Research as Reflexive Practice: Inquiry, Interpretation and Worth

This week’s readings led to a great deal of reflection on why we take up educational research.  The readings provided specifics related to how to conduct qualitative, quantitative and action research including how to conduct a literature review, literature mapping and the use of working titles from Creswell and  how to use reflection to guide research through reflexive inquiry from Hendricks. The more important reflection for me was that researchers need to truly understand what work is worth whiling over and therefore worthy of conducting a research inquiry.  Creswell (2014) warns that research projects require a great deal of time and energy and therefore a researchers must examine how their research topic can help fulfill them personally in the pursuit of understanding a topic of inquiry (p. 27).  Creswell provided questions that a researcher must ask oneself about whether a topic should be studied. Creswell addresses the standard questions such as does the “study add anything new to the body of research” and does the research add to the collected knowledge of a topic (p. 27).  Something new that Creswell adds to the discussion is the notion of how research can be used to further civil society.  He asks us to consider if the research inquiry “lifts up the voices of the underrepresented groups or individuals” (p. 27).  The idea that research can be a means in which to further social justice and to address ideas, beliefs and transform society is powerful and with it come great responsibility for the researcher.

Once such means of determining the worth of a research topic, which Hendricks (2013) addresses in Chapter 2, is through the use of reflexive inquiry (p, 31). Through this practice educators “place present thoughts and actions in the context of past thoughts, actions and history” (Hendricks, 2013, p. 31).  They therefore ground their research inquiry in their experiences acknowledging that they influence their beliefs and actions (p. 31).  Similar to that of of reflexive inquiry, Hendricks stresses that the nature of qualitative research “is to understand and interpret phenomena as they occur in natural settings” (p. 3).  This desire to study situations and contexts, rather than to control them allows researchers to “make meaning” from the deeply complex and nuanced situations that exist in our schools (p.3).  Jardine, Clifford and Friesen (2002) take up this work of using research to make meaning such as Hendrick describes.  In their writing they explain, “simply put that our research is interpretive in character.  It also means that classroom events that we are interested in are themselves interpretive in character” (Jardine, 2002, p. xxii).  Jardine acknowledges that classrooms are made of complex relationships and living histories that cannot be controlled but can be studied in order to make meaning together with students.  As we begin to consider our topics of inquiry for our research may we endevour to “while over a topic – working at it, composing it, composing ourselves over it, remember and cultivating one’s memory of it” and in doing so learn and share with others something worthwhile about ourselves and the world (Jardine, 2002, p. 226).

Reference:

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Hendricks, C. (2013). Improving schools through action research: A reflective practice approach (3rd ed.). Montreal, QC: Pearson Education.

Clifford, P. Friesen, S. Jardine, D. W. (2002). Back to the Basics of Teaching and Learning: Thinking the World Together. New York: Routledge.

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