Performing research in a WRD course takes on a whole new layer of meaning when there are real stakes in the outcome of the research.
Students in WRD 530: Workplace Ethnography, taught by Assistant Professor Sarah Read during AQ12, had the opportunity to do qualitative research for stakeholders at Josephinum Academy, a Catholic girl’s high school in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Read’s course partnered with Josephinum with the assistance of Jean Vipond at DePaul’s Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning.
“Instead of looking at the project as, just that, a project, I started to think much more about the students’ needs.” – Kerrie Zipprich
Over the 10-week quarter, students designed and executed qualitative research projects in two teams. The “Grammar” team investigated student attitudes about a new online grammar pedagogy tool, NoRedInk, which is used for improving student writing. The “Michael’s” team worked with Josephinum president Michael Dougherty to improve the process of collecting input from faculty, staff, administrators, and parents for Communal Reflection, a school self-assessment process, required by the network of schools of which Josephinum is a member. The research teams conducted interviews,developed surveys that were completed online and on site, and conducted a focus group with Josephinum English students and teachers.
What made this WRD course unique for several WRD students was the real stakes for their writing and research process. “Instead of looking at the project as, just that, a project, I started to think much more about the students’ needs. What if the recommendations of our team [the grammar team] influences how these young women are taught the grammar skills they need to perform successfully on the ACT, and therefore move forward to college or other career paths?” said Kerrie Zipprich, a member of the team researching the online grammar tool.
Class member Charles Westphal said, “This course also provided me with a better understanding of how what is learned in the academy might be applied in the professional world and for the benefit of the community at large.”
Read the full story in the Winter Quarter 2013 Graduate Newsletter.