I have had 3 opportunities to present my research proposal before entering the official research proposal phase that occurs after one successfully completes comprehensive exams. The first was in the spring semester of 2011 for a final paper in my Cultural Curriculum course. The second was a presentation to my colleagues at the Summer Intensive English Program at the International University of Japan. And the third was appropriately in a course called Proposal Writing that I just completed a few weeks ago.
First, I will briefly describe how my research interest developed over the past year through those 3 opportunities. Then, I will introduce how my first post-comps meeting has presented new ways of approaching these research focus that I was narrowing.
In the Spring of 2011, I was still undecided about collecting data in Japan or South Korea, but I was leaning towards South Korea. This first proposal was written as if were granted a Fulbright grant to conduct my research in Seoul. My primary interest was the intercultural communication competence of American English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers in their schools and communities. During the summer, I leaned towards Japan as a potential site as I made stronger contacts there over the summer. I also encountered two ideas that I grasped on to strongly, Holliday's host culture complex (1994) and Ting-Toomey's revised W-shaped cultural adaptation model (1999). These two ideas helped me change and narrow my focus to the adjustment process of new EFL expatriate instructors. From the fall of 2011 through this past semester (Spring 2012), I have been reading a lot more about the sociocultural context of education in Japan, specifically English education as well as the psychology of culture shock or acculturation. For my research proposal in the Proposal Writing course, I wrote about my interest in the adjustment process of new EFL instructors sojourning in Japan. I had planned to conduct a multiple case study over a 4-6 month period with at least 2 interviews per participant, which I have re-labeled sojourner instead of expatriate based on the literature on cross-cultural training and acculturation psychology.
My oral comprehensive exams and my first meeting thereafter have jolted me out this fixed research proposal. Firstly, it was suggested that I incorporate readings about the naive teacher adjusting to the new teaching environment in the United States, such as a suburban white teacher in an urban school that is mostly black or Hispanic school. I can also incorporate my second research interest about multiliteracies in that schools nowadays have students with various literacies, including little to none, when entering the classroom. The new teacher must be able to cope with students with different backgrounds and understandings of schooling.
The most liberating change was to incorporate some aspect of netnography (Kozinets, 2010) into my research methodology. At this point, I'm planning to conduct interviews online as well as collect data from blogs written by my target participants, past or present and maybe immediate future. I just started reading Kozinets' book yesterday, so I can't really elaborate on this concept yet. All I can say is that it excites me.
In the next few weeks, I will be exploring the various ways of conducting a netnography, in part or whole, and seeking approval for this type of research from IRB. So late May 2012, I will have netnography and its variants on the brain.