Ponderings on ‘Reflexivity’

This new Discussion Topic of Reflexivity picks up on quite a bit of activity by LTE staff and doctoral participants in recent months, some of which has spilled onto these blog pages (e.g. see comments on Magdalena De Stefani’s page). Some of this activity is directly related to:

  • Doctoral study (as I think Magdalena’s ideas are, and Eljee also dwelt on this theme in her recent Narrative Matters conference paper),
  • researcher development more generally – such as the Developing Researcher Competence (DRC) thinking which Juup and I are working on at MA level,
  • reflexivity more broadly in our field of language education and language teacher education – such as Julian’s current work on the reflexive language teacher (educator).

I’m probably being a bit imprecise in my delineation of these varied reflexivity areas of thinking – for which I apologise in advance – and I am also probably missing out other sites of reflexivity thinking – for which I again apologise.

Perhaps this Discussion thread can be a place to bring these separate areas of thinking together, and also a place also for sharing useful texts on this theme (and thereby develop a Bibliography in this area).

Also, would it be useful to upload here the MA materials on Reflexivity as presented in the DRC course unit? EDUC7010_Reflection_and_Reflexivity.


  • Richard Fay

    So, shall we call this thread closed and pick up on things from it (as we want to) in new threads (very much as Achilleas has done and in way as Juup started to do with his longer elaboration of his thinking above)?

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Wow from me too! 🙂
    There’s so much on your post Juup, but one of the issues that caught my attention the most was your reference to the ‘lingering positivist’. I share that feeling, and have attempted to examine it reflexively (through CD) in terms of the effect it has had on the relationships I establish with some of the teachers I’m doing research with. I find this issue of how we are shaped by previous experiences and how these affect our need to be/interest in being reflexive very interesting.

    Will now have a look at Achilleas’s new thread 🙂

  • Richard Fay


    At 27 comments long, this thread has run and run and maybe it is time to begin a new one on this reflexivity theme that builds on what we have here? Anyone care to lead on this?

    I take Juup’s point about real world research having real-world principle investigators and real world journals having particular preferences … sure, within reason, we do what it takes to get the good ideas and research published, and this real-world aspect of getting published and of working wth people does inform how reflexively-nuanced our texts may or may not be. So, this part of Juup’s reflection above makes good sense to me. For sure we get this wrong at our (publishing) peril.

    However, I think I more interested in the instincts we have as researchers and research text creators and less in the external pressures we respond to when writing. I am interested in our instincts about how reflexively-nuanced we want (not) to be. For example, I now realise that I have become more reflexively-oriented the more a) I have come to understand what reflexivity might be and b) the more I have come to research my own professional world.

    When I spoke above about instincts – i.e. “our instincts about how reflexively-nuanced we want (not) to be” – my choice of “want” rather than, e.g. “should” was intentional. I know that I now often want to work reflexively and this is something that has grown with me over time. But it is my choice, not an obligation. That said, I do not want the texts to be about me – and in fact I find some supposedly reflexive texts do fall into this danger. Rather, I want mine to be transparent about the reflexive relationship (which I see as significant) between me and what I am researching/discussing. An it takes time and practice to get the voicing of this reflexive-nancing right ….

  • Here is more Stelma than you can handle… I do not attempt to address specific contributions; there are too many saying so much! Just like Made I have had to read and re-read to appreciate all the contributions fully.

    I am not setting out to agree or disagree with anyone. Rather, the present very long contribution reflects my current understanding, including therefore what I have learned from engaging with everyone’s blog entries. The lengthy contribution may also be understood as my own attempt to clarify my thinking for myself – using you, the audience, as a … pretext – that didn’t come across quite right.

    Very much based on the blog contributions so far, I am thinking that reflexivity fundamentally involves something bidirectional and something having to do with subjectivity. Maybe the following statement comes reasonably close: ‘My subjective understandings may shape the research process in unique ways and the research experience may shape my subjective understandings in unique ways.

    Taking a closer look first at the bidirectional aspect … I will, for a brief moment, treat the two directions evoked as analytically distinct. My effort to separate out will soon break down.

    That I shape the research process means that who I am may affect qualities of the research. To make this shaping influence clear, and thereby the contribution of my research clear, I must be transparent about ‘who I am’ and transparent about ‘how I shape’ the research process. Of course, this must be guided by a principle of relevance, to avoid self-indulgence. My instinct is that this first analytical component of reflexivity may fit into Richard’s notion of a ‘research narrative’; however…

    If my analytical separation of the two directions has any validity, then the ‘fact’ that the research experience shapes me would not, in itself, affect the quality of the contribution my research makes. Of course, the shaping influence of the research experience on me is not deferred until I have completed the research. Rather, the experience shapes me throughout, and to fully account for how I shape the research process I may need to account for how I change as the experience unfolds. This, then, is how my analytical separation of the two directions breaks down. However, I may select to emphasise how the research experience shapes me (rather than how I shape the research) and if I do then I think I am moving towards a researcher perspective, and I am aligning myself with Richard’s notion of a ‘researcher narrative’.

    Guided by my ecological thinking (which focuses on ‘perceptions’ and things that ‘shape’), which I do not expect anyone else to sign up to, I now attempt to distinguish between reflexivity and reflection. Before going away to Denmark I promised exemplification; here goes. In some research notes I wrote about 5 months ago, I said:

    “I must admit having struggled with the notions of reflection and reflexivity for some time now; maybe especially since coming to Manchester and seeing these notions being central elements on parts of our MA provision. My struggle may be traced back to more positivist expectations, or traces thereof in various resources and discourses, which have shaped me over the years. These previous influences have been challenged by more recent influences, becoming overt to me when arriving in the UK, and especially since arriving at Manchester.”

    Here my writing reflects (as mirrors do) various influences on me as a researcher. I talk about a struggle to reconcile conflicting influences. However, I do not discuss the how the struggle affects my subjective understanding, or how the struggle affects what I do as a researcher. Rather, I present myself more like an observer (note metaphoric expressions such as ‘seeing’ and ‘becoming overt’). Yes, there is some sense of how the struggle develops, but this is not connected to any notion of a developing ‘I’; I do not take the extra step…

    Here is another extract, from a later part of the same research notes:

    “I have read enough studies to have developed a personal frustration vis-à-vis the reflective literature (e.g. studies published in the journal Reflective Practice). These seem to treat reflection either as an abstraction (without actual data to exemplify reflection) or when there is data the discussion of this data is highly descriptive, and the following conclusions hide behind metaphors and/or make conclusions which, in my view, either are very general (e.g. students are able to…). I think it is the lingering positivist in me that wishes for some kind of ‘pointing out of the elements or processes constituting reflection’.”

