Today I met with Professor Taylor to discuss my data analysis section and moving toward editing all of my sections. Professor Taylor suggested focusing on my finding of “empowerment through community building” in my second round of discourse analysis of interviews. I might look back more closely at my data to understand how the women create their collective identity at the sentence level. To do this I will focus on positionally and how they use pronouns like “I” and “we.” In my discussion sections I might also reflect on racial dimensions that reinforce “whiteness.” If I do not include these thoughts in this project I might use them as a point of departure for a future one. My next major challenge is revising my introduction, conclusion, and literature review sections so that they pertain to my current project.
On March 28, I met with Professor Taylor to discuss my analysis section. First I will analyze my chosen videos created by the official She’s the First organization. I identify common themes/understandings related to female empowerment. In addition, I will identify some concepts through my own knowledge and literature review. Using these themes I will code my interview data with members of She’s the First to analyze how members conceptualize empowerment (thematically) in their work. I will also look for silences and missing conceptualizations. While I have some concerns about revising my literature review, I will focus on that next week. Since She’s the First identifies education as the primary means of obtaining empowerment I will need to focus heavily on education through empowerment.
On Tuesday, March 7 I met with both Professor Field and Professor Boesenecker during their office hours. Professor Boesenecker and I discussed my methodology and how I might go about analyzing my data. He reviewed the strategies that he covered in the discourse analysis methods workshop. Specifically he helped me to start to think about the key concepts I will look for in my texts. These might emerge from my literature review or my own knowledge of empowerment. We also discussed intertextuality and how my data from She’s the First’s videos creates shared meaning with the interview material. The organization’s videos do not make sense without knowledge of a program and the members’ meaning makes little sense without the context of educational development elsewhere. I will probably look back to examples from Aradau and Schwartz-Shea & Yanow.
Professor Field and I touched base on my IRB exemption approval. In the meantime I will work on editing my other sections and analyzing the video texts that I have already collected. Starting with this analysis will help me to form my questions for interviews. Since I will be basing some questions off of constructions of empowerment in the videos, my interviews will create a more engaging conversation between the two discourses.
On Tuesday, February 28, 2017 I met with both Professor Field and Professor Taylor separately to discuss the methodology for my project. Professor Field listened to my concerns about my project and helped me to formulate my research question as “how does She’s the First construct empowerment and to what extent is that understanding shared with participants?” My project is twofold. 1) I want to understand how “empowerment” is constructed which I suspect is as an incontestable good. 2) I want to understand if members of She’s the First take up this concept and understand it differently. Coming to this realization helped me to solidify my methods as well. To expand beyond my research design sketch from last semester I decided to examine videos made by the She’s the First organization but also to conduct interviews with college members. I will use discourse analysis to analyze both data sets.
I shared the reformulation of my question with Professor Taylor and we discussed the type of discourse analysis that I will conduct. She recommend critical discourse analysis.
My most pressing challenge is getting IRB approval since the interview section of my project is a newer development. Further I need to solidify my interview questions and approach, though I already have an outline.
Professor Taylor and I met on February 14, 2017 at 5:45-6 P.M. and we discussed designing an interview as the next step of my methods. Though I have a sample group that I will interview people from, consisting of She’s the First campus leaders from across the country (and possibly the globe), I want to make sure that I design an effective interview. We discussed the importance of keeping questions as broad as possible. I will collect demographic information, educational background, and how college students make sense of the mission of She’s the First. I will probe for information regarding empowerment when interviewees provide useful terms like “empowerment” by asking them to expand. Feeding words back to interviewees will help me focus the discussion without skewing the questions toward specific answers. In addition to designing a practice interview which I can try on friends from AU’s She’s the First chapter, I will revisit the IRB certification so that I can get proper approval for my interviews. Next week we hope to continue to clarify my methods. I also want to continue reading articles for revisions to my literature review and start to revise my intro based on feedback.
Professor Taylor and I met on Tuesday February 7, 2017 from 5:30-6 P.M. to discuss progress on my research project following feedback from the collective advising workshop and my upcoming literature review. At the workshop last week I received reassurance on the direction of my research question which asks “how and why do NGO and activists conceptualize female empowerment as an incontestable good embraced by heroines?” Though I might speculate “why” I still have not deconstructed “how” organizations set the agenda for international education programs. I need to set my research in a more defined context of the organization She’s the First which exists here on AU’s campus along with other chapters around the world. Professor Carruth provided some useful concepts to search like the “construction of the good girl child” similar to the “construction of the good woman” that Professor Taylor and I previously discussed.
