Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Research Topic Area Already?

What?  - I’m supposed to be thinking about my final research paper already?  But isn’t that over a year away?  I thought I had lots of time to figure that out. 

Prior to our discussions about thesis vs research paper, I was already leaning towards the research paper.  For one thing, the extra courses that are part of the research paper route appear interesting.  Secondly, the research paper seems to be more structured and less daunting.

The only other previous assumption that I had was that my research question will be related to my work and will benefit the Fashion Institute in one way or another.  This assumption still rings true and will require conversations with various stakeholders. I realize that a consideration that is probably more significant than being practical to my workplace is that it needs to be something that I am deeply interested in. The investment of time and energy required for this project will be significant.  If I choose a subject that I am less than passionate about, it will be difficult to maintain motivation and to give myself to the project to the degree that will be needed to ensure a success. 

I’m sure that my ideas will expand, and I expect to eventually have a wall of sticky note ideas, but as I consider where my interests and curiosities are presently, I have been thinking about how many characteristics of  today’s student have changes from previous years (this is making me sound old). 

Recently, our work team hosted a national conference for fashion educators.  One of the sessions was entitled ‘What is up with the New Generation,’ presented by Maureen Towns  Maureen asked us to call out words to describe the generation, as she captured them on a flip chart.  It actually felt quite judgmental.  Some of the recorded words were: irresponsible, unaccountable, poor work ethic, non-committal, unable to prioritize, tech savy.  After Maureen finished collecting input, she invited her niece to come to the front.  Her niece wasn’t being defensive, but she did share her perspective.  She was a university student who was struggling to make both grades and make ends meet.  Although I can’t recall all the details of her day that she described, I was impacted by how much she had on her plate.  She explained that sometimes she had to miss a class, not because she wanted to, but because she need to take a shift at work to pay her bills so she could stay in school.  She then had to try to catch up on her own and was often caught in this cycle that might appear as though she wasn’t being responsible, but in actuality she was making decisions based on immediate priorities.  I could see some of our own students in this young lady and it made me wonder if there was a way we could help them differently.
Photo by Lori Kemp

It seems to me that young people have different complexities in their lives.  For that matter, I think society in general has different complexities and responsibilities.  All of this has made me think about the potential of FLEXIBLE learning in our apparel technology program. Years ago, my reaction to such a consideration would have been that it wasn’t possible to teach our skill based courses in any kind of an online environment, but today I am intrigued and curious about a flexible program model that would support student success in apparel technology. 

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