I did accomplish something major related to my dissertation already, and that is my dissertation proposal. For those that haven’t devoted themselves to writing papers every waking minute of their day (in other words: normal people), a dissertation proposal is where I write up my idea for my dissertation and present it to my dissertation committee.
“The Proposal” is the only written document I have related to my dissertation so far. In it, I wrote up an introduction to the problem (a.k.a., Why do I want to study what I’m studying? Why is it important? Why should anyone care to read it?), I reviewed other articles related to my topic, I wrote up the logistics of how I want to carry out the study, what data I want to collect, and how I am going to look at that data. After attaching a few appendices of ideas, The Proposal ended up being 60 pages. 60 pages just to describe the idea of my dissertation.
Here’s my idea (in way less than 60 pages): I want to implement a social studies unit on upper elementary Economics. This unit is something I worked on at NHA in collaboration with a non-profit group. The unit (and the non-profit group) is called One Hen. In this unit, 4th or 5th grade students learn about a boy named Kojo in Ghana who got a loan of “one hen” (get it now?) and started a business. He used his profits to build his community– he started small and ended big. The students then actually get a small loan, start their own business, and talk about ways they can use their profits to help their community–then they put the talk into action.
This is a valuable message that I personally think is what’s so great about learning social studies– kids at a young age can learn content in order to better their world and their surroundings. I want to study what students learn, what they do, what they think, and what happens when they experience this unit in the classroom. I want to co-teach it with a classroom teacher and pull every bit of information I can out of the students and write about it.
However, when my goal is to “pull every bit of information I can” out of students, it leaves me with a lot of data to study, and I am a bit overwhelmed about where to start. Is the goal of my study to find out if the unit “works”? If so, how can I see if it “works?” Or do I not care if it “works” and just want to capture a moment in time when they learn it? I think I want to do both, but this leaves me with an idea that’s a bit ambitious to say the least.
My committee liked the idea of this unit and the possibilities of great instruction it can offer. But, the amount of data concerned them as well. This summer will be mostly spent tweaking The Proposal, since I want to submit it for funding applications (since it’s the only written piece I have on my dissertation as of now) and I need to be ready to wrap my head around this data puzzle before I collect it.
So for the next 2-3 months, my mind is on The Proposal.