GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY (2016)
Professor Anne L. Washington, PhD
Social and Organizational Inquiry introduces ways to systematically think about ambiguous, complex, naturalistic real-world problems. Our method of inquiry places a great emphasis on ethics, consistency, credibility, and reflection. Students who practice these skills will gain the confidence necessary for future class projects that require fieldwork in organizations.
Our main task as a class will be to build research skills to design, conduct and understand naturalistic field studies. Naturalistic researchers avoid formulaic tools that presume a single explanation about the ways people interact. Use the reading as a starting point for your own experience and not as strict instructions. Because social inquiry is open to interpretation, we will learn how to support credible conclusions recognizing that there are other perspectives.
Experience is an essential aspect of this method of inquiry and this course. Conducting research is a deeper experience than watching it. Asking your own questions is different from reading an interview transcript. The research of David A. Kolb showed that experiential learning is the essence of adult learning. I am asking you to personally engage in the experience of research. If these skills are unfamiliar, take advantage of the many opportunities to have repeated practice. Through practice, you will become acquainted with your personal challenges and strengths.
Assignments will initially emphasize experiment over outcome to encourage intellectual curiosity. This is different than traditional academic work where students are evaluated by the ability to repeat facts. Homework is the basis for our classroom experiences. Starting exercises at home and completing them with others will give students the opportunity to better frame their own research style. We will share tips, suggestions, questions and frustrations in class together. Assignments are given to simulate a naturalistic research environment. As simulations, they will be limited in scope so students can focus on practicing new skills. The assessment and assignment structure is designed to provide a safe place to learn. For example, students will design and conduct an un-graded research project called the Class Inquiry (CLI) Project. It is a semester-long reflective study about students in the program. Aside from the opportunity to get to know your classmates better, it provides us a tangible experience of what it means to study others and to be studied.
Each student will know how to ask questions and how to listen for data. All students will have the opportunity to learn their own preferred note taking methods, a personal interviewing style, and tips for documenting field work. In addition, students will be able to point to specific observations and experiences when discussing conclusions. As the research foundation for the Organization Development and Knowledge Management Program (ODKM) program, this course will give students an increasing ability to conduct dependable research through self-reflection, consistency and well-supported reasoning.