Fieldwork experience: Time to take stock!

After spending almost seven weeks in the field, it’s time to take stock of my fieldwork operation. I’m now being at the university in the north of Thailand where I used to work for, so I have found it convenient for me in many ways. In terms of the participant recruitment, I feel grateful that many of my former colleagues and friends have volunteered to be my participants and informants. One of my participants has also helped me out with the accommodation and even looked after me as I have been staying in her house! The School also allowed me to have a small workstation and I try to come to work (not pronounced ‘twirk!’) at uni almost every weekday. Whenever I thought back to the time I was writing my PhD proposal, I patted my shoulder feeling happy that I have made a right decision on the fieldwork site. In this blog post, I’d to share with you three things: my methods of data generation, how I keep records and the distance supervision over Skype.

Methods of data collection/generation
The main methods of data generation/collection I have used are classroom observation and stimulated recall protocol (SR). I have been in twelve classes of two teachers so far. Each time, I video record the teaching of the teacher, take notes and write an observation summary. At the weekly SR interview, I ask the teacher to watch their teaching video and reflect upon the purposes of any classroom activity or lesson. When I was working with the first teacher, I was excited that many interesting topics came up during the classroom observations and I had so many questions to ask the teacher during the SR interviews. As I’m now working with the second teacher, I have slightly changed my strategy; I try to keep my mouth shut, listen to what the teacher says attentively and ask more follow-up questions than the prepared ones. In so doing, I have found that it is powerful in such a way that new topics that I have never thought of before emerge from what the teacher has said. I think that is the value of being open for anything that my participant brings up and for being engaging with what is happening in front of me. However, as a novice researcher, I’m still wondering where my research topic (of Intercultural Communication) would fit into the data I have obtained or vice versa. Richard once told me to let the research questions take care of themselves, so I will be patient and stick with this plan and see how it’s getting on.

Keeping records
In the field, I have generated different types of data such as teaching videos (for the SR interview purpose), observation summaries, SR interview audios, SR notes and researcher’s journal. Every week, I will upload the observation summaries, SR interview notes and my opinions regarding what I have observed and listened to onto the E-prog (a virtual space for supervision purpose). These field notes will soon become another type of my data or help me at the interpretation stage, I hope.

Distance supervision
My supervisors and I agreed to keep our routine of meeting fortnightly, but we have to do it over Skype chat or Skype video call. Since I have been in Thailand, we have had four online supervision meetings already. I feel thankful for my supervisors, Richard and Susan, for their time, thoughts and support as always. They also want me to be a sponge (i.e. taking full advantage of being in the field absorbing different types of data) and go back to Manchester saturated (not being too fat, I guess!)

One thing that I have never failed doing is reminding my supervisors that I’m here, at the other end of the world. “Out of sight, out of mind” is what Richard told me before I left Manchester, so I keep sending my supervisors “link to progression form” in a hope that they would regularly see my name “Sutraphorn” co-occur with the word “progression”. Finally, I’d like to share some keywords, among many, that I have learned from our online tutorials:
– be ethical
– be attending to things I see
– have faith
– be purposeful (x a thousand and one times)
– follow the good stuff/path
– engage with the data
– precision
That’s all for now. If you’ve experienced anything similar to mine, please do not hesitate to shout out. Thank you for reading this blog post. Bye for now.