Sunday, April 5, 2015

From locating themes to analyzing them

Two weeks ago, you started developing codes for your data.  You probably started to see themes and patterns across the different kinds of data that you have.  These can be emergent (coming from your data) or a priori (emanating from your questions). 

List three themes that you see in your data, and choose one theme to describe and analyze.

Description answers the question "what is going on here?"

Analysis offers some possibilities as to how and why the pattern may be occurring.  

Both are based in data.  You can use direct quotes from interviews/surveys as data exemplars, but you never let data just hang there without analysis.  Here's an example:

Theme from my social justice teacher data: Professional Safety


After being chastised by his principal for bringing in texts that addressed gender and sexuality, Daniel said:
*“I toned down [the theory] and took out anything related to LGBT issues…I just feel like we are just being very superficial.  And so I wasn't into it as much.” 

For Daniel, teaching for social justice was an important part of his teaching identity.  However, he also knew that the school and community culture did not welcome discussion of these issues.  As a result, he "toned down" his pedagogy, which in turn made him less interested in teaching.  In order to feel professionally safe, he felt compromised in his teaching and his commitment to social justice.


  1. Themes in my data:
    1.) Student Self-Efficacy
    2.) Student Motivation
    3.) Teacher Response

    When I first began this research, I firmly believed that the reason peer review was not always successful in my classroom was because students did not take it seriously. I thought that one of the reasons that they were not taking it seriously was because there was not a large enough “weight” placed on the grade for completing the peer review. And I do have some data which corroborates this assumption. However, another theme has started to develop which I never really thought about, even though I probably should have. Because I am focusing on my two Honors level classes, I assumed that most of my students were confident in their ability to read and respond to peers’ writing. I figured that most of them were strong readers and writers, so it would not be a problem. Some of my recent data, however, has uncovered insecurities in my students that I was completely dumbstruck by. Here are some examples of student comments taken from my teacher reflective journal.


    “I’m not good at looking at other people’s papers.”

    “No one wants to get me as a peer reviewer because I stink at it! I’m probably the worst writer in this class! How can I fix someone else’s work?”

    “I hate peer review; it’s so awkward.”

    “I don’t want to change their writing. What if I put the wrong thing?”

    **I’m also seeing a disconnect between what I assume to be true based on my comments about students in my journal and what students are actually saying to me. (This is mind-boggling to me!!)


    “I’m finding that students do not take it seriously.”

    “They are just generally not as serious as my period 4 students.”

    “They really didn’t take it seriously.”

    “I noticed some students who had the paper I already looked at (because I am part of the process) tended not to take it as seriously.”

    “They just don’t seem to take anything seriously!”

    After looking at this data, I started to think about an emerging theme of self-efficacy. Could it be possible that students were “not taking peer review seriously” {as clearly I mentioned a thousand times} because they did not believe in their own ability to complete the task? Yes, I now think that is a possibility for some students. This has made me more aware of what students are actually saying to me versus what I am focused on. I’m starting to realize that me repeating the phrase “they are not taking it seriously” is really just noticing a behavior rather than understanding the full picture of why they are struggling with it. I still have more work and research to do, but I definitely think I might be on to something that I never thought about before. And, I don’t think this discredits any of my previous data; in fact, I think it will give more credibility to the end result.

    1. Melissa, that is such a huge realization you've drawn from your data! Sometimes we forget that our students, however confident and "cool" they might try to come across, they are all in a very self-conscious state of mind at this point. The misunderstanding is also something we, as teachers, all struggle with - what the students say vs. what we think they mean by what they say (what we interpret)....holy moly! Either that's just on my mind because that came from my analysis, or our projects are intersecting (which is also really pretty cool)!

    2. Melissa - I love your line, " I’m starting to realize that me repeating the phrase “they are not taking it seriously” is really just noticing a behavior rather than understanding the full picture of why they are struggling with it." We've said it before, but that's the beauty of this type of research. We are now all armed with a process to notice those patterns we fall into, investigate what is hidden in our words, and understand the implications more clearly.

