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Module 5  

Doing and Using Educational Research 

PART ONE 

Provide a brief summary of the research proposal you discussed in your assignment for
Module 3 or provide a brief outline of a new research proposal (which may, but does not
necessarily have to, underpin your thesis). Use this summary/outline as the basis for a
critical discussion of the relative merits and drawbacks of a range of research methods
(techniques and procedures), including implications for data analysis, upon which you
could draw in conducting this research. Make appropriate reference to research
methodology literature and published research reports. Indicate any ethical
considerations which might need to be taken into account.

Brief summary of research proposed

For Module 3 my proposed research was entitled ‘Teaching with a difference: How is
neurodiversity experienced in the teaching profession and how is this addressed in
teacher education programmes?’ and aimed to explore issues of neurodiversity in the
teaching profession. This remains the focus of my intended research with the key
outcome intended to inform and enhance inclusive approaches to teaching and learning
on a Masters in Education (Higher Education) programme. The field of education
inevitably includes political aspects concerning social justice and issues of equality and
within the MA Ed programme much consideration is given to legislative, organisational
and curricular aspects that reduce inequalities in access, provision and experience of
learning. The focus is on the ‘learner experience’ and how teaching methods,
curriculum design and modes of assessment may take appropriate and anticipatory

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account of physical, cognitive and psychological learning needs (Disability Rights


Commission, 2007). It is clear that higher education institutions are doing much to
ensure compliance with widening participation policy, disability and inclusivity legislation
in terms of the student experience. There appears to be, however, a gap between the
support for students to fulfill their HE learning potential and the support for colleagues
with teaching roles who have aspects of neurodiversity that do not present in a overtly
physical form.

The most commonly identified specific learning need in HE within the umbrella term
‘neurodiversity’ is that of dyslexia. In my institution this accounts for over 13% of
students compared with 3% nationally (HESA 2009). While students may be willing to
disclose a specific learning difficulty, my experience on the MA Ed is that colleagues
tend not to disclose dyslexia as a disability and enter teaching in HE having developed
their own coping strategies within the terms and requirements of their roles.

The curriculum profile of my institution is largely practice-based and vocational,


covering the performing and decorative arts, media and design. The course content is
predominantly practice-based underpinned by theoretical approaches delivered by
lecturers specialising in historical and cultural aspects of the subject areas. The
theoretical content is assessed mainly through standard written modes of essays and
dissertations which is when students with dyslexia encounter most study difficulties. A
qualification in teaching is not yet a requirement in higher education, though most
institutions have probationary and appraisal processes that encourage teaching and
learning development staff to engage with courses accredited by the Higher Education
Academy or to demonstrate professional development in the field of education. Many of
the applicants to the MA Ed and PGCHE at my institution have entered tertiary sector
teaching from practice or industry backgrounds. Their primary professional identities are
located in their subject/working background with ‘teaching’ as a secondary profile. In
many cases it is their subject expertise and industry experience that brings fresh and
current knowledge to the courses rather than a traditional academic research profile.

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The vocational nature of the courses places emphasis on the employable and
transferrable nature of knowledge, techniques, processes and craftsmanship (Peter
Dormer, 1994) coupled with an intuitive approach to teaching such skills (Claxton,
2000). There is a perception from such colleagues that they need to be seen as
‘academic’ in their approaches and that it would undermine their professional identity as
educators to express any difficulty with approaches to reading and writing in academia.
This manifests itself in a number of ways:
- The reluctance with which colleagues engage in writing research and funding
proposals
- The delegation of course report writing
- The divide between those who teach theory and those teaching practice
- Large scale non-disclosure to the HR dept.

Over the three years that I have run the MA in Education, 28% of staff have disclosed to
me verbally that they are dyslexic. Of these only three have disclosed this on their
application form for the course, and only one has disclosed to the HR department. All
these colleagues have engaged in other careers to a high level which have
necessitated sophisticated levels of knowledge, skills, critical and analytical capabilities.
They have developed organisational and procedural strategies to ensure that they can
cope with the demands required in their working roles. These capabilities have been
transferred to their teaching roles, yet when faced with the repositioning of their identity
to student of the MA Education course, deep seated insecurities about their abilities to
cope with the academic requirements of the course and their ‘fitness’ as educators. My
intended research project seeks to take an appreciative inquiry approach with
participants to collaboratively explore their identities as learners, as educators and as
creative practitioners to how their professional approaches (both practice-based and
educational) may influence the development of greater inclusivity in learning teaching
and assessment.
(780 words)


