Telling stories: Remembering in schools working under adverse conditions

Year: 2005

Author: Hayes, Debra

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

We know what good schools look like. Experience tells us how hard it is to create and maintain them, particularly when they are operating under adverse conditions – constant change, limited resources, high staff and student turnover, and a concentration of first time leaders and beginning teachers. The Changing Schools in Changing Times project was designed to investigate ways in which schools working under these conditions can engage in sustained whole school change. The research team was faced with the dilemma of how to hold conversations with participants because, like them, we were also working under conditions that made it difficult to get together in the same place without interruption for long enough to maintain a focus on what works and why it matters. Unremarkably, we started to write field notes, make classroom observations, take minutes of meetings and transcribe interviews, but we needed a way of supporting and documenting our conversations that could be regularly and readily shared and negotiated with research participants. We started to scratch together short stories about schools that drew on all our data sources, and shared them with each other and the research participants. They have come to function as both a product of the research and one of its data sources. They raise a number of questions related to their use and distribution, such as: Whose stories are they? In whose interest are they told? Do those depicted within them recognise themselves? These stories are described and discussed in this paper, and the roles they are playing in the research and reform processes are critically analysed.