So we met, to cement my course of study and in her typical way, we talked about my research plans in a way that challenged me to see things with a different lens. At first, she was thinking that maybe I'd want to change the dissertation to match my work experiences. When I explained the why of my intended explorations, she dug into the topic, asking me about my tenure with these kids.
I spent some time telling her about the research studies I keep reviewing, and got me to realize that I need to cast a wider net to get the research support to back up my hypothesis (which she agreed is worthy of a lot of effort). Not only did we discuss the why on a micro level, but we talked about what kind of application of this information could occur if we find significance. She also played devil's advocate, asking me to explain the lack of existing publications.
It was a really good process, one that made me think beyond my own motivations for this. It wasn't until I provided information about the existing research on ASDs, psychological research about the co-morbid diagnoses, and my unscientific observations and interventions in teaching these students that we moved on to the what and how.
In a nutshell, this is exactly why I wanted her to be my mentor through this process. It wasn't enough to tell her why I wanted to do it, I needed to answer questions with appropriate support-much like what I'll experience when I defend my proposal in a few years. I don't need someone to give me a 'that sounds good', I need someone who will shoot holes in what I'm saying, so I learn where my thoughts are weak. Some people walk away from something like that irritated (and I've seen a lot of that from classmates in other programs in our college), but I came out of it energized and excited that she's the right person to guide through this journey.
The original plan was to conduct research using a computer based learning management system, but we got to talking about my work and I pulled out the iPad to show her those chapters I'd finished. My original plan included doing the master curriculum in an iBook for the teachers only, so that they had the lesson plans and supporting content in one place.
After talking about it and doing some more of that give and take, including me sharing an article I was sent last night about a teacher using iPads in a special ed classroom, we decided that creating an iBook for the content makes a lot of sense. I'm familiar with the tools and widgets, it is portable, and it is an adaptive technology that educators are clamoring to use in their classrooms. My annual major professor meeting document was then filled out and signed, with a dissertation topic listed and timeline written out.
Then I quickly coordinated with one of the teachers who will be a subject matter expert for building the content. We discussed which of the four core subjects do most students struggle with and came up with math curriculum. What's nice is one of the other experts that will be helping me is passionate about math education.
It felt like I had staked out what I was going to build before I walked in, but a foundation has been poured and is already setting. Not a bad thing for two hours work!