    3. What a great teaching point, and connection, your students efficacy questions allow you an in to push them to a place where they can learn because it is uncomfortable, but being able to look at someone else's work critically will lead them to be much more critical of their own work as well. And the relationships you will build with them as they grow in confidence will pay off for you both. Great lesson this week.

    4. I think back to my days in HS English and that was me, I was never a confident with writing, spelling, or grammar, so I hated peer editing. How was I supposed to help someone when I barely understood the rules myself. On another point, I too have noticed that I repeat the phrase "frustrated" and "annoyed" in my teacher journal. And now that I think about these two phrases I also see that I'm just noticing my behavior, and now I need to figure out what is triggering that behavior and why it is so persistent in my journal.

    5. Unbelievable analysis here, Melissa! Nice work looking at your own language and how you frame things, versus how they really are. That's what data is all about.

  2. Themes in Data (I hope to glean a more in-depth understanding of some of these findings with my interviews scheduled for this week.)
    1. Disconnect between student and teacher interpretations
    2. Avoidance of "taboo" conversations/silenced discussions
    3. Disrespect among boys

    Description: Theme 1
    -Several of the same questions were asked on both the teacher and the student surveys, to which teacher responses differed drastically from student responses. One survey question asked participants to respond "agree/disagree:" I hear the phrase "that's so gay" on a regular basis in the hallway. 65% of students agreed with the statement, while only 12% of teachers agreed.

    -Another question asked participants to respond by checking all that apply in regards to how teachers respond when they hear the phrase, "that's so gay" or "like a girl." 50% of teachers responded that they "explain why those phrases are hurtful to some people," and only 15% said that they "silence the students' discussion." When the students were asked how their teachers responded to those phrases, 55% of students claimed that teachers "silence the students' discussion," and 26% of students felt that they "don't want to draw attention to it and don't say anything." No teachers chose that as one of their responses.

    Analysis: Just this one difference between teacher and student interpretation might lead me to believe several different things. The first thing that comes to mind when presented with such a large discrepancy is that teachers aren't in the hallways as often as the students. Teachers are, however, supposed to be in the hallways during the passing time between classes, which leads me to the next possibility - students try not to say this when they know teachers are listening. Another reason for this might be that the teachers aren't hypervigilant or "listening for" this phrase (as I have been since I was in high school), so they aren't likely to notice it as much as if they were asked to be more aware of it.
    This discrepancy, combined with the responses to the question asking how teachers respond when they hear these phrases, also leads me to believe that students may be under the impression that teachers hear more of their conversations than we actually do. If only 12% of teachers hear the phrase "that's so gay" in the hallway, but students are under the impression that we hear this phrase as often as they do, they may interpret teachers' silence as "not wanting to draw attention to it." This will be an interesting topic to bring up in discussion during my focus group interviews over the next several days, in an attempt for students to reflect on and clarify some of the survey findings.

    1. This is so interesting Tina! (I'm curious what the responses would be at my school, too.) Your line, "students may be under the impression that teachers hear more of their conversations than we actually do" reminds me of one article I came across. These authors mentioned that students' perceptions of learner-centered teaching had more of an impact on their motivation than the teacher's actual use of learner-centered teaching. This also makes me think of Maya Angelou's quote, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

    2. So in the spirit of our research bringing up more questions, I am wondering if the students aren't saying "that's so gay" around the teachers because they realize it's inappropriate, or if the reported instances of hearing it are skewed low because teachers subconsciously ignore these types of phrases due to the commonplace imbedded nature of them. I suspect the latter is more likely, as awareness typically leads to an increase in acknowledgement rather than in increase in instances. We have had some success in my district with awareness days, (the R-word, the N-word, the G-word, etc) and it is usually the students whose response is the strongest. I wonder if your research project will, as a side effect, raise awareness?

    3. I believe that when the taboo issues are being discussed in the classroom, in the hallways, at home we become hyper aware of them. I wonder if as your lesson progress on these taboo issues that you will be bring up in your class if the responses to your survey will change. Will students notices more used of taboo phrases. Will other members of the school community become more aware, even if they are not in your class?

