23 SES 13 A, Education Policy Analysis: Methodological Issues
The paper analyses power relations between the interviewer and the interviewee in interviews on education policy and practice. Power is conceptualised as relational and embedded in cultural and physical world (Foucault, 2003). The purpose of an interview is understood to create a ‘thick description’ to have an understanding of the participants’ interpretation of the phenomena under study (Cho & Trent, 2006). Against this backdrop the authors share two starting points. The first point is that an interview situation is always asymmetrical (Ozga & Gewirtz, 1994) in power and this relationship is not always useful for gaining good research material. Some aspects shaping the preconditions, such as physical qualities or cultural background are unchangeable; however, their roles in the interaction are negotiable in the interview. Second point is that an interviewer can use certain techniques to overcome the asymmetries or use them to gain good research material as long as this is within research-ethical guidelines.
The paper describes the interview situation with the help of two trichotomies, which were elaborated from the meta-analysis of all the mentioned interviews across localities. The first tricothomy are the pre-interview, interview and post-interview situation. The second trichotomy is the construction of ‘us’, ‘them’, and ‘you’ (in plural). The paper argues that understanding the underlying two trichotomies and their rather instrumental use in gathering interview material can give a seeker of thick description a better set of data. However, some aspects of interview remain always contingent. Further developing Walford's (2011) idea, as a theoretical note, the authors argue that so-called interviews of the powerful do not serve as a useful category in distinguishing research and rather the key questions of asymmetrical research are analogically, however reversed, present in other types of interviews.
Cho, J., & Trent, A. (2006). Validity in qualitative research revisited. Qualitative Research, 6(3), 319–340. Foucault, M. (2003). "Society Must Be Defended": Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. (M. Bertani, A. Fontana, Eds., & D. Macey, Trans.) New York, NY: Picador. Ozga, J., & Gewirtz, S. (1994). Sex, Lies and Audiotape: Interviewing the Education Policy Elite. In D. Halpin, & B. Troyna, Researching Education Policy: Ethical and Methodological Issues (pp. 121–138). London: Falmer. Walford, G. G. (2011, April). Researching the Powerful, British Educational Research Association on-line resource. Retrieved August 8, 2014, from http://www.bera.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Researching-the-Powerful.pdf
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