The pain and fulfillment of conducting research involving middle schoolers: a vent

The context:

I’m currently writing a paper about the effects of Comprehensible Input (CI)-based lessons on vocabulary acquisition for two different periods of 7th grade Latin, which I plan to publish. Note these key phrases—7th grade and publish.


The pain:

Because of humanity’s questionable history of human experiments, a decent smattering of laws and regulatory committees have since been formed to scrutinize any research involving human subjects. This comes in the form of an IRB, or Institutional Review Board, which is even stricter on subjects that happen to be children, and on research that aims to be published. After spam-emailing my county’s superintendent’s office, I was directed toward a pipeline for the exact type of work that I am doing. Euge! So far, I’ve scouted out the people that will comprise my IRB, including an unrelated teacher, an assistant principal, and a school psychologist. The thing is, I don’t know how long it will take for their approvals to be approved. Eheu! Please pray for me.


The fulfillment: 

My project’s main premise goes like this: teaching a chapter of the Cambridge Latin Course using One Word at a Time (OWATs, a CI-based writing activity developed by Bob Patrick, where students learn vocabulary by writing stories with them in groups, then read other groups’ stories to learn differing interpretations of the vocabulary), as opposed to traditional rote memorization techniques, will contribute to greater word acquisition and reading proficiency. Yesterday, I taught the OWATs lesson for the first time to two periods of 7th-grade Latin. It went great even for the first period, which is full of unmotivated students who tend to distract themselves from their work. The second period, of course, met it with excitement and enthusiasm as they do with nearly everything that I introduce to them. Something that my teacher, Mr. Mac, and I noticed in both periods, regardless of their typical levels of engagement, was that not only did the students have much higher levels of enthusiasm than usual, but they also attempted to conjugate the words into forms other than what they were given—a skill they never would have practiced with just Quizlet. One interesting distinction between the two classes was that the unmotivated period’s stories revolved mostly around the stock characters found in the Cambridge Latin Course books, such as Caecilius and Grumio, performing their typical actions. The motivated period, however, took the opportunity for free expression to make jokes about one another, and in some cases, at the reader’s own self. My takeaway was that a class’s interpersonal vibes have a huge impact on the type of work they produce as well as the proficiency of its students. 

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