A seventh moment bricoleurship and narrative turn to poetics in educational research
Marlene de Beer1
UNESCO Centre, University of Ulster, NI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Student
Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh,
10 September 2003
I attempt to discuss 'a seventh moment bricoleurship' and 'narrative turn to poetics' and explain how it evolved within my current PhD thesis. I will also present it diagrammatically according to the 'historical moments of qualitative research', developed by Denzin and Lincoln. Within the blurred genre phase (1970 onwards), the interpretive bricoleur produces a bricolage - a pieced-together set of representations fitted to the specifics of a complex situation, thus producing an emergent construction that changes and takes new forms as different (or new, invented, pieced together) tools, methods and techniques of representation and interpretation are added to the puzzle. Thus indicating a pragmatic, strategic, self-reflexive and aesthetic practice. I have become to be a bricoleur choosing the colours, spreading the research quilt.
The development and active experimentation with art and poetry in research took off in the sixth phase or post-experimental moment (since 1995). Data poetry as a methodology or technique, and as alternative and complementary form in presenting different voices and data is thus officially recognised within this framework and I will present various examples. As these 'moments' are not like geological seams that are mined to extinction, but overlap and are often working simultaneously, I particularly advocate the seventh moment (since 2000) of appreciation and recognition of various methods and perspectives of qualitative research. Though, I also dispute that, within my current context and experience, research has not yet come close to the sevenths moment and that the positivist research paradigm is still very much favoured particularly within certain geographical and institutional power-knowledge-discourse confinements. I argue that poetically represented data has a valid place in the development and strengthening of qualitative research and that it has a resonate methodology and theoretical base. It strengthens personal reflective narrative writing, promotes an epistemology for consciousness and has specific significance legions with feminism, Freire, Dewey and Foucault.
The first part of this article starts by placing this article within various evolutionary moments of qualitative research. Methodological considerations of arts-based educational research and poetically represented data then follow. I continue by considering issues of design, methods, analysing strategies and aspects of 'verification' and 'validity'. I also discuss the practice of transcendence, stillness, intuitive gifts, a having / experiencing 'a double mind and not concluding'. Some personal reflections on craft skill development are raised, starting with looking 'with the eyes of a child', then 'experimentation' and finally reflection on the tension between 'poetasters, seekers, poets and masters'...
Within the second part of this paper I present eleven examples of poetically represented data, entitled:
I WANT TO GO ON WITH MY LIFE LESSONS LEARNED? TO CONFORM OR TO TRANSFORM JUDGE & JURY CHASING FASHION AND TALKING BOXES SOCIAL COHESION DIALOGUES A THIRD WORLD'S LOT - PROSTRATED - CONTAINED THE BEASTLY FEAST DEVELOPMENT AID DO YOU KNOW, I NEED TO TELL YOU THE STORY GOES...
EVOLUTIONARY MOMENTS OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
I begin by placing this article within the evolutionary framework of various qualitative research moments and what implications this may have for the researcher. I invite you to take a step back, to see the bigger picture and partake in this journey. I provide you with an overview of the evolution of qualitative research and the historical moments in qualitative research in the following diagram.
The historical moments2 of qualitative research , developed by Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln (2000: 3, 12-17, 1047-1063) (also see Michael Patton, 2002a: 79-80) helps explaining the dramatic variations and developments in qualitative research. I present it diagrammatically as follows:
Traditional period - colonial research
Modernist pha se
Blurred genres phase
Crises of represen-tation
Positivism and objectivity in ethno-graphers fieldwork and reports
Methodological rigor and procedural formalism.
Challenges to Positivism (Symbolic Interactionism)
Many alternative approaches emerged: creating competition and confusion (e.g. hermeneutics, structuralism, phenomenology, feminism).
