Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coding My Segments

Another "wow" moment happened late yesterday afternoon.  As you all know, I have been struggling with two "dimensions" in terms of what I want to code -- essay level qualities and racial consciousness qualities.  I have tweaked my big research question to ask something like, "What happens to student writing when the topic of the FYC is complicated -- like race?"  Well, here is yet another question that came up in discussions with my colleagues here -- a great question that I want to use!  "Are certain schemata in my racial consciousness dimension related to the quality of the student essay?"  I love this question and I honestly don't think that I would have been able to come up with this direction on my own.  This question came out as a result of talking with Dr Geiser and my fellow colleagues here (the discussions at this seminar, by the way, have been awesome!  Everyone's projects are great and makes me feel hopeful and optimistic about the direction of our field as a whole!)

Last night our homework was to break down some data (in my case, the first and fourth essays of 6 students) and get this into an Excel spreadsheet.  This morning, we talked about how to actually "code" the data itself: "Placing data into categories along a single dimension according to some decision making rules" (from my notes when Geisler was talking).  Basically, we needed to learn exactly "how" to make definitions that we can use to code the data we segmented last night (and these definitions will be in flux as we work our way through the data; the most important goal is to make sure that we are using reliable categories).

As you can see from above, our data needs to be broken down into a category, followed by a clear definition.  Next I need to think about cases and examples.  The goal here is to make sure that other folks can go through my data and make the same connections using my definitions.  I will end up having two broad "dimensions" (I think!) so I decided to start with the racial consciousness aspect.  Here is what I have as just a few examples of this morning's work:


Dimension 1:  Racial Consciousness in FYC Writers
Color Blind Writer:
Definition:  Code as “Color Blind Writer” any clause (sentence) which references being unattached from racial acknowledgement, prejudice or bias.

“Color Blind” may include instances where the speaker …
  • ·         refers to the idea of not seeing/ recognizing people in terms of racial identity, e.g. “I don’t see race.”
  • ·         mentions terminology such as “color blind” or “we are all human” when talking about her/his personal beliefs.

Emerging Thinker/ Writer:     
Definition:  Code as “Emerging Thinker/ Writer” any clause (sentence) in which the writer recognizes the complexity of racial issues and can offer no easy solutions.

“Emerging Thinker/ Writer” may include instances where the speaker …
  • ·         refers to the idea that race offers no easy solutions, e.g. “It’s important to choose our words carefully.”
  • ·         refers to race as a concept that is complicated and not easily talked about (or solved).
  • ·         refers to surprise, shock, or strong emotion in reaction to another person’s racial perception, e.g. “That was my first time seeing race.”

Of course, nothing here is written in stone (yet).  This morning I thought I had started with 8 racial consciousness categories and, as I work my way through these 6 students I am coding, I now am up to 10 (maybe 11).  I have an individual (and then a group) meeting with Dr Geisler later this afternoon and another individual conference with Dr Bazerman at 4:30.  

And don't get me started with my new arch enemy ... Excel.   Today's homework is to code all six groups of data, continue tweaking my definitions, and try to figure how in the hell to use Excel.  But ... at least I get to do these tasks in the middle of gorgeous weather here in Dartmouth in a beautiful library setting!

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