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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

The Art of Imperfection: Why Your Research Question Doesn’t Need to Be a Linguistic Masterpiece




Let's take a moment to chat about something that keeps many an educator awake at night (apart from that wild dream about showing up to school in pajamas). I'm talking about crafting your research question, that tricky little sentence that seems to hold so much weight.


Now, let's get real. You're not William Shakespeare, and we're not expecting you to be. Your research question is not going to be scrutinized by linguistics scholars or entered into a Pulitzer Prize competition.


"But wait," you might say, "Don't words matter? Isn't the question the cornerstone of my whole project?"


Yes, and no.

The words matter, but they don't have to be dipped in gold and glitter. They just need to be real, meaningful, and connected to your practice.


Sure, you might be sitting there, waiting for the perfect, shining phrase to drop from the sky like a gift from the language gods. Maybe you're re-arranging words, squinting at your screen, and pondering if you should call in a favor from that friend who aced their SATs.


Here's the secret: Don't sweat it. Sometimes the words won't fall right into place, and that's okay. Your research question doesn't need to be 'perfect'. What's more important are the roots of your inquiry, your felt difficulty, your connection to your teaching practice, and your intention to make things better.


Practitioner inquiry, at its heart, is not about creating a flawless research question. It's about using the tool of Practitioner Inquiry to understand, reflect, and improve your teaching practice. It’s about being 'meta', looking at the big picture, and slowing down to examine a specific aspect of your teaching.


And yes, there are many aspects to choose from (more choices than a Shabbat potluck dinner, am I right?). But remember, we're focusing on a small area of improvement for this course. It's like zooming in on a particular corner of a grand mural, examining the fine details and colors that make up that tiny segment. You're not trying to repaint the entire masterpiece in one stroke.


Remember to ask yourself, "What part of my teaching practice do I want to deepen?"


Ever had that moment in a yoga class when the instructor whispers in their soothing voice, "Find your breath, and sink deeper into the posture"? Ah yes, that slight wobble, the tickle of sweat on your forehead, the challenge of going just that bit further. Practitioner inquiry, in many ways, is like holding that tricky yoga posture.


Right now, you're conditioning yourself, learning to balance in this intricate dance of inquiry. It’s about patience, persistence, and a whole lot of passion. Just as you wouldn’t tackle the most challenging yoga poses in your first class, embrace one posture at a time.


The goal isn’t to do the splits on your first day (though kudos if you can!). It's about strengthening and stretching those “practitioner inquiry muscles” one day at a time, diving deep into inquiries, just like sinking deeper into that yoga pose.


Take it from experience, I know it's hard to get started; to find your balance and even decide on which inquiry to study. Don't get strung up on the wording. What matters is choosing an inquiry that you are passionate about and could carve out a little space for. Sinking in. Breathing deeper. Allowing yourself to feel a little uncomfortable. So you can grow that part of your practice.


And like all inquiries - even the smallest one - has ripples and will influence other parts of your practice.


So, brave educators, let's embrace the beautiful imperfection that is the art of crafting a research question.


Let's focus on the heart of our inquiry, the soul of our teaching, and the journey that will lead us to becoming better educators. And let's remember that it’s okay not to be perfect, in language and in practice.


After all, our imperfections are what make us uniquely capable of growth.

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