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Perspectives on Narrative Inquiry 

“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story – his real inmost story?’- for
each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is
constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us – through our
perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and not least, our discourse, our
spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other;
historically, as narratives – we are each of us unique.”
Sacks (1986) p.105

As an underpinning stance for my research is an understanding of appreciative inquiry


through which positive questioning can explore, recognize and value and individual’s
worth to an organization. Essential to this approach is the understanding that language
itself has the potential for generative theory and that the underpinning value of the
researcher is affirmatory. Through a process of inqurity that explores “what gives “life” to a
living system when it is most alive, most effective” it counters the deficit language of a
problem-based approach (Cooperrider et al 2001 p. 1). This is particularly relevant to the
area of investigation that I would like to undertake as teachers with dyslexia may well
have encountered a range of educational barriers and deficit stereotyping that is
inherent in the existing medical models of learning support and funding. The ultimate
goal of appreciative inquiry is to manifest change to organizational structures through
recognizing and valuing individual knowledge, attributes and experiences. This accords
with the aim of my research to explore how a pedagogy for creativity in higher education
may draw on the strategies and attributes of teachers with dyslexia. Taking this as the
starting point for an investigation into individual’s experiences and approaches to a
career in teaching it seems relevant to dig deep into a person’s life experience through
exploring their life-history through dialogue centred around “unconditional positive
question”.(Cooperrider et al 2001 p.1) (REF). Unlike appreciative inquiry methodology


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which tends to undertak survey/interview across a large sample of individuals, I wish to


explore this through a deeper contextual understanding of individual’s educational
experiences and influences, career choices, professional training, learning and teaching
strategies.

Key to approaching this research project is keeping in mind the purpose or outcome.
Plummer (1983) recommends the guidance of two key questions: “Who are you writing
for?” and “What do you wish to accomplish?” In answer to the former I would respond
that principally for the HE teaching community and to the latter: to explore how a
teacher training programme may be made more inclusive for prospective teachers with
dyslexia. In effect this means exploring the disjunction between the traditional model of
teacher training and the practices of a creative curriculum that embraces the pedagogic
approaches of holistic thinkers. An important factor in this is the experience of those
who have undertaken teacher training programmes and who have experienced teaching
roles. It is hoped that an analysis of these professional and personal experiences will
reveal strategies and approaches that may be applied in a wider context to extend the
understanding of a creative pedagogy.

Approaching this research it seems important to start from a position of valuing the
contributors’ experiences of teacher training and teaching. These are a culmination of
their own education journeys and are inevitably bound within individual cultural, social
and political contexts. The literature of dyslexia contains many stories of people who
have had such negative education experiences that this has impacted on their choice of
career and rejection of tertiary or lifelong learning opportunities (Collinson, 2009). My
particular approach is to take an appreciative inquiry approach to exploring why some
people persist in education, despite the learning difficulties that dyslexia presents, and
overcome these barriers to achieve success. In particular why they choose teaching as
a career, when the fundamental attributes of reading, writing and organisation may pose
additional challenges. What strategies come into play to overcome these challenges
and are there approaches that may benefit all educational programmes?

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Offering a definition of narrative inquiry, Atkinson (1998) proposes that


‘A life story is the story a person chooses to tell about the life he or she has lived, told
as completely and honestly as possible, what is remembered of it, and what the teller
wants others to know of it, usually as a result of a guided interview by another.’ (p.8)
This definition highlights the editorial function of the teller, awareness of audience but
also assumes a candidness that may or may not be present. It is entirely possible that
the tellers’ editorial function may alter emphasis of the tale according to who the listener
might be. Another definition put forward by Atkinson with that “A life story is a fairly
complete narrating of one’s entire experience of life as a whole, highlighting the most
important aspects.” (p.8) Again, this definition reiterates the primary selectivity as the
gift of the teller and raises awareness of the gaps in the narration. Implicit in both these
definitions is the role of the listener. Not a passive role, but one of enquirer, prompter
and, in terms of research, recorder and secondary narrator.

