Wednesday, March 11, 2009

LPoD - Narrative inquiry

I wish I could write enough about this point to reflect how much I have been thinking and learning about it lately. It isn't really the learning point of a single day. It is an on-going process. Because I am adopting a (first person) narrative inquiry approach for my dissertation, I have been trying to find out as much as possible about it.

This is the way I go about things. I didn't know that there was an established methodology called first person narrative inquiry. I just felt very strongly that this was the right way to go about presenting my work. Only once I was defending my case to my dissertation supervisor did I learn that others had trod that path afore me. She sent me in search of materials to reference in my rationale.

I came across a few choice pieces:
Clandinin, D Jean and Connelly, F Michael. 2000. Narrative Inquiry - experience and story in qualitative research. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-4343-6.
Farrands, Robert Miles. 2007. Excitement, bewilderment and emergence: exploring a life world through writing as first person inquiry
Whitehead, Jack. 1988. Creating a living educational theory from questions of the kind, 'How do I improve my practice?' Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol 19, No1, 1989, pp 41-52. Accessed online 12 November 2008.

As I have been reading these, I have become enthused all over again for the narrative approach. I was excited almost to the point of tears (pathetic, isn't it?) by the title of Whitehead's paper, because this is exactly the question I have wanted to explore in respect of my own professional practice: How has the use of social media affected my professional practice? In particular, I want to look at it from a learner's perspective, since altogether too much research addresses the teacher's perspective.

There are great wadges of text I would love to lift right out of Clandinin's book, but that would leave little place for my own writing in between! Take for example, these gems:

"Educators are interested in life... learning and teaching and how it takes place...the leading out of different lives, the values, attitudes, beliefs, social systems, institutions and structures, and how they are all linked to learning and teaching"

"For Dewey, education, experience, and life are inextricably intertwined. When one asks what it means to study education, the answer - in its most general sense - is to study experience."

"People live stories, and in the telling of these stories, reaffirm them, modify them, and create new ones. Stories lived and told educate the self and others, including the young and those such as researchers who are new to their communities."

"People are individuals and need to be understood as such, but they cannot be understood only as individuals. They are always in relation, always in a social context."
Can I get an Amen? Tell me I'm not the only one who wants to stand up and cheer... please?

And, of course, because I think in analogies, this immediately brings to mind a vivid image for me. Because research tends to pick a narrow focus, you get a whole load of in-depth, highly detailed pictures, like exquisitely wrought beads. But narrative inquiry provides the string that turns those beads into a beautiful necklace. Each bead has its place among the other beads, and each either complements or clashes with other beads on the string.

My head is brimming and buzzing with stuff on the subject, but I think I'll do a more complete exploration in the dissertation itself.

I'm such a geek. This stuff really gives me such a buzz!

I know I've said it before. It isn't about the learning. It's about the learner. The person.

Contented geeky sigh.


rlubensky said...

Hi Karyn,

I'm using NI as the methodology behind my PhD study. You are the first person I know of who has also gone from elearning to NI. However, mine is not an auto-ethnography (which I presume is synonymous to your "first-person inquiry"?). In addition to Clandinin & Connelly, I have been guided by Catherine Riessman and her Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences (2008), who I had the great privilege to meet last month in workshop in Melbourne.

My goal is to explore how citizens experience a deliberative process (analogue to collaborative learning). NI provides methods to analyse and render their voices to my audience of thesis readers. So essentially, it is not my interpretive perspective that is so important, although it must be explicitly revealed, but my ability to unpack and portray the experiences transparently as possible to my readers. Crucial to NI is the belief that the research is not aimed to find a universal Truth or Grand Narrative, but rather a diverse particularity of truths relevant to, subject to, my readers, who would be public engagement practitioners in my case, learning professionals in yours.

I'm happy to explore this further with you on Skype--you know where to find me.


The upsycho said...

@Ron Thanks for the tip. I have ordered Riessman's book on your say-so (no pressure!). If you have written the rationale for your methodology yet, I'd be very interested to read it. I've not come across the term auto-ethnography before, but I like it - sounds most erudite ;o)

Your thesis sounds very interesting. When do expect to complete it?

Mary said...

Hi Karyn
just stumbled on this while having a browse - and I love that notion of I hope you don't mind me butting in?

Jack Whitehead's work is indeed exciting, and comes from a (rather purist??/totally alternative?) action research perspective. Having been a physicist in a past life, and discovered the power of action research, and the centrality of the personal and the relational in professional (educational) practice, I've never looked back. Have you ever come across a paper called "Defining the Field of Literature in
Action Research: a personal approach" by Kath Green? One of her themes is the importance of the particular, in a very human, narrative account of practice and the understanding of practice. It was published in Educational Action Research, Volume 7, No. 1, 1999, if you want to have a look at it..

Be nice to keep up this conversation, if you were so minded?

The upsycho said...

@Mary Butting in? Not at all! I could hardly put this stuff out in the public domain and then consider other people's contributions as butting in!

Thanks so much for taking the time to swing by and make a contribution. It gave me a reason to read this post again at a time when I find myself at a far lower ebb than I was when I wrote it.

I would love to hear further input on this subject. We can either continue the conversation here, or we can take it to email if you prefer. I am fascinated that someone from a field known for quantitative approaches has found a home in such a subjective, qualitative approach!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I thought I was alone in this NI space. I'm a doctoral candidate at Rutgers and taking a leap and proposing a NI study on the perceptions of literacy coachin with middle school educators. I have both of these resources but kind of still ost as to where to begin. I did find a framework by Creswell (2008) that places qualitative research next to NI and the research process itself as a guide to planning the study. I might give that a try.

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to know how this turned out. I am getting ready to tell my adviser that I will be doing my dissertation in the narrative inquiry format and WILL be writing in hte first person. After all my parents taught me to 'tell it as I see it' and they didn't name me "the researcher'!!! If this post is still active I would love to hear from someone:)

The upsycho said...

@Anonymous If it's any encouragement to you, I got a merit grade for my dissertation. And, in the process of researching it, discovered hordes of dissertations and theses written in the first person. I also discovered many narrative enquiries. Have a look in the references and methodology sections of my diss for some links and references you can use.

I don't see why your supervisor should object to it, we have come such a long way since 'the researcher' and you are certainly not breaking any new ground, here!

I wish you everything of the best in your quest. Swing by here again and let me know how it goes.