Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Summative Blog

Summative Blog

Please answer the following questions as a comment below.

  1. What roadblocks did you hit in your research?
  2. How did you work through these roadblocks?
  3. What did you learn from these roadblocks?


  1. The biggest roadblocks that I hit while doing my research were time management and the “now what” after each data collection. I say time management, not because or procrastinating in the research, but making sure I made time to touch bases with my case study student each day, really trying to focus my attention in on her during class and making observations of her outside of my class. I would always have plans on checking in with her, or reviewing a concept with her but my class of 40 minutes would fly by so fast and I would get distracted by some other student or issue. I really had to work at staying on top of myself and my interactions with my case study student. I used sticky notes on my lesson plans that reminded me to check in with my case study student. I created time outside my 40 minute math time to meet with her. We met at lunch and recess three times to review what was being taught in class and go over upcoming material. It made me think that if I had been focusing on her as a case study how much interaction time would I have with her on a day to day basis. How much one-on-one or direct time do I truly devote to each of my students? I learned that I must spend a little time each day, each week focusing on one student, really trying to connect with them. I also must do this systematically, have a checklist so that I know that I have reached out to each of my students that day/week.

    My second major roadblock was reviewing the research I received and moving forward from it. Every time I learned something new about my case study student I could work through naming it, but the hard part was what would I do with that knowledge now that I have it. How does my research impact my lesson planning and instruction style with this student? I am still working on this even now. I think it help to have class time to talk through this, or a professional community. I have brought my student teacher into my conversations about my case study student. I have worked through some of my observations of her with him. When he leaves I will have to reach out to another colleague in the building. The middle school team meets every-other Thursday, this is a start, but I need to find more time in my schedule to think about and plan for each of my students. I also need to work on my own personal ability to find the “now what” part of the equation. If I am not totally sure I need to try something and see if it works. There is no failure as long as I am trying and learning.

  2. I think the biggest roadblock I hit while doing my research focused around the fact that the student I chose is extremely introverted. The reason why I chose this student is because, at the beginning of the year, I simply couldn’t put her face to her name. She seemed like the type of student that might fall through the cracks in my class. People might question this and ask, "How shy could she possibly be?” However, one answer to this question lies in the following example. My student (M) and two of her peers were researching and creating a google slide presentation focused on social injustice issues during the Great Depression. When her group was presenting, I noticed that M was standing in back of the other two presenters. I thought this was strange, but I also did not make too much of it. Students completed a reflection after the presentation, and M wrote about her anxiety presenting in front of the class. In her reflection, she wrote: “I did not like that people were going to look at me while I was talking so I was sorta trying to hide behind my other group members.” I have seen students get nervous during group presentations but never to the extent that they would actually hide behind others. In addition to this example, M never raises her hand and is barely audible when I call on her in class. Ironically, however, she is fairly successful in my class despite the fact that she is an extreme introvert. As a result of this tension and the sense of disequilibrium I was experiencing, I knew that I had to approach my teacher research with M a little differently.

    I decided I had to develop a focused research plan to work through M’s shyness and figure out ways to better understand and help her as a learner. I came to the conclusion that I had to start making decisions ahead of time and know exactly what I wanted to focus on in my research. I knew I had to be intentional in my research because what I could count on getting from M might be limited, especially if it was based on her speaking in class. To work through these roadblocks, I decided to do a second interview with M because I had noticed that, although she does well in my class for the most part, does not always hand assignments in on time. I thought a one-on-one interview would be a better way to gauge some of the reasons behind that. I also decided to give the whole class a survey based on organizational strategies rather than making M feel like she was being singled out all of the time with me. The other predetermined aspect of my research has involved my attempt to push M out of her comfort zone in a way that wouldn’t cause her to completely shut down. I decided to try using a Socratic seminar technique to see the effects of her being “forced” to participate and not feel as though she had to “hide” behind others. In this case, the roadblocks caused to to steer away from some of my original ideas to better suit the student’s needs.

    Overall, I think that this main roadblock of M’s shyness actually drove my research in a way that I didn’t expect. It forced me to look at my research gathering techniques as well as my instructional strategies focused on this particular learner in a different way. If I had not chosen M, I would not have the roadblocks that I had, and it would not have led me to the same conclusions. It is almost like the roadblocks forced me to move in the direction that I needed to be moving in to help this particular student be successful in my class. It reminds me of the saying: “When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” I would suggest that most of the times these “detours” lead us to where we need to be.

  3. At first, I had so much data in so many different locations that it was challenging to see all my data together at one time at one sitting. I would not say that these are roadblocks, but “speed humps in the road”. I had some data in journals which were located at school, interviews on my phone, and multiple Google docs that gave me snapshots throughout the day, but never consolidated them into one document. I think my issue was trying to put this altogether to make sense of all the “’mess”. The data journal had fragmented information which was had no order to it, just random things jotted from thought and observations. Finally when I read the information, I felt some continuity, but it still didn’t feel like enough. I felt like when things flowing, I went over the speed hump, but could not back up or go forward (feeling stuck). I was not sure where to go after I had all this media in front of me. Sorting and organizing became more of my issue.

