So let me tell you what happened last night!
Before I left campus to drive back to our cabin, I met with Dr Bazerman one more time to talk about my work yesterday in terms of defining the categories I want to use in breaking down (coding) the essays (that make up my data). By the end of our conversation, I could feel the tears welling up ("Don't cry! Don't cry!") My categories weren't working. There was something else more complicated going on behind the language of what the students were saying and my almost desperate attempts at making my categories fit just wasn't working. I think I knew this "fact" before I was willing to open up about the possibility of starting all over:
The frustrating part was that I knew it wasn't working but I felt like I had so much invested in all of the work I had been doing for the last two days with Dr Giesler -- my God, it had to work! So I decided to do something crazy before I left campus. I made a Word Document with all the sentences that I am trying to code (about 24 paragraphs total) and I cut each one into a separate slip of paper. When I got back to the cabin last night, I put them into new piles -- which words/ thoughts/ sentences went together? (this is something I have done with my own students so I tried to take my own advice!)
By the wee hours of the night, I had organized most of the strips into "piles" and ended up with a bunch of papers (where I transferred the paper strips) that looked something like this:
I then took these papers/ piles and created a completely new list of category definitions. One category was similar to what I had yesterday but the others are new, based on how the sentences were "talking to me." I managed to finally get some sleep, by the way, but I was up early to get back to campus so let's just say Dianna is in need of some serious sleep!
This morning we had to share some of our data (in Excel workbooks) and then give both the data segment and the definition to a second coder (in my case, the fabulous Mel!). When I got it back from her, my percentage of agreement (between how I coded and how she coded) was 30%. Not good! But -- we had a great discussion on how she interpreted my definitions (e.g. two of my categories were basically asking for the same thing). I need to make sure that (1) I am coding the way that I am asking others to code and (2) that I say exactly what I want to say in each of the category definitions.
I just had my last meeting with Dr Geisler before she leaves (our next guest-in-residence and noted composition leader, Les Perelman, is already here and will be starting tomorrow!). She liked what I had done with all the paper (or maybe she thought I was crazy?) and she ended the conversation by telling me that I should stick with the one dimension (coding for racial consciousness) instead of going forward with two (I was going to add a dimension about coding for essay quality). She said that this is a great discussion but would work as a great post-dissertation article. I still need to have a long talk with the amazing Dr M about this but I like the idea of not having to add this complexity (though I think I might be able to address this issue without getting all nitty gritty with the coding and breaking every sentence down).
We have one more group meeting at 3 PM and then I am out of here. I will be back in the morning for the optional Saturday workshop (some great stuff on rhetorical analysis!) but I need a break tonight. Maybe I can convince Jim that we need to find a great place to eat!