    4. I like how you address different possibilities without jumping to conclusions.

  3. Some of my themes:
    Teacher’s role
    Student understanding
    Student not understanding

    When I don’t understand something I ask a question, and I keep asking more detailed questions until I understand. When I first started this research project I assumed that my students were asking too many questions and were not trying to figure things out on their own or use the resources that they had (textbooks, notes, peers). With a total of 48 questions asked over the course of 3 weeks (split Procedure 14, General 21, Clarify 13) thats an average of about 3 questions per class.

    When I tied this into student understanding level I began to see a pattern. Over the last few weeks I have also been tracking students understanding level (scaled 1-4 with 4 being best and students’ self-assessing). The first three weeks averaged understanding level was 2.6, then 3.25, then 3.2. So over all the students believe that they understand the material, so they I think they don’t ask too many questions. But what I also see is when it comes time for an assessment they are not prepared and grades show it. This makes me come to the conclusion that my students are either not aware they are not getting the material or they do not know how to ask the right question to help with their understanding.

    1. Jenny, like Brittany, I see the possibility of developmental factors here, but I am also wondering about the idea of motivation. If a student wants to know how to move forward a level in a popular video game, or what labels are popular, they can be impressively efficient, which bears the question -do they want to understand how to figure the slope as much as they want to know how to advance to the next call of duty mission?
      I'm not sure there is anything we can do as a teacher to make learning as important to young people as some of their choice activities, but we can look at the way the get info for those activities, as a model for gaining information, and bridge those skills into the classroom., that is what got me all juiced up about the Sugatra Mitra Ted Talk from last semester about investigative learning.

    2. Motivation, development, and pedagogy may all be issues here. Self-assessment and actual assessments are showing a dichotomy, so that's very interesting. I'm thinking of Melissa's analysis here too as I read this...but your students are reporting self-efficacy even though they don't have it. Fascinating.

  4. Jenny - Your last sentence hints at the mismatch between students' perceived understanding and their actual performance. I wonder what your lit review sources are saying about this issue - is it the result of lack of metacognitive practice? Is it that the students aren't yet there developmentally?

  5. Yes, Jenny, I agree with Brittany - I wonder if the students are asked in their other subject areas (perhaps an area where they are granted more than 25 minutes a day...silly school) to think about their thought processes and questioning techniques. I also wonder if they think they ask too many questions, or if they simply think they "get it" until they find out otherwise on the assessments.

  6. Themes in Data
    1.interactions between teacher and student(s)
    2.interactions between students
    3.comments students make about themselves

    Description: Theme 2
    -One activity this quarter was working in small groups (based on interest) to read a short story, analyze several features of author’s craft, and create a storyboard showing the plot. When reflecting on his group’s work, Chris described all group members as “productive” but pointed out that Heather (the one female in the group) did “a lot” while the other two members did “some.” However, “a lot” had a negative tone as he continued to explain that “she was rather bossy and didn’t consider what other people would want to do.” He did not reflect on his own contribution to the group. On the other hand, Heather wrote, “I did definitely the most work in the group” and followed this by describing the specific contributions she made to the assignment. She continued to list the other group members and their contributions in order from most to least. When describing the challenges she and the group faced, she explained, “the group may have thought I was a hogger but really they didn’t try to find and complete the work that needed to be done as much as me.”

    -After analyzing other short stories, the students then wrote their own. When conferencing with Nick about his revisions, I mentioned that I liked how he changed his page break from just a plain line to a line of cats playing with a string. It fit the story well. He perked up at this and said, “Eliza emailed that to me!”

    -These very different interactions between students caught my attention. First, was Chris’s use of the word bossy to describe his female classmate, as it is a term quite loaded with gender bias. While the female student acknowledged the leading role she assumed, she did not apologize because she felt that she did what she needed to in order to accomplish the task. Although each student is of similar intellectual ability, they differ very greatly in their work habits, which creates conflict when they must collaborate to accomplish a task. Second, was the generosity of both Nick and Eliza in sharing a resource and then sharing appreciation. Both students were excited about this event.

