Friday, 31 January 2014

Day 22: The research begins

What went well? 
  1. I'm really appreciating my TA for my Intro Buddhism class. She's really engaging and knowledgable, and has a good sense of humour (e.g. playing Justin Timberlake's "What goes around comes around" & Alicia Keys' "Karma" to show that the idea of karma has come up in the West too).
  2. Had a really great conversation over lunch with a new friend who's in a couple of my classes. It's always a pleasure to connect with people who have different and interesting perspectives and yet similar interests and values, and most importantly, are genuine and open.
  3. Finished coding half of the qualitative data on what some non-Western participants think wellbeing/happiness means to them. It was actually really interesting and uplifting to read through them all.

What did I learn? 
  • Stigma against people with mental illness is tied largely to perceptions of dangerousness.
  • Genetic arguments about mental illness either absolve responsibility or heighten perceptions of threat, depending on the kind of diagnosis (depression/anxiety vs schizophrenia). So biological arguments are a double-edged sword.
  • The Buddhist concept of rebirth is very complicated. Unlike the Hindu idea of reincarnation that involves a soul being passed on, Buddhists don't believe that a soul or self exists. So what exactly is being "reborn"? I'm extremely fuzzy on this, but it's something to do with karmas, the effects of your actions...
  • The acoustics in pretty much all the music practice rooms are as dead as a doornail. The effects of soundproofing...I found that the classroom wasn't as bad though, so I'll probably just use music classrooms when they're empty.
  • Qualitative data coding is a pretty subjective process. I didn't always trust myself on the decisions I made. Hence why there are several coders so we can see how much inter-rater reliability there is.

Miscellaneous thoughts
  • Things that work well for effective teaching & learning (a student's POV):
    • Setting clear time limits for discussion ("Ok, now discuss for 60 seconds...")
    • Answering questions or taking comments, but limiting the number ("last question..."). If there are more questions that are getting in the way of delivering content or moving onto more productive discussion, it would be fruitful to suggest that the student send them through via email or visit office hours.
    • Using relatable analogies to engage students and help them understand otherwise esoteric ideas.
    • Probing students to justify their opinions/statements, playing devil's advocate, challenging them to really think about what they're saying so they'll provide high quality answers.
    • Asking students to interpret graphs in class instead of just telling them directly what it means.
  • On politics: I read this article today, and a quote in it, "We have all of this rising inequality, and it’s not just because of market forces. It’s because governments favor rich people over poor people", reminded me of one of the ideas that came up in our profound conversation last night. Money corrupts and distorts the very idea of democracy, because rich people hold so much political power in funding elections and essentially buying the policies they want passed (usually to make them richer). Poor people have no true voice and hence this perpetuates inequality. Man, so many of the things we talked about last night just made me think: "...'merica." I was enlightened.

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