Paint the fence: How the Karate Kid compares to being a beginning researcher

I’ve almost completed my PGR1 proposal for my M.Ed dissertation next year, but it has been hard – good hard!

Reflecting on the experience, I liken it to Karate Kid, where, like Daniel-son, I thought I had some idea about research (karate), until my lecturers introduced me to ‘next level’ learning and I felt that I actually had no idea. Fortunately, I managed to surround myself with Mr Miyagi types, who have gotten me to ‘wax on, wax off’, ‘paint the fence’, and ‘sand the deck’, with their feedback. Slowly, my research has been refined over and over, and through the process I have gone deeper and deeper… The other day, I I was listening to Brene Brown share her research, and noticed she was using ‘grounded-theory’ as her methods analysis… I’ve learned A LOT and haven’t even touched the surface.

Through the Research in Context paper, I was developing a research design, but hadn’t come to terms with what exactly it was I wanted to research. I was having immense ‘thought battles’ in my head and it only started to become clear when I identified my sample group as Learning Educators Outside The Classroom (LEOTC). My supervisor, the ultimate Mr Miyagi, then went through a ‘write, critique, write, critique’ process to extract my thoughts enough to be comprehensive and then left me to complete my final assignment – a pilot trial.

Once that was completed the ‘write, critique’ process began again. The question was ‘sort-of’ finalised, enough to proceed with the design, and it’s only now that I’ve settled on an exploration into –

What does ‘place’ mean to LEOTC educators and how could their perspectives and insights inform school curriculum design?

I learned through the process that if I’m conducting research then I have to ‘know’ and trust myself. Any gut-like niggles are telling me something is not right. Last minute, due to ongoing gut-like niggles, I changed my theoretical position from interpretative phenomenology to ecofeminism and an ethic of care, and breathed relief. Through the trial, and discussion with Mr Miyagi, my methods shifted to photo-elicitation and semi-structured interviewing. In the final countdown, causing delay, I incorporated grounded-theory as a form of analysis, which I’m a little iffy on, but it is still better than any alternative I’ve come across.

I’m as yet to have the research design proposal submitted and accepted, but looking at The Design Wall process, enormous shifts have occurred throughout the year in my thinking, I’m a better person for it, and way more resilient.

So, where to next – well, knowing I have to practice patience when it comes to my processing and head battles, I thought it best to get a jump start on the lit review. Over summer, I’ll be collecting literature on place-theory and local curriculum design, as well as ecofeminism… The geek in me is excited by the prospect.

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