Interrogating the reflexive subject in/of teacher education

Year: 2006

Author: Hastings, Wendy, Letts, Will

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we address the question “What is the subject of teacher education research?” by looking at our collaborative research exploration facilitated by our joint involvement in a “community of scholars”, called Subjectivities in Teacher Education (SITE). At the heart of the research endeavour is a doctoral research project but what we are examining in this paper is how the doctoral candidate [Wendy], in the first instance, and her work with critical friend [Will] in the second instance, made sense of the researcher’s lived experience and the changing terrain of her non-unitary subjectivity. To that end, we explore just who the researcher thinks she is as she engages in a research project about the experiences of school-based teacher educators supporting preservice teachers on practicum placements in teacher education programs. Using research journal entries, field notes and interviews with the teacher educator/researcher [Wendy], we draw out the ways that reflexivity and intersubjectivity in the research process make a difference to both the research and especially to the researcher.

Acknowledging and paying attention to reflexivity is not new and writing reflexively into and about research has a rich history. Lily Orland-Barak (2002) chose to embed her personal reflections into the main narrative section of her writing to highlight “biological nature of the reflexive process” of writing (p. 270). She became aware of, “how mutually engaging and intersubjective the process of fieldwork is, and how her own subjectivity shaped the research as she listened to women’s stories” (2002, p. 270). Similarly, Yvonna Lincoln (1997) notes that the life of the researcher is influenced by the research – but this appears to be in relation to the responses and respondents, not so much about the potential for researcher learning through the methodology. However Di Bloomfield (2006) does recognise the interrelatedness of method and analysis and the transformative potential of that relationship. Citing Dorothy Smith, Bloomfield (2006) was able to describe the ‘power of the discursive practices of the academy and sociological research … which served to conceal her standpoint as a researcher’. Smith advocates a need to self-consciously critique and potentially rework the analysis in order to go beyond a partial reading of the situation under investigation. Carolyn Ellis (1997) questions the common convention that insists that the genre of academic writing should “hide” all introspective data – you should not give voice to what one feels throughout the research process. She posits that there’s something valuable in provoking readers to see themselves in the work.