Scholarly article on topic 'Life Stories as a Biographic-narrative Method. How to Listen to Silenced Voices'

Life Stories as a Biographic-narrative Method. How to Listen to Silenced Voices Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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Abstract of research paper on Sociology, author of scientific article — M.E. Prados Megías, M.J. Márquez García, D. Padua Arcos

Abstract This article intends to set a stage for dialog about our experience as researchers over the past ten years, how it relates to narrative research, and how we are affected by pursuing a career from the perspective of narrative thought. This approach implies synthesizing and creating knowledge through interaction and exchange with research participants by discussing, questioning and debating, not only with those taking part in studies directly but also with other research groups that conduct work on the narrative. Other qualitative approaches, such as Case Studies, Ethnography, and Action-Research, which boast greater consolidation in the field of qualitative research, include narrative in their research report writing, but as merely a secondary contribution. As researchers, we remove ourselves from understating narrative as something complementary; instead, we speak of narrative research as a method and process to deal with research, subjects, and the stories they tell (Dotta and Lopes, 2013). The use of narrative in research, in terms of “Life stories”, began during the first half of the twentieth century, when anthropologists and sociologists promoted the use of life stories in their work, as cited by Becker (1996), Bertaux (1981), Denzin (1970) and Plummer (2005). Narrative allows us to truly recapture the research subject, time shared together, i.e., reflection as a commitment to the individual, the way we interacted, and the ethical care taken during the process.

Academic research paper on topic "Life Stories as a Biographic-narrative Method. How to Listen to Silenced Voices"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 237 (2017) 962 - 967

7th International Conference on Intercultural Education "Education, Health and ICT for a Transcultural World", EDUHEM 2016, 15-17 June 2016, Almena, Spain

Life stories as a biographic-narrative method. How to listen to

silenced voices

Prados Megías, M.E.a*, Márquez García, M.J.b, Padua Arcos, D c

aFacultad de Ciencias de la Eduación, Universidad de Almería, Almería, 04120, Spain bFacultad de Pedagogía, Universidad de Valladolid, 04120, Spain c Grupo Investigación Hum-619, ProCie, Universidad de Málaga, 04120, Spain

Abstract

This article intends to set a stage for dialog about our experience as researchers over the past ten years, how it relates to narrative research, and how we are affected by pursuing a career from the perspective of narrative thought. This approach implies synthesizing and creating knowledge through interaction and exchange with research participants by discussing, questioning and debating, not only with those taking part in studies directly but also with other research groups that conduct work on the narrative. Other qualitative approaches, such as Case Studies, Ethnography, and Action-Research, which boast greater consolidation in the field of qualitative research, include narrative in their research report writing, but as merely a secondary contribution. As researchers, we remove ourselves from understating narrative as something complementary; instead, we speak of narrative research as a method and process to deal with research, subjects, and the stories they tell (Dotta and Lopes, 2013). The use of narrative in research, in terms of "Life stories", began during the first half of the twentieth century, when anthropologists and sociologists promoted the use of life stories in their work, as cited by Becker (1996), Bertaux (1981), Denzin (1970) and Plummer (2005). Narrative allows us to truly recapture the research subject, time shared together, i.e., reflection as a commitment to the individual, the way we interacted, and the ethical care taken during the process.

© 2017 The Authors. Publishedby ElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016. Keywords: narrative research- teacher training- narrative curriculum-methodology

* Corresponding author. Tel.: .: +34-690729683. E-mail address: eprados@ual.es

1877-0428 © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2017.02.136

1. Introduction

This contribution seeks to set a stage for dialog regarding personal research experience from the past ten years within the teaching framework, utilizing the biographic-narrative method as both a way of thinking and as a training tool. It is by no means an attempt to dogmatize or generalize an already consolidated practice among university professors, both nationally and internationally. Instead, it intends to demonstrate how the use of narrative research in preliminary training contributes to the production of critical thinking among students in the classroom, specifically in our case, as it relates to teacher training.