    The difference in these peer interactions might be caused by the nature of each assignment. In the case of Chris and Heather, the entire group was responsible for creating and presenting their final product. Each student was receiving an individual grade, but Heather is especially grade conscious and did not want her score to be negatively affected by her peers. On the other hand, Nick and Eliza were responsible for writing and revising their own short stories. Nick and Eliza didn’t have to worry about how another’s work would affect their own.

    So although collaboration is intended to create exchanges like Nick and Eliza’s, different work habits create conflict, gender biases might bubble to the surface, and the competitiveness of a grade leads to division rather than cooperation. Additionally, the short story assignment was more “authentic” in terms of purpose and audience (the students wrote for the intention of sharing with their peers), which might account for the more “authentic” and positive interaction between mixed gender peers.

    1. Great point Brittany, "although collaboration is intended to create exchanges... different work habits create conflict..." I think that is always our intention to create collaborative groups that feed off one another, push each other and learn from one another. But sometimes different personalities get in the way of that, or grades. I wonder what can we do as teachers to eliminate these road blocks to students successfully working together.

    2. I wonder if Chris had used the phrasing "dominated the conversation" instead of "Bossy" if the interpretation of the dynamic would have been different. Obviously I have no idea if she was leading or dominating, or if he was silenced or content to slide along, but I am curious to know more. There are so many subtleties in the interpretation of the data, as I am finding out in my own research, that I am realizing that the volume has a purpose, one data point is correlated by another, and so on. I certainly can see how grades and grade consciousness comes into play, and I love the way you described Nick's reaction to your compliment, we reinforce so many things with just the simplest gestures. It is always tenuous to strike a balance between individual responsibility and group product, and it seems like you are creating highly successful opportunities for your students.

    3. You'd need more data to support any conclusions, but I'm intrigued by the connection between gender and collaboration.

  7. Themes in my data:

    Student Achievement
    Student Environment
    Teacher-Student Relationships

    Description: When I started my research, I felt that students creating their own learning environment by finding the best way they can focus and take ownership of learning means that students can chose how they learn, but it has changed into giving students more freedoms and choices in the classroom, while maintaining our school policies. At this time I only have my Teacher Research Journal, but in some of the data that I collected, I noticed that students were less hesitant to ask questions about how they learn. I felt that if students were given certain choices, their achievement would improve. Here is one example that I have from my journal.

    2/24/2015: “I felt like I could debrief with students one-on-one to create a ‘second classroom’ feeling. I really wanted to know about what drove them while doing their own work [PBL: Business Model]. One student asked me. ‘Can I listen to music, it helps me focus’ I immediately said ‘no’ but felt that if students were creating their own working environments and space then, why not? As long as it wasn’t bothering anyone and I was not giving verbal directions they it was, okay—WOW, what is happening right now? This is a little uncomfortable to me.”

    I reminded students if they wanted to bring in headphones for my class to work on their PBLs, then it would ok as long as I was not giving verbal directions. Students responded differently and I felt that the choices they made helped them be successful.

    Analysis: When looking at my TR journal, I feel that my classroom environment is changing. I felt a little uncomfortable because this was not how I was expecting what my classroom look/hear/feel like. I felt unsettled giving students the freedoms of working based on their own needs rather than my own. “WOW, what is happening right now?” is something that took me away by surprise. According to my TR journal, I started to realize that I do not have to make the environment suited my purposes, but need to give students an environment suited for my population of students. I will gain more data once I step foot back into the classroom. I will record the one-on-one conversations and then use the questionnaire and student comment sheet to see if the environment truly helped their academics. I will use that data along with what I captured in my TR journal to bring this data together.

    1. I wonder how your classroom environment has changed without you there. Has the freedom remained in your absence? How did the teachers covering for you deal with this freedom? Remember that article that we read in SED 561, when the students rebelled when substitute teacher came in and did not know the class atmosphere. All students got dentention? But when the teacher came back he/she fought for his/her students and said that because they were his/her students he/she should be able to decide the punishement? I don't remember all the details, obviously, but I wonder if you will find any similarities in your students response to another authority figure in their new self-proclaimed environment?

