Reflections in Research
Stephanie Kiewel Gai
for Dr. David Stacey, English 600
Humboldt State University
~ eGenre! (a work in progress)
~ Moodle Forum 1 "How is English Studied"
~ New Literacy Studies
~ Genre Theory
~ Rhetoric & Composition
~ Academic Language Acquisition
~ Amy Devitt
Five Years Ago
The typically and relatively inactive crayfish violently thrashed about and slowly accrued eager interest from the aggressive cichlids and the cat that sat in excited anticipation on the adjacent chair. Never having witnessed excited movement from my crayfish, I was surprised to discover that crayfish ‘swim’ backwards. Propelled by the tail which powerfully thrusts through the water in a sort of vigorous sit-up, the little lobster seemed to fly as it sailed to and fro through the unfriendly waters of my freshwater aquarium. We all watched in a tennis-match style as the frantic crayfish fiercely flailed from one side of the tank to the other. Chaos filled the aquarium: unnaturally purple rocks and dingy fish muck stirred crazily with every movement; hungrily interested cichlids awaited the moment they could devour their newly molted prey; and the playful yet predatory cat stealthily pawed the shiny glass as the flailing crayfish whizzed by. I am reminded of the pain of being born or giving birth: the chaos and commotion; the agonizing pain of outgrowing one’s current protective carapace; the equally painful new environment; the excitement and confusion of the process; the anxiety of vulnerability; and the absence of protection or shelter.
And why, David Stacey might ask, is a crayfish occupying a central position in the introduction to my reflective essay? Without a protective layer to shield me from the dangers of an unknown world, the world of professional academia, I feel like I am the thrashing and confused crayfish.
When I entered the MA program at HSU, I did not know that I was about to shed my own protective shell. I long to gain the knowledge and experience that will contribute to my new protective layer, the shield that will allow me to enter into and succeed in a publish or perish field.
I entered this class wondering why the fundamentals of research, an elementary concept essential to academia, are being taught so late in my academic career. As the semester progressed, however, I realized that this class is devoted to professionalizing writers and their research process, so I began to reassess my own process. What are new ways in which I can challenge and expand my knowledge of the basic research procedure? How is research different as a professional? What does research look like in terms of publishing production?
The answer to all of these questions is this: Join the current conversation in English Discourse and maintain a position within that conversation. As a professional, research is about understanding the current affairs, joining the English community, and establishing one's position. These are precisely the goals I tried to accomplish in writing my first graduate seminar paper, "eGenre! Using Computer-Mediated Communication to Teach Academic Language Acquisition."
I wrote "eGenre..." in Corey Lewis' Writing Workshop as a seminar paper for Nikola Hobbel's English 611 class. This is my first attempt at joining the discourse of my profession, and the subject was chosen on a whim. This paper was very difficult to write because I was still trying to make the transition from an analyzing literature student to a thoughtful and professionally productive writing teacher. I was unaware of the general topics of concern, and I felt inadequate in contributing to the conversation since I have had no teaching experience. Slowly, the paper and my ideas began to form and make sense. I am hoping to expand it into a thesis before May 2009.
Moodle forums were my least favorite mode of communication. While it was helpful to explore my own position within English Discourses and to understand other students' ideas about the topics, I was not always moved to words by the class-prompted discussions--silence haunted me. Obviously, I found a way around the silence, but my disinterest hindered my full potential.
My response to the first Moodle discussion forum (responding to forum "ESB 1.5 English Studies") describes and illustrates the traditional English position from which I came, and I chose it as part of my reflective essay for two reasons. First, I feel that my response, "How is English Studied," explores traditional and contemporary modes of studying Englishes. In fact, Rob Pope is the first author who introduced me to the concept of "Englishes" and the varying ways we can align and interpret the word "subject." The second reason I chose to include this response is that it is a good reminder of the many positions that one can take when studying English. After a decade of underpaid teaching and under-recognized service, I may need to refresh my view of Englishes.
The second forum response that I chose to include is from the forum titled "Postcolonial Working Group." In this forum, my group was completing a postcolonial reading of Rudyard Kipling's short story, "Muhammed Din." This forum was a breathe of fresh air for me. Coming from a background in canonical literature, I felt comfortable and confident in the subject and in the format. This forum offered me a boost in confidence, which has served to carry me through the remainder of the semester. While the writing in this forum is perhaps not the most polished, it is a style and subject that are internally persuasive to me.
Despite my interest in the ways that technology is affecting and transforming literacy, technology is the very thing that has given me the most trouble this semester. Just five days before my mid-term paper was due, my laptop crashed leaving me horribly vulnerable to mid-term blues. Not only did I lose the majority of my paper, but I also lost the accumulating activity journals assigned by the honorable Dr. David Stacey, who is known to yell, "Back up your hard drive!" Oops.
I have included one of the later compare and contrast pieces, which I enjoyed. While I find Bazerman's essay interesting philosophically, it is a bit dry. Bruffee, on the other hand, is accessible and practical, which is helpful at this stage in my career. Overall, I took it as an exercise in assessing theory and position in order to align oneself with or against contemporary Rhet Comp scholars.
As I reread this assignment it feels a bit rough and rushed, which I attribute to the fact that it was a relatively short exercise. The time constraint and my rough response signal to me that I need to improve my skills in quick-response articulation of my ideas (I say "constraint," but that is somewhat arbitrary as there was no definite time assigned, just the requirement of a two-page response). Also, I critique the seemingly shallow depth of my comparison--it feels as though I only scratch the surface of the knowledge Bruffee and Bazerman posit.
Eighteen months ago, I made my first marital compromise when I begrudgingly agreed to move back to Humboldt County. My husband and I were both applying to graduate programs, and his heart was set on HSU. Having grown up in Arcata, I pictured eco-groovy literature professors and disappointment set in when my suspicion was confirmed on the faculty websites: nature writing, ecocriticism, literature and the environment. As a means of survival, I resolved to appreciate ecocriticism as rare and potentially valuable commodity.
trying to escape eco-anything, I fled to Southern California where I
spent my years as an undergrad at California State University Fullerton
in an English department that focused on the canon. When I began
attending HSU in August 2007, I felt insecure because those in my
cohort seemed proficient in and comfortable with ethnically diverse
literature. Again, as a means of survival, I came to realize that my
canonical experience is not better nor worse than others' experiences
in non-canonical literature--despite the differences, both programs
teach fundamentally basic literature skills that will prove relevant
regardless of the category.
Although I did not want to come back home (who was it that said one can never return home?), I am happy I did. I truly appreciate the dedication of my professors at HSU and their commitment to my success.
~ Last updated April 16, 2008 ~