Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wishing

Time for some reflection on the process as a whole. I think it went pretty well. :)

Strengths
In the Process: My strong suits in the process of this project were probably Webbing (searching) and Wrapping (creating). These are places where I had prior experience, which meant I was more comfortable in these phases.

In the Product: I think the strengths of my project are that I am now armed with some specific knowledge that I didn't have before. I have a plan for travel with my son that I can develop into a specific itinerary as the date of the trip gets nearer. I have the resources to continue the search or apply it to other locations if we decide to go elsewhere in Italy. For that matter, the general travel ideas will apply to other places, and I now have a good idea of how to find this type of information for other destinations. Another strength is, I hope, that the information applies to others besides myself.

Weaknesses/Challenges

In the process: Places where I struggled with this inquiry process were Watching (choosing a topic), Wondering (developing a focus), and Weaving (really giving thought to how I was applying what I had found).

When I was choosing a topic, I started to fall into the old habit of choosing something that would make a good paper, but the topic was too distant from my real information needs to be personally meaningful. Pulling a topic out of thin air is harder than you would think!

During the Wondering stage, I kept getting sidetracked by other parts of planning a trip of this magnitude, like hotel searches, when that really wasn't part of this project. It was pretty difficult to zoom in on just a few specific aspects of the larger topic.

Weaving gave me a little trouble simply because I am not used to really thinking about how I analyze and organize information. I just do it. It has always seemed like it was just one big leap from finding the information to presenting my findings, with maybe an outline or something similar as a guide. But there is really a lot going on at this stage. I don't usually stop to think about how I am making connections, so it was hard to slow down my thinking enough that I could see what was happening and write about it.

As I have been looking back at the worksheets for the research process in Stripling and Hughes-Hassell [1], I have worried that my project was not clearly falling into any of the relationships listed (cause and effect, application of a concept, influence, comparison). I guess I am an "other," but I don't know how I would describe the relationship that I am investigating. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I felt a little better about it after reading in the Research Cycle [2] literature about the importance of "how" questions. I'll quote it here again, just because it seems to belong in this reflection stage. "This question [how] is the basis for problem-solving and synthesis. Using questions to pull and change things around until a new, better version emerges." I really feel that this is what I've done with this project. Maybe I am applying a concept, the concept being that it is possible to balance the interests of everyone in the family to achieve a vacation where everyone is happy and has a little ownership. Then I found the particulars and applied them. Okay, there you go. I have a relationship. I think. ;)

What I Would Do Differently
I would make a concept map to help focus the topic much sooner!

How My Experience Was Like That of Young Students
Reflection is not something that I've had much practice with in an academic setting. It's really kind of a disquieting sensation at first, to be so meta-cognitive about everything. In my experience, emphasis of almost every kind has been on the end result, not how I got there, and the problem or question was almost always defined by the teacher. I think it is very likely that this is still an common experience for children in public schools. Unless they are lucky enough to have had practice at inquiry, I would guess they would especially struggle with choosing a topic and focusing it, like I did. As stressful as this has been at times, it will be valuable to relate on a personal level with what students are going through in this process.

How My Experience Was Unlike That of Young Students
I think I was better off in at least two areas than most elementary students would be. I have experience with Internet and database searching that most young children don't have. I have quite a bit of experience with building web pages, finding clipart, etc. I don't have any personal knowledge of what the typical middle or high school student knows in these areas, but I am assuming that most students would need specific instruction in how to accomplish these tasks. One other difference is that a young student would need to conduct a project such as this at a much slower pace to accommodate the support and supplementary instruction that would be necessary.

----Sources Cited----

[1] Stripling, Barbara K. and Hughes-Hassell, Sandra. (2003). Curriculum Connections Through the Library, p. 151-154.

[2] McKenzie, Jamie. The Question is the Answer. [http://questioning.org/Q6/question.html]. Accessed October 2, 2005.

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