It is difficult for me to write this week’s blog post as I am still not sure what methodology would best suit my area of interest. As such I’ll just start off with a story relating to my own field work experience.
Now because I am a liar, or perhaps just to build anticipation, I will not dive into my story but first talk about how field work should be done (or rather how I intend to approach it). There has to be some level of detachment as well as inclusion when conducting field work, to make sure you are an imbedded within the situation as possible while remaining objective. I guess the old parable “not to judge someone until you have a walked a mile in their shoes,” summarized my stance on the subject. To fully understand what you are studying you have to immerse yourself into it. That being said you also have to step outside of yourself and observe the natural interactions within the environment.
Now before my writing becomes even more convoluted, the story! While attending teacher’s college I had several placements where I had the opportunity to work within a classroom setting. The first day or two was reserved for observations: learning the students names, becoming familiar with the class dynamics, and watching both the teacher and students throughout the course of the day. During this time it was important for me to be unobtrusive, I was working in mostly grade 2 classrooms where the sight of a dog through the window outside would derail their academic fortitude for the whole day.
On my second day the teacher, who was kind enough to have me in her class, through me to the wolves and had me teach my first lesson, and it wasn’t until that moment when I was made fully part of the class that I understood what it meant to be a teacher. I had previous experience in instruction, working with different age groups teaching and evaluating everything from literacy development to first aid. I had a foundation build on theory (Piaget, among others) and anecdotes (those of my professors, as well as my brother, himself a teacher by that point), but together they could not signify what it meant to be in that class.
This is probably not the best example to use. I was coming into the class as an authority figure, in a role already familiar to the group (students), with the approval of their own teacher validating my presence.
In the real world, relationships have to be built and maintained, but then the issue arises of how close do you become to your subjects, how integrated do they become in your life, and you in theirs? This is an ethical concern, while observing from the outside has lingering over it the questions of how relevant the data you are collecting actually is. Are you misinterpreting something, making observations without having the full context, does your act of observation influence behavior?
My own research would take place inside of libraries, but also outside, through outreach in the community. I would be collecting information regarding satisfaction of library users, as well as library circulation and programing statistics. Depending on how ambitious I am, I would have to find some measure to show the impact that increased library services are having within the community as a whole. You can see why I found writing this blog post so challenging.