Conversations in Relation: The research relationship in/as artful self-study

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  • This article was downloaded by: [North Dakota State University]On: 30 August 2013, At: 11:21Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Reflective Practice:International andMultidisciplinary PerspectivesPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/crep20

    Conversations in Relation: Theresearch relationship in/as artfulself-studyMaura McIntyre a & Ardra L. Cole aa Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Universityof Toronto, CanadaPublished online: 18 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Maura McIntyre & Ardra L. Cole (2001) Conversations in Relation:The research relationship in/as artful self-study, Reflective Practice: International andMultidisciplinary Perspectives, 2:1, 5-25, DOI: 10.1080/14623940120035497

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14623940120035497

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  • Re ective Practice, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2001

    Conversations in Relation: the researchrelationship in/as artful self-studyMAURA MCINTYRE & ARDRA L. COLEOntario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada;

    e-mail: ardracole@oise.utoronto.ca

    ABSTRACT Our work is situated within the context of the self-study of teacher education

    practices. We focus on the role of the other in self-study and suggest that both the quality

    of the research relationship and the process of researching-in-relation engender a level of

    understanding and knowledge development not possible through independent self-study. We

    assert that self-study is a shared task and a shared adventure in which the understanding

    of teaching and learning is deepened through the active involvement of another. We

    characterize the quality of our research relationship as intimate and our process of

    researching as artful. We tell our research story through four narrative phases of our

    research-in-relation, explore several themes that emerge from our conversation, and consider

    their implications for self-study work.

    Introduction

    It s much easier to learn from someone else than from yourself. Andinertia, which is often a major block in solitary work, hardly exists at allhere: A releases B s energy, B releases As energy. Information ows andmultiples easily. Learning becomes many-sided, a refreshing and vitalizingforce. (Nachmanovitch, 1990, p. 96)

    The self-study of teacher education practices is an activity or practice that intention-ally focuses on both the ongoing understanding and improvement of practice(professional development) and the advancement of knowledge in a broader sense(research). Its value for both purposes is increasingly recognized especially by thoseteacher educators for whom self-study is an integral part of their professional agenda(see Cole & Finley, 1998; Hamilton et al., 1998; Loughran & North eld, 1996;Loughran & Russell, 1997; Mitchell & Weber, 1998; Richards & Russell, 1996;Russell & Korthagen, 1995).Some self-study researchers and practitioners work alone; some work collabora-

    tively with one or more others. The process of study and insights gained aremarkedly different in the two approaches because of what is made possible throughrelationship. In this paper we focus on the role of the other in self-study and suggest

    ISSN 1462-3943 print; ISSN 1470-1103 online/01/010005-21 2001 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/14623940120035497

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  • 6 M. McIntyre & A. L. Cole

    that both the quality of the research relationship and the process of researching-in-relation engender a level of understanding and knowledge development not possiblethrough independent self-study. Like Loughran and Gunstone (1996) andLoughran and North eld (1996, 1998), we assert that self-study is a shared task anda shared adventure in which the understanding of teaching and learning is deepenedthrough the active involvement of another. We characterize the quality of ourresearch relationship as intimate (following and extending the work of Busier et al.,1997) and our process of researching as artful (following the contemporary genre ofarts-based educational research).Our experience of researching together in an artful way heightened our awareness

    of the important role another can play in one s self-development. As we workedtogether we became increasingly aware of the intimacy developing between us andthe in uence of that intimacy on us as individuals, on the multiple roles we playedin each other s lives, and on the research itself. We attempt here to convey a senseof our research experience by storying some of the nuances of our research process.On one level our research story tells the tale of a collaborative autobiography aboutteaching and learning; it is also a story of a relationship dance in which twoself-contained women develop a mutuality that results in a productive interdepen-dence.

    The Project

    `Dance Me to an Understanding of Teaching began almost as a title that Ardraproposed to Maura and ended up as an elaborate three-act choreographed narrativeinvolving text, musical selection, and dance which we composed and performedtogether at an international conference on the self-study of teacher educationpractices (Cole & McIntyre, 1998).

    PRELUDEDance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen)

    ACT ICONSTRAINTDance: Drills

    Narrative: RefrainMusic: Wizard of Oz

    ACT IICONFLICT

    Dance: Steps Out of TimeNarrative: Arrhythmia

    Music: You Gotta Change (All that Jazz)Ghengis Dreams (Oliver Schroer)

    Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor Op. 23 (Tchaikovsky/Clayderman)Common Threads (Bobby McFerrin)

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  • Conversations in Relation 7

    ACT IIICREATIVITY

    Dance: ImprovisationNarrative: Synchronicity

    Music: Tha Mi Sgith (College of Piping Celtic Singers)Mist Covered Mountains (Bill Gardens Scottish Orchestra)

    Shake your Groove Thing (Peaches and Herb)I Heard it through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye)Shake your Groove Thing (Peaches and Herb)

    FINALEDance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen)

    The project had two broad purposes: to better understand the relationshipbetween teaching and learning, speci cally as they relate to one s autobiography;and to explore the use of non-conventional forms for understanding and represent-ing teaching and learning.Ardra is a professor of teacher education; Maura is a doctoral candidate in

    counselling psychology and a therapist. Before embarking on this collaborative

    FIG. 1. Act I narrative: refrain (pat-a-cake).

