Narrative inquiry: Bringing the historical into contemporary experience for renewed insights into the education encounter

Year: 2019

Author: Victory, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper draws on a narrative inquiry (Clandinin and Connelly) into the authentic texts of Paul of Tarsus (Saint Paul). Paul’s letters are not an obvious source for education research, however, for those who can suspend existing adjudications, which is what narrative inquiry invites us to do, they provide rich insights into the education encounter. The study is not the first to explore Paul from a materialist perspective (e.g. Badiou, Fredriksen, Žižek), nor the first to consider Paul as an educator, (Judge, Smith, Edsall) but is the first to apply the narrative inquiry model to Paul’s letters in search of new understandings of the education encounter.

While Paul’s letters are now imbued with a religious sensibility, it was not always so. When written in the first century CE, they were letters from an educator to communities in the process of learning about a new life. The narratives, as recorded in Paul’s letters, reveal communities in which education became the means by which all who joined were emancipated from the restrictions of their identity. The approach is captured in Paul’s statement to the community in Galatia, there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. This was a challenge to the structures of Roman society, and an idea that offers new possibilities for those in search a new way for contemporary education. It has possibilities for educators committed to principles of access, engagement and equity.

The inquiry offers an unusual application of Clandinin’s four elements of narrative inquiry (2016), using historical documentation to bring new insights into contemporary education experience. Thelivinghas been done in the first century CE, I am responding to thetelling in Paul’s letters, creating aretellingof his narrative as an educator through the lens of my experience. Thereliving is enacted in my practice as a teacher educator and researcher and thisrelivingmay be extended to the practice of others when sharing this inquiry.

The paper seeks to prompt a dialogue about the interrelationship between narrative inquiry, reflexivity (Giddens), and a pragmatic view of knowledge (Clandinin and Rosiek). As educators we are accountable for our actions to the social group with whom we interact, for they are witness to what we do and who we are. It asks the questions, ‘how are we transformed by our experience of narrative inquiry and how do we share that experience?’