    Here I continue the observer role, using visual metaphors (seem, hide behind, in my view, pointing out). However, I think I am entering the territory of reflexivity, if only a bit, when I refer to having ‘developed a personal frustration’. This reflexive move is then developed reflectively, through making the shaping influences on this developing frustration transparent. Also, when I refer to ‘the lingering positivist in me’ I address an aspect of my subjective understanding, and this is then potentially reflexive. Yes, this latter statement makes more sense if you read earlier parts where I talked about experiences that shaped the lingering positivist within me. Again, I do not pursue the notion of a developing ‘I’ very far.

    From this, I seem to be understanding reflection as a mental consideration of shaping influences on action/thinking. Reflexivity is also about how things are shaped, but takes the extra step by addressing the particular relationship between I (the researcher) and the research I am engaged in.

    Now something about how I see the scope of subjective understandings, and by extension the scope of reflexivity. Richard and I will have potentially valuable and generative subjective understandings of the small culture of our DRC provision, and the individual histories and inclinations of participants in the DRC experience. Yes, if we aim to describe the DRC participant’s experiences we should make transparent these subjective understandings. However, if I am trying to understand e.g. reflection and/or reflexivity in the DRC participant’s experiences, and at the end of this effort present some conclusions about either what reflection and reflexivity is in the DRC expeirnece, or what kinds of reflection and reflexivity the DRC participants’ engaged in, then I would suggest that the potentially more relevant subjective understandings to make transparent is my own intellectual journey trying to understand reflection and reflexivity (including e.g. our interaction in this blog and how this affected my understanding). What I am suggesting, then, is that reflexivity may not be limited to interpersonal matters (with which reflexivity most commonly seems to connote with); reflexivity may engage with individual intellectual journeys as well. I would be unhappy with the alternative… that reflexivity is limited to more narrowly defined set of social/interpersonal influences.

    Moving now to the question of when a reflexive stance is appropriate and/or inappropriate. I begin by addressing the ongoing research into the DRC experience Richard and I are engaged in. I end with why my 2007 Transcription paper wasn’t reflexive.

    First, does the fact that Richard and I have subjective understandings of the DRC experience mean that we have to approach our inquiry into these experiences reflexively. Richard has in previous postings indicated that ‘yes’ it would benefit from a reflexive stance. At one point he asked, referring to my slight reluctance to engage reflexively with the DRC experience: “I find it hard to imagine researching unreflexively this context with which he and I [are] deeply involved”. I think this ‘imagining’ of how one might research a context will be shaped not only by whether one is deeply involved or not. It will also have to be shaped by the particular research aims that are addressed. If the research aims to provide a rich or thick description of the DRC experience, or if it aims to understand how the DRC participants interpret the experience then, yes, I think it is hard to imagine doing it unreflexively. If, on the other hand, my aim is to focus on something less holistic, such as e.g. describing reflection and reflexivity in part of the data, then I might approach this either by setting out an apriori definition of reflection and reflexivity and then look through the data for evidence of reflection and reflexivity such defined. Alternatively, I may repeatedly read through the data to identify instances of reflection and reflexivity in the data, and then generate a ‘grounded’ theory of reflection and reflexivity. Yes, in particular stages of such an analysis my subjective understandings of the participants and the DRC experience may be utilised as an analytical tool, and I may need to be transparent where this is the case. However, reflexivity wouldn’t be such an integral part of the research design as a whole. Of course, these less holistic aims would constitute a very different contribution.

    I think I am suggesting, then, that particular research aims and the likely contribution of research would also affect whether one adopts a reflexive stance or not. If we insist on being reflexive whenever we are deeply involved in the researched context then this, to me, would constitute a privileging of certain kinds of research aims and contributions over others. Hence, I think the decision about being reflexive or not, even when one is deeply involved with the researched context, is a larger question.

    Okay, my transcription paper… first of all, when I wrote this in 2005-2006 I knew very little about reflection and reflexivity. Hence, a deliberate decision to write reflexively was not really open to me. That said, I do not think I would have written the paper differently today – I am still quite happy how this turned out. I think this has to do with the aims of the paper and the contribution I was trying to make. When I transcribed spoken discourse as a doctoral student (1999-2003) and as a research associate (2002-2004) I made use of a linguistic unit called ‘intonation units’. I listened to the tape recording of someone speaking and identified not only the words that were spoken, but also how these words grouped into intonation units. I won’t get into detail about how intonation units are defined or what was gained by transcribing speech into these units. However, my experience was a very lonely one, with no real guidance on how to consistently identify intonation units. Sure, there were linguists that defined these units and presented ample examples (never with accompanying audio though) and plenty of research papers that stated that audio data had been transcribed into intonation units (but without any discussion of problems encountered). Having transcribed intonation units in three different projects over the 1999 to 2004 period I decided I might contribute by writing quite directly about the challenges of identifying and transcribing intonation units. I thought the best way to do this was to write about my journey from being a relative novice to becoming more ‘expert’ at this transcription. In this limited sense the paper is a researcher narrative. However, we (I co-authored with Lynne Cameron) presented this as a narrative of the transcription stage of a particular research project; it was the project where I most seriously set out to come to grips with the minutiae of intonation unit transcription. Hence, the paper is structured by the sub-stages that the transcription in this project followed (including initial and later drafts of the transcripts, and quality measures such as cross checking transcription with other more experienced transcribers). The main structuring device then is a research narrative. Presenting it more overtly as a researcher narrative would, I think, have been suitable if our aim was to account for the experience of being a lonely research fellow, working hard to satisfy the expectations of a principal investigator. In our case, I/we felt that future transcribers might benefit from a more impassionate discussion of the challenges, some quite technical and subtle, of intonation unit based transcription.

    The follow extract gives a flavour of the voice we adopted… it also represents how more or less overt references to my developing competence were made to fit inside the research narrative. The first extract is from a part of the paper which discusses the use of punctuation marks – conventionally used in writing – and the resolve to ‘relearn’ these:

    “… the first researcher resolved to relearn the use of these familiar symbols, the punctuation marks, to describe the intonation contours of IUs, and he used final pitch movement of IUs as a heuristic to aid the identification of these intonation contours” (p. 379).

    and a bit later in the paper …

    “The first transcriber encountered two additional difficulties. Firstly, so-called changes in voice quality at the beginning and end of IUs (e.g., Chafe’s ‘creaky’ voice) were difficult to recognize. Secondly, distinctly discernable declining patterns of pitch level were not found within or across IU the identified IUs. We suspect that these may be rather subtle characteristics of IUs, and that extensive experience may be needed before one may be able to use these productively for identifying IU boundaries”.

