The Academic Process: Uncovering Clarity

My inquiry hasn’t shifted a great deal since August. In some ways, I think that it hasn’t changed since starting the program. I remember doing my entrance interview with Jennifer Wells, and she asked me what I was interested in studying as a part of my Ph.D. program. I told her I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I wanted it to be about trauma, resilience, and schools. The difference for me has been the clarity of my inquiry.

This semester, I have found myself gaining some clarity. One point of precision that I have gotten is about some particulars of what I would like to do with my research project. It wasn’t until the Spring semester last year that I started looking at participatory research as a methodology. I had some vague ideas in my mind about what I would do. It needed to incorporate supporting teachers, program evaluations, and growing our understanding of trauma and resilience.

I haven’t been particularly sure who that would be. At one of the intensives, I had a late evening conversation with our instructor for this course, Michael Raffanti. I was preoccupied with who my participants would be for my research project. We talked about options related to using teachers in my own school/program or from some external setting. One of my concerns for not using teachers that I have such an established relationship with is that it can be difficult to do things in a home setting. Kind of similar to how Jesus talks in the New International Version (1978) of the bible

^4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” ^5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. ^6 He was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6: 4-6)

Currently, my best impression of what I want to do is to reach out to the three different school districts locally and solicit their teachers who work with students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) to offer participation to any of them. I would like to see if there is an incentive or clock hours or something that could be offered to them. Through my reading and connection with Montgomery Di Marco (2020) dissertation and seeing that she originally sent invitations to 65 different women and had an initial meeting that included 30. “Selective attrition” can be a challenge to validity in participatory research (Hughes, 2003). Branching out to more teachers throughout other districts will be extremely helpful. Not only will it increase my participant pool, but it can also be useful in my future work. It will help me make inroads at the various school districts and connections outside of the current ones.

My experience with this academic process is not that there has always been one singular goal or focus. I imagine it more like an out of focus camera lens. As I continue to gain new knowledge and understanding, the lens comes more and more into focus. When I was first starting, everything was pretty blurry and not very well defined. Potentially I saw a shape and thought that it was one thing, but as I’ve gained more clarity of focus, I’ve realized that it is something different entirely.


Hughes, J. N. (2003). Commentary: Participatory action research leads to sustainable school and community improvement. School Psychology Review, 32(1), 38-43.

Montgomery Di Marco, A. (2020). How a group of refugee-immigrant women living in the diaspora in Metro-Vancouver define flourishing and experience participatory-hospitality: A feminist participatory action research project [Ph.D. Dissertation]. California Institute of Integral Studies.

New International Version. (1978). Biblica.

Author Note

This essay was posted as a discussion forum for TSD 6526 - Ecology of Ideas as part of my Ph.D. process at CIIS.