Narrative Inquirers in the Midst of Meaning-making: Interpretive Acts of Teacher Educators: Volume 16

Cover of Narrative Inquirers in the Midst of Meaning-making: Interpretive Acts of Teacher Educators

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Geography has always drawn me like a magnet or an artist or a lover. In real or virtual life I can always see the textures and feel the metaphors. So when I saw the picture of the braided river, the image used by the editors as a way to enter into the text, Narrative Inquirers in the Midst of Meaning-making: Interpretive Acts of Teacher Educators, I sat quietly opening my mind to possibilities. Like a magnet my eyes held fast to the picture, like an artist I imagined colors, like a lover the image created desire to see more. Yet, the cranes called me as well with the huge wingspan, regal stance and red crowns. I could see the birds dancing through the braids, hovering upon the sands, sinking into the water.

As narrative inquirers in the midst of our journeys as researchers and teacher educators, we restory a portion of our journeys here, as an invitation for readers to live alongside us – living, telling, reliving, retelling (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994). What resonance, tension, questions, or stories emerge as we enter the past?

Purpose – In this chapter, we examine the influence of the commonplace of sociality within narrative inquiry during the process of interpretation and meaning-making. Our project was multivisioned because we were interested in what we learned about the methodology of narrative inquiry within the context of a phenomenon for inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), which for this study was our identity as teacher educators (Bullough, 2005).

Approach – Using narrative inquiry, we interrogate our interpretive processes privileging the commonplace of sociality in examining stories of our identity as teacher educators from our own experience as teacher educators.

Findings – In our inquiry into interpretation from the orientation of the narrative commonplace of the social, four points of understanding emerged: (1) interpretation within the methodology of narrative inquiry is living and interpretation exists in the midst; (2) all three dimensions of the narrative inquiry space are always part of the process regardless of the commonplace under consideration; (3) if we look inward/outward in the process of interpretation, it always leads us back to the relational; and (4) when we deepen the analytic process, ethical issues, and therefore renewed grappling with our identity, emerge.

Research implications – Narrative inquiry at every phase – design, data collection, analysis, and representation – is a form of living and analysis and interpretation. As well, representation must allow space for the holistic and organic quality that this form of inquiry demands in the development and communication of ideas.

Value – The study points to the ways in which research on humans’ action and interaction returns to the relational and ethical even when that is not the focus of the research. Further, our response to narrative inquiry is not always analysis but often turns to story instead.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate “walking alongside” in the three-dimensional space of narrative inquiry, as explored through the field texts of two teacher educators, one mentoring the other through layered stories of “place.”

Approach – The authors use several interpretive tools to explore the question, “What sustains us as teacher educators?” The dialogue deepens as the authors make their professional knowledge landscapes more visible, bringing sacred stories, stories of gender, stories of hierarchy, stories of power, and stories of race forward, exploring how these stories are held in tension with one another. The authors ponder the questions: what happens when the small stories’ educators living in “place” become so far removed from authorized meta-narratives also underway in “place”? And, how can we remain wakeful to the numerous story constellations of others that revolve around us?

Findings – The analytical spaces described by the researchers helped them to realize and share with others that researchers may more fully respect the vulnerability our research participants feel that comes along with their own restorying. Vulnerability brought forward a common bond found in the experiences of “place” in the field texts. Narrative inquirers who write field texts, then restory their own narratives of place, add to the empirical dimensions of narrative inquiry and its attentiveness to lived experience.

Research implications – This demonstration, through its examples of the three-dimensional space of narrative inquiry, shows how interpretation emanates from the various cracks, corners, and even the air within this important analytical space. Narrative researchers may continue to unpack this space in their work. Narrative inquirers are also reminded that place is storied and that human beings are narratively anchored in place, an important consideration for relational research ethics.

Value – Readers can interact with the tools used by narrative inquirers, in this case, “tracing” and “burrowing and broadening.” Narrative inquirers may also recognize vulnerability as an effect of interpreting within the three-dimensional inquiry space, and understand the necessity of vulnerability as a part of thinking narratively.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore and make visible narrative thinking as an interpretive act in moving from field texts to research texts.

Approach – The chapter shows a collaborative meaning-making process of three teacher educators/researchers as they inquire into their identities as teacher educators. The chapter is framed around a focus on temporality, one commonplace within the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space and also shows connections with the two other commonplaces of sociality and place.

Findings – The researchers deepen the understanding of identity as situated in a continuity of experience in relation with others. They highlight how stories beget a storied response. They demonstrate that the experiential dimensions of sociality, temporality, and spatiality are interconnected. They find, through thinking narratively, that the relational is critical – both historically and in the present. Relationships shape a sense of self. This relational aspect of their research introduces ethical considerations. It is in honoring the stories they carry and the stories that are given to or shared with them that the possibility exists for shaping a responsive and attentive life.

