Collecting data in school contexts is messy. In fact I would go so far as to say that the context makes a mockery of the finickity ethics approval process.
I had set up a neat counter-balanced research design using four co-educational secondary school second language classrooms. It ended up being anything but neat.
In the two research rounds, all sorts of unplanned incidents occurred. We had students forgetting to go to the computer room, arriving late and having no time for their reflections, the actual research in other words – they did it for homework; we had students absent and late and thereby not getting the same instructions as others; we had students deleting their reflections before I had transferred ownership to myself; on one occasion the birthday celebration of an exchange student, complete with cake, took the first fifteen minutes of the research period; on another occasion, when everything was going well, the students’ flow of reflection writing was cut short by ten minutes as the teacher prepared the students for the bell. Then there was the slow return of PI forms. We have ploughed on regardless. Hopefully they all come in in the end. So now I am ready to see what I can make of it all.
How do you avoid birthday cake and unintentional sabotage when there is no second chance? I could have explained the research better to the teachers concerned. Never-the-less, I am so grateful to them for having taken part. It was actually me that interrupted their programmes and stole their precious time, not the other way round.