When we define or describe, we answer the what. That is the easy part. We delve further to achieve understanding and that is where the answer to how becomes interesting. While brainstorming for a research project recently, I focused on what I was supposed to do – analyze.  But how? On chapter I of Investigating Communication, authors LR Frey, CH Botan, and GL Kreps explain:

Research Methods! To some people these words are intimidating, conjuring up pictures of scientists in white coats studying mice in a laboratory. Indeed, we asked a group of college students to write the first thought that came to mind in response to the words research methods. They said such things as “time-consuming,” “difficult,” “worth the crap?,” “boring,” and “Grade: C.” In contrast faculty members, when asked the same question, responded with “the pursuit of truth,” “planned investigation,” “proof.”

To quote the title character of the movie Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Students don’t understand the full value of learning research methods. They see research as the province of the elite, as difficult or even impossible to master. This attitude is often validated, unfortunately, by how research methods are taught.

If we formulate a learning objective, we don’t merely say “To know…”  How do we know learners know? “A poem is a composition in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines,” yes but how do you compose? Imparting comes with a challenge of delivering how. It entails illustrating.  One fave example is a scene from the film Dead Poets Society (1989) –  John Keating showing his students photos of literary greats, hovering above their heads for effect and blowing these words  to their ears:

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary

We differentiate. We assimilate. We reason. We demonstrate. We inspire. We:

… don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

This post is linked with The Week in Words

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3 Responses to How

  1. Barbara H. says:

    The different perspectives on research were interesting. For me enjoying research depends on what I am researching. 🙂 I’m glad the days are over in which I have to research boring topics assigned by someone else and can enjoy researching things I want to know more about.

  2. Barbara H. says:

    I have to add, though — sometimes when I was working on researching what I thought was a boring topic, learning about it made it more interesting.

  3. My teenage daughter has really been pushing the “how” for working out her faith. It’s a healthy push, even though the “how” is sometimes harder to figure out than the “what.”
    Thanks for all the great quotes and for assimilating them so well.

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