This process begins by reviewing and reflecting upon the narrative research works that we ourselves have conducted, similar to others carried out by national and foreign research groups. The first step came in 2010 with the organization of workshops on life stories in which studies conducted in narrative research were shared with both veteran and less experienced researchers. The aim in this case was to expose said research works to public criticism and debate so as to explore new roads and uses for narrative research. Ever since the outset of this work we have been synthesizing an accumulated knowledge from regarding interaction and exchange with research participants, by discussing, questioning and debating, not only with those taking part in studies but also with other research groups working in this field. Essentially, we are referring to an understanding that is horizontal, practical, relational, emotional and socio-political. Furthermore, the present work emphasizes the importance of incorporating biographic-narrative research into student learning processes in various degrees and Master's degrees available at the College of Education Science, although we do not exclude its use in other college degrees. Our overall goal is to guide Master's and Doctoral students regarding the use of this research method (Tapia et al., 2014).

Chase (2015) considers narrative research as a specific type of qualitative research, "characterized by an amalgam of interdisciplinary analytical approaches, diverse disciplinary perspectives and methods, which are both traditional and innovative and revolving around biographic details exactly as they are told by those who experienced them" (p.59). However, as researchers, we remove ourselves from understating narrative as something complementary, in order to speak of narrative research as a method and technique to address research, subjects and the stories they tell (Dotta and Lopes, 2013).

2. Narrative as a research method. Origins.

One must travel back to the 1970s in order to examine how and when narrative research emerged. At that time the need arose to incorporate and recover both identity and subjectivity in research if it were to make a commitment to politics and social justice. This implied a significant change in the conception of what the foundations and methods of scientific knowledge were. Feminist and cultural studies were the pillars and driving-forces behind this epistemological alternation, ideologically shattering the traditional division of science and politics (Harding, 1996; Chase, 2015). In their research, feminist scholars strove to conduct science that was not dominative. This implied a reevaluation of key concepts such as knowledge, objectivity, subject/object relationship, and the nature of the cognoscente subject, which had previously been unquestionable. This style of approaching research from a subjective point of view recovers the researcher and participants as individuals with a specific story and subjectivity, allowing them to enter and become part of the research. Contributions by Jerome Bruner (1988, 1997) helped to establish a new ontology by determining a way of constructing reality based on being, in which subjectivity is a condition necessary for social understanding. In this line, philosopher and anthropologist Paul Ricoeur (1995) states that personal experience is communicated as a story and specific reconstruction of that experience in which the combined reflection between the researcher and subject give meaning to what was lived the events in question.

Jean Clandinin (2007) analyzes this concept and highlights the key aspects that characterize the so-called "narrative turn":

a) People are no longer considered as research objects/subjects. Instead, they are conceptualized as biographic individuals capable of action who possess knowledge-building assets and different outlooks on the world. The story, therefore, is a joint production between the narrator (biographic individual) and the listener (researcher), which

requires an in-depth evaluation of this relationship to identify any recognized mutual influences that may have occurred during research (Denzin and Lincoln, 2012)

b) Until the 1970s, most scientific research was based on a positive and objective epistemology, in which the value of numbers outweighed the problems of social issues. Narrative turn and constructionist epistemologies challenge this restriction of science and question its ability to explain and understand social problems. Removing the quantification of data and considering the voice of a person as research information imply other methodological and ethical challenges innate to narrative research, namely, the concepts of how it is obtained, interpreted, organized, analyzed and disseminated.

c) Another crucial aspect of this approach deals with the need to reassess the role of the researcher. Essentially, they must assume an attitude of humility in the sense that they should not attempt to find patterns and general or generalizable explanations. Instead, they must seek out comprehension and specific reasons which help to unravel the complexities of social phenomena. Narratives, apart from describing what occurred, also express and contain emotions, thoughts, and interpretations, thereby placing emphasis on the uniqueness of each action or human event rather than on common characteristics (Bruner, 1987).

d) It is also important to cite the contributions made by learning sciences, neuroscience, and studies on the new unconscious (Hernández, 2013) which have influenced the success of narrative research. The aforementioned sciences state that human beings acquire (learn) many ways of thinking and acting unconsciously, which is why it is necessary -as researchers- to discover what has influenced us and to adopt different perspectives regarding the topics and problems we wish to study. This implies a challenge, inasmuch as the researcher must first check his/her subjectivity at the door before addressing a study.