Clandinin and Connelly (2000), drawing on Dewey, stress that narrative is an


articulation of experience and serves to make meaning of experience in that
“experience happens narratively” (p.19) in order to make sense of disparate
occurrences, frames of reference, contexts and interactions. This process of meaning-
making is what Geertz (1995 cited in Clandindin and Connelly p. 6) calls the
“connectedness of things” and the “pieced-together patternings”. Narrative inquiry offers
a number of frames of reference to any life story, that of the personal intersection with
social interactions, and that of the individual within a contextual frameworks of temporal,
historical, geographical and political considerations. These frameworks provide a
narrative meta-structure to the life-story through which the ‘patternings’ may be made
visible. Drawing on Dewey’s notion of narrative experience Clandindin and Connelly
suggest a three-dimensional narrative inquiry that takes into account “situation,
continuity and interaction” (p.49) which, calling to mind Brookfield’s four lenses of
reflection (Brookfield, 1995), looks “inward and outward, backward and forward”
(Clandinin and Connelly p.50). Such an understanding of the wide range of this

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contextual framing allows the narrative to become a revisionary, dialogic, iterative


process full of rich description that allows opportunity to reveal tacit meanings and
understandings. Cohen et al (2007) see this process as being “context-related, context
dependent and context-rich” (p.167) which implies that whilst each narrative event may
be structured as a self-contained unit, it is impossible to divorce any narrative from its
social, political, historical, cultural influences. Goodson and Sikes (2001) use the
contextual aspect to distinguish between life-history and life-story in narrative inquiry,
seeing the former as encompassing wider explanatory contexts whereas the latter
focuses on descriptive personal perspectives. It is perhaps the role of the life-history
researcher to provide the catalyst for a reflective move from the descriptive to the
explanatory. Atkinson (p.43ff) provides over 200 examples of prompt questions that
help to facilitate this move, many of which are neutral and some of which may be
reconstructed using more positive language e.g. “What are the stresses of being a
teacher” to “What are the highlights of being a teacher” (Atkinson 1998 p.50).

This gives rise to questions about the researcher’s position in this dialogic relationship,
particularly as the respondents/narrators are likely to be colleagues of the researcher. It
is therefore important to reflect upon and articulate some of the values that may impact
on the dialogue. Whilst the narrator is the primary editor of the tale, it is through
dialogue that “mutual shaping and interaction” take place (Cohen and Manion 2007 p.
168)
Cohen and Manion (2007) argue that in this type of narrative inquiry it is the design of
the process of the dialogue that is almost more important than the outcomes which, if
they are in any way pre-determined, will inevitably influence the dialogue. (p. 168).
Other factors that may also influence the course of the dialogue include values of the
researcher, particularly when taking an appreciative inquiry stance, through which the
researcher may place herself in the position of advocate. Such issues of advocacy
would mean that political intent of the researcher may unintentionally influence the
direction of the conversation and bias the outcomes. Any such values should be
explored and through the dialogue so that as far as possible a position of equality and

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mutuality may be achieved, though Cohen et al (2007) cite Flick in exploring some of
the positions that a researcher in life history may adopt such as stranger, visitor, insider
or initiate. This acknowledges how the researcher is inherently part of the social world
being researched.

Taking forward my direction of enquiry I am aware that there may be tacit power
structures inherent in the collegial relationship (roles, grades, subject specialisms etc.)
and that these need to be addressed and acknowledged at the outset in order to
establish and ethos of balance and trust. Achieving clarity of expectations and
commitment at the beginning of the research may help to establish a balance between
distance and involvement and avoid the emotional entanglement of dependency. Such
in-depth dialogue may well lead the narrator to reveal and reflect upon life-changing
decisions. Not all may be pleasant memories and the researcher requires good listening
skills, sensitivity and a high degree of emotional intelligence (Mortiboys, 2005) to
respond appropriately and create and ethos of what Plummer (1983) calls “non-
possessive warmth”.

Whilst the process of data collection is crucially important, the issue that faces the
research once a life-history has been told is how to analyse this and represent it without
losing the originality of the primary narration. The choice of ‘critical moments’ may be
negotiated but the essence of what is important in the ‘storying’ of a life is the choice of
the first teller of the tale. The discussion of that choice and its importance is the further
collaborative and exploratory activity of researcher and participant. Goodson and Sikes
(2001) argue that the process is both interpretive and iterative and that the mere
recording of the conversation in text removes it from actual life as lived. This ‘textuality’
may be seen through a post-modern perspective as questioning aspects of voice,
audience, perspective, temporality and inter-relationship and exploring how these may
be melded within a jointly mediated text (Goodson and Sikes 2001 p.16). Recently there
has been discussion about what might lie beyond post-modernism and how culture is
now shaped by increasing globalization and communication mediated through

