Thursday, September 29, 2005

Reflections on research

Reading the article by Wells will give me somewhat more of a theoretical framework for looking at my study of the use of Literature Circles in the English classroom. I’m constantly thinking about how my professional reading helps to refine my teaching. Then I write about this in my research journal. This, of course, will become part of the data that I analyse. Although I have a transcript of part of the focus group interview I now know that my tape of the focus group interview stopped working and did not record the whole interview. This is obviously an issue I have to work on for next time I do tapes. Obviously I need to transcribe the tape sooner, or at least listen to the whole tape soon after the interview to find these things out sooner. What I would have done in this case I don’t know, maybe redone the interview? Another problem that I had was that the Literature Circles part of the English course was too short and too intense. I need to start earlier with it next year. Clearly there will have to be negotiations with the library if this is to happen. There need to be more meetings with the focus group in order to get a sense, through their commentary, of their learning over time.
What have I learnt?
I have now refined my topic question and will be focussing on the role of talk in learning. I am asking what is of value in the teaching of literature and looking again at what does it mean to be an English teacher? I now know that I need to do my study with just one class rather than the three I was trying to do research with this year. I am asking questions about the learning that happens in Literature Circles, not just seeing it as a way to do the texts part of the curriculum, as the latest fad. I want to know what are the students’ goals in reading literature and discussing it in this way? I do want to negotiate these things with the students but there are problems with negotiating the curriculum because of the constraints caused by society’s expectations, by the all the things that mediate relationships in the classroom (number of students, time constraints and so on). I want to focus on what are the learnings that I am facilitating with my students in this intervention in the curriculum.
What I want to do next year?
I want to begin the small group discussion process earlier in the semester (with short story discussions) and incorporate lots more small group work into other areas. I want to record my experiences more often in my research journal, to find ways of capturing the moment of learning. I want to continue to think about my role as teacher in the class. In the past I have not been a member of the small group discussions. But I will try next year to rotate among the groups, to have that as normal practice. In this way I can model the kinds of talk by occasional interventions (without dominating the discussion or having it go through me). If I take on a role in each discussion as any student would and do the reading the students are doing, this may be a helpful thing. It’s worth a try I think.
In the meantime I will continue with my professional reading and reflecting in my research journal.

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