Refining

One of the classes this semester is Educational Research. Normally, it's slated for the last semester of this program, but with the flukey issues in getting the classes that I was supposed to have, I decided to take this one now.

My thought was, I've had a lot of foundation in Psychological research, so much of it would be familiar. That was an accurate assessment, as the class is about 60 to 70% familiar material, and 30% that either expands on research terminology I knew or introduces the educational components.

This class, unlike the other five I've either taken or am currently enrolled in, has a midterm and a final, as well as a term paper. The term paper excites me somewhat, as we are asked to apply knowledge gained in the class to come up with a 8 to 12 page research proposal. We don't have to go into the actual research section, just describe the type of research, what methods we plan to use, compare what we plan to do to existing literature and explain why it is important.

Apparently, it's unusual to have a dissertation topic before entering the doctoral program, but it happens. The textbook (this one is really good, BTW) describes choosing a topic to explore as "something you MUST be passionate about." In fact, the whole chapter on conducting research underscores this point over and over. In a good way, I think.

Meanwhile, I knew as soon as I decided to go this route what I planned to explore. Then seeing that Dissertation proposal defense helped me clarify what points I needed to address to get approved for research. That experience helped me greatly, because I don't need to do nearly as much work as anticipated.

So, reading the chapter helped me define that I want to conduct quantitative research in a quasi-experiment condition (because I'm utilizing a school where it will not be completely random participants), that I want to utilize two classrooms, one with the experimental condition and the other with the control and that it'd be ideal to observe over one school year.

Then, I realized that if I'm able to secure grant funds to do so, it'd be ideal to partner with the school to hire two masters Special Education students to lead these classes. They'd spend a month before the school year with me refining the lesson plans for four core subjects being measured to ensure the same curriculum was being used in both situations. A bonus is that the school has extra staff for non-core subjects.

It adds an element that I knew would be a possibility, but knowing that I need to drum up grant funds now will help me to draft a grant proposal, too. I'm happy that I've got a couple of years to formulate that part of the research package, instead of realizing it at the 11th hour and ending up stalled until another school year starts.

The readings I've been doing all week culminated in the midterm exam today-one I thought I was woefully unprepared to take. I was wrong, as I've probably walked away with a high B/low A on it. The best part, though, was that I spent some time talking with the professor afterwards about the paper and my plans. He agreed that there isn't research for that topic and there needs to be-and that he's really curious to see what I will find. I jokingly said "well, I need members of my doctoral panel," and he said "I'd be happy to do it."

Sweet! His class is helping me to narrow my focus AND I've got a committee member, too! Now I just need three more, and I know where two of them will come from-the last is a choice outside my research area that I hope will agree.

It feels really good that out of the stress of this week's efforts comes a better sense of direction.

Now, if only every test had that outcome!

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