Sunday, September 5, 2010

Where am I now?

I'm two weeks into my second year of coursework. This semester is roughly the halfway point through my courses before taking the comprehensive exams. In terms of research, I should be at the very early stages of developing ideas for research. I believe I'm getting ahead of myself in that most of my cohorts haven't selected a research question or topic yet.

As stated in a previous post, I selected my current research interest, topic, and questions at the end of my first semester. During my second semester, I started finding some articles related to the topic in addition to another research interest I had. I did this to make sure I wanted to pursue research in the cultural competence of EFL teachers, specifically concerning classroom dynamics.

By the end of my second semester, I was certain of my choice. I let my adviser know and that I was ready to choose my cognate area of study. A cognate area is an area of study outside one's field (ESL education) that will support your dissertation. I chose cultural anthropology since I would like to observe and/or interview EFL instructors and one of the most important variables deals with cultural competence. At this point, my choice of cognate is not set in stone. Both my adviser and I are practicing caution. I'd like to have this choice firmed by the end of the semester as I would like to take one course in cultural anthropology next semester.

A very helpful class this semester is all about qualitative research. (It's the class that has inspired me to start this blog.) Each reading and each class discussion has my mind racing with ideas for research that it sometimes distracts me from my real world contexts. I call this productive daydreaming. I've created this blog to bring my productive daydreaming into reality.

More productive daydreaming comes about from an assignment for a class on developing a second language curriculum. My assignment is to develop a curriculum to benefit students who intend to teach EFL outside of the United States. This activity will help me connect my research to practice.

Although it seems likely that my research will be primarily qualitative, I do not want to rule out quantitative methods. Just today I found a list of measurement tools for intercultural communication competence. How many of them are sound? I don't know yet. Will I use them? I don't know yet. These tools could be useful either before or after an interview. I'm thinking of myself and how an inventory on my cultural competence may influence how I answer interview questions on the same topic. Would such an inventory serve me better or after interviews? It may help my participants explain themselves more clearly, however the inventory may cause them to focus more on their strengths or weaknesses in terms of cultural competence if they become overly self-conscious.

Another big debate that has been going through my head for the past week is participant observation, which would not be very efficient in terms of cost and money. Can I conduct a valid study based heavily on interviews? I predict that this question will be answered to my liking by the end of the semester.

Also ahead of me for this semester is an extensive and perhaps even an exhaustive reading list. My academic adviser has provided me with several book-length studies already. My potential cognate adviser has many readings in mind as well. I'm also casually searching for journal articles. By the end of the semester, I should have a very long list of readings related to my research in education, cultural anthropology, and qualitative methods.

I'm both exhausted and exhilarated, and I'm anticipating to be more exhausted and exhilarated within the next few years.

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