Monday, October 03, 2005

Personal Connection

Describe your personal approach to inquiry before starting this project. Reflect on how this has or has not changed during the scope of this project.

As I have mentioned earlier in this blog, my original approach to research was typical, I think, of the traditional methods. I expected, more or less, to be given a specific problem or question by someone else and then I went about answering it in the usual, research paper manner. There have been some exceptions to this, but not many. I have always used notes and outlines for compiling and organizing information, but a more visual tool such as a concept map would not have occured to me. I think I have always been fairly good at searching, evaluating, and processing information, I just didn't give any thought to the details of what I was doing. There has not been much meta-cognition in my research. I don't remember ever being asked to reflect on the research process after the product was finished. Since I was never asked, I don't think I ever gave it much formal thought. There was always the stress of "was it good enough?" but that is really about grades and success or failure. The product was always the point, and how I felt about the process was outside the scope, if not irrelevent.

So, I got my assignment, found my books in the library, took my notes, made my outlines, and wrote my double spaced paper. And I got rewarded for it with good grades. Pavlov would be proud of my conditioning. ;)

When doing personal information searches, my thought process has been even less formal. I never felt a need to give deep thought to the details. I would just find the information that I needed.

I started out trying to do the research paper approach here, almost in spite of myself. When that became clear to me, I then reverted to my usual informal personal search mode. It was a bit difficult to get going in the right direction and feel confident in my approach.

I don't think I will ever look at research projects quite the same way again. :) My personal approach to inquiry has definitely become more thoughtful through the course of this project. I don't know that I would go through every step of the 8Ws (or any of the other models) every time I need information for a personal reason, but I think I will at least be more aware of the underlying process. When it comes to planning inquiry projects, either for myself or for students, I will definitely be a better researcher and teacher of research. I think in the end, all these steps will help me be a more efficient researcher as well, even though at times in this project I haven't felt very efficient. I can see now where I stumbled and where trying one of the scaffolds or other ideas would have helped, or helped more if I had used them more effectively. For example, I think I will use concept maps and flow charts more often to visualize my thoughts and questions.

It is tough to break out of such well-established habits. I think inquiry is something that I will need to continue to practice before it gets to be second nature, but the effort will be worthwhile.

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