Like a Potter: Revising Research Questions

I have revised my research questions no fewer than 100 times in the last year, and I am getting pretty comfortable with the fluidity of working on a qualitative study. That fluidity, I’m finding, is different from the rubber banding of topic-changing–which I also have done a lot of the last two years. It’s different because I know I’m working on one study, and I know the topic and site selection criteria for that study, so as new study ideas come  up, I write them down and send myself an email, so that when I have my next opportunity, they will be there waiting for me. Those moments of new inspiration have a role in the research process, but it’s no longer the role of sling-shotting me to far afield of the actual qualitative research process.

I am actually enjoying the fluidity and freedom of reforming and revising my research questions. The revisions no longer incite fear of an abrupt change in project. The process makes me feel akin to a potter before the kiln hardens her wares. Place your finger or arm along or inside the clay project while it spins on the wheel, and a project starts to change shape, top to bottom. I was doing some reading for my methods class, and I have committed to revising some portion of my DP writing as I read articles and chapters that shift my thinking or give me a deeper understanding of the research process. Tonight’s writing inspired a reconfiguring of my research questions (below).

I have a few goals, but one of them is to get to one central question with sub-questions below–suggested by Creswell (2007). The other goal was to craft the questions a bit more intentionally to my chosen qualitative methods approach of writing a case study. I am still playing with the idea of incorporating ethnography data collection and analysis, advisers and logic permitting, but my questions even in the their revised form are still firmly planted in the descriptive project of my case study.

1.     How do teachers of English learners describe and understand their professional growth in the context of an urban elementary school where a learning-oriented model of leadership (Drago-Severson, 2004, 2009) defines professional development experiences?

a.     How do teachers describe and understand the supports and challenges they experience as part of their professional development?

b.     How do teachers describe and understand their informative learning experiences?

c.     How do teachers describe and understand their transformative learning experiences?

2.     What patterns of similarity and difference, if any, exist among participants with common ways of knowing as defined by Kegan’s (1982, 1994) constructive-developmental theory?

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with grace


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