I did it! I finally reached my goal of finishing and successfully defending my dissertation! Just call me Dr. Kelly Berthiaume! It took me a year (or more) to work on it and I couldn’t be more excited and relieved to finally say that I am DONE! While I have been working hard these past few months to finish, I have seriously neglected my blog. In my last post (which was literally New Years). In that post, I talked about some goals I had for myself such as writing a post every week, stretching, reading for pleasure, etc. I must admit, I have NOT stuck to maintaining those goals because I have been so focused on this huge life goal. Thankfully, I now have time to really commit to those goals and improve in those areas.
I am now working on content for the blog that focuses on college topics and motivation with a few personal life topics thrown into the mix. I think the first thing I want to talk about is my dissertation. I have had so much support over these years from family and friends, and so many people have been asking what my dissertation topic was and how I made it through. It’s a lot to cover, so I think I will split my topic, my management, organization, execution, etc. into several different posts. Today, I will just go over the topic of my dissertation.
First, I think it’s important that I distinguish what kind of dissertation I wrote. There are two kinds of dissertations that can be written: a traditional dissertation and a manuscript dissertation. A traditional dissertation is typically a document with several chapters—introduction, complete review of theory, complete literature review, methods, results, discussion—that are each incredibly in-depth to demonstrate mastery of the subject and the researcher’s ability to conduct research. A traditional dissertation tends to be about 150 to up to 500 pages in length, due to its in-depth nature. A manuscript dissertation (MD), on the other hand, is far more condensed. Also called a dissertation by publication, this dissertation format enables the writer to submit to journals after their dissertation defense to be published. A MD consists of 2 to 3 separate studies that, collectively, address a common topic/theme. For each study, is a separate manuscript that includes an introduction, literature review, methods, results, and discussion. The MD typically consists of a general discussion, 2-3 manuscripts, and a general discussion which addresses the common findings and contributions of the studies. If you would like to know more about the differences, benefits, and limitations of a MD, there is a great review article by Freeman (2018) here.
I chose to write a MD with two studies. To me, I felt this route was best for me and my career. So, now that we know what kind of dissertation I wrote, what was my dissertation—as a whole—about? My title was “Children’s Development of Learning-Related Cognitions: The Influence of Parents’ Socialization and Contextual Factors” and, to me, the title itself is pretty self-explanatory, but for some, you may be like….what?… First, what are these learning-related cognitions I am referring to? Learning-related cognitions are beliefs about learning and factors that influence learning and motivation. For my dissertation, I focused on two specific learning-related cognitions: implicit theories of intelligence (you may have heard of this as growth mindset), beliefs about the malleability of intelligence or whether or not you believe that intelligence is something that you can change, and failure mindsets which are beliefs about the experience and consequences of failure (do you think failure is something you can learn and grow from or is it an experience that sets you back). The overall goal was to improve understanding of how children develop these learning-related cognitions and how parents influence their development. Surprisingly, little is known about how parents socialize these learning-related cognitions to their children and there is some inconsistent findings on the process. One reason for inconsistencies is that learning-related cognitions are not directly transferred from parent to child and are not explicitly expressed. Rather, these beliefs are manifested in parents’ behaviors and practices. It is also assumed that parents’ failure mindsets may be more apparent than their implicit theories of intelligence because the experience of failure is more salient to parents and children thus, the likelihood of it being conveyed to children is greater. I also addressed how contextual factors such as family structure (e.g., single- vs. two-parent families), gender, mothers’ level of education, and community type may influence parents’ endorsements of learning-related cognitions and the process of socialization.
My first study addressed the relation of mothers’ learning-related cognitions, children’s perceptions of mothers’ learning-related cognitions, and children’s learning-related cognitions. In short, I examined whether children can accurately perceive their mothers’ learning-related cognitions and whether children adopt those same beliefs. I found that for both implicit theories of intelligence and failure mindsets, children were unable to recognize their mothers’ beliefs. Yet, children’s perceptions were strongly related to children’s own beliefs. So, whether or not children were able to accurately perceive their mothers’ beliefs, there was still a relation.
In my second study, I examined the role of parents’ failure mindsets in explaining the relationship between parents’ and children’s implicit theories of intelligence and whether these associations varied by community type (e.g., rural vs non-rural), child’s gender, and parents’ gender. I found that parents’ failure mindsets did mediate the relationship and there were some contextual differences.
As asked in my defense, “what is the big picture?” The big picture is that, first, children aren’t able to pick up on parents’ learning-related cognitions alone. They are quite implicit and are not explicitly socialized to their children. My study only focused on beliefs, not behaviors. Evidence would support that parents’ learning-related cognitions influence their behaviors, interactions, and reactions with their children which, in turn, influence children’s own learning-related cognitions. Parents should become more aware of their learning-related cognitions and how those are manifested in their behaviors and interactions with their children. There is still much research needed on this area, specifically, we still need to investigate behaviors associated with learning-related cognition and how parents can positively and effectively socialize those to their children.
If you would like to read my dissertation, please just send me a message or email and I would be happy to send it over to you! In my next few posts, I will share how I managed my time and workload and how I prepared for my defense. I am so excited to be “Ph”inally “D”one and to have reached my goal!
Below are some pics from my big day and the video of when I was announced a doctor!