Research in your own backyard: Recognising assumptions and redefining identities

Year: 2002

Author: Pressick-Kilborn, Kimberley, Sainsbury, Erica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

To a teacher or lecturer, a classroom is familiar turf. Many practices are taken for granted and rarely questioned by the students or teacher. When the classroom becomes the context for a research project, however, the teacher often doubles as researcher. The teacher/researcher already has an established identity and roles in the field and while there are benefits to such insider knowledge, the challenge exists in seeing the familiar site through new eyes. This challenge is shared by the students as they negotiate the multiple roles that the researcher will play. Studies of student learning and motivation from a sociocultural perspective are facing such challenges as research is increasingly conducted in real-life classroom contexts over time.

Following a literature review of research in familiar settings, this paper draws on two research projects, one conducted in a primary classroom and the other in a tertiary institution. Aspects such as the researcher's construction of self and the nature of multiple identities, the making of the familiar strange, the revelation of the concerns and aims of the project to participants and the impact of the research on the field site will be considered. Strategies used to address and manage these issues will also be discussed, so that an integration of theoretical and practical concerns is achieved.