Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On to Quals!

This semester is finally DONE! Now I can devote all my attention directly on preparation for my quals. I thought I would take a bit of time to do some initial musing and orienting toward the coming test. What I'll do here is take each "domain area" in turn and think about them out loud here.

Three Domain Areas for Exam

Rhet/Comp (Tech Comm)—Fred
Research Methodology—Becky
Initial questions on the domain area of Reflection

What are the major theoretical perspectives on reflection, and how would your inquiry possibly add to this body of knowledge? --or how does your perspective differ from these other areas?

How are reflection and invention related?

What are the theoretical beliefs behind the use of reflection, and how are they complicated in actual practice in the classroom?

What is your definition of reflection (“rhetorical reflection”)? Justify why this definition is better than others?

What is different and what is the same between “reflection-in-action” (“rhetorical reflection”) and “reflection-on-action” (curricular reflection)?

Rich has hinted that his question will be something related to "rhetorical reflection." A big part of my thinking has focused on what "kind" of reflection is this rhetorical reflection. The term is my term to describe this reflection within the activity of writing, and I think for my quals prep I would do well to spend my time charting out the different kinds of reflection and then where mine fits. I still like Moon's all-purpose definition for reflection saying the mental process is similar but it is the purpose to which it is directed (its "frameworks") that distinguishes the different kinds of reflection. In Composition the term has become so focused on post-task construction of knowledge with the ultimate goal of transfer. So my goal here will be to create a kind of chart or survey of the various approaches to reflection. OK. Good.

The second domain is Comp/Rhet (Tech Comm) and these are the initial questions I have:

--What are the major areas of Rhet/Comp, and how does the one your working with make connections between Technical Communication and Rhet/Comp?
--Should rhetoric be a part of Freshman Composition, and how does your focus on reflection relate to your answer to rhetoric's place in FYC?
--What are the major views on “the writer” in Rhet/Comp, and how do these perspectives relate to the possible role of reflection in the activity of writing?
--How do we describe and account for differences in approaches to teaching writing?
--Justify the notion of “writing process” and where reflection may fit into that “process?”

Of all the "domains," this is the one that worries the most. It is so open-ended. I meet with Fred today, so I hope that he can give me some guidance on where I can focus my energies. I think I would be wise to do a general review of comprehensive views on Composition from Harris, Crowley, Berlin, Fulkerson, Lindemann, and Connors (among many). I'm spooked, though, on how I will integrate my discussion with Tech Comm. I need also to examine the bridges between Comp and Tech Comm. Of all the questions I have proposed, the first one on rhetoric in composition is the one that I have focused on the most myself and would have the most I could talk about. Ultimately, I think my own conception of teaching writing as well as my use of reflection in a writing course stems from the New Rhetorical or Epistemic tradition in composition studies. I think I need to anchor myself more concretely in that tradition, but again how does this connect to Tech Comm? I should have more direction after meeting with Fred today. More to come...

The third domain is Research and Research Methodology. Here are my initial questions:

--Describe four possible research methodologies for investigating your research question (including your own), and then argue for why grounded theory is the most appropriate methodology to use?
--What are the strengths and weaknesses of grounded theory?
--What kind of knowledge will your research methodology generate?
--Compare the methods used in three different methodologies (including your own) and discuss what is different about the methods applied in grounded theory?
--Discuss the uses of grounded theory as a research methodology for the fields of Rhet/Comp and Technical Communication.

From a moo discussion I had with Alec a few weeks back ( we pretty much landed on question #1, except we narrowed it to three methodologies.
Describe three possible research methodologies for investigating your research question (including your own), and then argue for why grounded theory is the most appropriate methodology to use?

That question would integrate all the other ones pretty much. So to approach this one, I might chart out various research methodologies used in Composition and then decide on the key ones I would focus on. North will help me a lot here, but he only goes to 1985, so I would have to update the research approaches used in the last twenty years. These would include predominantly qualitative approaches I would think. Perhaps I could ask the WPA list what their thoughts are? It is interesting how methods like Case Study could be perceived differently since it had more of a positivistic or what North calls Clinical bent to it originally but now it is definitely a qualitative methodology in an of itself. I need to get that book Methods and Methodologies in Comp, but even it is dated. We need someone to write an update to North's book. I sure could use it!

So I am launched! On to quals...