I can't speak for other members of my cohort, but I didn't walk into this program with my research concept already in mind. In fact, I went through a number of widely varying concepts and iterations. Should I study methods to utilize the "Flipped Classroom" method to enable more time for small group intervention? Nah, been done. Should I study the possibility & efficacy of grouping students by mastery level rather than age? Nope. Too big. If you're interested in seen some of my early brainstorming and notes (a little peak inside my brain), click here.
Ultimately, I settled on determining the potential impact on student empathy and cultural curiosity through online collaboration with demographically diverse 5th grade classes. And began the process of designing my study.
My Learners & Their Needs
Backing up for a moment, one of the twists in my path to deciding on my research subject was the moment that I realized I wanted to do something focused directly on building student capabilities that were either under-emphasized (in my opinion) or extremely important yet potentially difficult to measure. In thinking about my learners, I applied a S.I.T.E Model analysis to uncover more about their contexts and needs. In thinking through the four subcontexts that make up the S.I.T.E. Model (Sociocultural, Informational, Technical, Educational), I realized that a large part of these children's lives had included a growing isolation (due to many factors including the pandemic). As such, I determined that a study using the uniquely modern tools and skills to help build interpersonal skills was both topical and vitally needed.
The Early Stages
Early planning had me sorting out the basics of my plan. What will I study? Why is it important? How will I study it? How will these methods address my needs? Some early planning can be seen here:
Throughout these early stages, my thinking was influenced by a number of instructional design models. From Clark's Instructional Systems Design Model and the ADDIE Model, to the "Pebble in the Pond" Model, each heavily influenced my approach. Ultimately, this collaboration of models enabled me to focus my vision of where I wanted to end up, gain a better understanding of where I was starting, and outline a clear path between the two.
Every effort needs a good logo. Especially when you're hoping to recruit people, specifically other teachers, to your cause. In this case the name and the logo had to be things that teachers could get behind. Something that felt meaningful and impactful enough to squeeze something new into their already highly compacted days. And something that I couldn't promise would give them short-terms wins like improved test scores. Ultimately, building empathy for a successful future that's a couple decades into the future is something you have to believe in first.
When starting my initial sketches, I knew I wanted to come up with a simple idea that showed two elements combining or intermingling in a way that changes each of them. At right, you can see some of those initial ideas. From Venn Diagram-based ideas to watercolors bleeding into each other, each idea was about two unique elements being influenced by each other.