Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New Year! New Research!

It is official! 

I have officially decided to pursue a MEd thesis instead of a major research paper. As a full time graduate student I have the privilege to complete research of my choice as part of my program exit requirements. I had the opportunity to decide during my first semester the topic and scope of my research interests by taking various master’s courses and speaking with members of the department. The master’s courses that I took in the first semester are as follows; (1) Teaching, learning, & development of education, (2) Introduction to Research Methodologies, (3) Innovative Practices in Curriculum/Assessment (K-16), & (4) Developmental and Educational Issues in Children and Adolescents. This semester I am taking (1) Qualitative research methodology, & (2) Theories of Literacy.

I had begun this program this past September knowing that the driving force behind the rationale for taking my Masters now was that I was passionately curious about the power and potential that dramatic playbuilding can have on Qualitative research literature available to researchers. I wanted to seize this opportunity to be academically encouraged and challenged to expand and explore areas of educational research that need some attention and TLC to bring it into 21st century relevance for our students.

In order to frame the posts that will likely be occurring over the next two years about my research I would like to include a condensed version of my official research thesis plan!

Research Proposal: Monica Taylor
About the Study: Research Interests/Rationale

In collaboration with a local school board, a qualitative research study will be conducted to explore the elements of environmental literacy that currently exist in school communities. The study itself will be between 8-10 sessions in length, whereby secondary students workshop, rehearse, and create a play about the environment and students attitudes towards it (e.g., how do they feel about global warming, sustainability, eco-responsibility), as well as how the environment is perceived or talked about in schooled environments.  Once ready, this play will be presented to junior division students (e.g., grades 4-6) in order to gain access to a more comprehensive scan of students’ ideals around environmental issues.
Participating in DART 3F93 Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement with Dr. Joe Norris allowed me to see the potential level of engagement and meaning-making of playbuilding and applied theatre techniques for participants and audiences alike. Using playbuilding as qualitative research method will provide student participants creative freedom to explore environmental literacy from a individualized, arts-based perspective.
With a boom in inquiry-based projects in the 21st century, collective responsibilities to engage in a more environmentally active society are necessary.  This is particularly the case with notions of sustainability and environmental consciousness. My undergraduate degree in dramatic arts and geography lends itself to a curiosity about the effectiveness of literacy initiatives that can enhance students understanding themselves as active 21st century agents of change for the environment. Additionally, discussions regarding literacy and effective literacy engagement initiatives have led me to a desire to research with students to actively explore current school environmental literacy initiatives.

Proposed Research Methodology
            The study methodology that will be used for this study is Playbuilding (Norris, 2009; Tarlington & Michaels, 1995) with case illustrations/vignettes. I chose this qualitative approach because: a) I have a background in theatre and studied this discipline in my undergraduate degrees (e.g., DART 3F93 Social Issues for Community Engagement); b) playbuilding allows me to work with two diverse groups of students and collect data on both; and c) an arts-based approach invites all voices and perspectives to be included. 

As mentioned above, I will work with secondary students in the Niagara region to develop and produce a 45-minute play that will be performed to a younger audience (i.e., junior grades). Data will be collected on both sets of study participants to get a wider understanding of environmental literacy in schooled settings. Data sources will include: a) interviews, b) surveys, c) focus groups, d) video of the devising and the play itself, e) photography, f) student blogs, and g) student work samples. Data will then be coded and categorized into relevant themes. Vignettes will be selected—those that highlight these significant thematic patterns in order to triangulate the data.

If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about the proposal I would be overjoyed to hear from you!