I LOVE reading about stuff. I am NOT good at pulling it all together in a way that synthesizes all that I've read clearly and coherently and in a way that frames my research. Part of this is my incredibly linear brain, which may be great for processing linearly organised articles and books, but is terrible for creating new patterns and cross-connections, which gets really messy (see images below). It actually physically hurts going through this!
So...back to this badger!
Barker (university podcast about framing research questions) tells me that once I have identified my problem, I should frame research questions that pinpoint the issue or concern I am interested in and specify the respondents or sources of information that should enable me to answer my own question(s). e.g. Main Research Question: To what extent do senior managers at the college perceive that problems with your change initiative match the common reasons for failure identified by Kotter? You’ll want to get the wording as clear as possible. But you’ll also want the question to be ‘researchable’ – i.e. how are you going to find out the extent to which your problems are like those discussed by Kotter? Who or what are your sources of information? This main research question makes this source clear – the perceptions of senior managers. But you may prefer to look at the perceptions of faculty leaders, or support staff assistants, or a carefully chosen and representative sample of the whole staff. Play with the main research question until all this is clear.
So let's apply that process to my question. My problem was that, although research suggests that the most effective student learning happens in a culture in which teachers, in a specific, shared context, are engaged together in improving practice and working towards a shared vision of student learning outcomes and that the most effective way of achieving this is through the development of professional communities which are engaged in ongoing, collaborative, reflective and accountable learning and application, there seemed to be a problem in actually making this happen in practice. That led to the following question: How is capacity and commitment built in a professional learning community? So, how can I frame this to pinpoint the issue/ concern and specify my sources of information?
So, the purpose of my study is:
to identify and evaluate ways in which capacity for and commitment to improved student learning can be built in a professional community of teachers through the provision of professional development.
As always when I am doing this, I seem to pass through moments of clarity, when I think I see it all unfolding in front of me, shortly before plunging back into a fog of questions and doubts and confusions, especially about the precise wording of my questions and where they might lead me. For someone who considers myself to be fairly adequate with words and getting them to do what I want, I find this surprisingly difficult. I am aware that I am spending a lot of time on it, but prior experience tells me that it is usually the difference between a project going well or not.
Reassuringly, Thomas (2013: 18) tells me not to worry if I feel my question is not quite right at this point. In fact, he tells me it is to be expected. I'll take your word for it Mr. Thomas.
I'm an educator driven by the desire to see people realise their potential by gaining the tools they need to be successful. I love being part of a community of learners for whom there is always more to be known and understood. For me, learning and teaching is cognitive, social and emotional and takes the whole self.