16 March 2008


When I saw this cartoon by Mike Bannon, I felt like it summed up my current progress on my doctoral study. I was told last week that principals in three of the four buildings I want to survey find it too much of a burden to be aware of my project. Yes, you read that right. To even know that somewhere in the world, some research is going on is too overwhelming for them. One wonders how they even manage to function appropriately. Let's hope that they have coping mechanisms in place so that they never see a newspaper headline, new titles of books, the 11 o'clock news, or other sources which might place such great weight on their awareness level. I shudder to think what might happen if they were ever to see a calendar. They only work in schools. What possible good could come from new learning for them?

All sarcasm aside, I do know these people and I find what I've been told to be incongruent with my own experiences with them. They're actually reasonable and genuinely nice human beings. A couple are actually very good leaders. Whatever their message is or was, I'm not convinced it was appropriately translated by the Powers That Be. Or perhaps the PTB garbled mine. Somehow, that seems much more likely.

Let's recap, shall we? I had originally planned to survey the motivational levels 5th and 6th graders at four schools, each in different stages of implementing standards-based grading and reporting practices. I would make all copies of the survey. I would go to classrooms and administer the survey (no more than 30 minutes per class) on my own time. I would analyze all data. We have no costs to anyone, other than some instructional time. And we benefit by learning whether or not what we're doing in our schools is meaningful to the people we do it to: kids.

Someone in the district was quick to point out that I haven't officially been told "No." yet, but it seems pretty evident. I should have been collecting data around this time. The supe has had two months to make a decision. Doesn't sound like this is going to happen. Meanwhile, I'm losing time, tuition money, and the only data I'm gathering relates to how the supe isn't following school board policy regarding how research is conducted within the school district. As I'm allowed to appeal this to the school board (according to their policy), all of this may well become part of the public record---even if the outcome remains unchanged.

In the meantime, I'm refocusing things a bit and looking at Plan B. The other school district I work for is much more research friendly---or so I've heard. They, too, have implemented standards-based grading practices, but have done so very differently. Their demographics are also different. So, I may look at still doing something cross-sectional, but across grade levels as opposed to schools. I have struggled a bit with what to compare within the data, but think that I will be looking to see if the decreases in motivation (which are predicted through my literature review) are not statistically significant in light of the mastery approaches used in classrooms. I still have another day to ponder this before I make my pitch to district number two.

I have a five weeks left in my current (and last!) grad class. I just want to gather some data so that I can finish my dissertation and degree. It's time to get out of the maze.


Roger Sweeny said...

I don't think much of most educational research, but that's because it's done so poorly. If there were an educational equivalent of the FDA, which treated new pedagogy like new drugs, it would have put the ed schools out of business years ago.

That's why there's so much need for good research. The powers that be should be falling all over themselves to help you. I hope you can make chicken soup out of what looks like chicken sh*t.

The Science Goddess said...

I hope I can, too. I do like your idea of an FDA sort of equivalent for educational research. I really think that we need it.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Knowing you, SG, from your writing and our brief conversations, I'm confident that your design is sound and our "industry" cries out for the knowledge (whether or not our fellow professionals know it).

Let the supe know that you'll have no choice but to take it to the board, but don't wait. Boards don't move very fast...think glacial.