Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Processing Slice 4

Slice 4 of my data analysis has taken complete sets of drafting-texts for three essay cycles. This involves each draft, DI critique, peer response, and Writer's Review for every draft a student writes in a semester. It is a lot of data. The goal is to see these Writer's Reviews in context--that is, to try to take into account (as much as is possible with these artifacts) the situational conditions and influences affecting the writer as they work on his or her draft. To be sure, the view I have from this data is limited, but it is ok. I must remember and appreciate that all the data I have is a textual representation of thinking. Other verbal or non-discursive factors are not visible, and so I must view an appreciate this data for what it is as written representations of the writer's thoughts and feelings and as such they are constructions. They are interesting because they are "textual makings" like the writer's essay. Grounded Theory as a form of ethnography is based upon close observation of phenomenon. This close observation depends to a high degree upon the researcher's sensitivity and understanding of the phenomena and context in which the phenomena exists. For me, that is what I am after here with this slice. Get the full context (as much as I can).

This slice gives me the fullest picture of Writer's Reviews in context. The image above provides the full picture of the context for Writer's Reviews and rhetorical reflection.

So what am I seeing in Slice 4?
It is extremely tedious and time consuming to chart out all the details of what is happening in a draft. I am going through one student's work in 1302, and have finished with one essay cycle. I see so many factors involved that it is hard to nail them all down. Here is a semi-list:
--the writing task
--the student's understanding of the writing task
--the nebulous concept of "assignment success" and its rough relationship (open to interpretation) with "writing success"
--what the writer thinks/wants
--outside critique from DI/peers (what the teacher/peer thinks/wants)
--available content/knowledge from which to write
--the writer's proficiency and skill with "tools"

I want to write about this last item. In this particular case, it is apparent that the writer was limited in his researching skills. I every WR and almost in every peer response the need for more support and evidence is mentioned, yet the writer hardly brings in any additional research. IF he had found support for his original position to keep bases open, he might have written an essay supporting that position. But because he didn't have the evidence for one position and did for the other, he chose argue against his original (and we might say true) position. What caused him to change? Transformation, right? I don't see this transformation happening inside the WRs--that's for sure. His 1.3 WR before his last draft states in the last line that he will argue for keeping the bases open, but his actual draft 1.4 is opposed to keeping the bases open. Why? In his 1.4 WR he says that he opposed because he had more convincing data and evidence.

What happened? The goal/task in his mind was more a matter of "assignment success" which meant a convincing argument of a certain length. When he rattled around in his lego box of content and information on the subject, he didn't have enough pieces to fit together something that would reach assignment success, but he did have some good pieces to make an argument opposed to the bases. Hence, he too the expedient path toward assignment success and the grade. After all, the grade is waht matters.

What role did Writer's Reviews play in this path toward his final draft? What role did WRs play in the relationship between thinking and action? For this writer in particular, I am conscious that these WRs are constructions themselves. You can see him consciously addressing the questions in the prompt and writing what he things he needs to write to "show off" his "good-studentness" to the teacher. He also takes a very deferential tone toward the process--looking for errors and jumping to say he will fix them and not do them (ever) again. You can see him in places reaching for things to write, particularly as far as grammar goes. I can' t say he is the best subject.

What is important, however, is to see the elements at play. I hate to say that I am seeing Schon's four constants that affect reflection-in-action and eventual practice:
  1. media/tools to engage in task/reflection
  2. appreciative systems
  3. cognitive framework, schema, terministic screen
  4. understanding of role, role playing
Is this a warning? Am I beginning to bring outside theory into my interpretations? If so, I think I need to keep grounding those ideas in the concrete appearances in my data.

OK. Enough for now. More later on slice 4 as I look at this kids second essay cycle.