Borrow from many different disciplines ('bricoleur'3)
Production of Reflective Texts: reflexivity, power, privilege, race, gender, class
all undermining traditional notions of validity and neutrality
triple crisis of representation, legitimation and praxis
creative and interpretive nature of writing; perspectives of writer; evaluation and quality
refusal to privilege any method or theory
activist (democratic racial justice) / political and participatory approaches
boundaries expanded to include creative nonfiction, autobiographical ethnography, poetic representations, multimedia presentations
researchers cease debating differences and celebrate the marvellous variety of their creations
Diagram 1: Historical Moments of Qualitative Research
Using Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln's evolutionary framework of various qualitative research moments (2000:3, 12-17, 1047-1063; also see Michael Patton, 2002a: 79-80),I am integrating and drawing from phase 3 (blurred genre, since 1970) onwards and use this presentation also to justify the data poetry technique (post-experimental, moment 6 since 1995) as alternative and complementary form in presenting different voices (also activist and political, post-modern experimental, moment 5 since 1990) regarding social cohesion perspectives and concerns. According to Norman Denzin et.al. (2000) within the six moment, boundaries are expanded to include creative nonfiction, autobiographical ethnography, poetic representations and multimedia presentations. They add: "The seventh moment is concerned with moral discourse, with the development of sacred textualities. ...asks that the social sciences and humanities become sites for critical conversation about democracy, race, gender, class, nation-states, globalisation, freedom, and community" (Norman Denzin et.al., 2000:3). Is this not ultimately what I am reaching towards in this study?
I therefore advocate and actively participate in promoting both the six and seventh moments of appreciation and recognition of various methods and perspectives of qualitative research. Thus, by using a wide range of interconnected interpretive practices, I hope to get a better understanding of my field of research. Though, each practice makes the world visible in a different way; hence a "commitment to using more than one interpretive practice in any study" (Norman Denzin et al., 2000:4). I have thus become to be a bricoleur by choosing the colours and spreading the research quilt (also see Telles, 2000:251).
On the down side, I also dispute that, within my current context and experience, research has not yet come close to the sevenths moment and that the positivist research paradigm is still very much favoured. For example, I have experienced pressure and expectations to conform and be assimilated into what I would call various subcultures within the western, British, and European academia, educational system and international way of thinking and doing things, particularly to conform to a traditional positivistic research culture. Exploring with alternative forms is therefore still very much challenged and not supported.
ARTS-BASED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND POETICALLY REPRESENTED DATA
I have positioned this article within the methodological context of Arts-Based Educational Research that explores new forms of data collection and representation (Tom Barone & Elliot Eisner in Richard Jaegor, 1997:73). In my poetry construction and integration I use the following four forms of poetically represented data that make culturally relevant qualitative research possible in educational research, as developed and identified by Anne McCrary Sullivan (1999:1 & 2000a):
- Textual Data Poems are constructed from published text rather than empirical data.
- Empirical Data Poems are constructed from qualitative data (using the words /language /verbatim quotations of respondents, informants).
- Personal Data or Experience Poems grow out of informal empirical data, from experience and observation, without the intermediary of a formal data gathering process. They are poems 'about' rather than 'of' a specific context or interaction, often retrospectively. They represent the researcher's experience and suggest a meaning or a range of meanings (Anne McCrary Sullivan, 1999:1). Own words, interpretation, and reflections on field research experience and related observations are, therefore, used.
- Epistemological Poems are likely to provoke questions, possible answers, suggest possibilities and stimulate thoughtful discussion for underlying concerns of the nature of knowledge and how we come to know.
I regard the above four forms of poetically represented data as appropriate and useful to work with in constructing poems in a research context and have not identified any other similar or contradictory frameworks.
This alternative method of qualitative data analysis and presentation is useful in providing some variety in the data presentation and is particularly suitable if the data conveys dynamic tension in categories and feelings. Through the poetic representation of data, the researcher filters data, "distilling for significances, making meaningful juxtapositions, and generating a shape that enhances intended meanings. As the researcher highlights significant patterns, tensions, and themes, the conscious act of shaping the poem becomes simultaneously both an act of representation and an act of interpretation" (Anne McCrary Sullivan, 1999:1). Poetically presented data, therefore, presents a different image and metaphor, and can reveal what was previously concealed (Tom Barone, 2001:25 & Elliot Eisner, 1997:7). It can provide a productive ambiguity and can result in less closure and more plausible interpretations of meaning (Elliot Eisner, 1997:8).
