W.O. Zinn

Southern Oregon University (UNITED STATES)
Research required in higher education coursework often fails to mirror the intellectual processes of those who are genuinely interested in areas of inquiry and develop passions they pursue across a lifetime. Those creative processes are remarkably similar whether engaged in by academics or by those outside the academy. Instead, students may encounter the same formulaic processes and products required in K-12 schools, with little opportunity to learn how to be genuinely engaged intellectually.

Results of the United States High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) conducted with 81,000 students revealed that seventy-five percent reported being bored in class (Yazzie-Mintz, 2007). This is a worldwide problem. In a 2003-04 survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment of seventeen million fifteen-year-olds in thirty-two countries, forty-eight percent of them reported school boredom (OECD, 2004).

This paper describes a culturally-sensitive autoethnographic research methodology called The Collectory based on the themes of fun in learning and related attentional skills of interest (Zinn 2004, 2008). The Collectory is a philosophical approach to research that puts the learner at the center of the exploration, broadening processes to include nontraditional sources, expanding product possibilities, and making the researcher’s reflective, connective, and interdisciplinary thinking an integral part of the collection and presentation of information. It also allows for new models of expression, including “self-sponsored” writing. The Collectory research methodology integrates I-Search writing (Macrorie, 1988), multigenre writing (Romano, 2000), collage/montage representation (Weathers, 1980, in Romano, 1995), and scholarly personal narrative (Nash, 2004), and also nurtures skills of innovation identified in a large-scale six-year study of creative executives (Fryer, 2009).

The Collectory is adaptable for use in multiple disciplines, and the paper provides concrete examples. In addition, satisfaction with the methodology is high; self-evaluation data collected over the past thirteen years from pre- and in-service teachers shows that eighty-nine percent of them believe these processes helped them engage more deeply in learning, providing skills they will practice themselves and use with their students.

Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn began developing this approach as lead teacher in a high school dropout prevention program, drawing on previous media experience where creativity on demand and applied research were daily expectations. She continued developing it in university seminar where she taught the equivalent of Writing 121, 122, and 123, and continues the research in graduate education courses including human development, creativity, and educational research, building on insights gained while writing an autoethnographic dissertation exploring teacher/learner creativity (Zinn, 2004).

Because Collectory processes require ongoing sharing and evaluation of information, they are active and participatory, and also encourage the development of intellectual community. Assessment of personal learning and information sources is transparent and reflective, making cheating nearly impossible. In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, research must be presented as accessible and infinitely interesting, and must be nurtured as a creative skill of lifelong learning.