Reflections on LTE Researcher Conference
As the first poster, I would like to thank Richard and Eljee for making this conference happen, and express my appreciation of Mariam and Peter’s technological wizardry which enabled Magdalena to join us remotely from Uruguay! It was great too, to finally meet Achilleas and Magda, having read so much of their writing here on this blog…
I very much enjoyed all the papers, and was struck both by the sheer range and variety of research interests that exist in such a small group, and by the fact that whilst certain terms and themes kept popping up, these notions were conceptualised and operationalised in significantly different ways. Ideas such as empowerment, transformation, positionality, and situatedness were understood and exploited in a very diverse fashion.
The only dinosaur in the room, I presented my paper with no technological support, but appreciated the judicious way PowerPoint was used by my colleagues, particularly in terms of the evocative images chosen to represent themes by Mariam and Eljee.
The question and answer sessions were amongst the most stimulating interludes of the day, being both engaging and challenging, Julian and Juup ventured fearlessly into the fray time and again, offering perspectives both provocative and generative.
On a personal note, my paper was written for, and well-received by, the highly specific, advocacy-oriented QI audience in the States, and the reception it received today in Manchester emphasised the very different traditions and expectations of UK academia, throwing into stark relief yet again the challenges I face in completing my thesis in a fashion that reflects my passion and principles, but satisfies examiners in a system where my maverick status has apparently become institutionalised. Can I pull it off? I’m certainly going to try!
This is a delayed contribution to the interesting discussion about ‘unintended outcomes’. In addition to all that has been said, I think it’s quite important to remember that research questions are not carved in stone. I am not familiar with yours, but as you write your story you may want to consider a careful reformulation of some of these questions to encompass your new findings, a bit like a womb that expands with the size of the baby 🙂 After all, research questions are meant to guide, and not to chain, exploration.
Was anyone else struck by a loose parallel between Eljee’s exploration of “visible (ethnic minority) NESTS” and Magda’s reflection on her own status as an “invisible NNEST”? i.e. whereas for Eljee ‘non-native-like’ appearance (in the eye of the beholder) smoetimes seemed to challenge her NEST (employment) status, for Magda – as mentioned in passign in her talk – her posibly ‘native-like’ appearance (in the eyes of the beholder) means that sometimes her NNEST status is not (immediately) apparent.
And I am also reminded of Helen’s work (not presented on Fri) on her status as a TESOL practitioner whose professional development trajectory is more akin to that of a NEST despite her NNEST status in linguistic terms.
So, we seem to have in our LTE doctoral community a cluster of researchers all problematising (to a larger or lesser extent, as a part of their doctoral studies or the background for it) the binary distinction between NESTS/ NNESTS than remains an influential reference point when conceptualising those involved in our (TESOL) profession.
The conference was a great event and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It left me in awe of everybody’s achievements so far and made me realise how far I still have to go. I was also impressed by the organisation and expert use of technology that connected us so smoothly with Magdalena on the other side of the planet, discovered some years ago by someone who was trying to get somewhere else by travelling in the opposite direction :-))).
And, yes, I agree that her report on the unintended (but serendipitous) outcomes of her research was incredibly inspiring. While an exploration of a topic should aim at answering its original research questions, it is only truly exploratory when it (accidentally?) reveals a new continent on the way to India – although of course it doesn’t need to be a continent, a tiny island will do, too.
Hi Richard and Julian,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. About smaller systems, yes, it is definitely a benefit to be part of one, at least in research terms 🙂 Truth is, even today in 2011 I don’t think Moodle is being used with students yet in other state schools aside from Cardona’s… So it’s an advantage in terms of being able to make this kind of statement and also as regards ‘documenting’ it.
I still have to find a word with the right connotation to describe what I have up to now called ‘unintended’. But I have very well understood what both of you mean. What I think is that my research has answered, at least partly, its research questions, and in answering these, has shed light on other issues that perhaps I once regarded as mere side effects, but which I now feel deserve more recognition. As I write, I am thinking of Julian’s Shadows (2011:138-)and the fact that my study could be a good example of how in action research lights and shadows are inevitable results of each other… Anyway, I won’t go there now but just wanted to sayI have been struggling, as Julian very well knows, to write my story in a way that does justice to its beauty and still is a readable thesis. I think I am slowly finding my way around it – or so I hope.