I therefore argue that poetically represented data have a valid place in the development and strengthening of qualitative research and that they have a resonate methodology and theoretical base. They strengthen personal reflective narrative writing, promote an epistemology for consciousness and has links with feminism, Freire, Dewey and Foucault (for more detail see Tom Barone, 2001:25; Michele Commeyras, 1999:5; Mary Cooper & Sue Burroughs-Lange, 1999:401-4 & 7; Marlene De Beer, 2002; Elliot Eisner, 1997:5, 7-8; Paulo Freire, 1970; Jim Garrison, 1998:131-2; Willis Harman, 1996:35-7; Karen Norum, 2000:247-9; William Pinar, 1975:271, 399-400, 407, 413, 415 & 445; Laurel Richardson, 1993:695, 697, 705-6; Liz Stanley, 1990:23; Anne McCrary Sullivan, 1999:1 & 2000b:220-221 & 226).
DESIGN, METHODS AND ANALYSES STRATEGIES
I present eleven poems developed by the author of this article and draw particularly on the voice of an African woman, Prof. Catherine A Odora Hoppers4 for poems 6 to 10. This data is selected from a larger PhD research study - a work in progress - that focuses on social cohesion discourses, their relevance for education policy and practice and interventions by international organisations to develop social cohesion through education. I have followed a responsive and flexible design strategy (also called an emergent design flexibility by Michael Patton, 2002a: 40), which means having an openness to adapt inquiry as understanding deepens and/or situations change; this avoids becomming locked into rigid designs that eliminate responsiveness and allows for the pursuit of new paths of discovery as they emerge. Therefore, the qualitative research process was not tightly structured in advance and the design evolved in line with what was learned throughout the research process. I consequently used multiple data gathering methods which include interviews (semi-structured), observations (indirect and informal through meetings, field research visits and conferences), and documentation (Robert Yin, 1991:61, 71-2, 75, 85-94, 103; John Creswell, 1994:150, 152; & Sharon Merriam, 1998:177).
The following five analysis strategies as provided by Michael Patton (2002a:41) were used to various degrees: inductive analysis and creative syntheses, voice, perspective and reflexivity, holistic perspective, context sensitivity, . I also adopt a moral-methodological stance motivated and guided by moral-political objectives. Gary Powell (1999:480) highlights this as follows: "What we know is strongly influenced by how we discover it. If how we do research is affected by our views and values, so are the results of the work. We cannot separate the results of the data from the method of the data. There are no right answers, simply a set of choices that researchers make that meet their interest, abilities, and beliefs. ... Research involves choices. Some are clearly conscious choices, some are clearly political, and some occur randomly. Some of these choices are aligned with different philosophical research ideologies."
Therefore, as this article is placed within various moments (as provided earlier), it cannot be interpreted and evaluated using the traditional scientific research criteria. An 'audit trail' is available on request in the format of the transcribed interview and three examples of how poetically presented data (7-9) were constructed from the original interview transcription. The above therefore indicates that procedures for 'verification' and 'validity' have been adhered to. I also refer the reader to alternative sets of criteria provided by Michael Patton (2002a:544-5 & 2002b: 268-269) for judging the quality and credibility of qualitative inquiry, particularly when creativity is at the center and when the results may be called creative synthesis or scientific poetics. This article is therefore not written according to the conventional and traditional scientific format.
Transcendence, stillness, intuitive gifts, a double mind and not concluding
I agree with Lesley Saunders (2003:184), that as we contribute and construct alternative models of social science, the process and product of educational research and rational analysis is not always what it appears to be. Lesley Saunders (2003:185) adds that in our search for pattern and unity/disruption we often experience the frisson of something very like inspiration. The richness of Catherine Odora Hoppers' interview data, including her academic work, expressed and captured so precisely and painfully themes that emerged from many other interviews and observations during my field research period for which I have not yet had the precise words. This data suddenly appeared to yield a quite unexpected revelation that yet felt exactly right in the five poems presented. I do not have a clear and rational explanation of why and exactly how these five poems came to me. I simply sense a level of integration between left brain rationality and analysis and right brain intuition and creativity5. Lesley Saunders (2003:185) states: "It is like a gift, it feels as if understanding has not come through a rational sifting and resifting of data but rather as a bolt from the blue, a dream-like intuition". Therefore, as for Lesley Saunders (2003:185), I also sense that learning to wait in some kind of mental stillness for that connection to happen may be as important in research as in poetry: "The risk of spoiling the work by premature closure, the easy ending, is as real in both. The researcher's and poet's responsibility, and talent, is not just to tell it like it is but to add a deeper sounding. ... So poetry was a way of not having to conclude that there were no conclusion; the form, as well as the intent, is agnostic". I would like to echo the following quote of Margarete Sandelowski (1994:61): "When you talk with me about my research, do not ask me what I found ... Ask me what I invented, what I made up from and out of my data. ... I am not confessing to telling any lies about the people or events in my study/stories. I have told the truth. The proof for you is in the things I have made-how they look to your mind's eye, whether they satisfy your sense of style and craftsmanship, whether you believe them, and whether they appeal to your heart."
