Saturday, March 14, 2015

Theories, Practices, and Changing Relationships

This was my last forum post for my research class. There were quite a few others I didn't include in this blog - among other reasons, it quickly became repetitive including those posts, and complicated to provide enough background information for those who would have been unfamiliar with the readings and topics - but I wanted to include the last post.

For this last post, we were tasked with considering what we had learned about how different theories and practices influence our understanding of how to engage in research, and what we learned about the changing relationships between writing, language, culture, discourse community, context of writing, etc. when doing our research projects.  We were to discuss, too, the readings that have influenced our thinking, and how the online conversations have changed or confirmed our perspectives on the topics discussed.

My knowledge has been stuck in the realm of undergraduate research, which is to say that since I teach first year comp classes, I’m familiar with teaching this level of student how to research – introducing them to online databases (a new concept for many of them), etc. (I haven’t taught my high school students how to research, something that would have provided a new level of challenges.) With my having limited myself to undergrad research practices, though, I realize that there are more formal research strategies, both in terms of research itself and presenting this research, that I haven’t paid attention to. Just today I was paging through the most recent Writing Center Journal, and I realized how familiar that presentation is: Many these things we’ve been doing in this class are largely reflected in those articles. I had no advanced knowledge about the theories and practices of research, how to engage in this level of research, etc., nor did I know much about practices affect research.

On a related note – and I see this even more clearly, since I’ve been teaching junior high and high school students this year, in addition to my college teaching – I have a deeper understanding of how difficult it can be for K-12 teachers to stay apprised when it comes to new teaching strategies. I’ve known this for some time – my parents were career high school teachers – but this is the first I’ve experienced it myself. I share the frustration there that there is not the time and certainly not the funding for teachers to interact with national colleagues, to update teaching strategies and content knowledge. I’m still frustrated by stories of K-12 teachers who teach the same content the same way for decades, but I can see how easy it is to slip into a rut. I can see how research strategies might also not be updated to reflect current methodologies.

When it comes to the changing relationships between writing, language, the context of writing, etc., what comes to mind is changing all this based on audience, and that is something of which I am well aware. (We discuss this at length in my classes.) The readings and class discussions have confirmed my thinking; how I write here, and interact with my classmates, is much more informal than how I wrote and spoke during my Skype presentation, and it’s much more informal than my project and write up. The learning communities are different, even if they overlap.

I can't say that there was a particular reading that influenced my thinking; rather, what influenced me more was the research process itself - the doing of the thing tends to stay with me much more than the reading of the thing. (Perhaps I simply do not respond to the theoretical as much; a priest at my former church once noted that I am quite task-oriented, which I hadn't realized until that moment is true.)

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