When I started participating in the VMT project almost weeks after the beginning of the Fall Quarter 2003 2004, I was looking forward to it as a way to meet the research experience requirement of the Ph.D. program and as an experience in doing research on learning. The first goal has to do with being on schedule as a full-time student in the Ph.D. program and the second goal has to do with studying a process because it would help me do my work better when I go back to the Philippines after my studies here.
As the quarter ends, my sense is that I have, during the course of the quarter, made little progress in both goals I set for myself at the beginning of the quarter. For the first goal, I have neither a bibliography nor a research design on the wiki. For the second goal, I do not sense that I have a much better grip on learning than when I started. I have found more questions than answers.
For my first goal, I can only point to a reaction in the vmt think_tank http://mathforum.org/discuss/vmt_thinktank/m/542618/543995 and two reflections, both of which are in my personal web page, http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~rt55/21October2003.htm and http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~rt55/4November2003.htm. The first was a contribution to the discussion regarding software features for VMT. The second was a reflection on design considerations for a system to support online learning in small groups. The third was an attempt to operationalize my ideas in the first reflection by outlining what I could see in Math Forum and writing how some additions could be made in it to create opportunities for collaborative problem-solving and learning. However, since I did not get to the stage where I actually requested Math Forum to consider the features I was thinking about, I cannot claim to have made much progress in attaining my first goal.
For my second goal, I had mentioned earlier that I found more questions than answers. I started the quarter thinking that I knew much about learning. However, the effort to transcribe the conversation and describe the non-verbal language of the four girls attempting to engage in collaborative work has convinced me that I do not really understand what I thought I did. It confirmed what I began to sense at the middle of the quarter. Within the context of the research to understand collaborative learning, I was not making as much progress in the work as I think I should have because I did not have the needed theoretical background to make sense of what I was observing. I had wrongly assumed that my ability to read non-verbal language was an advantage; I realized that I had overestimated the value of that capability in this research area. I relied more on instinct and reflection rather than reflection-in-action and knowing-by-doing.
In summary then, the value of this quarter’s research experience is not in what I have contributed to the research because I think my contribution was woefully inadequate for the number of weeks that I was in the VMT. Its value for me lies in what it has mirrored back to me in terms of the kind of changes I need to make in my work as a Ph.D. student. These changes have to do with learning the following tasks, first, the most basic task of setting aside a definite, fixed and substantial amount of time to devote to reading to enable me to know the work which has already been done in this research area, second, the initiative to make my own reflections more visible so that they can be hammered, pounded, reshaped and refined through interaction with the rest of the VMT project members and finally, the willingness to be much more aggressive in suggesting concrete actions which may be tested using the resources already available to the VMT project knowing that where nothing is ventured, nothing is gained.