Thoughts about empirical research

Thoughts about empirical research

So my doctorate continues to progress – I’ve written more than 90 000 words now, although I acknowledge that a lot will be cut as I try to slim it down to a more pointed, sharp argument. I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed it – I’ve set myself a target of about 1500 words per week, which I’ve managed to stick to or even exceed on occasion, and the fact that I’ve been having weekly meetings with my writing group – and regular meetings with my supervisor – has really helped to ensure that I do stick to it.
I enjoyed the literature review and the methodology sections, but the best bit, I’ve found, are my findings chapters. Although I have never written anything like this before – certainly not at this length – I’ve discovered that engaging with the findings from my interviews to be deeply stimulating. Admittedly, it’s a little bit overwhelming – I recorded more than 15 hours of interview time, and that is a lot of data to sift through – sometimes I would look at the metaphorical pile of interviews and think that I would never make it through them, but using DeDoose has actually worked in my favour.
So what have I found out? I guess that’s the important question but I sometimes think that the journey of research is just as important as the findings – the skills and knowledge that I’ve covered have really developed my understanding about a lot of things. However, there’s not much point engaging in 5 years of research unless you can find something to point to at the end of it – even though negative results are still results! So here’s what I’ve got thus far:
  1. Firstly, it is obvious that the ‘blank slate’ depiction of students in regards to civics and citizenship education is patently false. This matches the anti-deficit model writers like Wierenga, Kennedy, O’Loughlin as well as fitting in more broadly with conceptions of education like critical pedagogy, which recognise the knowledges that young people bring to their learning. Importantly, my work built upon this non-deficit depiction of young people, and the success of the program, both in the attitude and the learning of the students, can be partially attributed to this approach.
  2. Secondly, young people are a diverse group, with variegated and messy roles in their community. Even with a planned and resourced program, young people are likely to have diverse and varied levels of involvement – and these levels of involvement will vary over time for individuals and for students. There are a few predictors of involvement, including belonging to a church or youth group, or having had previous involvement.
  3. Thirdly, young people are often in the process of developing more critical understandings of their community -even before they are explicitly taught skills to do so (if they ever are). It seems that many teenagers have begun to question previous assumptions (especially about things that affect them, like internet laws, bullying and school structures) by the time they start Stage 5, and for some of these students, this will continue to develop throughout their later years.
  4. Specifically tailored programs, like Justice Citizens, which begin from a non-deficit model can assist in the development of active citizenship. The mechanism for this development is the increases access to social capital that such a program provides, and this increased social capital, in addition to the work of the program, helps young people to develop critical consciousness.