    I think the research narrative and the more ‘objective’ [btw. I don’t like this term] voice was the most efficient for making the kind of contribution we were seeking to make.

    Finally, the paper was not written in a vacuum with endless freedom to make our contribution as we saw fit. Rather, I was working with and for a supervisor (and later principal investigator) who was similarly not naturally inclined to be reflexive. Also, we aimed to publish in a journal (Text & Talk) which does not overtly elicit/encourage reflexive contributions. My supervisor had a useful professional relationship with the editor of this journal, thereby facilitating the publication process.


  • I have now printed this lengthy exchange… how much difference a week away can make!! Will read, learn and then respond 🙂


  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Exactly. Though I’m using thematic rather than narrative analysis, now that the thesis is slowly beginning to take shape, or so I hope, I have realised I want to make the most of this narrativity potential. I think there are various reasons why.

    First of all, the first time I tried to write something for the thesis (I think it was 2008), it was clearly narrative. At the time I thought it was because being the opening chapter, using narrative would allow me to make it more interesting. But I wasn’t thinking of using narrative throughout. Truth is I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to do the rest! Then I wrote a couple of other draft chapters in a much more research-paper style, sort of reporting experiences, and I really struggled. I thought I was struggling because I was pregnant and sick too often, then because I had a newborn baby, then because I had to go back to work. But I think I was finding it so hard because my voice was lost when I was simply reporting experiences. At the same time, I had a supervisory meeting with Julian on Skype and we agreed that something didn’t quite add up with the thesis and that I might want to emphasise the narrative. Then I sat down and thought, I’m going to re-write this fifth chapter as if I was telling a story. And that really helped. I found that emphasising the narrative made it more interesting, more powerful, more authentic. I was now letting my voice emerge to make sense of all those data, rather than trying to make the data analysis sound like what I thought a thesis should sound. This re-written chapter is not finsihed nor readable yet, but it means a lot to me.

    • Richard Fay

      Thanks Made. Very interesting. I look forward to hearing more about (and seeing?) this narratively-framed thesis draft. The genesis for your decision to experiment with going this way and your recations to the results of doing so resonates with my own thesis experiences except that, not only did I want to narrate my research rather than more traditionally report it, I also built my research around my colleagues’ narratives (i.e. the narrative as research methodology as well as the main representational tool).

  • Richard Fay

    This point about a narrative-reflexivity link is one I am thinking about more these days. My visual (much earlier in this discussion thread) has narrativity and reflexivity as its two axes but I wasn’t thinking only about my own narratively-oriented research when I created this – rather I was thinking more generally about the narrativity of research texts (as opposed to research texts reporting narrative studies). So, when we are both speaking about narratives and reflexivity, I think we are on the same page as it were ….

    What now leaps out at me is the following: “… because I have realised I want to ‘tell stories’ more than anything else”. This is very interesting. There is, for sure, a storyteller in most of us, much of the time, but why has this narrativising desire arisen in your research thinking? In what ways might telling such stories illuminate YOUR research and the phenomena this involves? I am intrigued by your realisation and wonder where it is taking you ….

    Any hand left to type with?

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Hi Richard

    Thanks, that was very interesting. First of all, let me just say that I didn’t mean to imply that being reflexive was the right way to do research. Not at all. I am very much against that kind of self-righteousness 🙂 It was just an honest question because (and this is a major weakness of mine) once I discover something really meaningful, in this case reflexivity (though it has also happened with action research), I have a hard time remembering what I thought before, so I’m curious to know why other people might not find it useful or interesting.

    I didn’t know the story of the reflexive aspect of your doctorate, thanks for sharing it. Clearly your supervisor will have a major impact if you’re a student. My first encounter with refexivity was thanks to Julian, I remember he said ‘At some point I’d like to ask what you think about that reflection/reflexivity distinction’, or something like that. That was in 2007, and after some googling I came up with a few articles, none of which took me very far. For a while I just let it rest and then began to see its potential again through the CD sessions. I have been lucky in that sense, because I have good models (you, Julian) and I discovered reflexivity at a comparatively early stage in my research. Still, it feels I haven’t gone very far yet. I suppose this will change once I’ve written some more. Still, at this point I’m making some changes to my thesis outline because I have realised I want to ‘tell stories’ more than anything else. And surely this is tied to reflexivity and its place in narratives (though I’m not really doing narrative analysis like you).

    Time to stop because Federica is trying to chew on my hand while I type 🙂

  • Richard Fay

    I think that you have caught much of my meaning now Made,

    I pick up from your message (rightly? wrongly?) a sense that those researchers who are not reflexive are missing something. For example, when you say “in their tradition it is not seen as a valuable component”, I wonder if maybe reflexivity is simply not seen at all ! And again, “some researchers still avoid it or ignore” – but maybe some simply do not know about it, some choose (in a more positive way than ‘avoid/ ignore’ suggest) not to write and think in this way, and so on. Whilst I myself am now firmly committed to reflexivity in my own work (although I wasn;t always, see below), I am trying to guard against an assumption that research should be reflexive. Maybe so, maybe not ….

    So, to your final line of Qs. I think that, in addition to the above points, I remind myself from time to time (e.g. in supervisions) that researching reflexively is hard and that reflexivity perhaps seems less of an integral part of being a researcher and more like an extra burden – it can seem, for example, to be a requirement to write a meta thesis as well as a thesis. Second, reflexivity does have a bad name in some quarters – self-indulgent etc – and, to be honest, I have read some thesis-type texts where the reflexive element seemed to me to be unfocused, lacking purposeful, and most critically not helping too illuminate the thing being researched. Such works comes across to me variously as anodyne, personal, angsty ‘stuff’ and they do nothing to help me understand the researcher’s relexive relationship with the phenomenon under review nor with the researcher’s management of the subjectivities this involves. So, yes, maybe it is sometimes easier to avoid these challenges and pitfalls and go with the more secure traditions also available to us as researchers ….

    Also, I think Juup might have an interesting take on this as he is – I think it’s fair to say from our chats on the topic – not an instinctive embracer of reflexivity in his own research writings. Let’s see what he has to say when he comes back from his holiday ….

    When I look back at my own research writing trajectory, what can I see?

    1. In my Masters dissertation there was absolutely no reflexive aspect and very little that might be seen as reflective. Why not? Maybe because the reflexive had no place in the kind of study I was undertaking …. but, I am pretty sure, that then I’d never even herd the word reflexivity being used at all let alone it being used in relation to the kind of work I was doing.

