Liminal Space.

*sigh* Research, where do I begin with? Where does it end? 

The article “Liminal Spaces and Research Identity”, Purdy and Walker analyze the ever-changing rules of research writing and the developing research identity of first year students. While the article generally disagrees with educator’s first move to shed students of “what they once knew” about writing, Purdy and Walker also wrestle with the problem that educators faced with new writers and present skills to help teachers better facilitate an environment for liminal spaces/moments. Following this article is an article explaining the Swales and The CARS Model, which provide steps for conducting research writing in a linear model. In the next research article “The Relative Contribution of L2 Language Proficiency..”, Lee and Schallert  tested two hypothesises, which are as followed: 

  • when predicting L2 reading ability, the students L2 proficiency is greater than L1 reading ability
  • and  a level of proficiency exists and shows that  with low levels of L2 proficiency will show little relationship between their L1 and L2 reading ability; students with higher levels of L2 proficiency will show a positive relationship between their L1 and L2 reading performance.

Their reasoning for this, I imagine, was their attempt to cross the thresholds and allow for students to “cross the threshold”. Bamford and Day published an article of commentary on their research; however, more attention was given to the actual experiment, their method of experimenting rather than the hypothesis. Though I don’t necessarily agree with how the study was conducted, I do see the connection that Lee and Schallert were making in that allowing for students to immerse themselves in a liminal space when writing, they will evolve and produce progressive results.  In response, Lee and Schallert wrote back with sharp words about how Bamford and Day completely missed the point of their research. 

I must start off by saying that I believe the process has been overcomplicated by too many contributions being made canon. You know what they say: “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Also, steps are useful when teaching someone to do something the first time; however, research is not always linear and not all steps should be followed in one direction. Though I don’t think that students should be left without rules or free range when it comes to research, I do believe that there should be more of a “catch and release” behavior so as to allow students to test the knowledge they’re gaining, even if it is about research. 

Purdy and Walker mention in the article that the common belief is that students enter college unprepared to write research papers. I find this claim to be outdated and untrue (for me) as both a former student in grade/high school and a former teacher. Before entering college, I attended private school. We were taught steps on how to write a research paper and I did not struggle with writing one until I entered my first year of college. I can even recall the lesson that scrambled the eggs in my brain that day, which was on creating the bibliography and works cited page. I remember thinking the following:

  • So I can’t use Google anymore?
  • But how would they really know I used Google?

I always wondered why Google was so taboo when conducting research, even as a teacher. In Purdy and Walker’s article, they write “ Murray presents the computer itself as a liminal object further supports why students’ online research activities are sometimes viewed with suspicion: they are not quite real, at least in the context of the first-year composition classroom.” Authentication of sources is important for research, yes, but the one size fits all approach out of fear of the text not being “real” is interesting, to say the least. The article goes on to say that, “although no one can dispute that the WWW has greatly increased our access to information, it also creates a special set of problems for students who do not (or cannot) distinguish between the credible sources available via the electronic library and the morass of unregulated information on the World Wide Web.” I think the true fear lies in educators not knowing how to teach students to use the web in a credible manner, but I will leave that one right there. 

Instructional Texts: Unnecessary Rigidity or Baseline Standard?

English 5002

Unit 2:  Response to: 

  • Liminal Spaces and Research Identity :The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers. By James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker

Admittedly, I felt overwhelmed reading these articles. Even though they discussed familiar topics, shifting my perspective to a focus on research methodology felt like uncharted territory. I found myself constantly pausing and referring back to last week’s reading Research Methodologies: A Comparison of Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods in an attempt to comprehend and identify the methodologies properly. Nonetheless, I found the articles interesting both in content and methodological approach.  

Liminal Spaces and Research Identity by James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker is an interesting analysis of instructional text in introductory composition courses. The author suggests linear print based text that discourage web based research practices acquired by students have negative effects on a students “ research identity”. Assuming that the student is incapable of conducting legitimate research without being given a step by step guideline gives students a feeling of inadequacy and requires them to abandon any and all skills they have accumulated. This negatively impacts students since it disregards skills that may be beneficial for a particular area of study or even make their research standout. The authors research method involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. An example of the qualitative method used was content analysis of a plethora of instructional texts such as “composition  handbooks,  library  websites,  and  online research  resources”(Purdy and Walker 13-14) used in introductory composition courses from “multiple major publishers of instructional materials for university composition: Bedford/St. Martin’s, McGraw Hill, Prentice Hall, and Wadsworth” (Purdy and Walker 13-14). Purdy and Walker studied the ways in which these texts asserted the assumption that students don’t know how to do research.  Not only do these texts send the message that students are  “empty vessels” but also assert  control over how students should approach research and ultimately thinking processes. It is particularly important to study the instructional texts in introductory composition courses since the authors viewed this course as a “liminal space” for students from “non academic beings” to “future knowledge producers”. Therefore this course weighs heavily on the research identities of students and the way they may engage or contribute in civic arenas. 

The authors do not disagree that there should be standard  in terms of quality research but propose  “ that  academic  research  practices  need  to  be connected to students’ existing practices rather than set up as wholly separate from (and better than) them” ( Purdy and Walker). Introduction composition courses should introduce students to tried and true methods whilst facilitating a students research identity and understanding that nontraditional research methods are valid methods.

