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maura @ 9:30 pm

Earlier Gus asked Jonathan what “engulfed” means, and since I was thinking I’d write a little something about my research project today that seems as good a title as any.

This year a colleague (at another library) and I got a small grant to do an ethnographic study of the ways that students at each of our colleges research and complete their school assignments and projects. It’s modeled after a similar study done at the University of Rochester a few years ago (here’s a PDF of the book they wrote about it). We’re interviewing faculty about their expectations for student work, and also doing a couple of different kinds of interviews with students.

Working on this project has been a blast so far. We started with faculty interviews at the end of the spring and over the summer. But it’s gotten a bit intense over the past few weeks since the student interviews started. Right now I’m in the throes of 2 kinds of interviews with students. One is called a mapping diary — I give each student a map of our campus and of the transit system and ask them to trace and log (with times) the course of a typical school day. The other is called a photo survey — I give each student a disposable camera and ask them to take pictures of different objects and locations, e.g., where they study, what they carry in their school bag, etc. With both of these I’m asking students to meet with me after they’ve finished for between 10-30 minutes so that I can interview them to expand on what they recorded on their maps/photos.

We’ve got enough funding for 10 students to participate in each kind of study. It’s been a bit more challenging than I’d anticipated keeping track of everything: which students have come to pick up their maps/cameras, dropped them off, and scheduled interviews. I’m running cameras to the drugstore to get developed and buying Metrocards in different denominations (as payment to the students for participating in the interviews). When I posted the flyers to recruit students for the study I had such an overwhelming response that I actually had to go around campus and take them down 4 days later! Which is all great, just a bit of a challenge on top of all of the usual life + work stuff.

Thank goodness for RT! Reassigned time, the saving grace of the junior faculty member. Tomorrow I’ve got an RT day scheduled and have 4 students meeting me for interviews. Then somebody has a birthday (and will finally be as old as me), and we all get cake. Huzzah!

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