    2. My first sight of a more personal (and maybe reflexive) kind of researcher writing came as my developing intercultural interests took me into anthropology and ethnographic methods. But it was some time before I realised that educational research could be undertaken using such methods. i.e. the methodological possibility (of being reflexive) came before a disciplinary one (i.e. reflexive educational research).

    3. This process was repeated when I became increasingly interested in narrative possibilities and say how they involved the personal (and reflexive?) and then, as a next stage, I saw that some educational researchers were working narratively. Again, I see here a methodological possibility coming before the corresponding one in my home disciplinary area of research activity.

    4. So, by the time of my doctorate where was I? To be honest, I could not really explain the difference between reflection and reflexivity, nor was I aware of the distinction I have been making in these posts between reflexivity at a personal/professional level and reflexivity in research. So, although my PhD work has some personal aspects I am not sure it is genuinely reflexive. In fact, I don’t think it was at all.

    5. Why not? Surely I was deeply embedded in the phenomenon I was researching and therefore had the ample opportunities and responsibilities vis-a-vis the management of the subjectivity of that relationship as it informed my research? What held me back?

    6. For one thing, not having a good model to follow. For another, the cautionary words of my supervisor as she steered me away from self-indulgence and required that I justified the inclusion of any personal aspects, justify them in terms of their illuminating value and their contribution to my central reseach purpose. The personal aspects that survived this scrutiny were justified, I seem to remember, less (if at all) in terms of reflexive positioning and much more in terms of my ethnographic-narrative methodology. So, once again, their inclusion was more the outcome of a methodological possibility than of a clearly throught through understanding of reflexivity and its potential value in my work.

    7. In fact, when I now re-read the thesis, I see many opportunities to strip back the gratuitous personal ethnographic material and other points where I could have been more critically reflexive. Thus, the position I now have on reflexivity as an important dimension of most of the research activities I undertake was essentially something (I must confess) that became my position AFTER the completion of the doctoral process ….

    So, Made, does this account of my developing researcher positioning provide you with any insights relating to your Qs above?

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Hi Richard

    Thanks, this was very useful. I see what you mean about each individual’s reflexivity being separate from reflexivity in research traditions. So going back to my original thinking, it does seem the case that some researchers will not engage in reflexivity because in their tradition it is not seen as a valuable component.

    However, it is also the case that within certain traditions where reflexivity is potentially meaningful, some researchers still avoid it or ignore it. I wonder why this is. How do you see it? Of course the decision whether to be explicitly reflexive will always be up to each researcher, but I wonder what this decision is tied to. Is it because they think it is the same as reflection? Or because it is too complex or convoluted and might distract from what they see as more relevant research issues?

  • Richard Fay

    My response, Made, to your above thinking would be ‘more or less’. For me, there is an important distinction to be made about reflexivity explored on an individual level and reflexivity as embedded in a research tradition. Julian’s work on bilateral reflexivity – (is ‘bilateral’ the latest formulation of this idea?) – is, in some ways I think more about the former, and it takes us beyond where I think much of the emphasis in research terms is located. Let me try and explain.

    Whilst it is true that as individuals both Michael and myself are potentially concerned with the bilateral reflexivity of our work, within our research traditions, it is a different story. Reflexivity has no place in his work as he explains it to me. To put it another way, those who read his work are typically not interested in his researcher narrative and instead their interest lies in the research narrative.

    Earlier, I explored the idea of relational reflexivity – i.e. the relationship between the researcher and the researched phenomena/context/etc – and there is a marked difference beteen Michael’s and my relationship with our research. I am embedded in mine in a way that he simply is not in his.

    So, it is not that, as part of my research(er) activity, I choose to be reflexive and that he, as part of his research(er) activity, doesn’t. It’s that reflexivity is not an embedded part of his research tradition where it increasingly is in mine. So, I think it is question less of choice and more about practice whern I compare him and myself.

    On the oher hand, I know Michael is highly reflexive as an individual about the way in which his professional life can be understood. Here, there is a better match with the reflexivity at an individual level which I think is closer to what Julian is exploring.

    A better example, for me, of reflexivity as a choice in research terms, would be with Juup’s published work on transcriber competence. It is on the basis of this article that I placed him in the research-narrative + reflection quadrant in my figure/visual above. In this article, which is based in many ways on his own experience of developng competence in the area of transcribing intonation units, he chooses not to position the research text reflexively. He can say more about this perhaps when he comes back next week.

    Similarly, in her biographically-(rather than auto-biographically) -oriented MA dissertation, Eljee adopted what I term as a book-end strategy to the relationship between herself and the researched phenomenon of VEM-NESTs, a strategy that made her reflexive relationship with the topic less explicit than I think she might be in her upcoming doctoral research.

    So, with Juup and Eljee as examples, I would agree with Made about reflexivity being a possibility which some researchers dwell on and others keep to themselves, but I see this as being different in the case of Michael.

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    So are we saying that both Richard and his brother Michael have the possibility of being reflexive about their research, but maybe only Richard is used to making this reflexivity an explicit part of the research process? Michael may be highly reflexive (e.g. be aware of how he has changed as a result of his work, the epistemological grounding of his research and what this means, etc) but in his line of work, this is not seen as an important ingredient so he just keeps it to himself unlike Richard, for whom this reflexivity is the key to constructing his own understanding of his research. Could this be the case (potentially)?

  • Richard Fay

    I agree with Julian’s desire not to make too hard and fast a generalisation in this regard:

    > I don’t think that I would want to make too great a distinction between the researcher in the quantitative physical sciences and the researcher in the qualitative human sciences. It is at least worth remembering that also the physicist, in deciding what to research, towards what purpose, in what way, is reaching out to shape the research that s/he does. And it is not at all impossible that the results of that research, or the experience of carrying it out, will reach around to have an effect on who that researcher is, or understands her/himself to be.

    So, when I was writing about my brother’s research, I was trying not to label (e.g. quantitative physical sciences) what he does but rather describe it. I think it is fair to say that there is not a significant reflexive dimension in his relationship with his research, certainly not in the kind of way that I think I have a reflexive relationship with mine. I also think that there is not a tradition of being reflexive on his area of research whereas there is increasingly one in mine. Not for a moment would I say that there should be a reflexive dimension to his work – what they achieve in his team, how they achieve it and how they establish this achievement for others, these are all things influenced by the minimal reflexive dimension in their operationalisation of their research as well as by the traditions of their research/discipline.

  • Julian Edge

    Hi folks,

    I come a little late to this exchange and confess to being a bod blogger. My most recent, and rather ironic, excuse in this case is that I have been prioritizing hitting the agreed delivery deadline with my publisher for the manuscript of my (in shaa allah) forthcoming book on reflexive teacher education. In my last edgeblog, I undertook to post the text of my talk on this topic from the March 2010 TESOL convention, but then discovered that I couldn’t work out how to do the attaching part. Nor, I fear, have I learned in the meantime, but I have just thought of a communication strategy — you know, what you do in a foreign language when you realize that you can’t actually say what you want to. We shall see if that works out.

