This has been a great first week working from home. I have done a lot of thinking about my data analysis problem, and although I have not figured it out, I feel like I am a bit closer. I’ve been reading about case study methodology (Exciting right? To balance this, I’ve also been reading Ready Player One, a sci-fi, dystopian, pop culture obsessed, awesome novel as well as the Steve Jobs biography which I can sum up in three words: He’s an ass.)
The case study articles have helped me see that (surprise, surprise) I need some more focus and clarity. I need to find a theory that is at the heart of my study and see if the “case school” I’m working with is an example of that theory or not. Find a theoretical framework: easier said than done.
I also chatted with Bruce VanSledright over Skype on Tuesday, and I hope I didn’t come across as a complete moron. He said he would be happy to talk with me again, so I take that as a sign that I didn’t disappoint him too much. He said the same thing– that I need to focus on the 3-5 economic concepts I want to study, and 3-5 elements of student engagement, and only stick to those. He listed a bunch of data that he thinks I should collect, but he reassured me that I don’t need to use everything. He, however, seemed to like a lot of the elements in my study and didn’t want me to cut any research questions. He also thinks I should lean towards measuring growth– in other words, seeing if the One Hen unit “works”. Although I can’t make any causal claims to that, he thinks a pre and post test will strengthen my study, and he liked the idea of an engagement survey. So, in other words, he liked the things my committee wasn’t exactly thrilled about. I still have a challenge ahead of me if I want to follow his advice. We’ll see. He’s also from Grand Rapids, so I think we were academics that were meant to collaborate!
I think focus is key. In the Bolker book (Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes...) she says that the length of a dissertation should be the shortest amount of pages that my committee will accept. It was her way of saying not to try to take on the world with this project. This is also something Erica and Sally mentioned to me during our “intellectual conversation” time on Tuesday morning. Erica, Sally, and I have decided to chat once a week about our projects (we’re all dissertating at the same time, which sounds weird), and talking to them also helps me achieve this focus I so desperately need.
So basically Tuesday was a day of talking to smart people. Today I also talked to smart people by crashing a field trip for Vanderbilt Academy (where I used to teach middle school), catching up with some awesome teacher friends, and relaxing at Lake Michigan. I hoped that staring at nature and going back to my roots would also give me focus:
I don’t need to hole myself up in my office every day, right?