29 July 2007

It's a Mystery to Me

I don't watch a lot of network television. I have a few shows that I peek in on...most of them mystery
Ceci n'est pas Scooby Doo by JD Hancock CC-BY
related. I think it's because it takes me back to my childhood. I was always such a fan of Scooby Doo and those meddling kids. Of course, when I watch that cartoon now, I wonder why I was always surprised at the denouement. Come on---there was usually only two or three possible suspects offered in each episode. When one was shown not to have committed the crime, then...duh. To a four-year old, however, it was pretty magical. I have to admit that I was a big fan of playing Clue until I figured out how to beat the system and win every time. Sigh.

These days, I'm satisfying my craving for puzzles by watching Monk, Psych, and the Miss Marple episodes of Mystery!. The first two are a bit of eye candy. I'm just now realizing how Scooby-Doo'ish they are. I suppose one can't expect much more in the way of character development with a one-hour format vs. a half-hour format, but it still took me a couple of seasons to see it. There's only room for a couple of suspects per week---just like Scooby-Doo. So, the "whodunit" is usually more obvious than the "whydunit." As for Marple, I have to make a girly statement here and just say that the new hairdo that Geraldine McEwan is sporting just doesn't suit the character. Marple has always been a bit of a busybody character, but never shrewish until this season. I don't know what's happened to the writing. Anyway, the thing about the Marple series is that they really are chock full of possibilities: suspects and motives. This part I like.

Perhaps this is also the part I like about teaching...but also the challenge with research about the classroom. There are so many pieces that have to work in concert in order to effect a particular outcome. I can't catch that suspect known as Student Achievement until I know something about the players, the rules of the game, and the right tools for the investigation. Great teachers find ways to solve this puzzle. My problem with educational research---including my own---is that we often examine only one or a few suspects...and hope to end up with the right identification. In other words, I might be able to look at student motivation in light of grading practices, but there are so many other elements that are part of the classroom dynamic.

I suppose that just like I don't figure out all the pieces of every mystery shown on tv, I may not find the answer to all of the mysteries within the classroom. If I'm lucky, however, I'll learn one solid piece of the puzzle.

1 comment:

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Oh, to be able to solve the mysteries so cleanly and easily...

In grad school (sociology), three other masters candidates and I took a practicum and designed a study to examine the political power structure in our major metropolitan area. The prof was enthusiastic about our design (heck, she'd invested a lot of hors d'oeuvres and wine at her place), and since we couldn't complete it in one quarter, we went on to a second. At the end of the second quarter, she wanted us to implement the study, but not for a third quarter of credit.

We rebelled. A power struggle ensued and she denied us the second quarter's credit (an "A" for sure).

Don't know if the study ever got done, and the circumstances are not remotely relevant to your work (except as something to watch out for maybe), but I thought I'd mention it just for fun.