'One of the lads'

Year: 2013

Author: Edwards, Tony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The use of case writing/case studies (Shulman, 1992; Stake, 2009) has long been utilised in teacher education and critical incident reflection (Tripp 1998; Brookfield 1998) has been a particular mode contributing to researcher reflexivity in such case work. This paper seeks to explore the possibilities of cases constructed along the journey of doctoral research, using the lens of critical epistemology, as proffered by Kincheloe (2004).

In subscribing to the view that, in the action of collecting data the researcher is positioned as a learner, critical incidents can be pivotal in forming the identity of the researcher and their relationship with research participants, as well as contributing knowledge to the evolving project. Analysis of such incidents through case writing build those different forms of knowledge and build an understanding of how context has shaped the incident and the researcher.

Paying respect to the critical ethnographic tradition of Willis (1972-75), this paper works with a critical incident with one ‘lad', to be known here as ‘Brunetti Boy' and highlights some of the complexities of researching in a particular educational setting at this time.  By documenting a researcher's and year 9 student's positioning within the context of a particular incident, the author is called upon to articulate far more than simple observations and descriptions. Rather critical incident analysis unpacks personal and professional responses so as to understand and subsequently explore what is at stake for one of the parties. This is reflexivity at work.

For this author the incident involves an account of interactions with a secondary school student taking part in a research project about aspirations for the future, with particular reference to post compulsory education and career pathways. The learning for the researcher was not anticipated nor immediately recognised until the case writing was undertaken. While the account of one lad's thinking has illuminated the researcher's perplexity, in seeking to attain clarity and solutions to the immediate challenge, there is further  value in considering the incident as shedding light on the broader and deeper issues about adult-young people's relationships, and their shaping by the context of the ecologies of schools as institutions (Kemmis, Edwards-Groves, Wilkinson, & Hardy, 2012).