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Field Notes #1- Independent Study Meeting

Laura H's picture

January 29th, 2013

Fieldwork Seminar

Field Notes #1


These are “field notes” from the first meeting for my Independent Study this semester, which is the culmination of my concentration in Peace, Conflict and Social Justice Studies. Pseudonyms were used. 



  • There are only four of us in the independent study. We all meet in Professor Smith’s office and sit around a table.
  • Professor Smith first asks us to each go around and talk a little bit about where we are at and what we are thinking in terms of our projects.
  • I say that while I know what I want to research for my project, I am very organized and like to have a timeline to plan around. Professor Smith says that we can make them for ourselves but to remember that things will change throughout the semester as well get further into our projects.
  • Jessica is very far along on her project and knows exactly what she wants to do, while Maria says she is still in the brainstorming stage.
  • Professor Smith mentions that she had hoped the course would be Pass/Fail, because she doesn’t believe in grading this kind of work. However, she says there might be issues with the registrar. When she asks what our thoughts are on grading, we all say we hadn’t thought about it.
  • Professor Smith says if grades end up being required, she would like us to come up with the grading criteria together.
  • When we ask what the final product should look like, Professor Smith says it is up to us. She encourages us to take this opportunity to do something that is not a formal written paper. We are all still a little unsure about what this could mean given that we have few opportunities to do projects besides papers.
  • Professor Smith suggests that for next week we each outline ours goals, themes, and examples/experiences we plan to incorporate. She reminds us that the process will be just as important as the final result.
  • This is the smallest “class” I have ever taken. It gives us the opportunity to get to know one another and hear in depth about the work we are each doing. It also gives us each a chance to get specific feedback from our professor.
  • Everyone’s projects are very different yet we all seem to have the same concerns about doing this as an “independent study.”
  • I am a little nervous about setting my own deadlines and understanding the expectations.
  • Because this is an independent study, it’s okay that everyone is in a different place. We can all work at our own pace which is very rare in most other educational settings.
  • It is interesting to see how notions of grades have changed as I have gone through my education. In elementary, middle, and high school, grades were often the focus of all classes and assignments. However, now that we are given the chance to pursue something that truly interests us, it seems as the grades are not necessary or appropriate.
  • This seems like a very good way to handle the situation. It feels as though the professor truly respects and trusts us, which makes me want to work even harder. However, I wonder how this type of “student-centered” learning would work with a younger age group or in a different educational context.
  • I personally feel a tension between wanting to be creative but also wanting to stay organized in my thoughts and research. I am still not sure what my final project will look like. It is hard to think of how to articulate and present my research in any form other than a paper.
  • I feel better leaving the meeting with a clearer sense of the next steps of the process.