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  • 8 M. McIntyre & A. L. Cole

    FIG. 2. Act II narrative: arrythmia.

    endeavour we had been acquainted for several years in the roles of teacher-studentand supervisor-researcher within the context of the institution and academy. In thisproject the teacher-supervisor (Ardra) became the researched. The project providedthe context/space for us to engage with each other in new and different ways.Through `Dance Me , the inquiry and performance, we developed a relationshipthat transcended traditional boundaries of researcher and participant or co-re-searchers. `Dance Me brought us together as co-workers, colleagues, andwomen. Through the research we developed an intimate research relationship thatpropelled the project further and faster to a deeper understanding of the phenom-enon of inquiry.As we individually and together re ected on the process of collaborative self-

    study, it became clear that, in addition to the mutually developed rendering of theresearch (our performance and written text), each of us was also developing asub-text of our experience. These sub-texts were main points of negotiation in ourresearch `conversation and that negotiation was in uenced by the qualities de ningour relationship. The story of our research is central to understanding the develop-ment of the research relationship and the role of the other in self-study. We tell ourresearch story through the four narrative phases of our research-in-relation: lookingfor and nding a dance partner; nding our rhythm; a formal invitation to dance;and, last dance. In a discussion we explore several themes that emerge from ourconversation and consider their implications for self-study work.

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  • Conversations in Relation 9

    FIG. 3. Act III narrative: synchronicity.

    Looking For and Finding a Dance Partner

    Ardra: In the winter of 1993, while on study leave, I enrolled in tap dancingclasses partly because I wanted to (re)learn some of what I thought I had learned asa child but with a more mature attitude and desire, and partly because I thought thatplacing myself in the position of learner and studying that experience would help megain insights into myself as learner (and by extension) teacher. I kept a journal of myexperience of learning to tap dance which remained unanalysed and tucked awayuntil the time was r`ight . (This was part of my ongoing self-study agenda which isa re ection of my commitment to better understand myself as teacher and topractice what I preach, that is, that self-study is an essential part of teachers ongoingdevelopment.)In the summer of 1997 I was invited to teach a course on re exive inquiry and

    teacher development at the University of British Columbia, Canada. I usually ndthat some of my best ideas emerge through the creative spaces of classroomdiscourse. Somewhere in one of those spaces, in a discussion of the multi-dimen-sional nature of teaching and the need for more appropriate ways of researching andrepresenting teaching, a title ashed through my mind. (I might have recently seena Matisse exhibit at the city art gallery or the then recently published book, Dance

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  • 10 M. McIntyre & A. L. Cole

    Me to the End of Love, or heard Leonard Cohen s poem by that name.) For whateverreason I jotted down the title, `Dance Me to an Understanding of Teaching, in myjournal notebook. After class that day I roughly sketched out a plan for a study ofmy teaching which required a non-conventional kind of engagement with datarelated to my teaching. I saw an opportunity to reopen my `Learning to Tap journaland I wanted to try to incorporate rhythm and music into the data analysis andrepresentation as an alternative form of inquiry. Beyond that, I had no idea how Iwould proceed or what I would end up with. I carefully placed the idea aside forsafe-keeping, not sure where to go with it.

    Maura: Last fall the university granted me funding as a graduate assistant; from several

    options posted on a bulletin board in the department, I needed to choose a faculty member

    to assist. The rst position that I was intent on fell through (I had looked forward to gaining

    some practical experience and to doing some work that would look good on my re sume ).

    When I scrambled around looking for another position, I came across an ad posted by

    Ardra.

    Ardra: The substance of the ad, as I had written it, was pretty mundane. I wantedassistance with the study of my teaching but was uncertain of what that would looklike. The nature of the work would depend on the kind of relationship I woulddevelop with my research partner. And that would depend on how our respectiveinterests, backgrounds, perspectives, and personalities came together and on inex-plicable interpersonal qualities. I knew I was moving toward a more creative andnon-conventional form of self-study but was not sure how that would play out.

    Maura: While I found the posting a bit vague, from working with Ardra as my thesis

    advisor, and from taking several courses with her, I expected that being a research assistant

    with her would be satisfying: at the very least I knew already that she is organized and

    reliable; she returns phone calls promptly, and shows up on time. I was clear that I wanted

    a no fuss research assistant experience. (I might add that I came across another posting that

    appealed to me: a professor was looking for an assistant to explore arts based research. But

    I thought, `Maura, youre always doing unusual things. Do something conventional, take

    part in a project that will count as research. Work with Ardra. )

    Ardra: I was noti ed mid-September that I was assigned a Graduate AssistantMaura and that she would be contacting me soon. Almost immediately, uponlearning who had applied and been assigned to work with me, my mind was a buzz,not with anything discernible, mostly just activity and indecipherable possibilities. Iknew Maura but not well. She had been in a few of my courses and had worked asa graduate assistant some years before on a relatively benign assignment. We hadvery little personal contact; in fact, our interactions had been quite limited andnarrowly de ned. Yet, I knew enough about Maura (or my responses to Maura) toknow that I had found a research partner who would move with and stretch metoward more artful self-study.

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  • Conversations in Relation 11

    Until Maura s name was mentioned I had not consciously thought of the `DanceMe project as this year s self-study. But when her name was mentioned I almostinstantly turned my journal notebook to the pages where I had sketched out the`Dance Me idea. I translated some of it to the computer and wrote a tentativeoutline of what eventually became `Dance Me , the performance (at that point theidea of a performance...

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