Category Archives: Graduate Coursework

Effective Prioritization and Establishing Stewardship Agreements (Covey’s 7 Habits)

Written for my Learning Theories Applied to Instruction and Classroom Management graduate class (EDF 6259; professor Kay Allen) at University of Central Florida on 2015-04-13 (Spring 2015 semester), this assignment gave me the opportunity to read and write about Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as part of my graduate coursework.

Richard Thripp
Grade Contract: A

1. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

a. Important Concept One: Effective Prioritization:

Covey presents the idea that the activities prioritized by most people are often somewhat trivial or meaningless, yet come with urgent deadlines and social pressure. Similarly, we pressure ourselves to get our “to-do list” done for the day, even when the tasks on it fail to contribute to the “big picture”: our lifelong goals and priorities. Activities that are important, yet not urgent, are where we should place more focus, even at the expense of activities that seem urgent to others. This is because prioritizing vital tasks that relate to our personal mission has better and more important long-range benefits for ourselves and our leadership potential. Most daily planners and email or inbox workflows focus on tasks that are urgent but not important, and while solving such tasks may meet others expectations or make us “feel” busy, in the long run they are inconsequential (Covey, 1989). Leaders may gain the respect of others by confidently refusing requests and assignments that are urgent yet not important, which also frees them up to focus on what really matters. A single step one can take in this direction is to jettison the telephone (or delegate answering it to someone else). A ringing telephone is a highly salient example of an urgent, yet frequently unimportant distraction.

In the classroom, effective prioritization might involve talking more about underlying themes or overarching mathematical concepts and principles. The drill of rote learning might appear to fill the urgent need of improved standardized test performance, yet if you start early in the school year, it is possible that higher-order instruction might result in both improved conceptual understanding and higher test scores.

b. Important Concept Two: Establishing Stewardship Agreements:

Stewardship delegation has a large upfront cost—placing work such as photography or yard work (Covey, 1989) under the control and self-direction of children, for example, requires that both the leader and steward establish guidelines and desired results, as well as leading the steward to take ownership and personally identify with the work. This is applicable to children and adults alike; many corporations and institutions employ “gofer delegation,” where employees are told how to do every task, and never take initiative to develop their own methods. More importantly, they do not feel their work is a part of them (low commitment), and thus are ineffective workers in the long run. Instead, if individuals are given parameters and pitfalls to avoid, while being allowed to develop their own methods to produce the desired results, they will eventually become much more effective due to being self-directed and feeling personally responsible. This form of delegation is much more “hands off” and allows the steward to be his or her own boss, which additionally frees up time for the leader to work on more important activities, such as establishing new stewardship arrangements with other employees.

In the classroom, a stewardship agreement might be presented with regard to children’s binders or notebooks. Surprisingly, when I observed a 5th grade classroom at a low-SES public elementary school in 2011, I saw the teacher placing items in students’ 3-ring binders for them, and even filling out parts of their worksheets. Getting children to manage and take pride in their binders through stewardship delegation entails more work upfront, but has large benefits. Children may become proud of their organization skills and more interested in reviewing the homework and curriculum materials in their binders, and the teacher will not have to micro-manage or worry about these students abusing or losing their binders.

c. Share at least one way in which one or both of the concepts has/have informed you in your professional practice.

Effective prioritization is an ongoing battle for me, but I have felt more apt to work on complex projects ahead of schedule this semester, after listening to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in audio format. Further, I have passed up many urgent but unimportant requests, such as requests from friends for help with physical labor, copy-editing, or low- or un-paid freelance photography work. In fact, some friends have actually come to expect me to decline helping them over the past two months, and have stopped sending me their urgent requests. While declining urgent but unimportant engagements is but one aspect of Covey’s model, I believe it is an important first step for me. Developing this habit will benefit my career, allow more time for my hobbies, and promote mutually beneficial social relationships.


Covey, S.R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall & Co.

UCF Graduate Research Forum Announcement

UCF students should come see the research by Samantha Furbee​ and I on our measure of principal connectedness in Florida elementary schools as it correlates to percentage of low-income families: whether principals have photos and/or messages present on the official school websites.