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technology. This has variously been described as ‘digimodernism’, ‘automodernism’,


‘hypermodernism’ and ‘performativity’ (Kirby, 2010). What appears to mark the
difference between the multiple narrative structures of post-modern literature and that of
the “aftermath of postmodernism” is the interrelation between technology and text, a
move to a “kind of digitized textuality” (Kirby,2010). Through web 2.0 technologies
narrative has the potential to move beyond a linear structure to ones that may be multi-
modal and multi-media, user generated and interactive. Hyperlinks and on-line networks
allow for a perpetually shifting perspective and reworking of standard narrative
conventions. Such organizations as the Oral History Society are exploring ways that
such life-history research may be mediated through technology (Perks, 2009). For
teachers with dyslexia who are increasingly finding themselves using technology in the
classroom and lecture theatre, this may provide opportunities that draw on their holistic
thinking and visual capabilities. It also provides opportunity for researcher and
researched to explore and negotiate the outputs of the research in alternatively
mediated modes, taking as an example some of the techniques used in visual
ethnography (Pink, 2001). In this way the ownership of the narrative is located within
the narrator’s own artistic practice. A distinct irony of the research would be to produce
a lengthy written transcript of a conversation, or a fictionalized version of a number of
discussions, to be read and commented on by someone who has been selected as a
participant on the basis of their dyslexia and difficulties with written language. Such a
response would ensure that the balance of ‘power’ through discourse remains with the
researcher.

Exploring a post-post-modern (digi-modern) negotiated response to the life-history also


opens up possibilities of a disrupted narrative that may emanate alternative creative
possibilities. Embodied knowledge and experience may manifest itself through the
creative outputs of the narrator: music, dance, performance, artistic extemporization
and improvisation. The possibilities are exciting and limitless. This may be balanced by
a structured representation of narrative but allow the creative ‘voice’ of the narrator to
shine through in non-textual modes. This leads to the difficulties that a life-history

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researcher faces in analyzing and interpreting the large quantities of collected data. The
intense focus of the dialogue renders data that inevitable requires inductive analysis
and an emic approach that attempts to capture the narrator’s meanings rather than the
researcher’s objective interpretations. Atkinson (1998) suggests that it is the
researcher’s role to help the story-teller to make meaning, whilst Cohen and Manion
(2007) suggest that this is through a series of “messy confrontations” with the data and
that “meaning is continuous and evolving”. This necessarily becomes an iterative
process of review and revision and that the secondary level of selectivity is through co-
construction between the narrator and researcher through “mutual simultaneous
shaping” (Cohen and Manion 2007 p.167). Webster and Mertova (2007) make the point
that “In narrative research a finding is significant if it is important” (p.5).

From this point onwards the researcher is faced with what Clough (2002) terms “the
crisis of representation” (p.7); the tension between a naturalistic and authentic
representation of the words of the participant and the potentially intrusive
reinterpretation by the researcher. A key question of representation is whether to
present the findings as fiction, fact, autobiography, biography with commentary or a
more formal thematic research report. The field of ‘narratology’ has attempted to
fomalise the disciplinary approaches from literary theory to the construction and de-
construction of narratives, focusing on aspects of structural linguistics, narrative
grammar, rhetorical analysis and poetics (Webster and Mertova 2007 p. 26). Clandinin
and Connelly (2000) consider that the essential components of narrative are plot,
character, scene, place, time and individual perspective (p.49). If the co-construction of
meaning at representation stage remains part of the dialogic process, then the exercise
becomes hermeneutic in its intent through the meanings created by both parties who
are jointly and individually involved in a process of iterative and interpretive self-
authorship (Baxter-Magolda et al 2009).

