Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reading at a distance

I've just read through chapter 1. Here are my general observations so far.

The first half pretty disjointed, mostly because I haven't incorporated my sources very well. I'm planning to rewrite the first couple of paragraphs to give more direction to the chapter. I'm also planning to incorporate more of my own words and argument in the rest of first half. The second half is better, but could still benefit from more transitions and signposts.

It's interesting to be reading it this far away from it. Of course, setting writing aside is a strategy I always teach my students as well. It certainly works for recognizing where things aren't clear or where the argument breaks down. Of course, the difficulty is figuring out how to make things better!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Progress at last

I decided on a method of analysis and recruited two people to help me code and a third to help me crunch the numbers. The indecisiveness was killing me.

I started writing up my methodology as I was working on it and got a couple of pages written. I now need to include a discussion of why I chose what I did, referring to some outside sources. I have no idea what the results are going to be and that's kind of exciting and scary at the same time. I have a hypothesis about how things are going to turn out. If they turn out badly, I have some ways of getting at why. Should be interesting no matter what.

I'm also planning to do some revision work while I'm waiting for all the results to get calculated. I have about a week before I can get all the coding done and entered into the number crunching system. So I thought I'd tackle the audience chapter in bits and pieces over the next week. I actually like revising in a way. You have some raw material and you can start shaping it. I'm also feeling a little more confident about what I want to say in that chapter since it's been percolating for a while, so it seems a good time to take it on.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thinking about analysis and empiricism

I am getting ready to work on the chapter that is supposed to be somewhat empirical in nature. I had initially decided (and my advisors agreed) on doing a case study or two. Then I started looking at all the data I had--hundreds of blog posts, rough drafts, final papers, interviews, self evaluations--and I thought, surely there's more I can do with this. So I sounded out the empiricist on my committee. The problem is, I'm not an empiricist. The methods that he suggested I am unfamiliar with and I'm afraid I'd misapply them. Further, I'm skeptical of an empirical approach to teaching writing. I don't think, even if I had designed an experiment appropriately, that I could prove that blogging improves students' writing skills. There just isn't any objective concept of good writing skills. Yes, there are schemas that one could use, holistic scoring, primary trait analysis and the like, but I don't buy any of them. I think that my reason for rejecting some of these approaches is that they articulate an outcome that I just wasn't looking for from my students, so it doesn't make sense to apply them. In a way, I was an outlyer among the other faculty teaching the course. They all complained about the lack of theses and topic sentences while I was excited about the ideas my students were presenting and didn't care so much about a thesis as long as the central idea was clear.

So, I'm back to a case study approach. It is suggestive and descriptive rather than empirical and that may be problematic to some, but it just feels like the right way to go. I definitely think that one could apply something more empirical to the data I have, but right now I don't have the time to figure out what that approach might be and it's not where my research is. So the potential for future research is huge, which I think is positive. I just hope it won't be held against me that I can't include that approach in this work.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Tracking down a source

I have a reprint of Linda Flower and John Hayes "The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical Problem." I have lost the original reference information. The pagination is 92-102 and it is followed by Lee Odell's "The Process of Writing and The Process of Learning." Anyone out there have a clue? I've dug through library databases, google scholar, and even tried out Amazon's A9 search--no luck.