We will be presenting at the Graduate Research Forum at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday, 3/31/2015, from 12:00 to 4:00 PM at the Student Union in the Pegasus Ballroom.

Visit for more information about the forum.

– Richard Thripp

Brain Myths: Crosswords, Math Skills

An assignment (no sources required) written on 2015-02-11 by me for an online class at University of Central Florida: EDF 6529, Learning Theories Applied to Instruction and Classroom Management.

Question: What are some misapplications and/or neuromyths that may be less than beneficial to the educational process?

I am glad to see that my fellow students have covered important neuromyths such as the myth of learning styles (they do not really exist), the mythical implications of being a right-brained versus left-brained individual, the myth that we only use 10% of our brains (we use all of our brains), and the myth that plasticity completely vanishes after early childhood. These ideas are very common among the typical American, but are very wrong, and negatively influence learning by discouraging people from taking on new tasks and by encouraging them to have a defeatist attitude.

Commonly, people believe that crossword puzzles and other “brain exercises” help their minds stay sharp and help them avoid dementia in old age. Even young people believe these activities have significant benefits to their brains, despite a plethora of scientific evidence that such puzzles do little or nothing for the brain, while physical exercise greatly benefits the brain. Nevertheless, people want to believe in Cartesian mind/body dualism—they seem to want to believe the brain is separate from the body to justify living a sedentary lifestyle. This is a difficult but important myth to overcome, since debunking this myth will help people reallocate their time and resources to such things as cardiovascular exercise which will actually help their mind and body more than crossword puzzles. This can affect college students as well—when they are cramming for exams, exercising might help them retain more information and score higher.

The myth that one is simply not a “math person” is quite strong. It is similar to the myth that one is not a “morning person,” though perhaps even less supported. However, if people who are not good at math can develop the discipline to learn mathematical skills piece-by-piece starting at a remedial level, they will probably become pretty good at higher math in a few months or years. You might even see other areas of their life where they employ such discipline, yet this myth allows them to hold themselves back from exploring math. Discrediting this belief and others might be accomplished through modeling; if a person observes or hears stories about many people developing mathematical skills from a challenging starting position, he or she might replace this belief with one that is more accurate and empowering.

Cell Phones in Classrooms

This is an essay I wrote on 2014-11-17 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 6 Discussion Post, “Research”
17 November 2014

Cell Phones in Classrooms — Richard Thripp
Richard Thripp
Research Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

Article 1: Baker, W. M., Lusk, E. J., & Neuhauser, K. L. (2012). On the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom: Evidence from a survey of faculty and students. Journal of Education for Business, 87(5), 275-289. doi:10.1080/08832323.2011.622814


This study investigated the perceptions of college students and faculty regarding cell phone, laptop, and MP3 player usage in the classroom. The research questions involved assessing these perceptions and whether they differed between students and faculty members, and by demographic characteristics. A questionnaire with 55 questions was distributed to students and faculty in three universities—one (each) in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. 978 completed surveys were received, of which 882 were from students and 96 from faculty members. 85.9% of the students were undergraduates and 14.1% were graduate students. Most of the students and faculty were from business programs. There were about 60% males, 40% females, and most faculty were over 40 while most students were under 23.

The questions entailed multiple-choice and Likert scale responses to questions mainly about what is appropriate in the classroom, device usage patterns of the subjects. Students were found to be much more accepting and open to technology use in the classroom compared to faculty. Graduate students were less welcoming of laptop usage in the classroom, and males were generally more accepting of technology usage than females. Students used their cell phones far more than faculty, but faculty spent more time on computers, perhaps related to their work. Both groups highly disapproved of MP3 player use in the classroom, while cell phones were much more accepted. While students agreed that no devices should be allowed to be used during exams, they were very much against having to turn in their cell phones during exams.

