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Encounters of life and scholarship: Opening to transformations, inquiries and vulnerabilities

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Re: Encounters of life and scholarship: Opening to transformations, inquiries and vulnerabilities
by Stephen Bigger - Tuesday, 9 January 2018, 11:55 PM

Hi everybody, I think this is an interesting project in which evaluation is potentially important. I like the emphasis on the researchers realizing that their interviews spoke to issues and experience in their own lives,  and made this an outcome of the research report. I have a few issues to raise to help make the conclusions to be more soundly based. The reflection and reflexivity (see below) seems a bit woolly at the moment. I hope this helps.

Issue 1. How might I talk about ‘myself’ in research?

Is it I the 4 researchers? Or I the 4 participants? Or both (all 8)? How do these inter-relate? Who has the dominant voice – narrator or narrated? How do the four researchers inter-relate, a complex ‘I’. What is the place of dialogue with all these ‘I’s?  In these experiences described – where does criticality come from? I can reflect autobiography but there is the potential here for autobiography discussed within a critical community. How might this work? Written accounts discussed by the group? Accounts composed within group discussion. Whatever, there needs to be a sharpness. Frigga Haug did something similar in what she called 'memory work' (the topic there was feminist understanding, but it is generalisable


Issue 2. Reflective Practice and Reflexivity

Reflective is simple, the act of reflecting on what we are doing. Reflective practice, considering what we do. Comes from looking at ourselves as through a mirror (or a camera nowadays). Reflexivity is more tricky. Cambridge Uni Dictionary says: "Reflexive words show that the person who does the action is also the person who is affected by it:
In the sentence "She prides herself on doing a good job", "prides" is a reflexive verb and "herself" is a reflexive pronoun."
In a sense, what is done bounces or bends back on us. So the two words are not synonyms. Considering critically your practice is 'reflective'. Noting that your pedagogy affects your own state of mind in 'reflexive'. Where in your sample is reflection, and where reflexity?


Issue 3. Methodology.

In methodology – why the 8 and then why the 4? What attempts were made to contact a larger number as the basis of sample selection? Did all 4 authors interview each, or 1-1?

How did the 4 authors agree their critical agenda? There is anecdotal discussion but is anything more theoretical/philosophical possible? Did each writer and then share/discuss? Or sit around a table? Were there any emotional pressures/tensions in such sharings?

The Living Theory here uses evaluation through biographical interviews. There is a literature on biographical research and more recently auto-ethnography which is closely related. I recommend you look recent works on these up and relate them to your work, especially their justifications of this work being trustworthy. Try  Merill and West, Using Biographical Methods in Social Research. Defend the interplay between Living Theory and Biography.


Issue 4. Critical theory.

How are the biographical stories ‘read’, with what assumptions and bias? I recommend looking at Critical Theory – teasing out social assumptions under the surface leading to social critique, under the surface racism, sexism/gender issues, class and cultural assumptions. This makes bias less  ‘problem’ and more of a thing studied. It is an answer to the question How can our discussions be socially critical (and this be based on social justice

Further reading.

To  address issues of trustworthiness I recommend that the authors consult:

Jones, Adams and Ellis, Handbook of Autoethnography (Routledge)

Denzin, Lincoln and Smith, Handbook of Critical and Ingigenous Methodologies

Darder, Baltodano and Torres, The Critical Pedagogy Reader (latest edition)