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON CRAFT SKILL DEVELOPMENT
With the eyes of a child...
My curiosity about and attraction to the arts and poetry, accompanied by a 'defiance', started very early. Throughout my school career I participated in annual school drama and poetry festivals and on several occasions also dramatised individual written poems in Afrikaans, my home language. Throughout the years, my poems have been for personal purposes, sporadic, and not for publication. I have also not had any formal training in the craft of writing poetry.
I was first introduced to poetically represented data at an international conference on qualitative research in education by Anne McCrary Sullivan in 1999. Since then I have been experimenting with this genre in my masters and current PhD research. I have learned about compression, to generate energy through images and to trust that these images communicate what I intend to capture through the voice of my research participants. Using spacing between line pairs slows a reader down, allows time for breathing, sustains attention and opportunities to assimilate. Minimising talking, preaching and explaining through poetically represented data, even though this is difficult when working with abstract academic language, is important. To break out of linearity, to take some risks, to use dialogue boxes and other visual approaches to structuring are further goals. I now strive to strike a balance between not wanting to resort to too much clarity, while remaining in the domain of suggestion. Bringing the poetically represented data to its strongest possible expression, clearly and powerfully is crucial. I consequently also take in a Thirdspace6, draw on a Foucaultian power-knowledge-discourse paradigm and have adopted the 'style and spirit' of the revolutionary Russian poet, Vladimir Mayakovski (1893-1930), through my poetically represented data.
Poetasters, seekers, poets and masters...
Opposing the hints of an elitist attitude (Jane Piirto, 2002), I advocate various levels of entry to experimenting and working with poetry for someone like me who does not have formal training in the arts and literature and who writes in a second language. In my experience, informal groups, such as community training, learning, sharing, development and facilitation, are most useful. The 1999 and 2000 international conferences in South Africa where Prof Anne McCrary Sullivan presented papers and the 'write hear write now' group in Northern Ireland facilitated by Dr Frankie Sewell, a qualified literary and poetic specialist, are examples. Personal experience leads me to believe that poetry is an art and a craft that could be developed if the individual has the passion, dedication and discipline to learn, even if it is along non-traditional and non-formal routes. Furthermore, there are also different angles from which this could be approached. Other contributors are first and foremost established literary and poetry writers (and their poems stand on their own), but I use poetically represented data to complement, strengthen and transform my academic and research process. For me it is a powerful and secondary medium of data representation in my developing skill of not only doing qualitative research as a PhD student, but also learning and exposing myself along the way to experience. I therefore use more of the poetic craft in research as my poetically represented data might never stand on its own. I realise that if I want to continue using poetically represented data poems, I have to ensure continuous exposure or lifelong informal learning in the literary and poetic craft, as the route of a formal academic qualification in this field does not currently appear to be a possibility for me.
Challenge and criticism is always necessary, though my hope is that this genre does not become a battlefield between so-called educational poetasters, seekers, poets and masters, signifying a strain of Foucaultian power-knowledge-discourse. We should consider and embrace more inclusive ways of thinking about creative synthesis /scientific poems. The question arises whether we should not view craft skill and the use of poetically represented data in research on intersecting horizontal and vertical continuums. The one (e.g. horizontal continuum) relates to craft quality, qualification and skills and the other (e.g. vertical continuum) to traditional research quality, qualification and skills. One continuum could range from established literary and poetry writers with a high level of poetic craft skill, recognition and publications, to those with a very low or no formal training or experience in poetic craft skill. On the other continuum we could have established research academics and professors in apposition to apprentice researchers and emerging scholars seeking tenure. However, the question remains: do quality, qualification and skill necessarily correlate, and are the movement, positioning and crossing of the continuums necessarily an appropriate framework to work with? Are we not trying to turn something that is innately creative and that requires thinking on the edge into a mechanistic and structured object..?
