ERG SES H 12, Philosophy and Education
This paper addresses internationally relevant issues of transition: it suggests a new methodology based on paradigm-compatibility within the context of English as an additional language.
The paper explores the combination of a postructuralist approach employing Foucauldian discourse analysis (Carabine, 2001; Rabinow, 1991; Weedon, 1997), elements of Derridian deconstruction (Culler, 1983; Derrida & Caputo, 1997; Spivak, 1974) and Phenomenography (Marton & Booth, 1997). This approach requires an investigation into the two ontologically congruent but epistemologically and methodologically diverse paradigms’ compatibility.
The paper attempts to answer the following questions:
- Why is it important to explore the variation in EAL learners’ perceptions of their subjectivities, needs and what supports their learning?
- Could the variation be identified using a non-phenomenographic approach?
- Would a phenomenographic approach be sufficient to analyse the data?
In my work ontology is interpreted as considerations of the nature of reality and how it is perceived (Crotty, 1998; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011), epistemology as considerations of the relationships between the researcher, researched and the ‘known’ (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011), and methodology as considerations of the purpose of the application of certain methods (tools) and the analysis of the generated data (Blaxter et al, 2010).
Phenomenography is based on a non-dualist ontology, it is the relational aspect, the relation between the person experiencing a phenomenon and the phenomenon itself that is essential (Marton & Booth, 1997). Experience of a phenomenon is always partial as individuals experience the world differently (Åkerlind et al, 2014). Poststructuralists’ ontological position is relativist as ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ are seen as fluid, and subjectivity positioned by discourse (Foucault, 1972; Weedon, 1997). The phenomenographic non-dualist perspective could be compared to Foucault’s claim that ‘truth’ cannot be constructed outside discourse (Niesche, 2011). Derrida would argue ‘the thing itself always escapes’ as meaning is deferred and constantly changes (Spivak, 1974:lxix). This links to the relational aspect of things that underpins phenomenographic thought (Marton and Booth, 1997). Ontologically, Phenomenography could therefore complement a poststructuralist approach as variation in perceptions of a group of individuals’ ‘truths’ might reflect fluidity of truth and influences by varying discourses.
Participants’ accounts of their ‘lived experience’ provides, from a poststructuralist perspective, access to ‘locally, temporally and situationally limited narratives’ (Flick, 1998:2) meaning ‘knowledge’ which is individual, fluid and subject to discourse(s). Phenomenography, on the other hand, aims to gain access to ‘knowledge’ by identifying variation in perceptions. It aims for an overall picture of how a phenomenon is perceived, the individual’s narrative is lost in the attempt to establish the variation in perceptions of a group of interviewees (Marton and Booth, 1997). This indicates how the epistemologies of the two approaches are diverse, yet there are parallels. For instance, Phenomenography is interested in what aspects are and which are not discerned by interviewees (Åkerlind et al, 2014) just as Foulcaudian discourse analysis looks at ‘absences and silences’ (Carabine, 2001:281).
The methodological differences between phenomengraphic and poststructuralist interviews lie in the purpose of the methods used and how the data is analysed (Blaxter et al, 2010). The data generated in phenomenographic interviews is analysed to create a hierarchical structure of conceptions demonstrating the variation in perceptions of the phenomenon in question in order to transform and improve teaching and learning (Åkerlind et al, 2014). Poststructuralist discourse analysis of an interview aims to make an individual’s account accessible, an individual’s voice heard. It does not claim to explain or improve the social world, its focus is narrow as it sees individuals’ accounts as historically situated, localised and temporary (Flick, 1998).
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