Monday, August 17, 2009

RTB gets reflexive!

As you may or may not know, I have blog entries from the Rocky Top Bear Show (don't ask) beamed over to FB, because I have some friends that asked me to. They may soon regret having asked, but I hope not!

I've been looking over syllabi for my courses this semester, and noticed the following assignment for my discourse analysis class:

"As outlined by Watt (2007), engaging in regular reflection on the research process and on your growth as a researcher is an integral part of all qualitative, interpretive research. This is particularly true of discourse analysis from a discursive perspective. This assignment asks you to begin a reflexivity journal this semester and to make regular entries throughout the semester. I suggest that you use a blog for this purpose and post the link in the discussion board. If you would rather keep your journal private, you can send the link only to me. Alternatively, you may keep your journal in a Word document or some other electronic means that can be shared with me on a regular basis. At the end of the semester please write a synthesis of your journal entries/experience in the class, particularly how you have developed as a researcher and your understanding of the theory and practice of discourse analysis, discursive psychology and its applications to your own research agenda."

I gave some thought to how I wanted to keep this reflexivity journal and what would be most meaningful to me. My mind went back to a powerful article by Rupert Wegerif (2006) that I had occasion to read in a recent CMC/CSCL course, where he at one point channels Merlau-Ponty channeling Heidegger:

"...[T]he source of meaning is to be found not in the figures or in their backgrounds but in the difference between the two because it is the boundary around a figure that makes it exist as a thinkable thing." (p. 145)

This resonated strongly with a previous allusion to Bakhtin in the same article:

"the meaning of an utterance is not reducible to the intentions of the speaker or to the response of the addressee but emerges between these two". (p. 144)

I could very well keep this a private affair between teacher and student, or perhaps even open it up to classmates, but I'm certain that the entries would not _mean_ as much to me, because if I buy into this idea that meaning emerges in the boundary between "figure" and "background" or "speaker" and "addressee", why would I not want that boundary to be a granular as I could get it? Besides, a lot of my FB friends either are profound colleagues whose opinions I respect immensely and who "get" what I'm doing or are good friends who have my implicit trust and who often "don't get" what I'm doing, and the reactions on both ends of the spectrum are very helpful in reformulating my thinking.

So I'm using the Rocky Top Bear Show (well, a part of it) to house my reflexivity journal, which means that entries will also pop up in FB. Please feel free to react / discuss / whatever, either on the blog or on FB. Tag = epc531. If you're not inclined to play the part of "background" or "addressee", please ignore the posts. I just wanted you to know that no, I haven't become completely unhinged, I'm being "encouraged" (with a 30-percent-of-your-grade gun to my head) to essentially "think out loud". So you have my sincere thanks or most abject apologies, whichever is most befitting.

Watt, D. (2007). On becoming a qualitative researcher: The value of reflexivity. The Qualitative Report 12 (1), 82-101.

Wegerif, R. (2006). A dialogic understanding of the relationship between CSCL and teaching thinking skills. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 1 (1), 143-157.