06 October 2007


The main goal of my current grad class is to get the first two sections of the dissertation written. Mind you, this goal is thread through some other hoops for the class, but I can't complain much. I work better with a deadline---December 24 is it.

I did a lot of work during July, so that was a great help. Instead of spending all my time this fall doing a lit review, I just need to put the pieces together. "Just."

I seem to be going back and forth between digital and printed information. I wrote all of my notes first, then typed them. I marked them with some key terms---and then from the 30+ pages of quotes, I was able to pull ones that I thought might fit the first chapter (problem statement, theoretical basis, etc.). I printed these and then numbered them according to which area of the chapter they seemed to fit. This also helped me cull the information a bit---no sense in using all the best stuff before Chapter 2 (lit review). :) Then, I copied and pasted the usable quotes underneath the various subheadings for Chapter One. I printed things again, this time to renumber quotes in terms of the order they should be used. Once I did the cut and paste thing to move them around, I had an instant outline.

Writing a dissertation is like painting a room. There's a metric buttload of prep work to do. And, yes, you can quote me on that.

One thing I have learned about myself as a writer these past two years is to not force myself to be linear. In other words, I don't have to write the introduction first and follow the outline from there. If the middle of the paper is making more sense, I start there and then work in either direction. I'm a rather concrete-sequential person, so this way to approach a paper is out of character for me. This has helped prevent many cases of writer's block as I crank out 50+ pages each semester, so I'm willing not to fight this particular battle in my mind.

On Tuesday, I'm headed over to visit with the district research person to talk through how best to gather the data I need. Surveying kids means getting hundreds of parent permission forms out and back. What a nightmare; however, the one thing that comes up over and over in the literature is that it is student perception of the school environment that matters most in terms of impact on achievement. (Sorry, teachers and parents.) Meanwhile, there is absolutely nothing in the literature which describes the effects of standards-based grading on kids. Zip. So while I and others think this is the right thing to do in terms of classroom evaluation---does it really make a difference in terms of student motivation? It should. The kinds of environmental conditions for a classroom to be considered motivating (from the kids' perspective) is documented in the literature. We just don't have much of anything on how grading fits into that. This makes for quite an exciting project for a nerd like me.

For now, I'm off to grab onto a piece of dissertation like a dog with a chew toy.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Just curious, SG...are you using any kind of graphic organizer -- like a mind map -- to corral your thoughts about sections of the dissertation? (I'm sure it would have to be on b-i-g pieces of paper laid out on a table top!)

I like what you say about working on the sections that seem to demand your attention, regardless of linear order. Working like that can stimulate thinking for the other sections as well.

Hugh aka Repairman

The Science Goddess said...

I am not using anything formal in terms of a graphic organizer, but I have been doing some pre-writing on paper. I toss the bits and pieces of terminology I think need to be included and then arrange them in different ways. Sometimes, I do draw connecting lines (a la mind map).

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Connecting lines will do. There's no right or wrong with how one diagrams thinking. The only rule is that when said notes are shown to a language arts teacher, they be considered "messy." (Apologies to Dr. Pezz.) :D

Hugh aka Repairman

Barry Onishenko said...

You said: one thing that comes up over and over in the literature is that it is student perception of the school environment that matters most in terms of impact on achievement. I'd never encountered this research. Can you explain this a little more? What are the important perceptions of their school environment that motivate students' to higher achievement?