    2. Ken, as long as there are boundaries and shared agreements as to the expectations, there can be a lot of flexibility to what an effective learning environment is. That uncomfortable feeling is you being stretched and molded by your students, and in the long run, even though you feel a lack of control initially, I suspect you will reach a deeper level of comprehension, connectedness, and buy-in from your students, and that is very exciting. I agree with Jenny that it will be really interesting to see what the students and the faculty that covered for you have to say when you get back, it should give you really good insight and info to move forward on.

      For what it's worth, we miss you too, hope you are keeping your spirits up and healing quickly.

    3. there are some things you can control and some things you can't. You might want to look at student assessments to see if working on their own leads to not only engagement but to progress in learning.

  8. Emerging themes in my research:
    Foul/lewd language
    Multiple efforts for success (grit)

    I began my student interviews this week, and along with my TRJ, field notes, and behavior charts, I have noticed a variety of data points that fall into these three categories. Students in G2S have demonstrated an incredible ability to be optimistic and hopeful, I am amazed at the prevalence of foul and lewd language, and there is a sense of grit and perseverance that may have eluded my recognition to this point.

    Optimism/Hope: in conversations/observations over the last few weeks I have recorded these data points, which I find to be contagious (even to me) and energizing. Here are a few of them:

    "When I get finished here, I am going straight to New England Tech, I'm not ready to be done with school yet"
    "I want to graduate and see what the next part of my life will be like"
    "I used to feel stupid all the time in school, but here (G2S), I found out that I can do my work, and understand it, and I feel like I am as smart as anyone else"

    Foul and lewd language is constant in my classroom environment. This is a personal hot spot for me, because while I am deeply opposed to hurtful and insensitive language, I realize that a lot of the problems my students have had before G2S are because of their use of language. I have committed to wading through the inappropriate language to get to the big ideas, which I believe, exist on the other side.
    In the last 5 school days (tuesday-tuesday), I have collected the following data: F-word (241), N-word (98), sexual references (134), other (307). I recognize that in general, this type of language would warrant exclusion from class, but I refuse to allow my students success to be based on curses. I handle the language issue in a variety of ways, but aim for consistency; curses that are general and not directed at anyone in particular (shit, I dropped my phone) are ignored. Inciting or aggressive curses are treated with a change in body position and eye contact (fuck you asshole - I move closer to participants and look for eye contact with them). Inappropriate sexual or lewd language, or disrespectful slurs will elicit an immediate redirection (that bitch is always trying to be on my dick - that is inappropriate, you cannot talk to or about people like that because...). The reason I have included this data in the conversation is that I believe it is at the heart of the ability of my student’s agency. They have both suffered from this use of language by being excluded, and used it to avoid academics in the past. I feel it is a meaningful predictor of their success.

    The third emergent theme I have recognized, is the students multiple attempts to show proficiency or success in a task, which I am calling grit. Prior to my research I would have incorrectly assumed my students would give up more often than struggle through difficult situations. I could not be more wrong in this. Academically and socially, there has been an increase in frustration as graduation looms closer, and listening closely I have the following examples amongst others:
    "Miss T, I have taken this exam 5 times, and my best score is 60%, can you sit with me while I take the assessment again?"
    "You don't understand, I am not participating in your discussion because I am almost finished with this social studies unit, and I want to finish it this time, because last time I failed, I had to start all over again."
    "I hate you for making me try to type with all my fingers, I go just as fast with only three from each hand, I can't do it your way............Mr. I finished the typing web, can you come and give me the test."

    I see students grinding over assignments in a way that I have not seen before, refusing to stop until they have mastered the material, or made their point understood. I think this is the number one transferrable skill that determines the effectiveness of their agency, and the effort and motivation are inspiring to me.

  9. Good data examples, Brian! I think the language is particularly intriguing, but I wonder if you are drawing too broad of a stroke by saying that it will have a direct factor in their eventual success. Yes, they are bringing the street discourse into school, where it doesn't belong, but aren't there other factors?


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