Reading different modes of narrative representation it is enlightening to explore how the


locus of narrator’s voice shifts from primary story teller as narrator to researcher as
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narrator. Narrative structures may vary from the biographical and descriptive
representation that focuses on a critical incident (Webster and Mertova 2007 p. 79) to a
wholly fictionalized account that summarises a number of responses to create a
situation of plausible verisimilitude (Clough, 2002) or a commentary on a reflective
narrative that incorporates the voice of the original teller of the tale (Sacks 1985). This
gives rise to criticisms of the narrative method when compared with more positivist
notions of reliability, authenticity, objectivity, generalisability and measurability. These
need to be reframed and reinterpreted within a post-modern appreciation of multiple
perspectives and an understanding that no truth is absolute. In narrative research the
key importance is for the researcher to represent participants’ understanding of reality.
Webster and Mertova (2007 p. 99) argue that verisimilitude or plausibility are the
hallmarks of truthfulness of a narrative account, whether it is presented in either
factually biographical or a fictional synthesis. If it ‘rings true’ to the reader and provides
opportunities to generate new reflections or perspectives on experience, then the
narrative research may be considered to have value. Clough (2002) explores how the
researcher may create a “version of the truth” through a “hybrid text” and illustrates this
by exploring school-based critical incidents from a range of fictionalized perspectives.
The distinction between fact and fiction may be blurred in presentation but careful
exegesis of a range of similar narratives provide the opportunity to reveal common
characteristics. A simple comparative categorization structure is provided by Webster
and Mertova (2007 p.91) through critical incidents, ‘like’ events and ‘other’events in
which aspects of similarity and difference may be used to create a first level of coding
and analysis. Such comparison of life-history data provides some measure of
verisimilitude. Data may be compared with other sources external to the primary
research or against life-histories of other informants. Clough (2002) makes the point
that revelation of truth is based on trust and that the relationship between researcher
and primary narrator needs to be carefully established on trust for both parties. It might
be possible to check facts told against external sources, but the researcher would need
to consider carefully the effect of such checking on the relationship of trust. Cohen and
Manion (2007) suggest that the checks and balances should include points of
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“autocritique” whereby the primary narrator reviews and revisits the representations of
their story.

So far I have approached the life-history research as though only one primary narrator
might be involved. Indeed, narrative research has been criticized for its small sample
size and restrictions in generalisability. There are a range of sampling strategies that
are appropriate to narrative inquiry, all of which focus on a small number of
respondents, sometimes on just one individual’s life-history. Interestingly Pollak (2002)
uses a narrative inquiry approach to his research on dyslexic students in higher
education, but has 32 respondents in is study which is based around a semi-structured
interview. One would argue whether this achieves the rich and iterative data collection
offered by a more limited sample. The huge quantity of data generated from such a
scale would require robust data management strategies. With a small number of
respondents it is important to justify the choice and applicability for the study: criterion
sampling offers choice of a ‘typical case’ participant who exhibits a profile of attributes
of the ‘average’ person within the topic of interest, whereas a critical case study would
display a set of extreme characteristics. If using more than one participant homogenous
sampling would look for participants with similar characteristics (Cohen and Manion
2007 p.176). Webster and Mertova in their critical incident approach to narrative inquiry
suggest that through a process of categorization of ‘critical’, ‘like’ and ‘other’ across a
number of participants, that the researcher reaches a natural point at which there is a
saturation of data and that new stories merely act to confirm existing data. Their
theoretical sampling approach is to take on new participants until this point is reached
through on-going analysis, though this may require altered characteristics of respondent
in order to test emergent theory. (Webster and Mertova 2007 p.33). Convenience
sampling is often used for its opportunistic qualities and the likelihood of attracting
respondents who willingly offer time and commitment rather than selecting participants
who are less amenable based on their appropriate characteristics. Such sampling also
allows the researcher to work within the limits of their own time and budget. In terms of
my proposed narrative inquiry the sampling would hope to include two or three
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participants with homogenous characteristics in so far as they are identified as dyslexic


and are engaged in teaching or supporting learning. Beyond this, the sampling will be
more opportunistic, inviting teaching colleagues from my institution. It is possible that
there may be an element of snowball sampling if other colleagues also wish to be
involved. Including more than one respondent in the research will mitigate the possibility
of people leaving the project.

The fact that participants will also be colleagues creates extra consideration with regard
to the ethical aspects of the narrative inquiry. The researcher’s role in relation to the
participants may impact on the ways that life-histories are recounted and the primary
selection of emphasis by the narrator. Goodson and Sikes (2001) make the point out
that participant anonymity is particularly difficult to achieve in narrative inquiry and
careful assessment need to be accounted for risk and vulnerability if the information is
not sensitively handled and includes the revelation of compromising details. Such an
approach to research necessarily involves developing a close relationship between
researcher and primary narrator and there is likelihood of impact on self-knowledge and
identity for both parties.

