10 SES 14 B, Self-Study Methodology: An inspiring and ambitious approach for practitioner research in Europe
Introduction My interest in self-study methodology arose through my critical engagement with the ever-changing political landscape of education in Scotland. I became aware that teaching was being positioned as an outcome-led and ‘data-driven’ profession (Biesta, Priestly & Robinson, 2015). Such a context, which promotes the notion of ‘teacher agency’, tends to focus on what teachers do: ‘what works’, rather than who teachers are (Samaras & Freese, 2009). As such Biesta et al (2015) propose a richer ‘ecological’ (ibid, p.626) perspective of teacher agency, which embraces teachers’ contextualized values, beliefs and experiences. I therefore explored self-study as a methodology for classroom practice, which enables engagement with such a relational view, particularly the relationship between '...self and other.' (La Boskey, 2004, p.818). Theoretical framework Theoretical insights from Complexity Theory and Merleau Ponty’s Phenomenology underpinned my research. Complexity Theory not only supports a relational and contextual understanding of the activity between teacher and learners, but crucially opens up the possibility on-going change and emergence as a result of ‘collective knowledge creation’ (Davis & Sumara, 2008). In order to engage with this relational, shared space, our 'being in the world’ (Merleau-Ponty 1945) became the central focus, supporting exploration of the multiple, interacting factors which impact on who the teacher is in relation to others. Method Self-study involves questioning ‘context’, ‘content’ and ‘process’, from teachers’ perspectives, to ‘make sense of the stream of experience we act within…’ (Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2009, p.ix). To engage with this process, I drew on the narrative nature of self-study methodology (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) and kept a reflective journal where I systematically recorded reflections on my daily practice, enabling me to voice previously unspoken thoughts. In doing so, I began to grapple with my identity, often asking ‘who am I?’. This transformative process (Bullough and Pinnegar, 2001), resulted in inviting the children into the research process. Together, we created a rich data set, including their perspectives and drawings, which I analysed alongside my diary entries to identify the numerous roles I embodied; the interacting factors that enabled/inhibited these roles; and the impact they had on the children’s learning experiences. Results Engaging in the self-study process supported me in carving out new roles and relationships with the children. By acknowledging the relational space between myself and the children, I was able to acknowledge who I was as a teacher, which in turn enabled more expansive educational experiences to emerge.
Biesta, G., Priestley, M. and Robinson, S., (2015). The role of beliefs in teacher agency. Teachers and Teaching, 21 (6), pp.624-640. Bullough, R.V. Jr. and Pinnegar, S., (2001). Guidelines for quality in autobiographical forms of self-study research. Educational researcher, 30 (3), pp.13-21. Clandinin, D.J. and Connelly, F.M., (2000). Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Josseyy-Bass. Davis, B. and Sumara, D., (2008). Complexity as a theory of education. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 5 (2), pp. 33 – 45. LaBoskey, V. K., (2004). The Methodology of self study and its theoretical underpinnings. In: J.J. Loughran, M.L. Hamilton, V.K. LaBoskey and T. Russell, eds., International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices: volume 12. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. pp.817 – 869. Merleau-Ponty, M., (1945). Phenomenology of Perception. Paris: Gallimard. Pinnegar, S. and Hamilton, M.L., (2009). Self-study of practice as a genre of qualitative research: theory, methodology and practice. London: Springer Samaras, A.P. and Freese, A.R., (2009) Looking Back and looking forward: an historical overview of the self-study school. In C.A.Lassonde, S.Galman and C.Kosnik, eds., Self-study research methodologies for teacher educators. Netherlands: Sense Publishers, pp.3-20.
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