Research implications – Numerous authors have written about the relational aspects of narrative inquiry as a research methodology. This chapter shows ways in which the relational aspects of narrative inquiry shaped both our inquiry into and our understandings of our identities as teacher educators. These foundational aspects of the relational both in terms of narrative inquiry as a research methodology and in identity inquiry open up many future research possibilities which extend far beyond narrative inquiry into teacher educator identity.

Value – Researchers utilizing a narrative inquiry approach will find a helpful explanation and demonstration of the process of making meaning of field texts by situating them within the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space.

Purpose – The purpose of this research was to make visible the process of analyzing our narratives of teacher identity.

Design/methodology/approach – These narratives of teacher identity were generated by isolating critical incidents and then drafting them as emblematic narratives. They were then shared with each other and compared against the tool of chronotopic motif developed by Bakhtin.

Findings – We found that our narratives, when filtered through the tool of chronotopic motif, reveal ambivalence about whether we desire to be known or unknown as teacher educators and as people. As we unpack our findings, we move through the tool of chronotopic motif, piece by piece, illuminating our stories by themselves, in relationship with each other, and against the professional literature on teacher educator identity and identity in general.

Practical implications – As teacher educators, we think it is important for others, particularly students, to be known. However, we are ambivalent about whether we want to be known and if so, by whom, and in what pockets of space and temporality.

Social implications – This research has implications for discussions of professional identity, role confusion in teacher education, and professional women in general. It adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that identity is a holistic process that factors heavily into what happens in the context of teacher education courses at a university.

Originality/value – Our chapter demonstrates to colleagues how to conduct a narrative analysis using a tool from literary theory.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore and deliberate over ways in which culture may contribute to the interpretation of field texts while also intersecting the dimensions of time, space, and sociality in accordance with Clandinin and Connelly's (2000) notion of the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space.

Approach – This chapter highlights research interactions within a long-term, school-based narrative inquiry dealing with lived curriculum experiences.

Findings – The researchers gained insight into some of the nuances of interpreting field texts. In particular, this study highlighted the potential influence of the cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, or linguistic backgrounds of researchers and their participants in shaping the interpretation of field texts.

Research implications – The field texts that were presented and examined in this chapter shed light on key curricular experiences, spaces, and silences that might occur in relational and interpretive research stemming from cross-cultural experiences and vantages. This uncovered strand of inquiry interpretation has wide implications for qualitative work.

Value – Narrative inquirers and researchers employing other interpretive forms of qualitative investigations might be influenced to attend to the themes of culture in their work in novel ways. New understandings of researcher bias and the subsequent interpretation of results can be seen from a cross-cultural experiential paradigm.

In the introductory chapter to this book, we invited the reader to join us along the banks of the braided rivers of narrative inquiry research. We hoped to convey through that metaphor the interconnections we find among the work of our contributing colleagues. As we conclude this book, we ask the reader to join us as we visit the headwaters and tributaries of this research tradition. Nearly three decades ago, Michael Connelly and Jean Clandinin embarked upon a study at Bay Street School (Clandinin, 1986; Clandinin & Connelly, 1992; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988; Connelly, Phillion, & He, 2003) to investigate teachers’ personal practical knowledge (Connelly & Clandinin, 1985). Using narrative as both phenomenon and methodology (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988; Clandinin & Connelly, 1992, 2000; Clandinin, 2008) for this study, their work in the field was integral to the adoption of narrative inquiry as a research methodology in the, then, burgeoning study of teacher knowledge (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988, 1990, 1999), teacher education (Clandinin, 1991, 1992; Connelly & Clandinin, 2000), and curriculum studies (Clandinin & Connelly, 2002). In these areas, as well as in others (i.e., Nursing; Chan, 2008; Chan & Schwind, 2006; Lindsay, 2006a, 2006b), this research, which focused on experience, became well-established and expanded.

Arguments for the development and use of narrative inquiry come out of a view of human experience in which humans, individually and socially, lead storied lives. People shape their daily lives by stories of who they and others are and as they interpret their past in terms of these stories. Story, in the current idiom, is a portal through which a person enters the world and by which his or her experience of the world is interpreted and made personally meaningful. Viewed this way, narrative is the phenomena studied in inquiry. Narrative inquiry, the study of experience as story, then, is first and foremost a way of thinking about experience. Narrative inquiry as methodology entails a view of the phenomena. To use narrative inquiry methodology is to adopt a particular view of experience as phenomena under study. (Connelly & Clandinin, 2006, p. 377)

Elaine Chan is a teacher educator in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches undergraduate courses in Multicultural Education and graduate courses in diversity, Curriculum Studies, and research methodology. She was an elementary level teacher in Canada and in Japan, and has conducted research in Canadian, American, and Japanese schools. Her research focuses on ways children, teachers, and families experience school curriculum, and ways in which identity, culture, and curriculum intersect on school landscapes in transition. She is coauthor of the book, Teaching the Arts to Engage English Language Learners with Margaret Macintyre Latta.

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Advances in Research on Teaching
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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