    There’s much too much for a person to try to respond to in all that has gone by, but I’ll try for a couple of bits.

    With reagard to ‘reflective’ and ‘reflexive’, I think the first thing we might want to achieve is not to use the two terms as though they mean the same thing, and to notice when other writers do do that. In that sense, we want to distinguish between them. On the other hand, it is not the case that they are entirely separate, nor is it the case that one is an extension of the other. Here’s a snippet from my ms where I have a go at this directly:

    I began this section on qualitative research by pointing out how the terms reflective and reflexive are sometimes used as if interchangeable. I hope to have established that this should not be the case. Nor, I want to suggest, is it the case that reflexivity is somehow a linear extension of reflection, as though they were on a continuum, as suggested by Finlay (2003b:108).

    My suggestion is that there is a two-fold relationship between the two concepts. From one perspective, reflection is a broader concept than reflexivity and can contain it. Reflection can address all kinds of issues and some of those issues will be reflexive in nature. In this sense, reflexivity is only consciously accessible via reflection. From another perspective, reflexivity is a more interactively significant concept than reflection. Whereas reflection (whether in-action or on-action) assumes the continuing identity of the person doing the reflecting, reflexivity questions that continuity, foregrounding the change-effect of action-and-reflection on the person concerned, arising from what they have, so to speak, done to themself. In this sense, I recognize a strong affinity with a tradition (e.g.Giddens 1991) which works with a ‘conceptualisation of the ‘self’ as reflexive, as a project which is always in a state of becoming’ (Francis and Skelton 2008: 311).

    Given that, and I acknowledge that I am at this point making this up as I go along, rather than tiresomely quoting myself, I don’t think that I would want to make too great a distinction between the researcher in the quantitative physical sciences and the researcher in the qualitative human sciences. It is at least worth remembering that also the physicist, in deciding what to research, towards what purpose, in what way, is reaching out to shape the research that s/he does. And it is not at all impossible that the results of that research, or the experience of carrying it out, will reach around to have an effect on who that researcher is, or understands her/himself to be.

    Time to stop. Off to Colombia tomorrow. Watch out for that communication strategy.



    • magdalenadestefani

      Hi everyone

      I’m now blogging in my capacity as Julian’s communication strategy [Thank you Julian for your faith in my blogging competence. I hate to let you down but I have to say this post with embedded URLs has only been possible thanks to Achilleas (thank you Achilleas for your patience!)]

      Anyway, Julian wanted to share with you all his TESOL USA handout and text (he produced the text before the talk and then used it as his prompt).


  • Richard Fay

    This phrase of Made’s stuck out for me: “I am finding it harder and harder to make any claims to objectivity”.

    Here, I sense (I hope not erroneously) a desire to be able to make some claims to objectivity, and with it perhaps a sense that objectivity is to be valued in research.

    I do think objectivity is to be valued in some kinds of research but also that objectivity is not necessarily what some kinds of research are well-positioned to establish. It’s a question maybe of horses-and-courses.

    I would argue that the criteria on which a reader is being asked to evaluate a piece of research (writing) should be explicit. So, if objectivity is the ‘anchor’ on which the researcher is attaching (some of) the value of their work, then the framework for establishing the rigour of this objectivity should be clear. But equally, if the anchor is, for example, one of case study particularity, and/or of the subjectively-managed relationship between the researcher and the researched context, etc, then the framework for establishing the rigour of this subjectively-undertaken research should be made clear – and for me, this is a primary purpose of reflexivity.

    So, I agree it’s not about (in)compatibility but rather about making sure that we know how we position ourselves in these areas of research practice and can make our position clear to our readers. Sometimes, as is the case with my brother’s research, there is a default setting – the demand for objectivity is ‘hard-wired’ into his research environment in many ways. But in other situations, the researcher’s position needs to be asserted, articulated etc because it does not fit the default position or because maybe there is no default position.

    Embarrassingly, I learned (to some extent) this lesson a few years back when, with a colleague, I submitted an interculturally-oriented piece of work questioning – with an explicit post-modern stance – some of the practices of spoken language assessment. The destination for our work/writing had a default-setting for more objectively-located research. Our efforts received a curt negative response. I do not think the submitted piece merited this curt response – sure, we could have improved on it then and for sure I would do it differently now but … – rather, I think it was a case of mixing our horse and course wrongly.

    So, in all of this, I think we do need to question and be clear about what we are doing and how we justify the rigour of this endeavour. But we also need to ponder hard how we present that to others, how we articulate our position, etc. In a sense, this I what I was trying to do with my visual, i.e. to map some of the possible positionings researchers might adopt in their writing and work. The same idea could be extended I guess to outlets for such work, i.e. which zones in that visual (and extensions, amendments of it) might this editor and that journal and the other conference organiser / audience prefer or even require?

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Hi Richard and Achilleas

    Wow, very impressive discussion. I don’t think I would have been able to tease it out that well. This is embarrassing, but I have had to re read the posts several times to really get what you were saying 🙂

    I agree with you and see what you mean Richard, about the steps not representing a linear process, and I suspect Achilleas was not arguing it was linear either but rather like the action research process, where one can move in many different directions.

    I also see your point about objectivity Achilleas, and I do see the value of it, by all means. I didn’t intend to say that objectivity is not valuable; what I meant is that in my personal researcher narrative, as I reconstruct my identity, I am finding it harder and harder to make any claims to objectivity. This is mainly because I am learning, basically through CD, how empowering it is for me as a researcher to understand my discourse better. But this is just me, and as I said half-jokingly, I’m sure being ‘radical’ is never a good thing. Still, however radical I may think I am becoming, I can very clearly see how and why my own position may not be meaningful, useful or even ‘valid’ to all researchers. And also, even though you and I might not be identically positioned with regards to this, we have managed to work very well together, which shows the positions are far from incompatible, which is very good!


  • Richard Fay

    I think it may be useful to tease out a bit more the ways in which we each use the term ‘subjectivity’. For example, Achilleas talks about “subjective understanding” and sets it alongside “interpersonal (objective) meaning”, Made concludes her last posting with “researcher subjectivity”, and I suggested that subjecivity was inherent whenever we researched contexts in which we were deeply involved.

