If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Never-Ending Practicum

All semester I've been teaching a practicum with my favorite group of doctoral students.  It is my first time teaching this course and I've been pretty much winging it as I go.  In our department we have a core course in qualitative methods (which I teach) but it is an overview course and we don't have a lot of time to go deeply into any one topic.  Several of our students have done qualitative dissertations and many more indicate that they would like to do so.  Our university has several qualitative methods courses in different departments but very few cover analysis with any depth. My idea for the course was to use available qualitative datasets (one of mine and one of my colleague's) and focus exclusively on coding, analysis and writing.  Analysis and writing would be done collaboratively and the final product would be papers for submission.

It has been a fun course to teach, partly because it consists of my favorite students and one of my favorite colleagues, but also because I am a bit of a methods geek and absolutely love reading and talking and thinking about methods.  As part of the course we read an interesting book that provides narratives on both the process of conducting qualitative dissertations as well as the student-mentor relationship.  Many excellent discussions came from these readings and we explored far more than just how to analyze qualitative data.

Perhaps the most important learning outcome to have occurred was the realization that this work is intensive and takes a long time.  Several of the students are rethinking a qualitative dissertation and the others are adjusting their timeline so they can do their dissertations justice.  We have two really interesting papers in the works but are still pretty far from having final drafts.  Classes ended two weeks ago but we added a few extra sessions to try and catch up.  Today was the last of these unofficial sessions but we will continue to meet informally throughout the summer to draft the papers.

Working with engaged students is a blessing.  I hope I never take it for granted.

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