    The recorded interviews created a snapshot of this student and sometimes I needed some clarification, so I had to interview him at lunch or the other times in class I met with him (not on record). This felt I was constantly asking him clarifying questions. I felt from his posture that interviews one-on-one was more comforting to him and my “appointments” with him seemed feasible, than asking him at random times throughout the day seemed to be troublesome.

    I worked through these “speed humps in the road” when I finally sifted through the data and compiled all my information (it was time consuming). I made a research table to connect everything I collected. I thought this might help sort and make some sense out of my “mess”. I started to connect what I observed to the reading and tried to figure out why and how my student learned best. I wanted to see this information all in one single location. For example, I was stumped to find that my student had dual personalities in different classes. Why was my case study so helpful in one class and completely show me a different side of him in the other? This puzzled me to the max. I figured out it was not necessarily the work it’s the total environment. It is the variety of students and the working community. It sometimes is not the instruction.

    I learned even the most disorganized mess can be gathered together into a table/chart of some kind. Since tables and charts come naturally, I figured this might help place information in an organized manor. I also felt that my data depended on how my case study felt that day. My case study was more apprehensive to share if he was not having a good day. I learned that his mood depended on what questions I asked. I tried to be sensitive to his feelings and read his body language before asking him questions. I always asked how he was doing, before engaging in conversation.

  4. Post 1 of 2: Since my undergrad experience, I have loved the journey of research. Getting a PhD has been on my radar since then, so this semester I shifted gears to head further in this direction. I became curious about what opportunities I had for doing more with my ASTL research and writing for a wider audience.

    I found out that if I wanted to try to publish my PIP work, I would need Institutional Review Board approval to ensure that my study followed the principles of “respect for persons,” “beneficence,” and “justice.” This IRB approval process involves taking a series of online courses, creating and submitting consent forms and other documents, and making revisions after their review. Since this is so time-consuming, I wanted to get started sooner rather than later.

    The time spent working through these online courses was certainly a roadblock. But a more significant challenge has been the messiness of setting up a research study. First came trying to name what I was curious about. I knew I had questions about what it means to be a young white female passionate about social justice teaching in a school that is also largely white and dominated by female teachers. What do my students learn when I present Latino authors? What do they learn when we examine migrant workers from a variety of perspectives? To start to clarify some of this mess, I met with Dr. Horwitz and Dr. August who helped me name “critical literacy” as part of my focus.

  5. Post 2 of 2: I idled - like a car in neutral - with what this might mean for a bit and started to play with my research questions. I came up with something about “uncovering” the “interactions” between critical literacy and identity, but after another feedback session with Dr. Horwitz, I realized how careful I need to be with the words I use. Is “uncovering” all that I really want to do? What do I mean by “critical literacy” and “identity”? And this is something I have been noticing quite often lately - about myself and my students. More than ever, I am hearing and seeing vague words from my kids. When describing whether or not America should welcome Syrian refugees into the country, my students say things like, “THEY might do things that WE might not like.” Gahh!! Who is "they"? Who is "we"? I sometimes shake my head as I ask them to turn and check their partner’s work for this nondescript language, but here I am, not being as precise with my word choice either. Making these miscues in the safety of a revisable GoogleDoc with a professor I trust reminds me that constructing an identity as a member of a discourse community isn’t easy; it doesn’t happen overnight. Just like I need a safe space to keep reading and writing and mushfaking, my kids do too. Rather than shake my head, I can share my own struggles/learnings and ensure that the riskiness of trying on new ideas is safe and leads to deeper learning.

    I think what’s also interesting is the way that my roadblocks made me into a distracted driver. For a while I didn’t know what my research questions were, so I tried to distract myself with designing my next unit, but I couldn’t make any decisions on that because it needed to be something that fit with the participatory action research model, but I didn’t know who the participants should be, so I ended up grading papers instead. After going to the RIC/URI PhD conference, my tank was full again and I was able to take back control of wheel. I did some writing and remembered that I could steal our research proposal format from SED 562, which gave me a structure to play with. Now, here I am with a working draft of research questions, a unit outline, and IRB consent forms ready to be written.

    Rather than be frustrated by these roadblocks and the roadblocks that are yet to come, I want to acknowledge that roadblocks aren’t without a purpose. DOT workers use orange cones to alert us to construction underway. Flashing lights help us slow down and notice the changes taking place. When we speed down the highway, we focus on the destination rather than the journey. And I believe that the journey is so important since it is where so much learning takes place.

