Writing to Clarify Thinking

Write to think

I have discovered over the years that in order to clarify my thoughts and come up with new ideas and plans I need to talk or write “out loud.”

For the past six months I have been collecting data from four co-educational secondary school, second language classrooms across the city.  After the intensive two year process of reading and writing that led to doctorate approval in November last year, this past six months have been comparatively low key, in fact, I confessed to my supervisor that I feel I have ‘gone off the boil.’  I haven’t been reading or connecting with my academic community in the way I needed to up to this point.  Martin assured me that this was normal and that as I began analysing and writing up my data, I would find direction for my reading again.

So now that my simmering data collection period is over, I need to apply some heat and get boiling again with some data analysis.  But where to begin?  What advice would I give my own students?

Here’s what I am thinking:

Step One:  Set aside a sacrosanct time and place in which this work will occur.

  • I have already negotiated with my school, through my TeachNZ study support grant, so they have given me every Tuesday this term where a relief teacher will take my classes and I can stay at home or go into the university to analyse my data.

Step Two: Organise my raw data so I know what I have and don’t have.

  • These school holidays, after spending a week marking class work, I have had time to save and sort my data into googledrive folders and make certain I am the owner.  (I have learned from bitter experience that this is an essential step if I don’t want participants to take the data away with them at the end of the school year (when students leave schools, their school google accounts are discontinued by IT staff and access to data ia lost unless you ‘own’ it.)
  • I have also gone back to the participant teachers to fill some gaps found in the data set.

Step Three: Return to my approved proposal, in particular the methodology section, and recall what I said I would do.  I wrote:

  1. “In order for the research in the proposed context to be robust, it will follow recommendations by Norris and Ortega (2005). They suggest beginning by defining the constructs (psychological qualities) to be measured, identifying the behaviours to be observed, and specifying the tasks that will elicit such behaviours…”  I fufilled these steps when I wrote my proposal and gained doctoral and then ethics approval but I need to remember what they are and write them out again.  Maybe a table?
  2. “…They then suggest controlling or accounting for variables when gathering the data,…”  This was pertinent last term when gathering data.  I will need to report information from the field notes I wrote in my final thesis document.
  3. “…scoring the observations in a way that connects them to interpretations, and finally summarising and analysing the data according to probable categories…”  These are the final two stages in the research and the work I need to embark upon..

Just even realising that I have completed the first four of Norris and Ortega’s (2005) six stages is encouraging.  However, now we get to the nub of the matter, scoring the observations in a way that connects them to interpretations.

Start date:  Tuesday 20th July, 9 am, at my desk, paper and digital folders at the ready.

Norris, J., & Ortega, L. (2005).


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