SCHOLARLY ACTIVITY: NARRATIVE & SUPPORTING MATERIALS (15%)
The former president of Princeton University William Bowen said of scholarly research, "It is tied inextricably to the freedom to think freshly, to see propositions of every kind in ever-changing light. And it celebrates the special exhilaration that comes from a new idea" (as cited in Boyer, 1990, p.17). It is quite true that there is great exhilaration that comes from new ideas - and I keep a running list of them on a sketch pad in my office, often scribbled feverishly when research and manuscript topics come to me between grading papers and teaching courses. To be clear, the problem is not ideas - there are plenty to be had and explored. The problem is focus. And just recently, I feel as though my research agenda has become a bit less blurry. This is a function of two things - the first being my previously published work and the second, and more interesting, is the deeper exploration of something that is emerging in my classroom.
The faculty handbook allows for published materials to be included in one's portfolio from the point of hiring (as opposed to start date). I have had two items published, the second of which appeared in a peer-reviewed journal (Teaching History, Vol. 40, No.2 ) in December of 2015, just after I accepted the faculty position in which I currently find myself. The piece (click document at right) explored methods for engaging reluctant students in secondary and post-secondary history courses. What follows is an excerpt from the article:
"Regardless of the reason, these students present a particular challenge for the history teacher; they require a plan of action that subverts their reluctance or apathy and transforms them into lovers of the process of history (for it seems that the content of history might not be alluring enough). Some students don't need this sort of prodding--they find topics such as the Aroostook War and the subsequent Webster-Ashburton Treaty inherently interesting. However, those who dare to question the importance of such obscure historical events necessitate a different approach from their history teachers. To hook such students, we need to invite them into the fold by demonstrating the complex, inquiry-laden, inductive, scientific processes that make history intelligible in the first place. Otherwise stated, we need to make them historians, with the hope that the process of deciphering history will engage even the most reluctant and apathetic learners."
Proposed Research Agenda
I once read (but can no longer find the reference) that the best research questions are borne out of problems or phenomenon that one encounters in their practice. I believe this is true. One particular problem I have encountered at the university is the general distaste pre-service teachers (thus, my students) have for the social sciences. Nearly all of my students shared this sentiment at one time or another in my courses. And now I'm curious; I have to know why. As such, I am planning to begin formal exploration of Pre-Service Teacher Perceptions of the Social Sciences in the spring of 2017. The research will begin with surveys and narratives, utilizing grounded theory methodology to build a theory from the ground up. Eventually, I would also be interested in exploring the implications of my findings (as these students eventually carry these perceptions with them into their own classrooms). I will be seeking IRB approval in January. Additionally, I will be using this research topic as a proposal for a SOTL grant.
Research in the Service of the Department
Relative to my role in redesigning the SYE, I plan to follow up with the redesign by conducting focus group research with both the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 student teacher candidates. IRB approval for this research was granted on October 19th, 2016 (click on approval letter for IRB Protocol #1340 at right). First and foremost, the research will be used for planning purposes within the Educational Leadership Department, all in an effort to improve the student experience. Beyond that, a research manuscript will likely be submitted to the Journal of College Student Development which has shown interest in pieces related to the Senior Year Experience. Any conference proposals will be based on the research findings, and are therefore unpredictable at this time.
Blog (Active & Ongoing)
In addition to the more formal scholarly activities, I maintain an active, ongoing internet presence via my blog, which can be found HERE. Topics include educational methods and educational philosophy. I am able to track unique site visitors and observe what they are reading and viewing. I average a couple hundred visitors a month, most of whom read blog entries.