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)
After class Wednesday, I reflected back at our guest speaker, Shauneen Pete. She is a powerful storyteller and she left me mesmerized. For myself, after hearing her stories about her family, I tried to think about how much do I know about my own family. Shauneen was able to go back and describe the lives of her great grandparents, her grandparents, and parents with such ease. I know a fair amount about my grandparents, especially my paternal grandparents whom I was close to. However, I cannot easily tell their story from their beginning. I wish I could and I think this is a common theme lacking in Western society – we are so worried about our future that we do not think to remember our past, and our grandparents’ stories seem irrelevant and unimportant to getting where we want to go in our lives. In Shauneen’s story, the power of knowing who she is comes from knowing who her family is. I have lost this power and may never be able to change that.
Shauneen brought up the myth of meritocracy which she described as “work hard, get what you want (but only if you looked white)”. I learned about this term in Dr. Douglas Brown’s ED 805 class last semester as well. I have learned that this term defines many people’s lives – the work hard and succeed mentality is assumed in our society but if you are sick, poor, First Nations, immigrant, or different in what society has created as normal, it does means a lot more obstacles. Shauneen’s dad is an example of this when he became a RCMP officer. Even after he worked hard to become one of the first First Nations RCMP officers, and yet he was still ostracized by other members.
When Shauneen mentioned that her story begins at the campus, I was yet again reminded how “place” in our stories seem to become connected in our stories.
My thesis theme is a topic that I hope to focus on languages and reconciliation. For myself, as a white, middle class (came from low income family) – I am hesitant about allowing myself to approach it as I would not want to hurt anyone with my research or “do it wrong”. Shauneen said to us “Indigenous kids can’t wait for us (white people) to feel comfortable” and I was reminded that I need to take this step in order to make a difference for the future – or as Justice Murray Sinclair says – to make change 7 generations ahead.
Shauneen’s story about her grandma teaching her about the plant reminded me about the play “Salt Baby” when Salt Baby goes to an Elder and expresses she is worried about doing any of the traditional ceremonies wrong. The Elder replied exactly how Shauneen’s grandma did when Shauneen expresses that she did not know the Cree words like her Grandmother. Both the Elder and the Grandma responded that you do it in your own way and that there is no wrong way. Hearing this has made me rethink about who I am in my place of my story. I have become more aware each day that we are on Treaty 4 land. I also have begun to realize that even though I may not be First Nations, that the traditions and the stories are important to me too as someone who lives on treaty land. I have been invited to smudge on two occasions and both times, I initially felt terror. What if I do it wrong? Just like in Shauneen’s story and Salt Baby’s story, we need to let go of this fear in order to allow ourselves to learn. This is no wrong way to learn as every story that is a part of us is, as Shauneen said, “creating” ourselves.
When Ken Wilson came to speak, I found myself mesmerized when he would read from his work – which meant less notes taken. It was easy to get lost in his works and words! When reading from his works, he no longer was Ken Wilson but the character he was taking the role of.
Ken said he is “drawn to things that create havoc”. I think we are all drawn to stories that are like this – stories that create problems and questions for the audience/reader. Not always does the story solve the problem or answer the questions, but then the audience/reader can make it their own. Applying this to my own future work, I realize that I am similar to Ken – I am constantly in the midst of chaos and yet, my chaotic life has led me to a balance I have found for myself. Yet, as I try to distance myself from my past disorderly life, I immerse myself into new controversial problems such as the topic of my future thesis. Why?
Perhaps by focusing on other problems, I can forget my own. Perhaps I am drawn to havoc, as Ken says. Or even now, I recognize perhaps my disconnect with my family has created a loss of identity that I want to recreate. In doing so, I have found empathy for those who have had their identity taken away. In doing so, I move “back and forth in the stories from yours to theirs” as Ken said. I didn’t even realize I was doing that. Without even acknowledging it, my past stories have created a fidelity (a common theme that has been mentioned by almost all guest speakers) for my future research – to the theme, with the research participants, and with my readers. I am going to be like Ken’s work with Otto Dix – giving voice to someone’s story.
After viewing Ken’s Windblown/Rafales, a lady in the audience said : “How did he get to know this place so well?” This is exactly what I want to accomplish for my thesis. I want to show my research participants/readers that I did connect with their stories, even if through my own. I want them to feel their voices come through my written words. It is through this future work, that I will continue to reestablish my identity I feel I have lost. It is through giving voice, significance, and representation to someone else’s story that I will feel that I have accomplished something in my own story.
This is basically what kept going through in my head yesterday after an asthma attack hit middle of a Spartan Saturday outdoor workout.
“…remember why you started”.