Article 2: Maguth, B. M. (2013). The educative potential of cell phones in the social studies classroom. Social Studies, 104(2), 87-91. doi:10.1080/00377996.2012.655347


This article examines findings from studies regarding usage of cell phones in social studies classrooms, and suggests applications of text messaging as a participation tool in the classroom. While not explicitly defined, it appears Maguth is focusing on junior high and high school students from his frequent mention of teenage youth and their habits. Research indicates that social studies are particularly uninteresting or ill-presented for many students, and thus the author proposes integrating text messaging as a tool for looking up information, receiving student feedback, and instructor announcements. Three web services are suggested, specifically for being free, user-friendly, and having educative potential (according to the author): Google SMS, Joopz, and, which allow students to request information by text message, teachers to send announcements to students, and teachers to conduct interactive, live polls via text or Twitter message in the classroom, respectively. Research shows that text messaging has greatly increased in popularity, especially among youths—for this reason and others, Maguth argues that effective teachers must integrate cell phones for effective student learning and a “fun, relevant, and engaging” classroom experience.

Summary of Findings:
Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

A message from both articles is that younger people favor technology more—this is revealed in the permissive attitudes toward cell phone and laptop usage among college students compared to faculty (Baker, Lusk, & Neuhauser, 2012), and in the observation that secondary schools typically ban cell phones, even though students want to be able to use them (Maguth, 2013). Both articles cited studies finding that mobile devices disrupt learning when they are intrusive or disruptive, but found that silent usage can be useful and educational, such as when it involves note-taking or looking up relevant information. Further, Maguth proposed that technology activities can be made part of the lesson plan and lead to positive results.

Baker et al. (2012) focused on college student and faculty perceptions through self-reports, as an investigation of what different people find acceptable, annoying, or disruptive, and their usage habits themselves. They found that students approved of cell phone and laptop usage in many more situations than faculty, though it could not be discerned whether this was a function of age (younger or older) or rank (student or faculty) since these variables could not be manipulated or separated. Maguth (2013) presented opinions about the role cell phones should play in the public school classroom, and detailed three SMS (short message service, also known as text messaging) services that can be put to use by the instructor for student polls, distribution of announcements, and web searches. A compelling argument for using text messages rather than email is that the percentage of teenagers using text messaging to contact friends outside of school on a daily basis increased from 27 to 54 between 2006 and 2009, while other mediums have remained flat or, in the case of email, significantly declined (Lenhart, 2009, as cited in Maguth, 2013, p. 88). However, a large barrier to entry in secondary school is that parental consent is required to collect student phone numbers and send them text messages—one reason for this is that billing charges may be incurred (Maguth, 2013, p. 89).

In general, determining appropriate use of technology and enforcing rules is a formidable challenge—this is shown in both articles by the recurring theme of disruptive off-task usage of mobile devices. However, both articles conclude that an outright ban on cell phones is an inferior solution (except during exams), both because there are legitimate and helpful uses of cell phones in class, and because “digital natives” (operationally defined by Baker et al. as individuals under the age of 25) view cell phones as an extension of themselves, unlike older individuals. Therefore, prohibiting cell phone usage can have negative implications for a student’s affect and instructor perceptions, though both articles recommend setting rules and policies to limit unhelpful usage (Baker et al., 2012; Maguth, 2013).


I was surprised to learn about Google SMS and had not used or heard of this service before. One can use it to send messages to Google requesting information such as stock prices, definitions of words, maps, etc. The reason I find this particularly enticing is because my phone has limited data access which does not work much of the time (I am not sure if my phone is defective or if it is due to having Metro PCS as a carrier, which is a low-cost, budget carrier). However, I can send and receive unlimited text messages and have no problems doing this unless I am in certain buildings or rural areas.

A significant problem with research in this area is the fast pace of technological development. Cell phone usage habits among teenagers and emerging adults are constantly changing due to new applications (“apps”) being deployed and gaining popularity, and due to new phones with new or improved capabilities being released. Thus, the information in these articles already feels dated—consider for example that Baker et al. (2012) set out to survey opinions on usage of cell phones and “other electronic devices,” but completely omitted tablet computers. In 2014, I would consider tablet computers in the classroom to be much more relevant and important than MP3 players. Another problem is classifying and considering different devices in the same category—a laptop computer with a 17.3” screen can be far more disruptive than one with an 11.6” screen, for instance, but Baker et al. gave no notice to this factor. Thus, scholarly research of the impact of mobile devices requires a faster pace than most other fields.