Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Research Questions, Personal Values, and Online Networks

Carspecken outlines the preliminary steps of critical qualitative research, including outlining research questions and the subjects of study as well as examining my own value orientations.
My values color my view of the study subjects. My subjects are teachers. But these teachers, most modern teachers in the U.S. traditional public systems, have experienced an increased administrative oversight for the last thirty years. The history of American Education has been a pendulum between hypervigilant administrative oversight that allowed educators little freedom in their curriculum and methods on one side and the ideal of the professional teacher who is in touch with their students and the pedagogy to reach them on the other. Since the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk, teachers have been subject to every encroaching administrative oversight, homogenizing curriculum, objectives, methods and procedures. My own personal value system sees this ever tightening homogeneity as a detriment to education, stifling the ideas of teachers and stepping on their rapport with students.

As the regulations become more draconian, teachers are struggling to meet the requirements of the latest rounds of regulations and standards while maintaining their own standards of excellence in instruction and facilitating learning. Where teachers previously shared ideas and methods with the other teachers within their school and system, the modern age of digital communication and social networking has allowed this dissemination of teacher content and pedagogical to spread across the nation and the globe.

So how does this digital network of educators function? What do teachers actually take away from their experiences on networks like Twitter, the defacto social network for online interaction between educators? Is it actual professional knowledge or moral support? How much of what goes on is talking shop with other like minded educators and how much of what is discussed is actually implemented in class?

These teachers also seem to be organizing with political motives, active on all sides of the political debate over education reform. For some it is a soapbox, for others a debate platform, while other groups use the platform for grassroots organization of educators. What results come from these political uses of the platform? Is Twitter an amplifier for a few voices or do the educator interactions on Twitter result in actual policy change?

These are the questions and concerns I have as I start the research. Now it is time to see how they evolve.

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