Narrative Inquiry (NI) and Appropriate Methodology (AppM) by Richard Fay

Richard writes: As many of you know, as prompted by a seminar by Adrian Holliday (based on his 1992 article) and sessions by former colleague Mike Beaumont, the major revelation from my own MA studies (back in the day) concerned appropriate methodology for TESOL, a very current issue then (before Holliday’s seminal publication on this theme was published in 1994) especially as the proselytising push towards Communicative Language Teaching (supported by private sector EFL native-speaker driven ELT) was then increasingly perceived to be crashing into the needs and expectations and cultures of public sector, local teacher-driven ELT around the world. This theme had great explanatory power for my own experiences as a recently trained (CertTEFLA) teacher naively implementing my CLT training in the university ELT sector in 1980s Poland.

That encounter with AppM (for TESOL) influenced me greatly, and I have been intrigued by the possibilities of extending it to other areas of practice ever since. Thus, my doctoral study (Fay, 2004) explored the development of distance learning in Greece through a Holliday-ean AppM frame of reference. Also in Greece I considered the language teacher education curricula for Greek teachers of English, French and German using an AppM frame (Fay and Hill, 2003; Fay, Hill and Davcheva, 2006; Fay, Spinthourakis & Anastassiadi, 2000). More recently, with Ros Hawley and Ellie Sherwood, I have begun applying a similar frame to my klezmer ensemble teaching, i.e. appropriate world music ensemble methodology, or in Music Education terms, appropriate Performing Ethnomusicology methodology. And a couple of years back, at a Greek Applied Linguistics event, I also tried applying it to CLIL (content and language integrated learning) (Fay, 2012). Finally, last month, with Parneet, we presented AppM to a cohort of Ross White’s MSc Global Mental Health students at Glasgow University and suggested it might be a useful frame in more therapeutic areas, an idea supported by recent thinking in cross-cultural counselling for example (Gerstein et al, 2011).

Today, a new volume edited by Sheila Trahar (2013) has made me think about AppM and another important area of my work, i.e. Narrative Inquiry (NI). In this work, Trahar and colleagues foreground “the importance of the context in which research takes place and critiques the dominant discourses that inform narrative inquiry so that they are not applied unquestioningly, particularly in contexts that do not privilege these discourses” (1993: back cover).

They argue that “… all researchers should develop methodological approaches that are grounded in local contexts and that pay attention to how knowledge is shared and understood in those contexts” (ibid).

As with Holliday-ean thinking about AppM, there is both a micro concern for particular practice as well as a concern for the macro ideological landscape – the need for, and imperative therefore placed on all (NI) researchers to address, contextually appropriate methodology “becomes even more important when those local contexts have historically been subjugated through colonialism and when local, indigenous ways of knowing have been ignored or dismissed as worthless” (ibid).

Fay, R. (2004). Stories of emergent cultures of distance learning and collaboration: Understanding the CELSE-Hellenic Open University Project (unpublished doctoral thesis). The University of Manchester.

Fay, R. (2012). “Appropriate methodology revisited at a time of cross-curricular approaches to language education”

Fay, R. and Hill, M. (2003). Educating language teachers through distance learning: the need for culturally-appropriate DL methodology, Open Learning, 18(1): 9-27.

Fay, R., Hill, M. and Davcheva, L. (2006). The need for culturally-appropriate distance learning methodology in crosscultural development contexts. In Lionarakis, A. (ed.), Open and Distance Education – Elements of Theory and Practice [translated from Greek]. (pp.151-173). Propobos: Athens.

Fay, R., Spinthourakis, J.-A. and Anastassiadi, M.-C. (2000). Teacher education for teachers of English and French: Developing parallel distance learning programmes in Greece. In M. Beaumont and T. O’Brien (eds.), Collaborative research in second language education. (pp.109-122). Stoke: Trentham Books.

Gerstein, L.H., Heppner, P.P., Ægisdottir, S., Leung, S-M.A. and Norsworthy, K.L. (2012). Essentials of cross-cultural counseling. London: Sage.

Holliday, A.R. (1992). Tissue rejection and informal orders in ELT projects: collecting the right information. Applied Linguistics, 13(4), 403-424.

Holliday, A.R. (1994). Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trahar, S. (ed.) (2013). Contextualising narrative inquiry: developing methodological approaches for local contexts. London: Routledge.

One comment

  • Siti Fitriyah

    It is indeed really interesting how AppM may relate to many other areas including narrative research. I learn as well from my experiences so far that my narrative inquiry is culture and context bound. This quote “… all researchers should develop methodological approaches that are grounded in local contexts and that pay attention to how knowledge is shared and understood in those contexts” (Trahar, 2013) mentioned above makes me think and reflect on how I have done my research so far (how I have to adjust my research protocol to address the issue). It also makes me think how local is ‘local’ as I also learn how teachers from different regions, areas (urban-rural), age group, and level of school they are teaching respond differently to my research and during the interviews.

    My colleagues stories about their research experiences are also of similar feature, all are unique and very much context bounded. One of my colleagues from Malaysia, Diana, shared me her experiences of how her participants would prefer to share their stories in writing instead of being interviewed orally. Another colleague, Sahar, told me how some of her participants would tell her a long story while others would just tell her few lines.

    I learned also from one of the posters on the LTE corridor (Marriam Attia’s I think) about how different it is researching in Arabian countries, about Ethics if I am not mistaken. It reminds me of my experiences as well both during my pilot study and my main study that the PIS and consent form that I sent to my participants could either make them feel privileged to be part of what seems to be an important research (University of Manchester is on the letterhead 😀 ) or at times intimidated and made them reluctant to take part in the research. I agree that it is essential to develop context sensitive methodology for narrative inquiry and it will make a really interesting and exciting discussion 🙂