A reflection about meaningful research and staying focused on the purpose and process

The twitter session and blogs this week prompted me to think about three (3) important aspects of this research process – how we adapt to interruption in our research process, whether we include other stakeholders in our research process, and how we can stay motivated and focused on our own development throughout this process.

Interruptions to our research process or data collection methods will most likely occur and we have to be able to adapt and stay focused on our research questions to drive our decision-making.  We’ve all been sharing about events, tech issues, complications, absences, uncooperative students, etc. that have tripped us up a bit during our data collection period.  It makes sense that we can plan as best we can for a good period to collect data but that we can also adapt to changes by staying focused on our research questions and objectives.  Like some of my peers, I planned to record (screencast) my observations and after about two (2) minutes into it, I abandoned that notion.  It was highly impractical and it was slowing me down while I was trying to  find teachers in the game.  Later when I thought about it, I also realized how much time would be added if I had to go through each screencast to corroborate my observation notes.  Since each observation was on an individual and not a group of scattered players, it was easier to focus on their movements and actions while taking notes on paper.

Some of my peers started to use specific technology and then decided to switch tech tools because it wasn’t effective or it was too difficult.  Sometimes this can add stress because it is an added step to try and make it work and could potentially affect our timeline for data collection.  Again, like many of my peers, my observation schedule has changed, the timing of my interviews has changed, my strategies and notetaking processes have changed; and I am realizing that we all learn by doing throughout this project.  We can make educated and informed guesses about what our methods will be and on paper they might be make sense.  However, we need to be flexible and stay focused on the research questions that are driving our research so we can quickly make decisions during data collection if our methods are interrupted or ineffective.  I think this is a good lesson for me as I plan current and future research projects; at some point I need to make a decision about the best timing for my research study with the understanding that interruptions will most likely occur but that I can adapt my process as they come up.

Including other stakeholders in our research was brought up in the twitter session and in several blogs.  We obviously included those immediately around us and relevant to our research study – our students or subjects that we are studying, our colleagues and peers in this course, and maybe even our friends and family.  Most importantly, when we ask our students or research subjects to partner with us in this process, we get investment from them in our (and their) success.  While not all of our students or research subjects will care or feel committed to our purpose, I believe it is still important for them to know what we are doing because it demonstrates that we committed to our work and to their success.

I also thought about how public this process has been for us as well; we write about every stage in our process and the issues we face as we work through them.  When our peers and colleagues have shown interest in our work, it has been encouraging for us and helps us to see ourselves in a different light.  It brings me back to some points made earlier in this course; as educators we need to take ownership over our own abilities to improve upon our work and to contribute to a community of educators and to the body of work that surrounds our practice.  Including other voices and perspectives in research is an aspect of my professional practice that I value very highly.  I think I will also take it a step further and plan to incorporate others in the initial planning stages – identifying a problem, discussing my lit review, framework and research questions and most especially deciding on methods that will allow others to participate in the ways that I need and they want.

Research is fun and meaningful – something I admit that I would not have said prior to this course.  Research is an acknowledgement that there is a gap in my own knowledge, understanding, and skills and therefore it requires me to do something about it.  Research should be intentional, focused, and flexible; while we have our driving questions to guide us in focusing on the issue we chose, we also need to stay grounded and trust ourselves to see the process through.  While we may encounter challenges, frustrations, and setbacks, we can deal with these in stride and find solutions that make the situations work for us – all the while staying focused on why we are doing research.  For me, the motivating factors in this research process are that I will solve (or shed light on) a problem  I believe exists for me and others, that I will be challenged to expand my thinking and in the process gain new skills and valuable research experience, and that I am the one driving my own research process and that means it will meaningful for me as well as fun.

As I read through the blogs of my peers, I was inspired by the honesty in sharing their challenges and areas of confusion.  I was impressed by one peer’s effort to consider the impact of brain breaks on morale or sense of community in the classroom.  I shared that I thought it would interesting to find out the students’ own perceptions of impact on their morale or interest in academics because of the brain breaks.  This will help the students to understand how they learn best and will provide the researcher with context for the other data being collected.  Many of us are also struggling with how to analyze our data in a comprehensive and clear way.  I encouraged my peers to use whatever method makes sense when they are visualizing the themes and connection.  This could be a graphic organizer but it could also be compiled in the researcher’s own method of “notetaking”.  Most of us have a way that we organize information that we read, hear or think; this will benefit the researcher because they are the one that will be interpreting this data.  I encouraged my peers to post it in whatever format comes naturally to them and that the rest of us can give feedback if we do not see the themes or connections being made or are confused by their method.  I also think having a lot of data is good because you can sift through to find what you need to answer your question but you can also step back and see it in the context of your entire research pool.

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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