"Tumbling"through life... and expecting a safe landing: A narrative journey of an educational researcher

Year: 2009

Author: Geiblinger, Helmut

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This autobiographical and personal narrative is a representation and reconstruction of my journey as an experienced, but less then consistent educational researcher, due to a disrupted educational career path. My research development journey over almost four decades has been defined by seemingly inextricable phases which I have identified as experience, proficiency, and reflection. The narrative inquiry approach used for this paper has revealed that my early career as an active elite performer and competitor provided an important apprenticeship for my current role as an academic and researcher. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) argue that through narrative we can construct and reconstruct our personal and professional identities and in the process begin to understand the significance of particular events.

The autonomous skill performance I demonstrated as an elite gymnastics competitor was enriched through my engagement in the phenomenon of “flow”. The flow phenomenon is a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in what they are doing, characterised by a feeling of energised focus, dedication, and feelings of success and engagement (Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). From the unique perspective of an elite competitor, I have sought to pass on my practical experience, and communicate my understanding of skilled performance to other aspiring talented individuals through coaching. In addition, I have provided qualitative evaluation of skilled performance of elite athletes through judging to the highest levels of elite sport.

In my current role as an academic and researcher in the field of education and human movement studies, I have brought together my expertise, experience and knowledge into my doctoral studies and educational research. My understanding of how the human body functions as an integrated system has informed my holistic approach to research. McAdams (2001) argued that the content of a life story embodies a person's identity and that both develop and change over time. In this paper, I reflect on my research journey through the process of narrative inquiry by focussing on the reconstruction of my practical experiences and knowledge during my gymnastics career and experiences as an academic and researcher. The parallel of performing at an elite level which requires one to intimately understand their strengths and limitations and to consistently train has informed my academic approach. Education can also be viewed as an elite performance requiring the resilience, dedication and commitment I demonstrated as an elite gymnast. This paper demonstrates how my research journey continues to be informed by this early experience allowing me to train my pre-service teachers to recognise and facilitate moments of"flow"and also execute numerous safe landings in their teaching career.