Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 17 November 2007

my personal epistemology, my “coming to know” about the cultures of inquiry

Last week, I attended a three-day Research and Practice (RaP) seminar for school, held in Baltimore. My class was an introductory level to research “cultures of inquiry.” These are the schools of thought or disciplines within the social sciences. I will be asked to align myself with one of them after a short while as I start to do my research.

I started with a very fuzzy understanding and eventually I learned and came to understand these cultures of inquiry. Within a few weeks after I registered for the course, Dr. Farrell started posting the required reading assignments. I purchased three of four assigned books and printed out the articles from the required list. I looked through the ppt slides on IRB (Institutional Review Board). Though I hadn’t started reading the books yet, I felt comfortable I would be able to complete the reading assignments. Then came the deluge of further reading assignments, 88 vocabulary words, and preparation activities for the workshop. I put together a 2 ½ inch binder of materials and some index cards and started to panic. How would I fit in this huge amount of preparation along with the other two online classes I was taking, driving my daughter an hour each way to musical theater rehearsals, and developing my consulting business?

I decided to practice a technique that has worked for me in my life as an executive; I decided to “time-slice” my day. I took the required books and the set of index cards with me to my daughter’s rehearsals, highlighting or taking notes as I read. I wrote papers on my laptop for my other two courses in the mornings and late evenings. I made phone calls, wrote emails and had business lunches in the middle of the day. I decided I would not read “Marie’s notes” (from the professor) until I got on the plane to travel to Baltimore. That turned out to be a good strategy. Marie’s notes reinforced what I had just read. The index cards also reinforced what I read.  I was required to listen to an NPR show called “The Jefferson Hour” which I downloaded for free from iTunes and listened to during my long drives in the car with my daughter.

I entered the meeting room on the first day feeling anxiety, trepidation and excitement.  I was there to learn.  I felt slightly stupid and incompetent.   I knew some of the participants from orientation and was sure they were way ahead of me in understanding the concepts and vocabulary.  At the Tuesday evening reception, I sat with three people from the class and found out they were feeling the same feelings as I and were no better off than I.  They were very smart individuals.  I was in good company.  We were all especially nervous about the “game show” competition, where we could be publicly humiliated for our ignorance. 

We started the session with the group singing “I can’t Tell You Goodbye” by Helen Reddy.  Our professor made it clear that were supposed to fall in love with a culture of inquiry of our choosing by the end of the three days.  My goal was a bit more modest; to come to understand the cultures of inquiry and have some basic feelings and reactions to them.  I take my time when it comes to falling in love, having had previous negative experiences with betrayal.  You can call it a commitment phobia if you want to, but I need to look under the hood and kick the tires before I buy.  The three days turned out to be fun, insightful, and I absorbed an amazing amount of material.

I’ll make another post of what I learned shortly (I’m still writing the post class 15-page paper) and at that time I’ll give you a hint of which camp appeals to me. 


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