3. The use of narrative in teacher training. The silenced voices of students.

Developing the professional identity of future teachers is a lengthy process in time. It could be said that it lasts their entire career and over time it is modified in different dimensions and contexts, in terms of personal, social, cultural, and professional experiences (Rivas, 2009; Lopes, 2007, 2011). Students come to colleges of education with their own personal experiences, which is not exempt from notions of what it means to be a teacher and what that job involves in the school environment. These conceptions and experiences are also filtered by the generational context of being raised in the so-called Society 3.0 (Moravec, 2012). Students also carry with them hours of observation and experience, which correspond to their time in classrooms throughout the different stages in the education system. It could be said that they have deeply internalized and even encapsulated teacher behaviors, assessment criteria, conceptions of learning, methods and teaching, about what activities work and which do not, along with what it means to be a student in terms of schooling and institutionalization; all of which is based on a traditional point of view. After fifteen years in education, they have listened to a variety of teachers and educators of different characteristics, which implies, in accordance with Knowles (2004), a professional socialization process.

When we combine narrative and life accounts in the curricular processes of teacher training, analysis, reflection and learning combine to constitute a process which expands the way we interpret the education system and the educational institution. Essentially, this represents a subjective construction process, which is also collective, in which the subjects themselves contribute towards the building of knowledge, both as "research subjects and as participating subjects". Consequently, we are led to conclude that school biographies acquire substantial weight in teaching practices in university classrooms as they help to reassess the socialization of the teacher and the role of the student, creating a context for action, analysis and criticism.

3.1. Identity and narrative

Professional identity from a narrative point of view could be described as a kaleidoscope comprised of three axes: space, time and culture. These axes act as a filter that evaluates impressions, observations, experiences, etc., that come from different fields, times, practices and truly complex cultural realities. The organization of this complexity gives rise to different types of identities rather than one unique and universal model. It is essential to consider identities, and

even complex and multiple identities, in order to understand the teaching profession. In this way, Rivas (2009) refers to "life stories" as realities that open new and promising possibilities for thinking about teaching and teaching training in as much as they allow everyday experiences to be a source of professional knowledge for teachers.

Throughout the literature on education there are numerous theories proposed concerning teacher professional identity. They range from those that consider it as an autonomous reality, disconnected from teacher training, which can be qualified as essentialist in nature, to others which regard this identity as a seed for innovative practices. The latter encompasses narrative research work and the life stories of teachers, making it possible to redirect guidance processes, as did the studies which began approximately fifteen years ago. As explained by Hollingsworth and Sockett (1994), these studies emerged from both the approach known as "teacher research" and from the works of Goodson (1981, 1995 and 1996). Eventually, they would become rather widespread (Goodson and Walker, 1991; Goodson and Hargreaves, 1996; Goodson and Sikes, 2001), occupying their own place in education research following the works of Clandinin and Connelly (1992, 1994, 1996); Connelly and Clandinin (1990, 1994, 1995, 2000), McEwan y Egan (1998), Sikes, Measor and Woods (1985) and Hargreaves (1996).

All of the studies analyzed based on teacher identity and accounts demonstrate that the social and cultural changes that have been taking place in recent years lead us to think about school from a critical point of view and with an emancipating rationality, far removed from technocratic suppositions and a linear learning model.

3.2. Academic narratives and methodological process

The construction of teacher professional identity from a biographic-narrative perspective requires a methodological process which encompasses the aspects of inquiry, analysis and interpretation. For this reason, narrative methods, by means of life accounts, will make it possible to create a wealth of extensive knowledge regarding what teacher professional identity is and what perception future teachers have of themselves. This can be achieved in as much as these accounts relate their experiences, perceptions and conceptions with respect to their identity and how they became who they are.