In the second part of the paper that follows, I present eleven examples of poetically represented data (developed by the author and selected from her larger PhD research study), entitled:
I WANT TO GO ON WITH MY LIFE
TO CONFORM OR TO TRANSFORM
JUDGE & JURY
CHASING FASHION AND TALKING BOXES
SOCIAL COHESION DIALOGUES
A THIRD WORLD'S LOT - PROSTRATED - CONTAINED
THE BEASTLY FEAST
DO YOU KNOW, I NEED TO TELL YOU THE STORY GOES...
As I am 'inspired' by the work of Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln (2000) and Michael Patton (2002a & b) the following poem thus symbolizes and affirms a seventh moment bricoleurship7 and narrative turn to poetics in educational research:
Poetically presented data poem 2: Personal reflective data poem on what I observed and experienced, written after the Bosnia & Herzegovina (1-14 April 2001) field research visit:
Poetically presented data - poem 3: This is connected to the previous poem, and is a personal, reflective data poem with an epistemological undertone.
Poetically presented data - poem 4: This combines personal data (interpretations, reflections and observations) with empirical data (interviews), with a textual ending.
Poetically presented data - poem 5: Connecting with the previous poem and founded on empirical data (interview notes and document analysis), personal data (interpretations, reflections and observations), two lines of textual data at the end, and poses an epistemological question / concern.
Poetically presented data - poem 6: Constructed from integrating personal data (interpretations, reflections and observations) and empirical data (transcribed interview notes), with an epistemological undertone.
Poetically presented data - poem 714: SOCIAL COHESION DIALOGUES
Poetically presented data - poem 9: Founded on empirical data (verbatim quotations, with minor modification, from transcribed interview with Prof Catherine Odora Hoppers, 28 November 2001)
Poetically presented data - poem 10: Epistemological and personal reflective data poem founded on observations and interview notes, with a textual ending:
Poetically presented data - poem 11: Poetically represented data (in a PowerPoint slide with annotations flying in...) founded on personal reflexive, textual and epistemological considerations (see annexure 1 after references for more detail) relating to the themes of education, social cohesion and diversity (constructed 8 April 2003).
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Annex 1: Poetically presented data - poem 11, founded on personal reflexive, textual and epistemological considerations...
Do you know; i need to tell you... the story goes...
Trinh T Minh-ha...
Banking education of Paulo Freire
That's the oppressor's language
Indeed, a long walk to freedom
bell hooks (1994 'Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom')
coming full circle
a stranger in paradise
realisation about class in the academia expressed by academics from working-class backgrounds in the collection of titled ‘Strangers in Paradise’, edited by Jake Ryan and Charles Sackrey - in bell hooks (1994 ‘Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom’)
Diversity training in SA…
Oscar Wilde on homosexuality
Oh privilege, prejudice & patronage
stripping onion layers...
& 'the Love that dare not speak its name'
i do my best work
Virginia Woolf in A Writer´s Diary (1965)
that's when i saw It
I might slow at one end on my swing
Adapted from quotes of Umberto Eco (1989) 'Foucault's pendulum', London: Secker & Warburg. Page 3-4)
First taken out of the EdD thesis of Maria van Loggerenberg (1990) 'The School in the tension-field between commonality and diversity' [translation from Afrikaans]
* UBUNTU is an African word, practice and philosophy that signify 'I am because you are', or 'a person is a person through other persons'. Ubuntu involves be-ing, experience, knowledge and truth in the plurality of its voices and presents it through the voice from within. It renders a human-ness, whole-ness and flow of be-ing and becoming. It is never fixed or rigidly closed; it allows others to be, to become. There is a dialogue of mutual exposure: "To be human is to affirm one's humanity by recognizing the humanity of others in its infinite variety of content and form." Ubuntu substitutes "I think, therefore I am", for, "I participate, therefore I am" (for example see Johann Broodryk, 2002 and Mogobe Ramose, 2002).
This document was added to the Education-line database on 01 September 2003