That video has me explaining the research from my qualifying paper, which is the culmination of a grad student’s second year at Stanford’s School of Education. It qualifies you, in the eyes of your advisers, to take on the much larger research project they call a dissertation.
I showed two groups of students an image of a water tank. One group saw all the information and abstraction relevant to the question, “How long will it take to fill?” The other group just saw the question, “How long will it take to fill?” and had to request the information and develop the abstractions themselves. If you’re remotely aware of this blog’s obsessions, you can guess the research questions I asked about that experiment. (Watch the video!) Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the experiment (to me) was that the higher-achieving math students in the study really disliked not having all the information and abstractions in front of them.
If you’d like to read the paper, you can feel free. If you have some commentary or criticism that’d profit us here, you’re welcome to the comments.
A few other notes about the qualifying paper, my second year of grad school, and my next year of grad school:
Stanford gives great feedback. The school of education has several schools within it. My school, Curriculum and Teacher Education, does a great job preparing its students for the qualifying paper. In the spring of your first year, you take an introductory course. In the fall of your second year, you take a doctoral seminar that builds to a proposal for the qualifier. In my particular case, I had a qualifying committee that was generous with feedback when I needed it. I also developed the study while taking a course with Alan Schoenfeld at UC Berkeley. So my ideas and writing had as many as eight sets of eyes on them, as needed. (And that’s just faculty. My student-friends gave great feedback also.) That’s amazing and, from my understanding, kind of rare in doctoral programs. That criticism was occasionally contradictory, however, which required a certain discernment I haven’t really developed yet.
The criticism I remember most vividly: a) my weak review of the literature, b) the sense that I wasn’t really taking myself anywhere new with the study, and c) a claim about equity that had me reaching beyond my data.
Great classes I took.
- Accelerated programming in C++. I had no business in an accelerated course in anything related to programming but I had a scheduling conflict and they weren’t putting the standard class online. It nearly ate me alive but spat me out a better programmer and granted me a great deal of sympathy for students who felt like idiots in classes that I taught.
- Analysis of Social Interaction. With Ray McDermott, if that name means anything to you. If it doesn’t, read “Can We Afford Theories of Learning?“, which begins, “If American culture were an Internet, the domain name “learning” would be owned outright by the testing services that use it to feed the yearnings of parents and their schoolchildren.” So a great quarter, basically.
- Qualitative Analysis, with Pam Grossman (one of my advisers) and Sam Wineburg, who have taught together for decades, dating back to their time together at the University of Washington. Put these items under the heading “exceeded expectations”: a) the four assignments, b) the syllabus, c) their respect for our time.
- Directed Research, for practical reasons. Make sure you write that one down, class of 2016-2017. There’s no excuse not to max out your units.
Papers I flagged as being particularly worthwhile.
- Berman, P. & McLaughlin, M. (1979). An exploratory study of school district adaptation.
- Brown, JS. & Burton, RR. (1978). Diagnostic models for procedural bugs in basic mathematical skills.
- Cohen, D. (1990). A revolution in one classroom: The case of Mrs. Oublier.
- Egan, K. (1999). Education’s three old ideas, and a better idea.
- Geertz, C. (1972). Deep play: notes on the Balinese cockfight.
- Lareau, A. (2000). Common problems in field work: A personal essay.
- Pollak, H., Albers, D. & Thibodeux, M. (1984). A conversation with Henry Pollak.
- Schoenfeld, A. (2011). A modest proposal.
- Schoenfeld, A. (1998). Making mathematics and making pasta: From cookbook procedures to really cooking.
- Small, M. (2009). ‘How many cases do I need?': On science and the logic of case selection in field-based research.
- Tyler, R. (1950). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction.
What I’ll be doing my third year.
I have this image in my head from a movie from my childhood that I’ve forgotten. A man stands with one foot on each of two rowboats that are side-by-side. It seems like a good, fun idea at first but then the boats start to drift apart. His weight bears down on both boats, pushing them farther and faster apart until he falls in the water and we laugh.
One boat is christened “Grad School” and the other is “The Other Stuff.” The thing I can do to help myself right here is tie several cords from one to the other, committing myself to projects, papers, and talks that are researchable or that will, at least, inform my research. I just don’t have the time for a long stay in grad school but I may not have the skill to get a dissertation done quickly either.
So for the third year:
- I’m still designing tasks for and consulting with publishers in the US and elsewhere.
- I’ll be facilitating some workshops and speaking at some conferences.
- I’ll be taking the winter quarter off to work with The Shell Centre in the UK. (Did you guys know they pilot their tasks five times before they release them. What new questions do they ask in each new pilot? Let’s find out this winter, okay?)
- I’d like to submit a dissertation proposal at the end of this school year. Vegas oddsmakers are frowning at that one, though.
- I’ve taken the required major coursework for the education doctorate but I need to complete several more courses in my minor emphasis in computer science. I’ll be taking as many of those as I can this next year, online as much as possible. As I narrow in on a proposal, I’ll take some appropriate methods courses also. (ie. if I plan to run an experiment, then something in experimental methods.)
- I’ll continue to develop 101questions into the tool I need to be.
Of course, all of this has been and will be more fun with you guys tagging along, chirping comments and critiques at me as we go.
2012 Sep 13. Elaine Watson posts some thoughtful commentary on my qualifier.
What would you do with a doctorate degree that you are not already doing?