience. It included white, black, and Asian racial categories. And I used the selection process … a theoretical sampling process to talk to people who appeared to have had a successful career. And had not had obvious major harmful experiences in their lives, in their careers. So, success they’re proud of, something they’ve accomplished, so that I had a common core baseline set to talk to. And they were willing to engage in a deep reflective discussion with me. They were recruited, first of all, through a pilot project. My first participant for the pilot, actually, I met down here, not here, in Chicago at a residency. He was a military veteran. And one of my colleagues also agreed to participate in the pilot. Then the pilot provided the initial theoretical coding categories. And very quickly helped me to identify how to approach the remainder of my participants and select them. And then it was a matter of interviewing them either by telephone in one or two cases. Or for all of the others either in their homes or at their offices or my office wherever we could meet. We just block out some quiet time and have a conversation.
Dr. Taylor: I’m curious, did you use any software to analyze this qualitative data? Or did you do the hand crunching thing?
Dr. Cox: I used software. I started … I used a digital recorder. In fact, I’m very glad that I used a digital recorder because I’m not so good at taking field notes. And after I do, I can’t read my handwriting very well. But the digital recorder gave complete fidelity for the whole process. So that I had … and I listened to it over and over again. And I had originally planned to hire someone to transcribe, but I had a medical moment in my life that allowed me to be home or caused me to need to be home for a while and I fortunately had my first round of theoretical sampling done so I was able to use and get very comfortable with Dragon software. There’s something about training your Dragon that causes you to have to enunciate and very carefully and precisely. And it does not give you perfect fidelity coming back but it saved me about 30% over doing it the hard way. So I would translate into Dragon, create the transcripts, and then I moved the transcripts into NVivo software. Currently I’m using NVivo 11.0 which is a tremendous tool for a qualitative research. I wrote my initial theoretical codes by hand, looked at them because I’m comfortable reading and writing in the easy chair and wherever I want to sit. And then I sit down and typed it into the NVivo and then you can rapidly associate sound bytes or blocks of text with your codes. And then as you go through the stages of recursive analysis and interviewing and analysis and interviewing and memoing, as you go through all of that you can just drag and drop it within NVivo. It’s far more efficient than paper around the walls.
Dr. Taylor: Great. I’m sure of that. To both of you, Drs. Hotaling and Cox, could each of you briefly describe the process of well, you’ve all ready talked about analyzing your data, so I will ask this to Dr. Hotaling, can you describe your process of analyzing your data? And also what was the biggest surprise for you? I think, as we often, always these surprises pop up when we start to analyze this data.
Dr. Hotaling: OK. The analysis method I used was hierarchical multiple regression. And this was a very suitable methodology. It’s a quantitative methodology because my research question, as you mentioned, drove the methodology that I used. I asked to what extent does licensing affect wages? So that’s basically a how much question. And that is perfect for a laboratorian because that’s what we do. We measure how much—how much cholesterol, how much glucose. And I used the … I did use the SPSS PAWS program. But I have to say I didn’t experience major surprises when I did the analysis for the dissertation because one of the first things that Dr. Barkley recommended that I do as my last KAM was instead of just making it a KAM, he said how about doing a pilot study. And if you have the opportunity to do that I would highly recommend this because it takes a lot of the surprises out of it. It can make your dissertation bordering on boring, if you can imagine that. But it also felt like a security blanket because I really worked very hard with Dr. Barkley on that KAM pilot study that I knew I had my methodology down.
And I think you’re probably thinking am I going to have enough participants? And it took that guesswork out as well because I knew there was going to be enough participants in the census data. I had about 3,500 women and about 1,500 men in my study. So like I said, the pilot study was very integral. It probably took about twice as long to do the KAM but by that time I knew that I was going to do hierarchical multiple regression. One surprise that I did have with the pilot study though was the difference in wages between men and women working in the same profession. And that really drove me into looking heavily into the wage literature to find out some of the things that influenced that. Many of the theorists believe that what a main driving factor of the differences is that women still have the major responsibility for child rearing, of course, we still have responsibility for child bearing, that hasn’t changed yet. Maybe soon. But the process of child rearing would take the women out of the workforce for a certain amount of time and I found that to be interesting. And, again, this was the first time that we saw this for clinical laboratory profession. So I wanted to look into that further and that formed my second research question for the dissertation.
Dr. Taylor: So the pilot study really helped flesh out a lot of the kinks …
Dr. Hotaling: It did.
Dr. Taylor: … going into the … and that was a very important concept.
Dr. Taylor: It really helped you. You can identify effect sizes, maybe, et cetera. So that’s fantastic. I think some good advice for the student.
