33 SES 11 A JS, Science Identities: Methodological considerations within an emerging field of research
Joint Symposium NW 33 and NW 27
Qualitative interviews have been critiqued for offering a reduced and isolated access to the complexity of life (Kvale, 2006). As identities are continuously negotiated in dialogue with the cultural contexts the individuals are navigating in, as well as changeable over time (Polkinghorne, 1988), it requires of the methodology to access spatial as well as temporal negotiations. On that basis, this study aims to explore the kind of knowledge that longitudinal narrative interviews of student’ transitions give access to, by examining the interaction of identity, spatiality and temporality. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are emphasised as fields with a relatively homogeneous student body as well as low completion rates, and where diversity is challenged (Henriksen, Dillon, & Ryder, 2015). As a result, identity processes in and out of STEM become crucial to understand. This study will provide concrete examples from two longitudinal qualitative research projects of students’ transition processes into and out of higher education STEM in Denmark. One followed 38 students from upper secondary school and into higher education. The other followed 25 students from the end of their master studies and into work life. All interviews were conducted over a three-year period by applying a narrative approach (Andrews, Squire, & Tamboukou, 2013; Hollway & Jefferson, 2000). The analysis drew on the ideas of narrative psychology (Bruner, 2004) and the notion of possible future selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986). The results show how longitudinal interviews offer a critical platform to understand the continuous negotiations of identities in STEM as a product of the interaction of the past, present and future, and how they evolve over various contexts. One example is how students’ choice-narratives and STEM-aspirations are continuously negotiated as new experiences challenge them and new perspectives of the past and the future are made available to the students through new cultural contexts they engage in. As a result ‘I always wanted to study’ turns out to be a narrative negotiated over time, rather than being stable, settled and unchangeable. Longitudinal interviews provide a focus on the complexity, negotiations and identity processes, and allow access to the horizontal and temporal negations of the interviewees’ past, present and future. However, there is a risk of vertical negations and the cultural contexts the narratives are produced within becomes less central. This is one of the reasons why longitudinal narrative interviews can be relevant to combine with other methods, for example, ethnographic approaches.
Andrews, M., Squire, C., & Tamboukou, M. (2013). Doing narrative research. London: Sage. Bruner, J. (2004). Life as narrative. Social Research, 71(3), 691-710. Henriksen, E. K., Dillon, J., & Ryder, J. (2015). Understanding student participation and choice in science and technology education. Dordrecht: Springer. Hollway, W., & Jefferson, T. (2000). Doing qualitative research differently: free association, narrative and the interview method. London: Sage. Kvale, S. (2006). Dominance through interviews and dialogues. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(3), 480-500 Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-696. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
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