Life-history offers the opportunity of a socially dynamic mode of inquiry in which


meaning is iteratively and co-operatively reviewed to expose depth of reflection and
consideration. Despite the criticism that it is not necessarily universally generalisable it
does allow transferability through comparative studies. Most excitingly, in the digital
age, narrative inquiry offers all participants new modes of collaborative narrative
structures mediated through digital technologies to collect, review and disseminate life-
histories, incorporating and linking multiple perspectives.
(3447 words)

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Part Two 
Give a critically reflective account of the work you have undertaken to date on the EdD
programme (including this assignment), making particular reference to any issues that
have had an impact on you in terms of your thinking, personal and professional
development, and understanding of research. Note any specific issues or ideas that you
may now wish to pursue in preparation for a thesis and/or in the development of your
professional practice.

The first two years of the University of Exeter EdD programme have provided a
stimulating personal and professional journey. Preparing to undertake educational
research has provided space to explore the interstices between personal and
professional interests and challenged me to refresh some of my own approaches to
teaching and learning. Keeping an on-line journal (blog) has allowed me to track some
of the key moments in the journey so far that have shaken certainties and challenged
assumptions.

There has been tangible impact on the courses I deliver as well as resulting
engagement in associated university activities, both locally and nationally. These
include revisiting and re-working the research methods units on the MA in Education to
incorporate new perspectives; becoming a point of contact for staff wishing to engage in
educational research; facilitating a visit from the inspirational Dr. Phil Bayliss to the
PGCHE course (participants still talk about this as a ‘WOW’ moment (Bamford, 2006));
and being invited to speak at a symposium on Education in the Arts (July 2010) based
on my assignment response to Assignment 3.

I came to the EdD unsure of my direction of research and the first assignment explored
an interest in how policy would impact on a small specialist institution focused solely on
a creative curriculum. This perspective remains of interest, but perhaps provides less
possibility for levering change as both the outgoing government and new coalition
government clearly see higher education linked to growth in UK economy. Evaluation of
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the higher education skills agenda is a potentially enormous task and is already being
undertaken by such organizations as the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)
(Sastry, 2007). The second assignment explored the tensions around understanding of
professionalism in teaching. This provided a much needed reflection point for my role as
senior tutor/course leader on a course that is accredited by the Higher Education
Academy in accordance with the Professional Standards Framework for teaching and
supporting learning in higher education in the UK. It allowed a space to explore the
changing nature of higher education within a political climate that encourages increased
managerialism and accountability and how the teaching role may respond to such
changes. The Module 3 assignment provided the point at I began to realize where my
research interests lay in exploring a creative pedagogy that could draw on the strengths
and alternative cognitive capabilities of dyslexic, holistic thinkers. Looking back at my
proposed methodology I can now see that this was far too ambitious to achieve within a
two-year frame, but at least allowed exploration of a range of approaches.

Assignment 4 proved to be the greatest challenge in attempting to explore and critique


established models and definitions of both dyslexia and creativity. The literature on both
aspects is wide-ranging and often comes with a range of tacit agendas. I found it
particularly difficult to move away from the language of a medical model of dyslexia and,
despite the inclusive mission of education, found that the funding for additional learning
support is predicated around a medical diagnosis. Exploring definitions of creativity
often produced no more than a list of characteristics, but it was Dr. Anna Craft’s
introduction to an interpretation of ‘everyday creativity’ (Craft, 2006) that provided a
turning point in being able to relate the cognitive processes of dyslexia with the holistic
thinking and problem-solving capabilities of someone described as ‘creative’. Rewriting
this assignment for re-submission was a useful exercise and brought home Gardner’s
notion of ‘productive failure’ (Gardner, 2007). It was this re-thinking that enabled me to
really critically engage with theory to underpin my perspective, grounding a wide-
ranging exploration the literature into a critical perspective. This is an on-going struggle,
but I feel that at least I have made a start on a “connective web” (Cash, 2010) of ideas.
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Re-writing assignment 4 has clearly moved me towards a greater critical appreciation of


theoretical perspectives and a more sophisticated use of literature. In my blog entry of
28th June 2009 I comment that “I am having trouble in actually defining what theoretical
positioning might mean”. This was an on-going conundrum until spring of 2010 when I
attended the 7th Learning Development in Higher Education Network (ALDinHE)
symposium and was introduced to Baxter-Magolda’s model of self-authorship (Hodge,
2009). This gave me a way in to exploring the issue of teaching with dyslexia and an
appreciation of a need for authenticity of voice. It also linked into a LearnHigher funded
project conducted with students to create animated clips of their understanding and
approaches to academic writing. One quote from the focus group interview that struck a
particular chord was
“The expectation is that when you start writing stuff, regurgitating what you've read, you
start taking other voice that's not yours?”

