Engaging in Narrative Inquiry
Author: D. Jean Clandinin
Brief Overview of Chapter: In Chapter 7 of Clandinin’s text introduces, through a story that happened during her research, two curriculums – the curriculum that is a result of the multiple stories that come into a classroom as well as are created within a classroom. The second curriculum is that which is mandated by our province. Clandinin uses a story from her research to give us examples of how both happen and often conflict with each other. It is in chapter 7 that Clandinin also introduces four methodological dilemmas that can happen in a narrative inquiry. Chapter 8 is connected to the previous chapter and further explains the research implications that are similar to those they encountered in chapter 7’s story. In chapter 8, Clandinin emphasizes the importance of the relationship between researcher and participants. Clandinin also offers tips and advice within field texts as well as the research process itself.
Key Words/Phrases: narrative inquiry; living stories; curriculum; teacher; student; stories; dilemma; justifications; field texts; tension; inquiry space; storylines
Recommended related reading(s):
**I took out related quotes as they are discussed in my synthesis of chapters. However, these are the articles I looked up in relation to these 2 assigned chapters to read and apply to my learning this week.
1. Narrative inquiry: Embracing the possibilities by Sharon Thomas
2. Navigating sites for narrative inquiry by D. Jean Clandinin, Debbie Pushor, Anne Murray Orr
3. Narrative inquiry: Experience matters by Gail M. Lindsay and Jasna K. Schwind
1. How can curriculums allow for lived experiences to become meaningful learning in the classroom?
2. What do you think a balance between standardized testing, assessment, and lived experiences in the school landscapes would look like?
3. What if you cannot find answers or possible solutions with your research? What does your research become?
4. If you struggle making connections with participants in your research, what are some solutions to help a researcher to be able to connect?
Inspiring (all discussed below):
1. Teacher and student lives as central to curriculum making (p. 145).
2. The lived classroom curriculum is “where inquiry and lives intermingled” (p. 163).
3. One dilemma in narrative research is that we, as researchers, tend to want to “cover our vulnerabilities” (p. 166).
4. “This attentiveness to who they were, and were becoming, related to who they were as they lived alongside their participants and as they heard and told stories with participants, as well as in how they represented themselves and participants in the research texts (p. 175).
My synthesis of article (with educational perspectives):
In another article that Clandinin, co-written with Pushor and Orr, the power of narrative inquiry within the education milieu is shown through this quote: “Stories, ripe with possibility for inquiry, surround and envelope us as teachers and teacher educators. They are the woven fabric of school landscapes. Moving from telling stories of our teaching practices situates teachers and teacher educators in the known and the familiar while it asks us to make the known and the familiar strange and open to new possibility. Teachers and teacher educators have an opportunity to come to understand more fully our school landscapes and ourselves as shaping and shaped by these landscapes, and thus, to shift our practices in relation to teaching and learning, teachers and students, parents and families, and curriculum making. Perhaps we can even change school landscapes” (p. 33).
Chapter 7 and 8 of Clandinin’s text “Engaging in Narrative Inquiry” embodies this above quote. Throughout the text, Clandinin has given many examples of stories in education that have been used in her research. However, in chapter 7, the story told recounts the experience of her going on a field trip with students outside of school. On this field trip, the employee assigned to guide the class is constrained by only making sure that he helps the classroom meet the mandated curriculum content. When students ask questions that are not what he seems relevant to the field trip, he ignores them. This is a strong example of how curriculum and student lived experiences are often not realized as merged together – dependant upon each other. As teachers, school is the landscape that we bring our personal stories to but it also the landscape where new stories emerge.
Our personal stories and school stories become a part of the stories of those we interact with in our school landscapes – students, colleagues, parents. As the quote says above that we are shaped by these school landscapes and if we focus on the relationships within our school landscape, we can change it through those connections with students, colleagues, parents, and curriculum. In our text, Clandinin says that teacher and student lives are vital in curriculum making (p. 145) and I agree. It is these relationships that can develop curriculums that embody lived experience because the “core aim of [narrative] inquiry is not to ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ anything, but rather question the notion of truth, and in doing so, expand notions of ‘possibility'” (Thomas, p. 208). Thomas also says that “…shared meaning of experiences – through narrative – relates to more than just the individual; it relates to the broader social frame of which individuals are a part” (p. 214). Our stories that teachers and students share and live together every day can be used to help address some of the problems schools face today in research. Through telling these stories in narrative research is where solutions can be proposed and the possibility for change has been brought to light of other educators and researchers.
