I am still debriefing from my candidacy oral examination that took place yesterday. The paper provided the springboard for questions on theories behind the methodologies and application of the methodological tools to my research proposal. Some questions were truly challenging, because it was clear that the questioner had something particular in mind, but had to craft the question in such general language that it was difficult to decide which direction to take the answer. The post-examination feedback is perhaps most useful. I now know what area of reading I need to concentrate on before beginning my literature review. I also have a few points to discuss with committee members with regards to the wording of specific interview questions that generated a great deal of discussion. For example, how does one ask parents what dialect they speak at home when the term dialect may convey connotations of judgment regarding the validity of that language variety?
The next step is to receive Ethics Approval from both the University and the School Board, but both processes are underway, so I feel confident that my data collection will begin in the new year.
Perhaps the least understood step of the Ph.D. process is the candidacy paper. It differs from department to department. In my program, now called Graduate Programs in Education (formerly the Graduate Division of Educational Research), the candidacy paper is written on one of three questions designed by one’s committee. Typically the paper is 25 pages (may not exceed 40) and delves into a topic of general knowledge of one’s field, knowledge of a specific area or methodology. The question I chose was on methodology. My candidacy paper describes how linguistic landscape and nexus analyses use an ecological approach to educational linguistics to inform us about bilingualism and bilingual identity. This paper gave me the opportunity to delve deeper into the ecology of languages metaphor, visiting its proponents and its critics. I came across interesting articles on linguistic landscape analyses of various cities in the world and how some researchers applied this methodology as a pedagogical tool. I read from Scollon and Scollon’s (2004) seminal book on nexus analysis and discovered a number of researchers who use this method for examining social practice. This paper will become a cornerstone to my literature review for the dissertation. Now submitted, I await my oral examination on the paper.
I am very excited to announce that my dissertation proposal has been accepted by my committee: Simulateneous and Sequential Bilinguals in a German-English Bilingual Program. The whole process took much longer than I anticipated, but the final product is one I am quite proud of. The major changes in the proposal involved broadening the focus of the study to include both simultaneous bilinguals (those children who learn two languages from birth) and sequential bilinguals (those children who enter the Bilingual School knowing only one of the two languages). In addition, through the process of revising the proposal, I discovered myself drawn to linguistic ecology as a conceptual orientation. The next step is the writing of my candidacy paper, for which I received the questions yesterday.