This led me to question how far teachers with dyslexia feel that they have an ‘authentic
voice’ within a profession that operates in a largely linear and lexic mode. A further
trajectory of exploration also became possible after considering the impact of
technology on pedagogy and the burgeoning modes of e-learning in higher education.
Colleagues working in a research group exploring the interface between technology and
creative practice opened up the possibility of extending this to a third strand:
technology, creative practice and teaching. This tri-partite perspective, combined with
the fact that the numbers of staff and students in my institution with dyslexia is higher
than average across the sector, provides opportunity to consider what a creative
pedagogy might be in the 21st century.

Exploring my own arena of educational practice it is evident that I have a rich source of
potential data and the possibilities of generating and implementing new pedagogic
approaches to the MA in Education course. As mentioned above, the high incidence of
dyslexia in those applying to this course has given a source of inquiry that straddles a
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range of disciplines. My initial reading has covered fields of neuroscience, psychology,


education, philosophy as well as a broad range of research paradigms, methodologies
and methods. The background reading took me to unexpected disciplinary areas and I
now have a far greater understanding of the neurological aspects of reading and writing
and am more informed about the structure of the brain that I ever dreamed possible. As
Dr. Osberg pointed out, this retains the language of the medical model, and it has been
challenging to move towards a language that embraces social/cultural understandings
of cognitive processes. Fortunately and introduction to the work of Dr. D. Pollak on
neurodiversity has introduced me to language of empowerment rather than deficit. This
has been particularly helpful in providing a vocabulary that is most appropriate to an
appreciative inquiry, rather than the potentially negative perspectives of problem-based
approaches.

It has been difficult to narrow the focus to a manageable topic, but Dr. Wendy
Robinson’s introduction to life-history research introduced possibilities for combining
creative practice with considerations of pedagogy whilst also drawing on my own
disciplinary background in literature and creative writing. I first considered using the
EdD to challenge myself to engage with quantitative and statistical inquiry within a
positivist paradigm, however I soon came to appreciate that this would be counter to my
innate strengths, inclinations, ways of working and disciplinary grounding. As much
educational research literature points out, the values and approaches of the researcher
inevitably impacts on the process and outcomes of inquiry (Cohen et al, 2007). The
course has offered insight into a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches and it
has been both an enlightening tour through a range of methodologies. This, combined
with exploring a range of research methods literature, has confirmed that my approach
is most comfortably situated in the qualitative, interpretive paradigm. In my blog of 9th
February 2010 I respond to Dr. Robinson’s session of life-history research:
“This really got me thinking. With my background in literature, poetry, creative writing
etc. I know that this provides opportunities to draw on my strengths and to apply my

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love of stories to some meaningful research that I hope will support teachers with
dyslexia.” (Cash 2010)
I would still like to include in my narrative inquiry approach, the possibility of participants
illustrating their narratives with other personally created artifacts. I am conscious of the
fact that I am possibly turning the life-experiences of people, who have encountered
difficulties with reading and writing, into academic text. In order to mitigate this I would
like to offer participants the opportunity to create, produce, perform or develop
something that encapsulates their approach to learning and teaching with dyslexia. In
this way the story would be encapsulated in a visual or performative manner. Not only
would the research be about creativity, but it would embody creativity in its process. I
hope that this would ensure that the self-authorship and authorial voice remains
primarily with the participant, even if the text version is a secondary, possibly
fictionalized, version of the researcher.

In a world that is fast changing and frequently described in terms such as ‘fluid’,
‘chaotic’ and ‘uncertain’ the EdD programme has given the precious space through
which to reconsider my role and educational practice within the wider ‘supercomplexity’
of higher education (Barnett, 2004). At some points engagement with the EdD
programme has provided a site of struggle against this very such supercomplexity,
requiring co-ordination of the demands of work, home and family to set time aside for
reading, thinking and writing (such challenges as the birth of a litter of puppies, caring
for a parent after major heart surgery, a house move, plus institutional merger with
complete curricular and organizational restructuring). The benefits have thus far
outweighed the effort and, at some points, EdD study has become the island of calm
within the chaos.
(1721 words)

(Total words 5948)

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References

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