Research interests:

second language teaching & learning; linguistic identity; bilingualism; teacher education

Ethics Applications – Here and Abroad

Posted: July 10th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, general, research | No Comments »

Academics sometimes use the term “ethics” to refer to the application process with a given institutional research ethics board (IREB). So, one may overheard the comment “Country X doesn’t have ethics” and wonder what the state of research ethics is in said country. Ethics meaning “the fair dealing with participants during the research process” exist, whether or not a given country or institution has an IREB, as ultimately fair dealing is the responsibility of the researcher. However, in my recent research in Germany, I experienced what IREB approval entails there in comparison to how I experience it generally in Canada, which draws attention to the many aspects of research that are not always apparent at first glance.

In 2016, I embarked on a research project exploring responses to linguistic diversity, primarily the influx of refugees to the school system in Hamburg. I envisioned a very full month of data collection: document analysis and interviews at various institutions. For this, I applied for, and received, IREB approval from my home institution. This is a familiar process that involves answers a large number of questions in a specific institutional portal, creating the accompanying forms, translating those into German, running my translations by a native speaking friend, and hitting submit. After a 57 day review with some questions to answer mid-way, I received approval.

From previous casual conversations with German academics, I was under the impression that school-based research was not yet requiring IREB approval. However, to be sure, I asked my host to share corresponding ethics information for both the university and the school board that I was interested in doing research with. While there was no application procedure at the university at that time, my host was able to share with me a website link regarding research in Hamburg schools. Although my German is relatively advanced, I found the website she pointed me too was a challenging read. Once through it, I concluded that classroom research required IREB approval equally complicated and time-consuming as what existed in my institution and that I did not have adequate time to prepare for such data collection during my first visit. For the initial stay then, I opted to focus on publicly available documents so I could learn more about the IREB processes before endeavouring to branch out to interviewing.

While planning to return to Germany this year with an expanded project, I decided it was time to pursue approval to interview instructors who work directly with pre-service teachers in order to find out how their university teaching education prepared them to teach refugee children. I learned that the university did not require an IREB process as I was familiar with, but because of new regulations, my consent documents did require a vetting with regards to data security.

Data security means giving consideration to where research data is stored and how private or safe it is. While my university’s IREB process requires me to stipulate how my data will be stored securely, the degree to which the German process focused on that was much more. Data security falls under the General Data Protection Regulation of the EU, which came into effect May 25, 2018.  Coming from Canada was a privilege, as it was considered a secure third country with adequate levels of protection. This meant that I could securely transfer research data back to Canada. Still, I was required to create parallel German documents to the ones I had from Canada, vetted by the university’s data security office, which handled my queries in a speedy manner. I am grateful for the patience of the data security officer as I endeavoured to make sense of the legalese German on the website, tip sheets, and template. In the end, two weeks into my one month stay (having begun before leaving Canada), I had approval.

I was excited for the opportunity to interview university instructors and, after a whirlwind recruitment cycle, eight agreed to participate. Erring on the side of caution, I had participants sign both sets of forms. Looking forward, I would still like to interview teachers in the school system, but that is for a future visit. Based on my experience this round, I am cognizant that I will need to start early on getting IREB approval.


Difficult conversations – Working in a second language

Posted: May 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, general | No Comments »

I have mused before about working in three languages, but I was reminded last week about the less glamorous side of speaking more than one language well: not speaking the language of a particular conversation as well as one would like. I was having a conversation in German describing my research, which I do primarily in English. I had the distinct impression that my conversation partner wasn’t being won over by my argument, but what frustrated me most was feeling like I didn’t express myself well enough. There are so many subtleties that I know, just know, I am not expressing because I often pick verbs that are too general. Then, when I do use a precise verb, I can tell by someone’s reaction that I picked the wrong one. Now I am being too precise and have inadvertently focused the conversation on another matter than I had intended. Ladled on that are the differences in research or classroom culture where you want to say “So macht man das nicht!” (We don’t do it that way/That would never work).

Ultimately, deciding to continue to work in another language means a combination of giving up some pride in one’s ability to express a specific point and determining anew to learn more of that language, especially as it pertains to the particular domain you want to talk about, in this case, classroom research. I am also reminded that I have some of the same problems in conversation interactions where I am doing something new like going to the gym to workout (I asked for a locker instead of a lock!). I tell myself we all need to have some self-compassion in these difficult interactions, which in turn should lead to compassion for others in similar situations.

 


5 years after graduation: A PhD journey retrospective

Posted: November 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: academia, general, Ph.D. journey | 1 Comment »

As I drove into campus today and witnessed students in convocation garb being photographed by family, I was reminded that on or near this day, five years ago, I was awarded my PhD.  Here is a numerical retrospective of my PhD journey:

10 teacher workshops

9 professional association memberships

8 different graduate courses taught

7 single-authored conference presentations

6 refereed journal articles

5 years since convocation

4 grants as Principal Investigator (PI)

3 grants as co-investigator

2 office moves

1 academic appointment

These numbers represent some picking and choosing to match up with the countdown and the list is by no means exhaustive. What they represent for me is dynamic interesting work that has also been emotionally and intellectually challenging. I look forward to celebrating more milestones in the coming five years. I will keep you posted.


Too busy to blog

Posted: December 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: general | No Comments »

I enjoy reading blogs. I follow certain blogs of personal or professional interest and read them regularly. Yet, when it comes to blogging on this website, I face a few challenges.

1. Time: Sure, we all feel we are busy, but during the semester when I am teaching a lot there comes a time of panic when my writing schedule gets taken over by marking that must get done and meetings that must be attended. At that point it is hard to remember to blog and even harder to set aside the time.

2. Priorities: Linked with the above concern about time is the thought that if I do have time, I should be devoting it to my other writing projects. Realistically, blogs don’t take as long to write as they don’t require as much formal editing, yet there is the added challenge of remembering my login and navigating this supposedly user-friendly website platform.

3. Ideas: Keeping a personal website is a little like talking to oneself if you haven’t met your audience or don’t actually know if anyone reads it. Those who know me, know I never run out of things to talk about, but a website/blog, despite its informality, has a purpose and the blogs should contribute to that purpose. I am beginning to expand what I consider to be blog-worthy.

Looking back over the history of this website, I can see that my impression that I have fallen off in my posting is just that: an impression. I have posted 4-6 times each year for the past three years and this post makes # 6 for 2013. I think what I am sensing is the evolution of this website from a static online CV (really Web 1.0 thinking) to a more dynamic chronicle of my journey into and through academia. So, while I was content with the origins of this website as it was, I now tweet when I blog to encourage readership. The next step will be authentic participation. So if you read this blog or check this website, please leave me a comment and join in the conversation.


An exciting year of research

Posted: December 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: general | Comments Off on An exciting year of research

This is my second year as a Ph.D. student and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The end goal is a complete thesis proposal, but along the way I am working on two research projects, several presentations and conference trips as well as two or more publications. While I don’t plan to blog on a regular basis, it is my intention to keep this website up to date.