Conceptually, I struggled with this article. Whilst its understandable that research is not linear, “ one size fits all” and students learn in a myriad of ways students need to learn existing methods of research as they create a base level of understanding how research is done within a particular discipline. The authors boast of students’ ability to research and find information quickly and efficiently using web sources, which I do not dispute; but there is a real need to help students decipher authentic and reliable sources from questionable sources.  The content students research before reaching the liminal space of the Introduction to composition course is important. The instantaneous nature of Social media has had major effects on the quality of information that exists on the open web. Students are bombarded with massive amounts of information at rapid rates, that checking authenticity has become nearly impossible or irrelevant. 

Colleges and Universities should utilize these liminal spaces to encourage students to critically think and analyze information, without making one set of methodologies or steps mandatory or ever binding.  Skills and techniques students have developed prior to entering these liminal spaces should be considered and analyzed as a collaborative effort to help students differentiate quality information from sensationalised fiction. This would require a shift in the power paradigm that often exists in educational settings. The instructor needs to acknowledge that students have mastered a wealth of knowledge through different digital tools and resources and teach students how to utilize them academically and professionally.  This allows both instructors and students mold research identities that are complex, flexible and reliable.  Forming such identities equips students with a set of practical set of research skills rather than a skill set that is outdated or even worse; one that is trending. 

Perhaps my struggle with this article is a process of unlearning. Following a set of guidelines for research and writing was the way I was educated.  Did I love them all? Absolutely not, but they did provide a baseline of standard that I should at least attempt to meet. On the other hand, I have never experienced an instructor that was so rigid as not allow any deviation from the guidelines, which makes me question if this is implied within the discipline. Maybe all these rigid guidelines are a form of gatekeeping?

Instructional Texts: Unnecessary Rigidity or Baseline Standard?

English 5002

Unit 2:  Response to: 

  • Liminal Spaces and Research Identity :The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers. By James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker

Admittedly, I felt overwhelmed reading these articles. Even though they discussed familiar topics, shifting my perspective to a focus on research methodology felt like uncharted territory. I found myself constantly pausing and referring back to last week’s reading Research Methodologies: A Comparison of Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods in an attempt to comprehend and identify the methodologies properly. Nonetheless, I found the articles interesting both in content and methodological approach.  

Liminal Spaces and Research Identity by James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker is an interesting analysis of instructional text in introductory composition courses. The author suggests linear print based text that discourage web based research practices acquired by students have negative effects on a students “ research identity”. Assuming that the student is incapable of conducting legitimate research without being given a step by step guideline gives students a feeling of inadequacy and requires them to abandon any and all skills they have accumulated. This negatively impacts students since it disregards skills that may be beneficial for a particular area of study or even make their research standout. The authors research method involved both quantitative and qualitative methods. An example of the qualitative method used was content analysis of a plethora of instructional texts such as “composition  handbooks,  library  websites,  and  online research  resources”(Purdy and Walker 13-14) used in introductory composition courses from “multiple major publishers of instructional materials for university composition: Bedford/St. Martin’s, McGraw Hill, Prentice Hall, and Wadsworth” (Purdy and Walker 13-14). Purdy and Walker studied the ways in which these texts asserted the assumption that students don’t know how to do research.  Not only do these texts send the message that students are  “empty vessels” but also assert  control over how students should approach research and ultimately thinking processes. It is particularly important to study the instructional texts in introductory composition courses since the authors viewed this course as a “liminal space” for students from “non academic beings” to “future knowledge producers”. Therefore this course weighs heavily on the research identities of students and the way they may engage or contribute in civic arenas. 

The authors do not disagree that there should be standard  in terms of quality research but propose  “ that  academic  research  practices  need  to  be connected to students’ existing practices rather than set up as wholly separate from (and better than) them” ( Purdy and Walker). Introduction composition courses should introduce students to tried and true methods whilst facilitating a students research identity and understanding that nontraditional research methods are valid methods.

Conceptually, I struggled with this article. Whilst its understandable that research is not linear, “ one size fits all” and students learn in a myriad of ways students need to learn existing methods of research as they create a base level of understanding how research is done within a particular discipline. The authors boast of students’ ability to research and find information quickly and efficiently using web sources, which I do not dispute; but there is a real need to help students decipher authentic and reliable sources from questionable sources.  The content students research before reaching the liminal space of the Introduction to composition course is important. The instantaneous nature of Social media has had major effects on the quality of information that exists on the open web. Students are bombarded with massive amounts of information at rapid rates, that checking authenticity has become nearly impossible or irrelevant. 

Colleges and Universities should utilize these liminal spaces to encourage students to critically think and analyze information, without making one set of methodologies or steps mandatory or ever binding.  Skills and techniques students have developed prior to entering these liminal spaces should be considered and analyzed as a collaborative effort to help students differentiate quality information from sensationalised fiction. This would require a shift in the power paradigm that often exists in educational settings. The instructor needs to acknowledge that students have mastered a wealth of knowledge through different digital tools and resources and teach students how to utilize them academically and professionally.  This allows both instructors and students mold research identities that are complex, flexible and reliable.  Forming such identities equips students with a set of practical set of research skills rather than a skill set that is outdated or even worse; one that is trending. 

Perhaps my struggle with this article is a process of unlearning. Following a set of guidelines for research and writing was the way I was educated.  Did I love them all? Absolutely not, but they did provide a baseline of standard that I should at least attempt to meet. On the other hand, I have never experienced an instructor that was so rigid as not allow any deviation from the guidelines, which makes me question if this is implied within the discipline. Maybe all these rigid guidelines are a form of gatekeeping?