Dr. Hotaling: And your question about the software that I used, in the dissertation I did use SPSS. In the pilot study I used Excel. I would not recommend that. It made it much more difficult than it needed to be. And since I knew about how much data I was going to have, it allowed me to pick the right size SPSS.
Dr. Taylor: Great. I have a question about the most significant obstacle. There are many, I know, and what was the most significant, if you could just briefly address your most significant obstacle? I’ll let you go first Dr. Cox.
Dr. Cox: It was clearly managing time.
Dr. Taylor: Time management.
Dr. Cox: My job is demanding. I have a wonderful family. Life is full of many different priorities of which dissertation was just one.
Dr. Taylor: Time management.
Dr. Cox: That was the No. 1 obstacle.
Dr. Taylor: You, Dr. Hotaling?
Dr. Hotaling: I agree with Dr. Cox. Time management was very difficult. And I also have a highly demanding job as a quality systems manager in a hospital system. I also changed jobs right before that so new responsibilities and my VP left shortly thereafter. So I had even more unexpected responsibilities to manage. My advice to you is, this is difficult, is to say no. I was very heavily involved in the professional aspects and professional societies. But I just had to say no, I can’t do it this year. No, I can’t speak this year. No. No. And I sit on a board and I took six months leave from my position on the board.
Dr. Taylor: So I guess the consensus is time management. When I read that question I asked myself and I guess my biggest obstacle was just trying to figure out what to do, what was I doing—way before time management came into the picture. Question for Dr. Barkley and Dr. Schoch. What advice do you have for current students, our audience out here, our future doctoral candidates as they embark upon their capstone projects? I’ll let you, Dr. Barkley.
Dr. Barkley: OK. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and start. I think first and foremost, form a relationship with your chairperson. Dr. Laura Walsh said she’s going to get T-shirts that say: “Defer to the Chair.” I think that’s a good idea. On the other hand, the other piece of that, and Mary is a really good example, is there are times when you need to push back. And she did that in a couple of areas where I wasn’t quite sure that she was going in the right direction. She went, she gathered literature to demonstrate to me. That’s when we brought Dr. Burkholder in in a consulting role and came up with she was right. So push back on your chair if you have the evidence to support it. But build that relationship so that you feel comfortable doing that.
Dr. Schoch: I would certainly echo what Dr. Barkley just said. I think that relationship between the student and the committee, the chair, the second member, and so on is critical. And that’s why I refer to the relationship, I think, with Rick as collaboration. We learned as much from him as I know he learned in this whole process. So the phrase manage the boss or manage the chair comes to mind. In some ways, we say, do what the faculty say, nothing more, nothing less. Yet, ask questions. Continue to ask questions because there’s learning on both sides of this process. The other thing I would say is and you’ve heard this many times before, I’m sure, read, read, read. Read the literature. That’s the first, second, third, and last questions that you will probably be asked. Continue to read. And through that reading process, that absorbing, you will find that the questions will come as Rick found and the alignment between your problem, your purpose, your questions and your methodology will occur as well. That alignment piece as you design and implement and finish the research is critical.
Dr. Taylor: Great. I have one final question for Dr. Cox and Dr. Hotaling, what one piece of advice do you have for our students out here who are interested in disseminating their research findings to make a positive difference in the lives of others? In other words, what good is all of this fantastic knowledge that we have accumulated without sharing it with the world. What advice would you give students for disseminating that literature in 30 seconds or less?
Dr. Cox: Find your discourse community who shares the same passion you have. Engage with them. And remain driven and focusing on accomplishing those things that are most important to you. Follow through. Choose your dancer partners well, you’ll be with them.
Dr. Taylor: Right.
Dr. Hotaling: What I would say is to try to get your work out there in the public. For example, an easy … easy is not a good word. A good steppingstone into being published is to present a poster to your colleagues. I had a great opportunity yesterday to present the dissertation work to my colleagues at our national meeting for American Society for Clinical Chemistry in Atlanta yesterday. And it’s a wonderful experience because you get to exchange ideas with them and get feedback from them. And that they’ve given me even further information on licensing in the state of Virginia that was just brand new so that this is a process that’s still going on. And then once you get out there you may be asked to speak. You become a so-called expert in your field. Even if it’s a small slice, it’s a great place to start.
Dr. Taylor: Great. Thank you. And I think our students will see that our residency is geared toward giving you the knowledge and the expertise on how to get this literature disseminated out to the world. We want everybody to know that Walden is here and what we’re doing. OK. Dr. Hotaling, Dr. Cox, Dr. Schoch, and Dr. Barkley, I would like to thank you all again for joining us.