A methodological technique for exploring unspoken dispositions that guide teacher action

Year: 2016

Author: Gale, Trevor, Cross, Russell, Mills, Carmen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines research techniques used in a large scale, multi-site qualitative Australian Research Council Discovery Project on how social justice practices are enacted in education, with a focus on teachers’ pedagogic activity. Blending Bourdieuian sociology with Vygotskian cultural-historical activity theory, we introduce a new analytic construct—‘social justice dispositions’ (SJD)—to better understand and account for the dissonance that can arise between what is said and done in relation to studies of classroom practice. Because SJDs operate between belief and practice, they are difficult to study using conventional methodological techniques, such as simple interviews (a focus on what is said) or observations (what is done). While not the only approach taken in our research, this paper foregrounds our use of stimulated recall procedures as a technique used to provoke our teacher participants to ‘speak to practice’, thereby prompting reflection on the otherwise unspoken dispositions that guide teacher action in the context of their classroom settings. We explain how data generated through this process were then analyzed to understand the relationship between disposition and contexts for action using cultural-historical activity theory as a framework for analysis. We close by considering implications for using stimulated recall procedures in future work, mindful of the impact that it has on the research process, as well its potential to be used in novel ways not typically documented in the literature to date in the types of stimulus material used to provoke even deeper levels of self-examination.