Ph.D. in Education, 2015
School of Education
June 1, 2012
“My approach to research is interdisciplinary and collaborative”
Answering how humans gain new knowledge and learn patterns based on previous knowledge inspires Kreshnik Begolli’s research.
“Classrooms are ‘blooming buzzing’ environments that are complex, and are commonly thought as settings where it is impossible to maintain experimental control. As a result, the cognitive science literature has not made serious inroads into educational debates, much less into teaching practices.”
Motivated by a curious mind and a desire to advance science and education, Kreshnik embraces this challenge, and his research arena alternates between the laboratory and the classroom in attempts to develop research in understanding how humans learn and impart knowledge in laboratory and applied settings. By blurring the line between the laboratory and the classroom, Kreshnik’s research draws from cognitive research in analogical reasoning, memory, metacognition, perceptual learning, and language acquisition, striving to reveal effective instructional strategies and build adaptive learning tools in vocabulary, then pushing that further to mathematics and conceptual thinking – mathematical reasoning and generalizations.
Kreshnik’s modest research career began when he transferred from Los Angeles City College to UCLA and began working with Philip Kellman at the Human Perception Laboratory. There he focused on creating adaptive learning technology grounded in principles of perceptual learning – the manner by which experiences develop perceivers’ ability to extract information – and became interested in exploring the effectiveness of learning with educational technology. In his sophomore and senior years, Kreshnik ran two pilot studies, one in a laboratory and the other in middle school classrooms, designed to help English language learners acquire academic GRE and SAT vocabulary, respectively. Kreshnik graduated from UCLA with departmental and college honors as a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Sciences with Specialization in Computing and a minor in Linguistics.
At UC Irvine, Kreshnik began honing in on his keen interest to understand how humans use comparisons in instructional settings. This led him to work with Assistant Professor Lindsey Richland, who is pioneering research in our ability to draw connections through comparisons within intricate classroom settings. He currently is appointed as a Graduate Student Researcher with Dr. Richland on a NSF funded CAREER study “Learning to Make Connections in Mathematics.” Both are motivated by a common desire to use a novel approach of bridging cognitive science research in comparative reasoning with “high leverage” educational practices of comparing solutions to one problem.
Through a series of seven experiments, the CAREER work investigates the use of specific teaching strategies that help students draw connections between comparisons, such as: (a) making student responses or key ideas visible, (b) making compared student responses or key ideas visible simultaneously, (c) visually organizing the student responses or key ideas to highlight key connections, (d) using at least one well known student response or key idea to compare with something new, (e) using gestures between connected student responses or key ideas, and (f) using visual imagery.
Methodologically, Dr. Richland’s and Kreshnik’s work uses an innovative approach that rises to the challenge of approximating learning within the complexity of classrooms while maintaining rigorous experimental control by using stimuli that are video recordings of a scripted, but live classroom lesson. This enables random assignment within classrooms with controlled stimuli while learning in a dynamic, realistic context. Pilot data from this study show that students benefit from instructional comparisons, which persist after a one-week delay.
The CAREER study is slated to produce a number of publications in conferences and journal articles, and Kreshnik recently presented a poster titled “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Unloading Working Memory to Facilitate Comparisons,” at the Cognitive Science Conference in Berlin. Complementing this work, theoretically and methodologically, Kreshnik is developing another study, which examines optimal sequences and appearance variations in problems to best support learning from comparisons.
Currently, Kreshnik has two ongoing projects: (a) a study extending his undergraduate honors thesis that examines the efficacy of adaptive learning technology for learning word-roots and (b) a collaborative study that examines the effect of different types of feedback on monitoring metacognition and study time allocation. In his future studies, Kreshnik hopes to examine the effect of testing for learning by using mobile technologies and the development of rules by infants and toddlers.
Kreshnik’s approach to research is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and he believes that dabbling into multiple disciplines makes for a well rounded academic.
Learning is very much a community activity, and from a policy and social perspective, my secondary research interests are in reducing inequalities in society by advancing education in the United States and in my homeland – Kosova.
In this vein, Kreshnik embraces collaborations with scholars from various epistemological and methodological stances in attempts to achieve a common goal – improving education and providing equal opportunities to everyone, one day at a time.
In his private life, Kreshnik is a father of a 5-year-old daughter, Jerina, who keeps him smiling and motivated throughout his academic journey.