In planning the use of these six narrative topics, because of where they fit in the curriculum, it became apparent that each of these six narrative topics was going to be raised fairly early in the semester. While this made sense in terms of the students being able to use and apply the learning throughout the rest of the semester, it did raise concerns for me that the students would tire of the strategy and that its effectiveness would consequently be negatively affected. In the end, I employed the strategy four times. Two of the narrative topics were eliminated because the energy and momentum in the class dictated that different material be covered.
An issue that arose for me during the development of the student personal narrative topics was that of my own participation in the activity. I have always considered myself to be a personable instructor but not someone who openly brings her personal life into the classroom. However, with this research project I was faced with having to examine that. If I was going to ask the students to connect their lives to the learning, why would I not model that in the classroom? If I was going to ask the students to trust one another enough to share important personal stories, what made me exempt from that process?
I decided that I would participate in the narrative exchanges when they came up in the classroom activities. I would tell my stories when the students told theirs. This would be a new experience for me and while it felt risky, it was an experience I felt I wanted and needed to have.
For the most part, my reflections and observations made up the data. I consciously chose not to tell the students what specifically I was researching. I did not want them to know that I was interested in the effects of using their personal narratives in the class in case that knowledge affected how they participated in the personal narratives activities. They were aware that I was conducting research in the class but it was not until the last day of the semester that they knew it was the use of their personal narratives that I was looking into.
During the semester of the research project, I kept brief notes during class, each of the times that I used the student personal narrative technique. In point form, I recorded my observations and reflections on what went on in the class in general and for specific students. I then used these notes and expanded on them to create field notes for what I had observed.