    Let me return for a moment to my brother Michael. When he carries out a scientific procedure to examine the DNA of a particular population of this or that endangered orchid for example, his own botanical biography (maybe a significant encounter with orchids in his early years?) may play a role in his decision to work with this particular orchid population etc but, and – for me this is key – the actual conduct of the research he undertakes on this plant is unaffected by his biography. Instead, the method used is absolutely key, so much so that the whole basis of the research – its claims to validity, reliability, replicability etc – is based on the fact that his identity is irrelevant to the conduct of the experiment.

    For me, there is not a subjectivity aspect in the conduct of his research. He is not researching a human context as many of us are and he s not deeply involved in that context in the way that, say, Juup and I are when we explore the DRc of our MA students (i.e. individuals we teach using materials and a course design we have created and continue to develop, etc etc). In contrast to Michael’s work with orchids, I’d say that the research activity Juup and I undertake has a strong aspect of subjectivity about it.

    To go further, there is no place for reflexivity in Michael’s research as his identity etc is irrelevant to the botanical research process he is engaged in. For Juup and I, there is an opportunity – and perhaps a need? – for a reflexive dimension in that some of our research thinking is informed / influenced by our deep engagement with the human context and phenomena we are researching.

    I like to articulate my own understanding of reflexivity with this kind of stark research difference (between Michael and Juup/me) in mind because, although there is some oversimplification going on as I describe these kinds of research, the comparison helps me explain (to myself and others) why a reflexive dimension is potentially valuable in our DRC research.

    What I have not done above is talk about subjective meaning/understanding etc. I acn see that this way of thinking opens up an added area of thinking when compared to my more humdrum focus on the type of relationship the researcher has with what they are researching. So, long-windedly, I am working towards an understanding of reflexivity in terms of the relational aspect of research rather than about the nature (if that is the right word) of meaning(s).

    So, Step 1 for me is to recognise what my relationship is with the researched context and phenomenon and to be transparent to myself and others about this relationship as – to a large extent or a small one – it is significant in my research activity. Step 2 would be thinking about how I want to research this context/phenomenon. For example, in the DRC research I might stick with Manchester MA students or, as it now happening, I might be exploring the DRC of say doctoral students in LTE and
    elsewhere, and the more of ‘elsewhere’ that is present in what I do, the more the relational aspect of my research changes from its original Mcr MA student starting point. I see this as being a choice simply. If I want, eg ESRC support for my DRC research, I might be able to ‘sell’ our DRC work to them as a case study (based on the Mcr MA student context in which I am very deeply involved) and/or I might choose to expand/change the character of the research so that it focuses on a much broader DRC community. As I make this choice, then maybe this is where the distinctions between subjective/objectve meaning really become very helpful. But this is Step 2 for me as I try and pin down what I mean by the reflexive aspect of the kind of research I am engaged in.

    • Achilleas Kostoulas

      Let me just backtrack a little to check understanding: In the first part of your post, Richard, you are saying that there are certain research traditions where subjectivity does not feature prominently (or at all), and where reflexivity is irrelevant as a result. This is -I think- not significantly different from what I wrote (‘a position that privileges objectivity would find reflexivity unhelpful‘) or what Magdalena said before me about the value of reflexivity being related to the value of subjectivity in a particular research tradition. (Or is it?)

      Let’s now put this on one side, and focus on those research traditions where reflexivity might be more important. I think the distinction of steps you make is conceptually useful, and perhaps it can be extended further.

      At minimum, I think, a reflexive attitude means being aware of our embeddedness in the social phenomena we are studying. Sometimes these phenomena are shaped by our activity in a very obvious way: For example, Juup and you created and teach the DRC course, and your input is defining in shaping the MA students’ DRC, which you are now studying. Other times, it is a more subtle process, perhaps not even one that can be easily described in terms of simple causality. Either way, it is helpful to be explicit about such relationships, and to do so one needs to engage in reflexive thinking. This is what you call Step 1, is that right?

      Step 2 in your model, if I am reading your post correctly, is about recognising that your research is shaped by the choices you make. You mentioned scope of the research as an example, but I suspect that similar considerations apply to other aspects of the research process, such as preferred methodologies etc. To the extent that these are outcomes of personal preference, I can see how a reflexive process can helpfully illuminate such aspects of the research.

      I would argue that reflexivity also involves at least two more steps / dimensions. One dimension, which I tried to present previously, perhaps not as clearly as I wanted to, refers to understanding the ways in which I -as a researcher- mediate between the reality and my findings. This is distinct from the influence my activity might exert on the phenomena. What I have in mind here is that the way I make sense of the phenomena will be shaped by my role, my history, my personality and so on. In this case too, I believe that reflexivity is hermeneutically helpful, at least in the sense of introspective thinking that seeks to capture the inner monologue through which my interpretations are shaped. Perhaps this might be a Step 3?

      Lastly, there is the question of the relation between the narrative I produce and reality – is this a representational or a constitutive act, and what are the implications either way? (Step 4?). I can’t say I feel qualified to discuss this dimension intelligently, but a starting point for such a discussion can be found here if anyone’s interested.

      • Richard Fay

        This all makes good sense to me Achilleas. I think the steps extending is useful and the additional steps you identify are, I agree, part of territory under the reflexivity heading. Maybe my image of #steps# sends a misleading signal that this is a linear sequence here. In fact, I suspect it is neither linear nor necessarily sequenced! So, what you have as Step 3 or 4 might in fact represent a better starting place for one researcher than my Steps 1 or 2 …. I just know that as I try to make sense of my research stance and why I have become, a bit like Made, increasingly reflexive over the years, the steps to clear my thinking are as indicated. They are MY initial ‘getting-my-thoughts-in-order’ steps in other words. 🙂

  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    I think I see your point Magdalena, and I agree that a position that privileges subjective understanding would find more use for a reflexive attitude. Inversely, -and I think this is even clearer- a position that privileges objectivity would find reflexivity unhelpful. If I believe that the world exists independently of my action, reflexivity is irrelevant, and if my aim is to generate understandings of reality that are universally valid (i.e. ‘objectively true’), then reflexivity makes things harder than they need to be.

    But I wonder, if we take a subjective – reflexive position as a starting point, must this negate the utility of exploring interpersonal (‘objective’) meaning? I’ll start my argument from a position similar to Juup’s: The reality I inhabit is shaped by many different influences, including my own activity; the way I make sense of this reality is shaped by many different influences, including my own pre-existing knowledge, affect and preferences. By looking into my actions, I can better understand how things function in my vicinity; through explicit introspection, I make better sense of my understanding. To the extent that shaping influences impact my environment in unique ways, and my perceptions are unique, my experience and my knowledge are also unique, i.e. subjective.