The voices of students studying for a degree in Kindergarten and Primary School Education represent the primary tools for data collection. Their stories were compiled by means of their own written accounts and others that were shared in virtual environments, open dialogs and in-depth interviews. We assert that subjects contribute their knowledge of reality and the social, cultural, and political ideas it is comprised of through the accounts of their experiences. This methodological point of view, therefore, is part of a communicative approach towards knowledge focused on subjects and on the way they collectively build their outlook on the world and their own reality, that is, their particular perspective regarding school, education processes and the teaching profession. As proposed by Rivas (2009), the narrative point of view does not represent pre-established and closed theoretical constructs, but instead, it reveals a functioning, versatile, active process, which correlates to a means of collective participation in the history of knowledge. From this perspective, knowledge itself is nothing more than a method of narrating about life, society, and the world in general (Bruner, 1997). As a result, the way in which subjects provide their accounts about their experiences is an essential component in the process of comprehending the reality they express (Goodson, 1996; Hargreaves, 1996; Goodson and Hargreaves, 1994). Therefore, what students reveal about their schooling is not only a compilation of facts and events, but fundamentally it is an understanding of the learning process, and the way they have reproduced and transformed it into a condition for their future actions. These biographical accounts contain the circumstances in which events occurred, the contexts in which students acted and the personal construct they have created from this data. This implies the need to recognize participating subjects as suppliers of both meaning and content. As Connelly and Clandinin (1995: 20) state: "the practitioners (the teachers) have watched themselves go without voice of their own in the research process, and, quite often, it has been difficult for them to feel encouraged and authorized to tell their stories. They have been made to feel unequal and inferior". Authors such as Hargreaves (1996) and Huberman (1995) share this idea. If this is true for teachers and student teachers, whichever their level of education, have been, and will continue to be ignored, in this process of knowledge building.

4. Resolution

The aspects involved in the production of narratives based on student voices and their accounts can be summarized in three steps (Márquez, Prados and Padua, 2014):

a. The production of the account itself and sharing ideas with other students to discover and discuss topics which arise from the information gathered serve as "bonds and frameworks upon which life experiences are weaved and strung together based on a meaningful whole" (Van Manen, 2003).

b. The creation of a rough draft a jointly constructed collective account based on the dialogs and arguments of and with students. This account establishes categories of analysis which encompass the topics that emerged from individual accounts, with the goal of giving meaning and organization to said information.

c. The production of the narrative account which embodies and gives historical-contextual meaning to the micro accounts. It is non-linear and emphasizes both the content and the research process.

We believe that narrative research is a suitable method for making progress in the comprehension of identity and new education trends regarding invisible learning. According to Conle (2003), this research method represents a class of knowledge that connects with the subjective, affective, and emotional aspects of the subjects, revealing their underlying meaning far beyond the format in which they are expressed. Rivas et al. (2010) clearly express the significance of biographies in research by stating that subjects' lives in their own contexts become visible, and thereby public. This means that biographies constitute an important element in the historical process of constructing reality based on a system of relationships in which the individual and collective are built mutually. In our research, the academic biographies of university students reveal complex experiences that are both diverse and full of intimate nuances. Together, although they represent different paths, the experiences at school are similar for all the subjects, although the way they position themselves in their accounts and the way experiences are recorded in their memories is quite different (Braddock, 1999).

Biographic accounts therefore allow us to champion what Conle (2003) refers to as "Narrative Curriculum", as these stories can be considered as a bridge between experience and scientific literature, in the sense that the inquiry deals with topics intimately connected with life itself. Investigating experience implies constructing concepts with their own meaning, which represents an important tool for allowing students to understand how history and culture are produced, thereby allowing them to portray themselves as teachers and researchers with an involvement that is political, social and also emotional.

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