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Transformative Inquiry

welcome the awkwardness

Our research

This iBook has been generated from the findings of a 4-year study funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). In this study, we employed a phenomenological narrative methodology as we examined the personal practical knowledge of teachers (pre-service, instructors and mentors) through listening carefully to the richness of their stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000).

With over 200 participants to date, data gathered includes student assignments, transcriptions of instructor~inquirer sessions, transcriptions of focus groups, and participant generated images (e.g. collage and season counts). These data were analyzed using a dialogic team process where we as researchers, entered “humbly into the life world” of each participant to gain understanding of “his or her wholeness and specificity” (Thomas & Pollio, 2002, p. 7-8). This phenomenological approach develops “the art of being sensitive to subtle undertones of language” so that nuanced interpretations of the data could be made (van Manen, 1990/1997, p. 111).

Our method also applied a reflexive technique where attention was turned onto each of us as researchers who were an integral part of the social phenomenon being studied (Ahern, 1999). Our assumptions have been carefully described and acknowledged at various points (for example, see Tanaka, Tse, Stanger, Piché, Starr, Farish, & Abra, in press), in order to make “visible and audible the complicated interconnections between the topic of the writer’s gaze, and her ideas, values and beliefs, as well as the feelings she attaches to each of these” (Chambers, 2004, p. 2).

While researcher knowledge is considered as a valuable source of data (Oberg, 1989), to provide further veracity this knowledge was recursively examined and contextualized for relational accountability within the broader context of researchers, scholars, practitioners, artists, and thinkers who also engage with the topic (Chambers, 2004; Wilson, 2007). Overall, the project draws heavily from a team approach that engages multiple perspectives in the project design, data coding, data analysis and dissemination. The multifaceted points of view brought forward in team conversations encourage humility, as team members help each other to be critical of what each thinks they are hearing in the data, thus our multiple perspectives lead to a sense of crystallization (Richardson, 2000).

Future focus of the project includes analysis of gendered response to TI and interviews across Canada and internationally with experienced educators who resonate with the TI approach. We are also very interested in following our participants into their careers in order to see how TI plays out amidst amidst various schooling contexts.
Over an 18-month analysis phase, the data were read to identify meaningful units as well as a sense of the whole, then clustered by themes, and finally, a thematic structure was developed (Thomas and Pollio, 2002). Frequent team discussions focused on understanding the meaning of the data through careful and reflexive listening, resonance with our personal practice as educators, and carefully “mining the data for metaphors” (p. 36). Analysis continues to be ongoing and recursive. We fully expect our models to change as we continue on.

In addition to the purpose of the book as a way to illuminate our findings, Interactives 1.3-1.7 show an overview of the components of TI that we have garnered from the analysis thus far. The model is a series of concentric and nested circles that have wobbly and unclear edges. These edges should not be interpreted as hard-boundaries but rather as ever-changing places that concepts can flux and transfer amongst the layers. The dark green centre holds Cajete’s three questions for educators; these are the stars that guide us. Moving outward from there, we have a small ring that states our purpose: to help pre-service teachers navigate the swampy terrain of learner~teacher~researcher to the best of their abilities. The next circle, attend, describes the key features we believe need to be in our awareness as educators, such as knowledge, power, and re-imagining the purpose of education. From there, the mentor ring shows some of the intentions of the course instructors, and the engage ring highlights how pre-service teachers engage in the TI process. The outer ring is called the power of the circle, a phrase that has come to mean more than simply πr2! It represents the value of taking time and space to be intentional in our learning for ourselves, each other, and Earth. The Power of the Circle is the power of relating and supporting each other through a journey. It can simply reflect the literal space of learning but also the community in which we are learning. It is the ‘safe-enough space’ that we create together in the classroom that allows us to be emotionally engaged, connected, and generous.

Complicated? You bet. But as we go, we see some inherent simplicity and will try to relay that to you in the following pages. You can click on each of the components of this model to better understand each bit. And please keep in mind that this is a model, a simplified version of a complex process that needs to be experienced to be fully understood.

Over the next few pages, you will see the model of the process of TI built and described. It might be confusing at first, but keep returning to it as you read through this book. You should notice that the concepts, language, and organization represented by this circular model are reflected in the organization and structure of this book. Physical versions of this model will be shared with you in class.
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Interactive 1.1-1.5: TI Model Layers


At this point, we would like to acknowledge that some of our past students have resisted the process of TI. Some people just prefer not to go into the swamp at all and Interactive 1.8 describes some of the common resistance points in more detail. As a student in the course, you may want to refer to this when you feel you are “stuck” somehow. Resistance can occur in many forms, such as flight (skimming the surface, apathy, pleasing the instructor, etc.), fight (perfectionism, seeing TI as airy-fairy, etc.) and freeze (fear of failure, worry about what others think, etc.). Other indicators include ignorance (being oblivious to the process), shame and the overarching culture of anxiety in which we all live. The analysis of this data set is still ongoing. Again, click on each aspect to read more.

You will notice that some words in the following models are surrounded by coloured boxes. These boxes indicate a particularly dynamic connectivity with another ring or resistance concept, for example, shame. These connectivities arose from the data and indicate the complexity of overlapping concepts amongst the rings.

Interactive 1.6: TI Interactive Model
Clicking a layer will start it circling. Clicking it again will pause it circling. Clicking the centre will restart the animation. You can drag the resistance circles around wherever you want!

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