    Still, I feel that this subjectivity cannot be usefully construed as absolute, and that there are at least two ways in which it needs to be challenged (or ‘addressed’, to use Richard’s term). Firstly, there is the question of overlap between different people’s subjective understandings: even if we concede that each individual’s understanding is unique in principle, it must be constrained by (more or less) shared shaping influences; hence in practice there is less variance than would be theoretically possible. I contend that there must be some value in exploring this common ground, and that instruments like the ones that Richard listed (member checks etc.) could further this endeavour. Such an exploration would not necessarily be incompatible with a reflexive attitude: by contrast, they would bring into prominence those aspects of my understanding that are idiosyncratic to me, and would therefore facilitate reflexive thinking.

    Secondly, it seems to me that most positions which privilege subjectivity tend to make two kinds of claims: firstly that things are relative to the observer’s perspective, and secondly that when we look at the real world through said observer’s mental frameworks things are (more or less) fixed. Making sense of reality, even personal subjective sense, means imposing some sort of order on phenomena and mental constructs. But, once we pin things down in a mental framework, even one that is subjective, then they become objective in relation to this framework. Therefore, it may be useful, while acknowledging the subjective nature of my interpretations, to use researcher tools such as inter-rater subjectivity to position constructs in my mental frameworks with as much precision and clarity as possible. Again, this doesn’t negate the fact that my understanding is -ultimately- subjective, or lessen the value of reflexivity as one more tool that can be used to refine it.

    I think you are right in claiming that the decision to be reflexive or not depends on the value we place on subjectivity. What I am trying to say is that some other mental ‘instruments’ (for lack of a better term) are perhaps not so strongly tied to particular epistemologies. Or rather, that there is a large epistemological space between the more radical positions where one might reconcile seemingly dissimilar instruments.

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Hi Juup and Richard 🙂

    Very interesting issues. In my case, I didn’t use reflexivity at all in my MA dissertation, but this was because I hadn’t discovered its potential yet. My research was intended to be highly objective, so there wouldn’t have been much space for it anyway. But that was in 2005 and I have changed my research position since then. I used to have more of a ‘the truth is out there’ position, while now I embrace subjectivity and am becoming more and more radical… I’m sure this is not a good thing 🙂 The point I want to make is that in my case, the decision to use reflexivity as a research tool is tied to the reconstruction of my researcher identity. This reconstruction I feel is a result of a combination of events and influences, e.g. time passing, starting a PhD, planning my study, the research training, working with my supervisors, reviewing the literature…
    Am I making sense?

    Richard, I’m not sure I see what you mean when you say:

    ‘For example, others may place value on other measures to address subjectivity – e.g. inter-rater reliability, member-checking, etc. Such measures would not be in place of a reflexive stance necessarily (a researcher might e reflexive and also make use of these other possibilities in their research design’

    The problem I see here is the issue of having to ‘address subjectivity’. Somehow the term ‘address’ seems to have a negative connotation here, as if subjectivity was something we needed to deal with and solve, or justify. But this might be me and my increasingly radical views… How do you see it?

    I do see the main point you make about having the option whether to be reflexive or not, and I think it is tied to what Juup was saying about the need for some objectivity. Could it be that the decision to be reflexie or not is connected with the way we see/the value we place on researcher subjectivity?


  • Hi Richard and Made – I follow Richard’s lead in using this nickname :),

    First, I am happy to see that I’m not the only one to be unclear about the distinction between reflection and reflexivity. Again, I suspect my particular problem is the ecological systems thinking, where the two seem to be one and the same process. Both are highly subjective and both are the stuff that generate subjective ecologies of action. I recognise, however, that in the literature more generally people do distinguish these two. It may also be that people that work in particular paradigms, or are allied to particular research orientations (narrative ?? 🙂 tend to use reflexivity rather than reflection … and reflection is often connected to professional development through Schoen’s (no oe on my keyboard) work. And yes, I also think that people (like me) who need the support of a bit of objectivity in their writing tend to stick to reflection and avoid reflexivity. Ultimate truth on the matter will of course remain elusive. It is probable, then (?), that any understanidng needs to be linked to (or hedged by) one’s way of thinking (ecological, narratively, other).

    More when I return in early August.


    • Richard Fay

      The literatures on reflection and reflexivity are complex I know but, is there any reason not to take the simple starting point and say that reflection is the broader term and that it is a core component in the more more focused activity of being reflexive with regard to (eg) our research activities?

      Thus, in my visual, I see ongoing reflection on the progress and process of the research to be essential in all research studies whereas the additional dimension of reflexivity applies only in those studies where the researcher is subjectively tied to the researched context.

      For example, both me and my brother Michael (with his botanical DNA research – see my DRC materials for more on his work) need to reflect on the process and progress of our individual research studies but, whereas objectivity is the name of his research game (i.e. his, as opposed to another scientist’s, involvement in the experiment should be irrelevant to the outcome), subjectivity is the name of mine as I, for example, explore the developing researcher competence (DRC) of my MA students. For this reason, my work will involve a reflexive dimension whereas his won’t.

      Given Juup’s (above) disinclination towards reflexivity, I’m not sure where this leaves him when he too explores the DRC of our MA students. Nor am I sure whee it leaves my ponderings above. For sure, I find it hard to imagine researching unreflexively this context with which he and I deeply involved. However, as my four-quadranted figure tries to illustrate, we researchers do make choices about our reseaerch stance. Perhaps Juup might choose to occupy a different quadrant to me regarding being reflexive (or not) in his work on our MA students’ DRC. He might for example, follow Eljee (in her MA Dissertation) and be reflexive mainly with regard to the Research Narrative and not so much (if at all) to the Researcher Narrative. This option worked for Eljee in her high-scoring Dissertation but, I confess, I found her position strange – it would not have been the one I would have adopted if I have been her and had been doing the same study. But that’s just me!

      So, here I am recognising that even when we research contexts in which we are deeply involved – i.e. contexts inw hich I was above suggesting subjectivity was inherent and therefore reflexivity was more or less necessary – there is probably room for movement with regard to the opportunity to be more or less reflexive. For example, others may place value on other measures to address subjectivity – e.g. inter-rater reliability, member-checking, etc. Such measures would not be in place of a reflexive stance necessarily (a researcher might e reflexive and also make use of these other possibilities in their research design) but I am wondering if a researcher might use them without much of reflexive stance and in this way recognise how the subjective aspects of their involvement in the study might be managed in the interests of rigour etc.

