Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections on Becoming a Qualitative Researcher I: Lovitts

Lovitts, B.E. (2005). Being a good course-taker is not enough: a theoretical perspective on the transition to independent research.Studies in Higher Education30(2), 137-154.

Killing for recognition: Perhaps this rankles because Tucson and the mundanity of shrill rhetoric from all corners of life got under my skin this week, perhaps it is the perceived and unspoken need of scholars in the social sciences to pathologize the nonpathological. Did Lovitts feel this was needed to grab my attention? Did it add anything to the strength of the argument? Or does it actually harm more than help? I can already tell I'm going to have to compartmentalize this section so that it doesn't cloud how I take in the rest of the article. This introduction, however a propos, seems gratuitous.

Introduction: This all sounds about right, and I know that Trena and I have had discussion if not discussions about this very phenomenon. It happens to the best of us...and I speak from experience. I don't think every instance of non-completion can simply be attributed to this, but I think the article touches on other areas that suggest other reasons that are more nuanced. Coming at this from a praxiological lens, I always wonder where teaching, course-making ends up in these discussions. Many of "us" come from the teaching ranks, thinking that the doctoral education will enable us to learn how to better stand as an alma mater to our students. Well, if "the central purpose of doctoral education is to prepare a student for a lifetime of intellectual inquiry that manifests itself in creative scholarship and research" (138), how does this translate to praxis unless our research and scholarship deals with the scholarship of teaching?

The nature of the critical transition: Did 140 speak volumes..."The little research that exists on the transition to independent research indicates that the transition is affected by programme organization and structure...some transitions are ‘highly structured, with clear benchmarks; others are more informal with loose or shifting criteria'." It would be interesting to see how those working in qualitative research fare...hard to say. I'd like to think that, being drawn to a type of research where one becomes comfortable operating with high amounts of ambiguity would tend to make this group as a whole more successful. But I could see where the failure rate is even higher due to the more informal nature....

What is creativity?:It "inheres in the relationship the individual has with the domain and its gatekeepers."...So it really IS who you know...otherwise, how would you stumble upon "graduate faculty’s implicit standards" that are critical "to help guide students to higher levels of performance" ? And here is another thought that hit me as very true, especially given my experiences as of late: "graduate students and their work should be judged relative to the student’s capabilities and not a universal standard...a student’s ability to produce a dissertation that establishes a new conceptual framework is often a function of the state of the domain at the time the student is in graduate school." I think that if you happen to be in the right place at the right time reading the right become a rock star. Research and scholarship as surfing: someone with equal or superior intelligence that hits the stage when a wave has already crested is left to make do, and try as one might, will never be as cool as the mediocre hipster who fell upon the monster wave.

Six resources for creativity and their role in graduate education: I fixated on the section concerning intelligence, and particularly the idea that "everyone has a combination of three types of intelligence: analytical, creative and practical." (143) If we agree that there is an "overemphasis on analytical intelligence in primary and secondary education, and even undergraduate education" (144), then this would be an appropriate place to begin is nonsensical to think that a doctor would recommend a triathlon to someone with monster arm muscles but atrophic leg and core least not without a protracted and intense relationship with a physical therapist coming first to bring all required muscles up to a par for the demands of a triathlon. Bad analogy perhaps, but does it not seem that society values analytic intelligence to the detriment of the others, then laments over the the fail rate of Ph.D. programs, and wants to pathologize the student instead of the system?