Survey says… / Sabbatical Lite midterms of sort

I think I’m going to take the weekend off from BAWS/sabbatical/school work (other than getting caught up on my email, which will give me a chance to email some friends of mine anyway) and concentrate on stuff around the house– family things, cleaning, putting up Halloween decos, carving pumpkins, etc. After this last week, I feel like I earned it.

I finally managed to get my Blogs as Writerly Spaces surveys and human subject review paperwork submitted. I say “surveys,” but really it’s one survey (which I am going to invite folks to participate in more or less randomly and via email) and one set of case study questions (and I’m going to try to find case study subjects by the survey and also by trying to just invite some folks whose blogs I like to read). I’m happy to share my questions with anyone who is curious, and a big shout-out to friends and colleagues Dennis Danvers, Bill Hart-Davidson, Steve Benninghoff, and Linda Adler-Kassner for the advice and help they passed along. And also a big help to Joe Scazzero in the EMU faculty development center, which is one tip I would pass along to anyone putting together a serious survey: get someone to look at it who a) is an expert at survey construction and b) knows almost nothing about the topic of the survey.

As anyone who has ever put together a real survey knows, surveys is hard. They seem like they’d be easy– what first year composition teacher hasn’t had a student whose solution to a research pickle was to come up with a survey on the fly? But easy they ain’t. I puzzled over mine for the better part of the last month, and I feel like that was actually pretty quick. One of my colleagues told me a story about a survey she did with some folks way back when with a bunch of others, and took them about a year to come up with questions they were happy with.

Anyway, I’m pleased with that, and I’m also pleased that I am done with the Human Subjects Review stuff (what every other school seems to call “IRB”)– or at least I’m “done” as long as they exempt my project, which I expect they will. Not a lot of blood being drawn, not a lot of electrical shock, etc. Once that is all put to bed, I’ll load stuff up on surveymonkey and keep my fingers crossed that folks will actually participate.

And how is “sabbatical lite” treating me? Well, it comes and goes. I’ve had some weeks this semester in which it has worked out quite well, but last week was not one of them. I had to be on campus for something every day last week, and the “never before 1 pm” rule is starting to look less than workable. So in the sense that a sabbatical is supposed to be about “getting away,” sabbatical lite ain’t working.

On the other hand, not teaching (and thus not grading/commenting on a bunch of student writing) does give me a lot more time to do things like write surveys, read scholarly things, write my own things, etc. I do feel like I’ve gotten a lot done, I’m not really sure I would have gotten a lot more done if I was sabbaticalling in the traditional way, and I’m looking forward to next semester when I will essentially have an extra course release left over from splitting this one semester sabbatical over two.

Still, if I had the chance to do this over, I wouldn’t do this again. Sabbatical lite was the best choice I could have made at the time, but my advice to anyone contemplating splitting up a sabbatical themselves would be to not do it. And if I have a chance to apply for another sabbatical anytime soon, I’ll probably ask for the full year. Of course, with my son on the verge of entering private secondary school (probably) and then college (hopefully), I doubt I’ll be able to afford that….

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