  6. My biggest roadblocks in researching for my case study, have been threefold. Time management for sure, between a large number of referrals to my program, and an extensive busy run in my personal life, I have been pressed for available hours to dedicate to this task. Additionally, triangulating and sorting my data has proven challenging, I have more than enough observations, and faculty input, however researching and applying third party corroborating info has proved cumbersome at times. Lastly, I seem to have acquired a hesitation when it comes to converting raw data to finished product, and especially letting it go. I anticipate fighting through this last obstacle before the end of the holiday weekend.

    In working through the roadblocks, I have found that I need to carve out dedicated time at the end of my school day, before I leave the building and am finding that to be extremely helpful. It does, of course, come with its own challenges, insofar as when I am in my building, staff and students never hesitate to interrupt me when the see me, but there are a couple of spaces I have found where I am not expected to be, and have made the most of my time more recently. Triangulating the data and sorting it has begun to work itself out the further I get into the heart of my research, as I narrow, I am finding it easier to make sense out of what I have hypothesized - observed - and found. As I mentioned, my words are rounding into a place where I am more satisfied with them, and expect to release by Sat/Sun night.

    Throughout the process, I have realized that I am a learner, and like anyone else taking on a complex task such as this, I need to be mindful of managing my time, set myself mini deadlines, and find an appropriate place to focus. I have learned an awful lot about my case study subject, and found myself surprised at how, by observing him closely, I have been able to apply those skills with other students as well, and as a result, have had much improved relationships with students who I had been struggling with. I have found a renewed purpose in giving feedback to students' writing assignment, and am looking at samples through different lenses, and I have learned to use this lens shift more often day to day in my teaching practice. A surprise benefit of this has been a change in dealing with my administration and building faculty. My relationships with those I work with are changing positively as well.

  7. Time management has never been my strong suit. While this was certainly a roadblock, I feel as if it's something I just need to become more dedicated to getting better at in general. Every aspect of my life would benefit from this goal, graduate research especially! Within my research, I think my greatest roadblock is "naming" things definitely. I collect the data, and then I sit and think and write with/about it, but in my head it feels wrong to 'label" or put a clear defining term on my case study. I feel as if I can't make certain inferences about my case study if she isn't able to make them herself. I also found myself putting off things I could have gotten done right away, because of some irrational fear/discomfort. I suppose this is where my sense of disequilibrium came into play. When I was ready to interview C, I found myself delaying the interview. Since we are entirely different from one another, I knew we had no immediate connection. From my research and previous conversations with C, I knew that she had a strong dislike for school, and that she didn't have a great relationship with any of her teachers this year. I didn't want to "scare her off" or put so much pressure on her that she would become withdrawn completely, so it was hard for me to find a balance.

    There were a few instances that I wanted to know how C felt about a certain issue or aspect of school/life, but I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable during our conversations, so I would ask my students to complete either a quick write or a mandatory Writer's Notebook entry. While this gave me particular insight into C's world, it also gave me insight into each of my students' worlds - and gave me avenues to discuss different issues or topics that I noticed in their entries. Not only did these entries help me with getting to know C, but they also helped me in getting to know my other students! Everyone benefited from the particular decisions I made to get to know C better - and it got me thinking: why wasn't I thinking about these students in this way before? Why wasn't I as concerned about the students I didn't make an immediate connection with as I am with C now?

    As a whole, I think I am more willing to take the time to approach my students in different ways in order to get to know them even a little bit better than I did before. The best part of this is, I feel as if C and I HAVE made a connection - at least a better connection than what we had at the beginning of the year, and more of a connection than she has with any of her other teachers this year. If I can give her just one space in school where she feels safe, welcome, and comfortable as she maneuvers her way through such a confusing time in her life, then I've done what I set out to do.

  8. Hello everyone! Sorry I have been off the grid a bit.

    I think my biggest stumbling block is me, as some of you mentioned as well. I am having a hard time focusing and getting back in the groove of my work life after being out of school for so long. I am trying very hard to not let that be my excuse. Is it an excuse or is it simply my reality between all the doctor appointments, labs, etc. and working full time while attempting to fulfill my goal to earn a master's degree in education. Gah!!! Probably a little bit of both excuse and crunched for time.

    So, as far as my research goes, I have a fair amount of data on "R" now that I finally decided on the student on which to do my case study (thank you all for helping me with that a few weeks ago). I guess I am struggling with where to go from here. I feel like I wish I had a model to check out, but then I don't want the model to influence my research and the writing I need to do. Today, I wrote lots of notes on the scrap notes I took along the way while "R" is in my classroom. I also wrote notes regarding my meetings with her teachers she has this year and some she had last year. I have filled a number of pages and found I have further questions to ask many people.

    But, then what? Not having been in class and had the opportunity to work with all of you as you talk about your challenges and victories, I think is my biggest struggle of all. This course was never designed for students to fly solo, the cohort model is truly the sanity everyone needs to be successful.

    I will continue to work through the texts and make an appointment with Dr. Horwitz to go over what I have so far. Enjoy this beautiful Sunday!! A nice walk with the dog should clear the head and give me the energy to spend more time on the case study!!