Imagining a Research that Could Be

It looks like we’re getting real close to the end of the semester. Once you start working on your final project for the course, you get that feeling of “we’re almost at the end” —I don’t really know how else to describe it. I’m also not so sure if I should be sentimental or overjoyed about that prospect. I guess, I’d know for sure after I hand in the final draft of my research proposal. For now… let’s simply trudge on.

So, I attempted to write the first draft based on the research question that I was previously working on, which I have already mentioned it in my other posts, and not much has changed —at least for the time being. Depending on the feedback, I might do some tweaks (which I also mentioned). In our last class, we briefly went over our research questions. At the time, I had an additional detail in my question and it related to being able to develop autonomy without any help. However, after reading some of my resources (PDF articles), as well as hearing the suggestion made by Dr, Nelson in the class, I’ve decided to drop it. I feared that it could potentially cause a contradiction without me realizing it —something that may still be possible to discover on my paper. I think, I have at least a foundation of sorts to continue on, though.

The biggest challenge was deciding on what sort of task or assignment to use as a means to show my claim/theory. Since the research questions involved development of autonomy, I thought writing assignments could be a good choice. As indicated by many experts (who shall not be named), the writing skill is the most difficult to obtain specifically for non-native students. I figured that it’d particularly require the highest level of autonomy for the student to produce a successfully written paper. Hence, it’d allow the research to be conducted with a proper(?) exercise as it specifically attempts to observe the development of autonomy.

The overall proposal is about discovering a correlation between the learner’s awareness of ineptitude and self-direction. As we were tasked to find a gap in the field, I discovered (or merely assumed) that most research papers either ignored that connection or analyzed it under a positive light. My position is that if the learner is conscious of his or her inability, such as low proficiency level in a target language, then the potential fear of failure could be detrimental in becoming an autonomous learner. Of course, that is simply my assumption for the time being and that I could be totally wrong. Then again, isn’t that the point of conducting research in the first place? Speaking of ‘fear of failure’… I’m glad that we’re not actually conducting a research but rather simply writing a proposal. If I may be frank, I don’t have enough confidence in my abilities to produce a successful research result to prove that theory I’ve put forth above —should I have revealed that here? Oh, well.

Going back to the writing task, I’ve chosen to utilize(?) Flower and Hayes’ writing model for the supposed research. I’m planning on collecting data by tasking learners to write essays in disciplinary fields. The idea is that the selected participants have low proficiency level, which is determined by an examination but without revealing its results, and some of them have serious concerns. Basically, two groups of learners categorized as unconscious incompetents and conscious incompetents respectively. Their task is writing an essay through drafts, and at each draft they are asked to conduct peer review with learners who posses slightly higher proficiency level. At the end of the task duration, each student would be evaluated and interviewed. The interview questions would specifically attempt to determine if the learner managed to develop a general autonomy; asking “how was the overall process”, “if there were any detriments, what were they?”, “how did you feel during the peer-evaluation sessions?”, “any cause for reluctance from your point, and if so, what were the reasons?” …etc. So, in a way, the research is mixed methods as it collects both quantitative and qualitative data. I believe it falls into a case study (maybe?). I’d like to say that it’s a phenomenology method but the phenomenon itself is what the research is trying to determine, so… would that still count? I’m not quite sure.

I believe that is all for the first draft of the proposal. As I’ve mentioned, things could easily change going forward, but I think I’m happy with the way it turned out… for now. I’m “looking forward” to the feedback that I’m going to get in our upcoming class.