There is so much of an everyday, commonsensical link between ‘Question’ and ‘Answer’ that I think such points (about exploratory outcomes as well as answers / findings to RQ) are well worth reminding ourselves of, repeatedly 🙂 That link provdes one kind of coherence, but there are others, and we may need to be fluent in articulating these others kinds, no?
I’d like to join in the celebration of Friday’s LTE Researcher Conference. I found that passion and principle were evident in everyone’s work, as one would expect and wish to cherish. I also thought that the ‘interdisciplinary’ (to borrow Paul’s term) constants that cut across the various projects were also exciting. Like Richard (I now see!), one that I left thinking about was Magdalena’s ‘unintended consequences’ of her research, and therefore the relationship between Research Questions and Findings, or Outcomes, or Contribution. A few years back, I was examining a thesis to which the other examiner and I agreed some changes were needed. Among them, as I pointed out to the candidate, was the fact that her findings did not answer her research questions.
“No,” she replied, “But what I found out is a lot more interesting.”
“Then what you need to tell us,” I said, “is how it came about that you moved from wanting to answer those questions to reporting these findings. That is the change that we need. The requirement is not conformity but coherence.”
Especially, perhaps, in the context of action research, where empowerment of the participants is one of the passionate principles involved, it almost goes without saying that successful research will discover, facilitate or construct something unpredictably other than answers to research questions. I feel that I am saying something very obvious here, and I acknowledge that I sometimes (!) talk too much. But what I am trying to feel my way towards is the establishment of an open-minded recognition with regard to whether or not research questions must be ‘answered’ as such, or may be seen more as an intellectual jumping-off point for exploration. (At this point, I have to say, of course, that this is not a critique of research that does answer its research questions. It is an attempt to enhance our potentials, not to play the tiresome academic game of insisting that someone else must be wrong before we can speak.)
Such open-minded recognition is available in our field, but still, I think, only on an unreliable basis. I expect to find it best theorised in feminist research (where I am thinking of Nel Noddings’ “ethics of care”), in action research (where I am thinking of Reason & Bradbury’s “better world”), and in ecological approaches (watch out for Stelma) where the constrained and afforded emergence of outcomes can, by definition, not be predicted in advance. So, there’s some work to be getting on with . . .
Thanks to all involved.
I guess Eljee has all the necessary information to add the links to your presentation in the final listing of papers / presentations (which we want to have here in the blog so everyone can persue them at their leisure)?
I really enjoyed the glitch-free visit to your Uruguayan study and the revisiting of your thesis topic but this time from the new perspective of an ‘unintended’ outcome. I found the points raised about this word helpful. The exploratory research stance that so many of us have will so often create unexpected outcomes, much as our professional actions so often do so as well. Unintended? Unexpected? Unpredicted? Additional? It’s hard to know what word to use for such outcomes but we have been alerted to the value in seeking out a form of words that gives due value to all that that comes of our work, no?
I was also struck by your statement that this was the first time Moodle had been used in a Uy state school. I realise that I could formulate no similar statement for the UK. Clearly, I am not working in the UK state school system, but, even so, the scale of the operation (and in turn this UK context would be as nothing when set against e.g. Chinese state education) makes such overviews much less possible. I remember a similar realisation when involved in an action research project in Bulgaria – the way in which it was possible to say how many of the total schools had particpated etc. I’m not sure where this thinking is leading me except that this example reminds us of the benefits of being part of a smaller system, no?
I really enjoyed being part of the conference yesterday!Special thanks to Eljee and Mariam who made the (glitch-free!) technological aspects a success and to Julian, Richard and Achilleas for being supportive – always! Wow, it almost sounds like my thesis acknowledgements page… Could I be getting inspired?? 🙂
Look forward to reading Tanya’s!
It will be, as soon as I have added the references, and proof-read it!
Is the script of your talk available Tanya?
Also, please note that this version of the blog does not automatically indicate who you are, so can everyone please add their names to postings?
ADDENDUM: The Josselson conference paper that Tanya and Eljee referred to is now online at: http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NW/article/view/18472