This summer, three students undertook a research internship with Dr. Sara Drury, Rhetoric Department, to assist in research on deliberation and pedagogy. Below, the students talk about the process of doing research, presenting that research at a Kettering Foundation Research Exchange meeting, and the next steps for this student-faculty research project. The research project and summer internships were funded through a Joint Learning Agreement with the Kettering Foundation.
Beginning the Summer Research Internship
Derek Andre, ‘16 – For the last act of my summer at Wabash I’ve been asked to write a short piece about my experience as a summer intern in the Rhetoric Department. So where to start, where to start. Probably the best place to begin would be at the very beginning. This all started at the beginning of this past semester when the research team of Seton Goddard ‘15, Jeremy Wentzel ‘14, Nate Manning ‘14, Garrett Wilson ‘13, Grant Klembara ‘15, myself, and Dr. Sara Drury began work on a deliberation research project as part of a spring 2013 Rhetoric course. In that course, we spent the first half of the semester learning about the theory of deliberation as well as planning how we were going to conduct our study. In mid-March we conducted our focus groups, which consisted of five focus groups which deliberated on the topic of the national debt. Once the focus groups were completed and the data had been recorded, we spent the rest of the semester learning more about the theories and practices of deliberation, completing our own literature reviews and research on topics of interest.
Three of us stayed on for summer internships to work with Dr. Drury on further research. That’s when the real fun began. I showed up the first day of work this summer expecting a pretty easy go of things. However, the first task was transcribing an hour’s worth of a focus group. If you’ve never had the privilege of transcribing, well, it’s an experience. Once we got the recordings transcribed, we were able to dive into our analysis work. The analysis consisted of combing through the transcripts, analyzing the material against a deliberation rubric with particular benchmarks. We identified quotes and phrases that helped to indicate whether or not that group had met a benchmark that was set out in a rubric. Overall, we wanted to determine whether training in deliberation helped to make students better deliberators when faced with an unfamiliar topic. After about two weeks of analyzing the transcripts, we had a working draft that we presented at a research exchange of interdisciplinary scholars at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. Upon arriving home from Dayton we continued with our drafting process, making recommended changes to our draft.
Overall I think that this past month has been a tremendous experience. Not only have I become much more adept at analyzing texts but also have gained a much greater appreciation for the research process. When I came into this internship I thought that we would have a complete paper by the end of the month, but now I know that we are about a year away from seeing this as a presentation at an academic conference, or published in a journal.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Dr. Sara Drury, The Kettering Foundation, Seton Goddard, Jeremy Wentzel, and anyone else who helped to make this a great experience.
Presenting at the Kettering Foundation
Seton Goddard, ‘15 – Beginning in January 2013, when we began the process of designing a research study that focused on the skills of deliberation, we knew that our work would eventually end up being associated with the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. After all, Kettering was funding our research, and considering our interest in how the teaching of deliberative skills affects individuals’ abilities to work through major issues has significance for Kettering. Founded in 1927 by Charles F. Kettering (the inventor of the spark plug/automobile self starter), leaders of the organization were charged with figuring out what needs to be done to make democracy work as it should. As part of our research, we had the opportunity to travel to Dayton and to share our work with scholars who also have an interest in considering deliberation and the role it has to play in democracy.
Upon arriving at Kettering, which has a beautiful, sprawling campus full of great architecture and landscaping, we were greeted with a significant amount of excitement from the other people who would be spending the weekend with us. Not only were they excited to discuss their own research, but they were clearly excited to talk with us about the research that we had done. Not to “toot our own horns” too much, but it was evident over the course of the two day meeting that our work impressed our fellow participants.
Throughout our time at the Foundation, we also had the opportunity to learn more about the backgrounds of the scholars, community leaders, and researchers who spend time there. We heard from a professor in Israel who is researching the use of deliberation in discussing issues unique to Israel (of which there are many), a scholar from Russia who is making a similar attempt, and professors of Philosophy, American Studies, Rhetoric, Communications, Political Science, Gender Studies, History, and others. This wealth of backgrounds all sharing the same common goal was incredibly interesting to see, and I think we all walked away with an understanding of the important role that something like deliberation can have in all areas of academia, communities, and our world.
On a personal note, as someone who has an interest in public health and healthcare policy, I was able to spend some time talking with people who do extensive work in this area with Kettering. Even Kettering’s current President, Dr. David Matthews, possesses a significant amount of experience in health policy from his time spent as the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under the Ford and Carter administrations. Clearly, even good public health policy has an important role to play in making democracy function as it should!
I would like to thank Dr. Sara Drury for her work in leading the study, the Kettering Foundation for its support and the great work that they do for our global community, and Derek Andre ’16, Grant Klembara ’15, Nate Manning ’14, Jeremy Wentzel ’14, and Garrett Wilson ’13 for their work throughout the semester (and for Derek and Jeremy, the summer too) and the work that will continue into next semester!
Next Steps: Conference Presentation and Publishing in an Academic Journal
Jeremy Wentzel, ‘14 – The last few weeks with Dr. Sara Drury in the Rhetoric Department have proven to be even more enlightening and productive than one might imagine. This internship experience has yielded results which will follow the research team’s academic and professional portfolio in the years approaching.
After working on transcribing, coding, and co-authoring research on deliberative pedagogy – assessing how classical (and currently pertinent) modes of deliberation are taught in higher education – our research team will now have the golden opportunity to pursue being published in an academic journal. Dr. Drury has been very generous to let the team have a great deal of investment in the research project. For instance, we travelled to the Kettering Foundation, an organization which we are in a joint research exchange relationship with, to present our findings. In company with various scholars, our rare undergraduate presence at the research exchange was well received and enthusiastically cherished. After presenting, we received feedback that will strengthen the paper and provide future opportunities of research for future Wabash students.
Therefore, the next step is to submit our paper to the Central States Communication Association conference in April in Minneapolis, in an effort to present our findings and receive further feedback. We have been informed that this process is quite challenging, yet also extremely rewarding for undergraduates. In fact, since we are co-authors with Dr. Drury, we are not even eligible to present with other undergraduate students!
After the conference concludes, the team will be ready to make final adjustments before sending the paper in to be published in an established academic journal. Our team is enthusiastic about this opportunity and proud of the work we’ve accomplished. While our work is in the beginning stages of moving toward being published, we are excited to see potential opportunities for future undergraduates to have similar opportunities with the Rhetoric Department, and the Kettering Foundation. Our dedicated faculty like Dr. Sara Drury and the folks at Kettering are working to build strong communities and tackle tough issues in a productive way – goals which are so relevant in a currently tumultuous state of civil society.