research and teaching interests in teacher education, teacher identity, professional development, at-risk teachers, secondary language and science education
What’s up with this book? “ This book charts fifteen years of narrative research on difficulty at the site of the teaching self” (p. vii). “ Although I value many kinds of authentic research, this work particularly has contributed qualitatively to my understanding and knowledge about difficulty in education, narrative research, the practice of teaching, and the curriculum of being” (p. vii). “ I do not presume to write a narrative ‘methods’ textbook prescribing how others might conduct inquiries around their own compelling questions” (p. vii). “ I offer an honest, phenomenological description, a hermeneutic inquiry into difficulties arising at the site of the teaching self, as a way of learning to be present in the generative space of educational work” (p. vii).
story ≠ narrative
For your consideration... (an encouraging and cautionary note) “ Narrative research can be an authentic, autobiographical project which requires ethical stewardship, literary skill, intelligent attention, erudite writing craft, and a persistent, sentient, honest hermeneutic vision on the part of such a researcher” (p. 7). “ Narrative research can also be too narcissistic, a banal project that involves mostly self-interest, lack of scholarly discipline, misappropriation of the experiences of one’s ‘research subjects,’ and simplistic, weak, reflective interpretation and facile judgment” (p. 7).
7 orbital spheres of narrative analysis “ Narrative research is not for the faint of heart, certainly not for those seeking escape from quantitative research. Horizons unfamiliar will emerge, some daunting, some redemptive. A choice to engage in narrative research should arise out of authentic research questions. It is the very difficulty itself revealed in emerging narrative that draws deeper study, luring the teacherly and writerly mind to more benthic zones of the self and profession” (p. 29). “ When teachers become harried, lose their confidence, begin to question life in teaching, lose patience with students, colleagues, administrators, parents, and politicians, they often construct stories of their increasing difficulty” (p. 27). “ There is a kind of post-secondary institutional harassment that still abides, this time because (education grad students) may be drawn to qualitative, interpretive inquiry. Because teachers and school administrators themselves are so well institutionalized, most conform and follow widely accepted forms of research, usually in the quantitative, scientific traditions” (p. 27).
Orbital sphere I Naïve storying
breaking silence, finding language and voice
(re)telling of an experience, image, event, conflict or puzzlement about a difficulty
common world or private world
basic, descriptive: who, what, where, why, when?
“ Something happened; what is being told at the elemental story level?” (p. 30).
Orbital sphere II Psychological de/re-construction
includes affect and cognition
feeling is inextricably linked with the cognitive process of making sense
what emotions are present in the subject, the researcher, and the reader?
“ How can one think about the story, what emotions are evinced, what cognitive work of understanding more fully is called for?” (p. 30).
Orbital sphere III Psychotherapeutic ethics
asks researcher/author/reader to engage in issues surrounding professional ethics and morality
acknowledge and confront our own potential for harm in teaching and research
“ Researchers attend to how to recall our shadows, own our capacity for projection and transference, and do honest work on our own psyche (spirit, soul, self)” (p. 30).
Orbital sphere IV Narrative craft
what constitutes the ‘container’ or temenos of the story? (can we identify the elements of convention, structure, and craft that hold the story together?)
“ This fourth orbital focuses on how the narrative construction safely holds everything in one place - people, events, relationships, setting, and difficulty or conflict - long enough to study it” (p. 30).
Orbital sphere V Hermeneutic enterprise
careful interpretive exploration
what messages lie beneath the surface text as we move toward deeper meaning?
makes use of multiple lenses
seeks to uncover what is contextual or embedded, and to reveal multiple layers of interpretation
“What other interpretations can be made about the story in question?” (pp. 30-31).
Orbital sphere VI Curriculum & pedagogy
asks questions about what the story text offers in terms of insightful, pragmatic implications for teachers
what window into the teaching profession might we (re)discover?
“ This sixth orbital of analysis focuses on pedagogy and what can be learned and known about teaching from the narrative data” (p. 31).
Orbital sphere VII Aesthetics & mindfulness in research & teaching
artistic gestures that release the narrative into the public domain (purposeful presentation)
conscious reconstitution of ourselves
clarity of insight, essence, gravity, truth, authenticity, truth & beauty in education
“ ... a quiet place where we really know we are mortal and we freely set down all our narrative bundles and simply breathe in the miracle of existence as human beings” (p. 31).
Narrative activity 6 photographs
Orbital sphere I (naïve storying)
- who, what, where, why, when?
Orbital sphere II (psychological de/re-construction)
- the affective (identify emotions: subject, researcher, reader)
Orbital sphere III (psychotherapeutic ethics)
- what is the potential for... bias? causing harm? projection or transference? misinterpretation? roadblocks for honesty with self/psyche?
Questions, comments, thoughts, concerns?
Can you envision yourself conducting narrative research? Why or why not?
What are some of the challenges you might face as a narrative researcher?
In what ways could engaging in narrative analysis enhance your experience as a graduate student?
In what ways could engaging in narrative analysis enhance your experience as an education professional?
Do you think that teacher-education programming could benefit from placing a greater emphasis on engagement with narrative learning practices?
Fowler, L. C. (2006). A curriculum of difficulty: Narrative research and the practice of teaching . New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Sumara, D. & Luce-Kapler, R. (1998). (Un)becoming a teacher: Negotiating identities while learning to teach . Canadian Journal of Education, 21 (1), 65-83.
Sumara, D., Luce-Kapler, R., & Iftody, T. (2008). Educating consciousness through literary experiences. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40 (1), 227-241.
Van Manen, M. (1994). Pedagogy, virtue, and narrative identity in teaching. Curriculum Inquiry, 24 (2), 135-170.
Fowler’s forthcoming book:
The T’Ching: Mindfulness in teaching amid difficulty and change