Clandinin said that “[a]ttending to children’s and teacher’s lives is particularly difficult when the stories of school currently shaping the professional knowledge landscape are so strongly shaped by plot lines of standardized assessment and accountability” (p. 147). Fortunately, I am a Core French teacher and as long as my students are enjoying French and learning, I have been left to be accountable to myself and my students. I have no standardized testing or people checking up on me to see if I am meeting outcomes. This freedom has allowed me some liberties and I am able to easily “…attend to people, places, and events…” (Clandinin, Pushor, Orr, p. 27) in my curriculum. I am able to engage with my students and listen to their stories in the classroom. I find what they find interesting and apply it to my units. When I was at a community school for 3 years, I struggled engaging the students in Core French with my units on food, clothing, etc. But when I began to teach about the Carnaval de Quebec and the First Nations and Metis history embedded in it – their attitudes changed. Hence, my annual “Carnavals” at any school I teach at began. I have typically done full day, extravagant events with guests and storytellers. Unfortunately, budget and time has created problems but I attempt to find ways to make mini events or assemblies to embody the love my students have created for this. It began with one school and I carried it on to my current school. It has spiked the interest of my students in this school as well. Every September I am asked “How much longer until our Carnaval unit and day?” Not only do they love the day full of events, but they also love the learning that we do for 2 months before the event. Perhaps because it is full of stories within the history that they want to learn about. Perhaps because they are creating their own stories in relation to these stories. However, it is the main thing that has connected my story and my students’ stories in wanting to learn French, all throughout the year, as they connect it to this shared experience we have lived together and it makes French important to them.
It is through these stories that I will pull out the threads, as Clandinin describes on p. 152, of my students’ experiences to apply to my upcoming task of research. I believe there is something happening in my French classroom that I never thought would happen – my students have begun to love French but also question (because of our history lessons connected to the fur trade, French, First Nations, and Metis, etc) why other languages are not also taught. This is not a challenge or defiance to what I am teaching them. I have no doubt of their love for French as they are excited every time I enter a classroom. This is students completely engaged in a program that they helped define as it meant something to their story. And now, they have questions that will impact their future lived experience, as well as my own. It is my intention to address these issues in my thesis. In addressing this, I believe that narrative inquiry will be my best method as “…narrative is one of our most fundamental ways of making meaning from experience” (Thomas, p. 209).
Excitement and enthusiasm to learn French did not happen by chance or just because. It happened when I took the time to allow the stories of students to become a part of my program. I always had a feeling I would want to return to complete my Masters but up until my students gave me a reason to return, I had not felt the need to apply. Once my students began questioning a very controversial and relevant question about language education in Canada, it initiated a fire in me to want to find an answer. Without a doubt, the stories that unfolded in my classroom is what led to me where I am today in my own story of education. Clandinin says in her text: “This attentiveness to who they were, and were becoming, related to who they were as they lived alongside their participants and as they heard and told stories with participants, as well as in how they represented themselves and participants in the research texts (p. 175).
I know that my story that develops within my narrative inquiry work will lead me to rethink my own classrooms and I will think about this question as I complete my work: “[H]ow will it be insightful to changing or thinking differently about the researcher’s own and others’ practices?” (Clandinin, Pushor, Orr, p. 25). The experiences of my students have already changed how I teach. I think in so many new ways and what I thought I would be as a French teacher is completely different now than when I convocated in 2008. Lindsay and Schwind say: “As stories are lived in told in a given place and in relationship, we co-construct the emerging knowledge, which is at once particular and localized, and yet transferable to other persons and contexts by means of reflective self-inquiry of the audience” (Lindsay and Schwind, p. 15). I will forever be grateful to the power stories have in the classroom and for this class that has pushed me into realizing it. I believe between the push my students gave through their stories in my classroom, the knowledge and practices that am learning in this course, and the realization of allowing my own story to have a voice – will all embody an influential narrative inquiry, even if it just begins in my own classroom for my students and myself.
Clandinin, D. J. (2016). Engaging in narrative inquiry. New York, New York: Routledge.
Clandinin, D., Pushor D., & Orr, A. (2007) Navigating sites for narrative inquiry. (Article available here: http://journals.sagepub.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/doi/abs/10.1177/0022487106296218)
Lindsay, G. & Schwind, K. (2016) Narrative inquiry: Experience matters. (Article available here: http://journals.sagepub.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/doi/full/10.1177/0844562116652230)
Thomas, S. (2012) Narrative inquiry: Embracing the possibilities. (Article available here: http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/docview/1625565492?pq-origsite=summon)