      What I would like to hear more about from others is about their decisions to be reflexive or not, or to be more or less reflexive in their stance. What influences such decisions? I am especially keen to know more about those cases where somone has chosen not to be reflexive in studies into a context (or phenomenon) in which they are deeply involved. For example, I am still intrigued by Eljee’s MA Dissertation stance vis-a-vis reflexivity, and I am still intrigued to know how Juup approaches our MA student’s DRC without a reflexive aspect (if this is indeed what he is intending). I want to conclude by emphasising that I am critica of such choices but rather curious to know more about their genesis, their anatomy (and other metaphors I could play with).

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Thanks for that Richard. I have just had a look at the materials (should have done that before), and found “This is where reflexivity comes in, i.e. the realisation of the critical role of, and the need for maximal transparency about, the researcher’s subjectivities vis-à-vis the research study”, among other very interesting ideas. This is what I was trying to explain in my post 🙂
    Will wait to hear what Eljee thinks

  • Richard Fay

    Hi Made
    Much of what you say resonates with the materials I have added to my earlier posting (above) and in particular to the four-quadrants in my visual. The point of the names in those quadrants is to show that all researchers make choices in how the present their research narratively and reflectively-reflexively) and the same researcher (e.g. Eljee) even when working on the same research topic may shift their stance as they progress (e.g. compare Eljee’s MA dissertation with her more recent doctoral thinking on her VEM-NEST topic and her reflexive identity with it). I will leave her to say more on this …

  • Magdalena De Stefani

    Hi Juup and Richard

    Thanks for your views. I understand both of you very well, I think. I share Juup’s struggle to differentiate reflection from reflexivity – I tried hard last year and I’m not sure I got very far. I started off thinking that the best would be to look for definitions in the literature, but that only confused me further… Then in June 09 I had a long Cooperative Development session with Julian on reflexivity,which was very useful because it made me think about what I was actually doing – not just saying – reflexivity-wise in my research.

    I agree with Richard that reflexivity involves examining both how we affect the research and how the research affects us. My idea is that in both these dimensions of reflexivity, the researcher’s voice and subjectivity are essential and provide the starting point for exploration. In that sense, reflexivity involves an increased awareness and understanding of our role, whereas reflection could be simply regarded as stepping back to consider the research process from different perspectives, without any particular acknowledgement of the importance of the researcher’s voice. If this was true, those who are keen on objectivity may think reflection is useful, but may not want to engage in reflexivity because it would mean dealing with issues they don’t consider relevant.

    Whoa! That was brave of me, wasn’t it? Shoot back, I can take it 🙂

  • Hi Everyone,

    Thanks to Richard for starting this thread. I thought I’d briefly post something about how I understand reflexivity. In my developing thinking I am trying to ‘define’ reflexivity. I must admit right away that I struggle to distinguish reflection and reflexivity. I suspect that is because of how I think about these things. Also, I do not exemplify here and I deliberately try to avoid using metaphor…

    I assume as a starting point that reflexivity is something that will help me do things (develop, innovate, create, trust, learn, and more). I also assume that reflexivity may contribute to make my doing more positive (more effective, more creative, more learning …), and if I take a reflexive stance in writing then I may make my doing more understandable to you.

    There are many shaping influences on doing something. The influences on me will be unique and different from influences on you. Influences today will be different from those tomorrow. The better I understand influences on my doing, the better I understand myself, and then I may become better at influencing my own doing (learning, developing, creating and more) in positive ways – reflexivity becomes a positive influence on my own doing.

    Contribution to make my activity more understandable to others: Because the influences on my activity are unique to myself, I need to reveal this uniqueness to you for you to understand me. If I don’t then you don’t understand me.

    With the above, I imagine that reflexivity would look very different depending on what are the shaping influences on what someone is doing, and perhaps tied to the aims for doing something as well. The shaping influences may be cultural, historical and interpersonal (perhaps more commonly associated with reflexivity?) or they may be theoretical (less commonly associated with reflexivity?).

    Enough from me. I think I need to move on to exemplification. I am going away for 10 days – family reunion in Denmark. Will revisit the blog when I return, perhaps with some exemplification 🙂 and perhaps then also some references that have been influential on my thinking.

    Richard, could you perhaps post your visual with the 4 quadrants, and perhaps a reference to the Narrative Matters talk where you introduced this. I keep coming back to this diagram in my own thinking – struggling to align it with my thinking 🙂


    • Richard Fay

      Thanks Juup. I will do as you suggest below. First, a quick reaction from me.

      You identify the tricky reflection-reflexivity relationship of terms / processes. In the materials I produced on reflection-reflexivity (for the Developing Researcher Competence course unit on the MA), I also struggle with the dynamic realtaionship between these term and processes. These materials may be somewhat heavy-going and need the course unit context to be fully meaningful, but by the end, they do reveal how I was thinking about this pairing of terms back in 2009.

      Also, I now recognise (unlike in the DRC materials above) that the idea of being reflexive is developed not just with regards to research but also in terms for example of professional practice (e.g. Julian’s upcoming work on the reflexive language teacher — I hope this does not misrepresent Julian). In my DRC materials I am more directly concerned with the reflexive aspects of the kinds of research many of our MA and doctoral students and many of the LTE team are engaged in.

      So, what do I mean by reflexivity? In brief, because so much of our research activity is highly- contextualised, and because we are usually deeply involved with the researched context, my starting point for reflexivity lies with the need to transparently consider how we (i.e. our identity, our connections with the context, etc etc) affect the research and how the research affects us (i.e. how the ongoing process of the research (and what we are learning through it) may change how we think and behave in the context concerned but also in our research in that context). There is a bilateral dimension here which I think resonates with Julian’s work.


      So, now back to your request Juup:
      Richard, could you perhaps post your visual with the 4 quadrants, and perhaps a reference to the Narrative Matters talk where you introduced this. I keep coming back to this diagram in my own thinking – struggling to align it with my thinking :



      To decode this visual, a few notes:

      1. this was developed for the Narrative Matters 2008 conference and it combines my interests in the reflection-reflexivity dimension with my interests in the narrativity of research texts – conference powerpoint;

      2. the names in the four quadrants are for researchers I know (Juup and Eljee are well-known here, Maria and Hiromi are former MA TESOL students), or rather the names of the researchers who work exemplies the stance taken in the quadrant concerned;

      3. the diagram is inevitably simplistic – for example, regarding the vertical axis, i do not wish to suggest that something is either reflective or reflexive depending where on the axis it might be positioned but rather that some works may simply have reflective aspect and others both a reflective and reflexive aspects;

      4. Eljee’s recent Narrative Matters 2010 paper (see her pages in this blog) shows her thinking about reflexivity now in contrast to the position of her MA Dissertation which is what I am invoking by her name on the visual;

      [Note: When making this posting, I was interrupted in mid-flow. I know I had a couple of further note but they are eluding me now, so I’ll add them if and when i remember them]