I am fortunate to have my asthma very controlled and it rarely acts up – mostly only when I am getting sick. And I was starting to get a minor cold. That feeling of not being able to breathe is never something I can get used to even after years of asthma. After the attack, I could have quit. My team and coach wouldn’t have judged me. It was a pretty severe attack. But I knew once I had it under control that I could go on and finish if I slowed down and controlled my breathing. So I did it.
It took me pretty much double the time I normally spend on a Saturday workout but I did not quit. I found even trying to slow down was hard for me. I like to take challenges and push myself. I had to remind myself all throughout the long finish of the exercises, that today my challenge was not to push hard. But it was to simply finish the workout.
These workouts are more than just helping me become a healthier person physically. They are helping realize myself mentally too. For me, it isn’t all just about overcoming the obstacles or improving in the workouts. It is how the training for all of this is changing how I think. My brain thinks a lot like the image posted above from Spartan’s Facebook page.
Yesterday, my team and my coach helped push me through. When I decided to continue, they didn’t stop me. Not everyone knew at time that it had happened. Just my coach and a few who saw it happen. I know they watched me to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it and if at any moment, it looked like I was, I know they would have kindly insisted I stop. But when they saw that I was able to continue, very slowly, I heard words of encouragement. I was given high fives. On my last round, I remember hearing my coach say “Just take one step”. I remember laughing sarcastically in my head “I think you mean, just take one breath…” Humour helps when I struggle. But I took one breath and one step. I finished. One hour 47 minutes. Usually a Saturday workout takes one hour or one hour 15 minutes. It may have not been my “fastest” or my “strongest” workout. I may not have had a “PR” – personal record. However, after this workout, I teared up a bit as I felt immensely proud of myself and felt like I just accomplished the best workout ever. Finishing this workout felt better than any other PB or PR I have yet earned. It reminded me of the reasons why I started and why I have been so fortunate to change my life. I never gave up. From the moment I was given a reason to start (testing pre-diabetic in August 2013), I have continued to take one more step and I will continue to take one more stop for the rest of my life. My end goal isn’t just a goal weight anymore. My end goal is a continuous goal of health and fitness and challenging myself. My end goal is continuing to transform myself physically and mentally. My end goal is never quitting.
Thank you so much to my coach, Riley Nadoroznick, yesterday for sticking with me until I finished. Even though it took a very long time. I know you said I didn’t have to thank you but you have a life too and yet, you waited. Also thanks to my teammates yesterday. I may not have replied to all of your encouraging words as I was focusing on my breathing but I couldn’t have found a better family to challenge myself with. If you are local to Regina, and ready to also take that step, check out Conviction Fitness one day. Riley offers so much for people. Online programming for busy people and non local people too! Spartan Pro and Spartan Lite programming… Unfortunately, I think the March/April program is full or almost full but here’s the website to check out and has contact info if you are ready for a new challenge: http://convictionfitness.ca/
Between teaching, running, Spartan training workouts, grad class, and trying to maintain some type of social life (Basically impossible to have time for friends and family but I am balancing it but very precariously…), I rarely have time to plan an outfit before an event. Often, I am going into my closet and whipping something up.
This is exactly what happened today. I came home from my outdoor Spartan workout at 11am, and showered. I have a formal event at 5pm so I decided to make sure one of the 2 dresses I own would work. One was bought in August for a wedding and the second was bought in October for another formal event. I have lost 23 pounds since August and since October, it has been 17 of those 23 pounds. So both dresses were too big.
With an upcoming wedding of a friend on top of tonight’s event, I decided to hit the mall. I always get a sense of anxiety when it comes to clothes shopping. Most people feel excitement. However, 29 years of going into stores and never fitting the mall brand clothing has created this permanent feeling of stress when it comes to clothes shopping.
My past experience at 254 pounds…
I would wait until absolutely necessary to go clothes shopping. Usually that meant clothing wore out or I had gained more weight so need bigger size. In my early 20s, I’d attempt to try to see if I could squeeze into something that fit from Ricki’s or Bootlegger. Either it was so ridiculous, I’d give up. Or I’d leave with something that was obviously too tight but was more embarrassed to admit it by not buying it.
Even the sales people treated me different. They were usually always kind. But often I felt like they were over sympathetic but judging in the background “Why is this fat lady even bothering to try on our clothing?” Often, I had some bad experiences. I was often ignored as they knew I was a useless person to help – how can they help someone who won’t fit in their clothing?
It eventually grew so stressful that I learned the habit of buying clothing by assuming it looked like it may fit. But I was done with changing rooms. I would try on at home and just return it if it didn’t fit. Often my return excuse was “it was too big” even though it was the opposite or “I didn’t like the neck line”. Anything but “it was too small”.
By mid/late 20s, I just gave up and only shopped at one store – Addition Elle. This store was the only place I could find anything that fit. But fit does not mean it makes you feel good. As I started to wear 1x, then 2x, then 3x, and finally 4x (size 18 to size 24), I even hated shopping more. Sure, I could walk in and find anything I wanted but then if someone said “Cool outfit. Where from?” Then I’d have to come up with an answer. Lying means they may go looking for it but telling the truth meant a whole bunch more of shame.
Back to today…
Then I changed my life around with running, working out, healthier eating. My body image and self-esteem have change immensely. But I still struggle with clothes shopping. I get that old me back inside sometimes and I don’t always feel like I should be shopping now at La Senza, Le Chateau, Ricki’s, Reitman’s, Bootlegger, etc…
The experience has changed too.
Let’s look at today.
I went shopping with that old feeling of anxiety. I knew I needed a formal dress so I thought “Le Chateau”. But then part of my mind said “You can’t wear that – nothing will fit.” I tossed that thought out and I walked into the store. I searched around for a bit and the employees were over themselves to help me. I found a dress I fell in love with. I asked to try it in medium and large (threw out the old me that said no no.. extra large…extra large. You can’t fit in anything smaller). The salesman took down the dress but only a large available so I decided to just check it out. I probably wouldn’t fit a medium anyway… (another fat person thought).
I get into the change room. I put it on effortlessly. I can’t reach all the way to zip up. Old me says “Take it home and hope it fits”. New me “Just ask for help for pete’s sake”. So I opened that privacy door with back unzipped and sales man came running over. “Oh wow…it looks fabulous. Need me to zip it up? Here honey, turn around”. He glides up the zipper and voila. It fits. In all honestly, the medium (though snug) would have fit too but since no medium, and the large looked great, I just decided to buy it. I could always get it taking in for the wedding if needed.
Now my lovely salesman is running around to find a shawl and a clutch as he says I look gorgeous and we should dress this up. I am used to “Sure looks good.” but usually no other attempts to dress me up or style me. It felt kind of nice – even if overwhelming.
Next job was to buy a strapless bra for this dress. Insert old me again for a moment. I literally was sweating. I walked into La Senza. I was originally a 44 DD. La Senza bras for me? Bahahhaha. Ok. Not that I didn’t do it. But even with extender for bra clasp, not really the best bra. I eventually switched to Addition Elle ones. After losing initial chunk of weight, I went down to a 40 D last time I was measured (around one or 1.5 years ago?). I still had to use an extender for the clasp but I could buy La Senza bras.
Today, I decided I better be measured again. The girl helping me was extremely kind and helpful. I held my breath and waited.
Time froze for a moment and I had to quickly get my shit together before I melted into tears of joy and past anxiety of clothes shopping.
Explains why bras have been feeling looser so let’s find me this bra. The lady helped me find a strapless one and once tried on, she offered to see the fit. I would never even allowed for that to be offered when I was 44 DD… I would buy bra and just hope to the heavens it fit and get out of the store quickly.
I have never been able to wear a strapless bra so I told her did feel so unusual but she checked it out and it was fitting proper. She said it is probably my discomfort with the new style as I was never able to before. Yep – she hit that nail dead on the head. So I decided to buy it as she had gone out of her way and even though to me, it still felt odd – it may be the 20ish odd some wears of always having to be obligated to a strapped bra and planning my clothes around my bra and not the other way around.
I left the mall exhausted and with bags of clothes.
Now home, I reflect back and realize the only true issues I had with shopping was my past anxiety and sometimes letting past experiences judge me for today. Clothes shopping can excite you or terrify you. A changing room can be endless amounts of joy and finding great outfits or it can be painful minutes of trying clothing on and on and never finding the fit. It can be a sales person dressing you up and throwing outfits at you to try or it can be the sales person who joins you quietly in your discomfort of clothes shopping and limits the pain by not nagging you with clothing they and you know won’t fit. Clothing and clothes shopping can make you feel like the most beautiful, healthy, inspiring, and strongest person. Or it can beat you down until you don’t feel like you can try anymore – and not just with trying on clothing but with life itself.
I think we live in a world where we cater to those of a certain size. I understand being overweight is not healthy. I am so grateful that I found a way to change it. But the power of retail clothes shopping should not make some people feel powerless and others full of pride. I am not sure how we can change this but just a little story in hopes that someone out there reads it and says one of the following things:
– “She gets it. She changed it…so can I”.
– “Phew – not only just me.”
– “I never knew how hard this was for people overweight. I will try my best to be honest but kind with them”.
If you are the first, you can change. You can do it. I balance multiple juggling balls and I have done it and am doing it every day.
If you are the second one, no – you are definitely not the only one. I hope you know that and you can always reach out to me to chat about it. I was once there.
For the third one, whether you are that “skinnier” friend, sales person, family member – I hated honesty but I needed it at the same time. However, there are certain ways to do it. Just make sure you find that right way as the wrong way can actually make the person not want to try at all.
Thanks for reading.