For my literature review, we touched on my schools of thought regarding empowerment including development, feminism, and sociology of education. Despite the fact that my literature might not perfectly align with my findings, I will keep in mind that I improve with each draft. I will unpack important theoretical frameworks that guide my analysis section. More importantly, we discussed the methods for executing my project and considered both survey and discourse analysis. Professor Taylor helped give me a preview about ways that I might code interviews. For this week I will focus on writing a revised draft of of literature review. Next week we will begin to design my interview questions in detail as I reach out online to subjects through She’s the First Facebook pages.
Professor Taylor and I met earlier this week on Monday December 5 from 4:30-4:50 P.M. to wrap up with thoughts from SISU 206. In our last meeting, we focused on my interpretivist research design sketch which I will most likely pursue next semester. When beginning this project, I actually started with an interpretivist research question without realizing it. Though maybe stated in other words, I wondered how women in international education programs made sense of their own empowerment. Since then I have picked up much from modeling my research in the positivist world with my large and small n designs that focused more on what factors affect female empowerment. When returning to the interpretivist world, Professor Taylor asked me to consider what is it that I want to know? I answered that I was interested in how organizations market these campaigns to create propaganda that appeals to western feminists. I find it interesting that female empowerment campaigns subscribe to a common narrative of an individual girl who is empowered by education despite her circumstances who carries on hope for the future. I found it interesting that many of the campaigns that I considered fit into this NGO discourse of a marginalized girl just waiting for the opportunity to fulfill her “westernized” aspirations.
In planning ahead for next semester, I need to consider what first hand interactions I can pursue. Though it is unlikely I can interview the subjects of these videos and text posts, perhaps I will interview people who work with female education programs in the D.C. area. I might also interview/observe activists in the D.C. area from organizations like She’s the First to understand how women make sense of this NGO discourse. In that case I will need to start reaching out to contacts and filling out IRB paperwork to get approval for such interactions. To stay engaged over the break, I need to continue to read about NGO marketing campaigns and how empowerment is conceptualized by activists and organizations. I hope to find more primary texts within and challenging this discourse to gain more intertextuality within my project.
I met with my SIS mentor, Professor Amanda Taylor, on Monday, September 12, 2016 for half an hour to discuss my Olson Scholars research topic. I previously had Professor Taylor for my first year seminar “Culture, Power, and International Education” where we explored critical approaches to international education. Through our discussion of my thoughts so far and my questions from my RPP #1, we discovered that I still have not nailed down my puzzle. We discussed the broad question of “what conditions must be present in order for girls’ education programs to be successful, and further who defines success?” While this is an intriguing puzzle, Professor Taylor and I discussed the idea of taking a step back and asking “what do I want to know about girls’ education?” I have some knowledge about the topic and its publicized “positive outcomes” though class discussion and my own personal involvement with organizations like She’s the First (a non-profit here at AU). However, I recognize that I still need to do more preliminary reading about the scale of this work to get a clearer idea of the general “goals” of key organizations. In order to properly nail down a puzzle I need to differentiate between questions I do not know the answer to and questions that have not been asked or approached. I think that I will encounter dimensions to this topic that the academic community might consider “basic knowledge” that I have not even encountered yet. This reality, though both intimidating and exciting, will help me to get more familiar with the intellectual conversation of girls’ education.
Professor Taylor and I talked a bit about methodology and qualitative and quantitative data. I find it interesting that this week’s lecturelet points out that methodologies cannot be boiled down into these two categories. Even so, it is important to understand the difference between these how/why and what/how much questions. I will be interested to understand these concepts better both with my mentor and in our class. Professor Taylor also emphasized the fact that once I get to a more specific puzzle and later question, those will help drive my research methods, and the methodology will later become more apparent. At this stage I will continue to read the websites and mission statements of non-profit organizations like The Malala Fund and Let Girls Learn to solidify my knowledge of the big players. Further, I might look at the first-hand experiences of students who have been impacted by education. I will revisit the problems posed in the book and documentary, Half the Sky. I will also explore how these foundations and initiatives are funded, a side of the female education movement that I am not particularly familiar with. One other question that we started to discuss was “what factors make girls’ education a marketable commodity which activists can sell to the developed world and governments?” With more background reading and exploration, I will hopefully soon encounter more puzzles that look critically at the girls’ education movement.