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Thursday, February 23, 2006

I like to make things more complicated for myself.

Interestingly enough, in order to do field work (observations, teaching of lessons, interviews, etc) of children in the public schools all you need to do is be in an education class. You do not need to fill out any other paperwork. But, in order to do any type of field work with the college pre-school, you need to go through the Institutional Review Board and get IRB approval. And send out parental permission forms. Even if your research question is only, "What formats of writing can pre-school children identify? What formats of writing can pre-school children create?" And your procedures include showing a pre-schooler four different formats of writing (for example, a formal letter, a newspaper article, an envelope, and a grocery list) and asking them to point to certain types, ("point to grocery list"). And then with another group of pre-schoolers asking them to create the different formats of writing, ("I am going to the grocery store. Write me a list of the food I need to buy when I go to the grocery store," or if they say they don't know how to do that, "you can just pretend to write").

My goal is just to observe what the pre-schoolers know about those different writing formats. There is no inherent risk involved and no deceiving of the participants. I should get IRB approval without much problem, but this all takes time. Time to write the proposal. Time to meet with a professor to go over the proposal. Time to wait for it to be returned. Time to meet with another professor create the permission forms. Time to wait for those to be returned.

What was only supposed to be a relatively informal observation/interview assignment is turning out to be a complicated research project for which I need IRB approval. None of the other students in my class are interviewing children from the pre-school, so they do not need to go through this process. Only me. I would almost feel special (and really, going through the IRB approval process is good experience...for something) if I didn't know that this would take up lots of extra time. Time which I don't actually have.

(I want to point out that I understand the importance of having research approved. I know that I'm not doing anything damaging to the kids, but rules and protocol must be followed. I'm cool with that. I'm just frustrated because I now need to plan out the entire series of observations ahead of time, which was not the goal of the assignment. I was supposed to plan out one observation, do it, and then develop the next one to answer questions about or enrich what I learned in the first one. I can't do that now. I need to specify the number of participants, the time required, all the specific questions I will ask, etc. Also, I have never filled out an IRB form alone, so the task is looking mighty daunting. And I'm afraid I'll get rejected and have to resubmit which will put me even more behind in my observations.)


Blogger nick said...


6:03 AM  

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