Hopefully all is ticking along in week five. In this weeks blog I thought I would look at a ‘question’, as in Module 2. I think this is useful to everyone regardless what module you are on. In a sense this is an exemplar.
Problem: I find people do not comment much on my blogs especially compared to other students blogs. I always end with ‘what do you think?’ but people don’t tell me! Students leave comments on other students blogs like “thank you for writing this” or “good idea” these comments appear to be to let the person know their blog was read. The sort of comments I get are more if people have a problem and many of my post don’t get any comments. I have started to check the numbers of hits I get in order to see if what I am writing is useful or looked for by students. But what I hope for is a conversation in the comments and links to other people’s posts and comments so we create more of a network. So my question is “Why don’t people leave comments on my blogs”
Then I look at ethical implications (Tasks 5 ) What ethical implications are there.
Ethically First: Am I following the kind of protocols of blogging. Does my writing make it easy for people to comment. What are the other rules of blogging; maybe I am not constructing my blogs in a manor that implies I want comment or on-going conversation? I need to look into this.
Ethically Second: I must be aware that my relationship with students is different from their relationship with each other. I have a different power relationship and their for I am perceived differently. It is expected that I write blogs because I am an advisor on the course. In some ways people have become friends through the course but it is ethically unclear if I can be friends with people or not. Writing ‘thanks’ or ‘good idea’ do not seem appropriate because 1) It’s my job to do it and 2) I am not perceived to be an equal (or a friend) so saying ‘good idea’ might seem weird. Also commenting on from what I write might seem as if a person is doubting me or challenging the ideas which goes against the power relationship.
Ethically Third: it is perceived to be possible that interactions I have with students could affect their grades. Because I am a part of the University (as it were) I appear differently. I might be more difficult to interact with and even perceived as dangerous because I could have a negative affect on a grade or something. It could seem unclear how the blogs work (many people still feel that the blogs are being marked as a task rather than evidence of learning). Maybe people would feel that I would be looking at spelling and grammar in the comments. Maybe people feel what I am writing is the ‘answer’ so all you can think is ‘yes’!!
Ethically Lastly, is it reasonable of me to expect to have conversations when people are busy and really what they want to do is find out what boxes they need to check to pass. Whereas I have a job doing this and maybe more time to ‘shoot the breeze’. Or maybe students don’t have much internet time and need to move quickly across blogs (although that doesn’t explain why they comment on other peoples blogs more than mine).
These ethical considerations change how I think about my initial question. ‘Why’ people don’t leave comments could be a number of reasons. The question now seems really big. It ranges across power dynamics, perceptions of the ‘teacher’ / student relationship, personal identity and how people see their own voice being heard, time constraints, confidence in spelling, social expectations and that’s only why Middlesex people don’t comment. I have tried to include other people (friends, past students, future students general inter-net users too. Why don’t they comment). The question is clearly too big to research in a couple of months.
It is this point that I must realise that the question can no longer be about the incident that made me think about it (my personal problem) because in order to really find out something useful to me I must look at the question for itself or otherwise I will limit the question to being a comment on my problem rather than a way to find out more about something. In other words, I might think “well I don’t need past students to comment anyway. That wasn’t really a part of the problem to start with.’ But if I ask the question ‘why don’t people comment ion my blog’ I need to look at ‘people’. I might find that the reasons past students don’t comment informs why students now don’t, and if I had not considered this I might have missed a big point in terms of the question (although it appeared unimportant in terms of my ‘problem’. That’s why it has to be the question you address not the my ‘problems’). The biggest problem might turn out to be that my blog is hard to find or something like that. So I can’t limit the question to only construct what I expect to find out as an answer. I must look at the question for what it is asking.
Doing this I see that the question is too big because I would not be able to reach out to enough different types of people in a couple of months. So maybe it should be ‘why don’t current BAPP students comment on my blog?’
Again the ethical points I looked at make me see this is also a big question because there are clearly a number of possible reasons and they are all very different. Maybe the implication of my question needs to be changed. I could change the word ‘why’ to ‘what are the reason students give….’ There is a big dynamic change of power in terms of where I see ‘truth’ laying here.
When my question starts with ‘why’ there is an implication I need to study something and then use the evidence to prove something ‘why’ it happens as if ‘why’ is answered outside of the situation itself. If I ask ‘what are the reasons given’ then I assume that the students themselves know ‘why’ the answer or ‘truth’ of the situation is not outside it and needs to be interpreted but is in the people themselves. As a social scientist, narrative inquirer and Pragmatist I feel the second construction of the question evens the ground out more for the inquiry. I feel the ‘why’ assumptions follow more along the line of the specialist in the white coat telling you what you think!!!! If I change the question to start with ‘What are the reasons…’ I can still look at what these reasons mean to me and what I feel they imply about my blog.
So now my question is “what are the reasons current BAPP students give for not leaving comments on my blog”. It still seems a little like I am court up in my own up-set and not genuinely interested in comment leaving. In other words not allowing the question to stand alone but using it to make a point about people leaving comments on my blog when I feel I have tried to encourage them. This limits me. Firstly, because the very people who the question addresses don’t leave comments so I am not communicating with them well in the first place so how do I expect to not just replicate the same problems I have noticed in the blog, in the data collection. Whatever is making them feel uncomfortable or seeing it as unnecessary may also affect the data I collect. (I would think) then all I would be doing is proving my point that they don’t communicate with me well rather than actually finding out why.
Secondly, because there are the people who do comment and it might be as useful and important to find out why they do as why others don’t.
I need to open out my question and not focus on the ‘problem’ that instigated it. It could be “what are the reasons BAPP students give for why the do or don’t leave comments on other BAPP blogs’. Now my question addresses my problem but is open enough for me not to be a mission to prove I’m hard done by the non-commenters, and could be useful to other people who write BAPP blogs. I am not looking for an answer ‘why = because’…. Because I realise the question is too big to answer in a couple of months but I will find out more about it and draw some conclusions that might help me with my blog writing.
I hope this is useful for Module 3ers too because I hope it reminds you what your data collecting and analysing is for.
Tasks 6 etc… so how do I find out? I could try a couple of ways to see which way works in terms of me connecting with people and getting the kind of answers I can find useful. I could try making a survey, maybe I could try interviewing a couple of my advisees. I try out a couple of types of data gathering tools so that when I do the project next term I already know what I am doing. BUT more importantly I realise what kind of answers will help me understand the question in the terms I want to understand it. This is a lot deeper than I am writing about here because I have already gone on for ages. It is also for you to think about. It is about what you consider valuable information in terms of the question you have. In terms of my question here it would be important to really understand the tools I need and how I want to interact with people because that is what my question area is about. To show I understand my question would be to show I understand the implications it raises about how I can collect data. Like the student / teacher perceived power relations, the fact I am looking for information from people would have not communicated with me before etc…
Well what do you think?
Please do my pilot survey: