Not all of the reflective freewriting is up to sharing on this blog – some of it is just intuitive rambling to start me thinking. This kind of writing indeed helps me identify my knowledge in a specific area and helps me generate the questions I need as I dive back into the literature.
I have been using the 750 words web site to give me motivation to write every day. It seems to be working and I may reflect in detail on the influence of that tool in the near future. Meanwhile, if I’m not posting some of what I am writing I will present the wordle cloud as a record of what I’ve been thinking about.
I often use Wordle clouds as a way of looking at a text from a different perspective – somehow breaking it up and jumbling the text like that and emphasizing terms and concepts which are high frequency gives me an additional way in to my thoughts.
Question of the day: Why qualitative research?
Last night while driving home and engaging in a family discussion on dreams, my children asked me: “Imma, in which language do you dream?” I answered immediately that I have no idea. I explained that I really can’t remember my dreams but that I do know that there are areas in which I think entirely in Hebrew (shopping, home life, pedagogy, literacy, school-life…) and areas in which I think exclusively in English (everything connected to research, methodology, theory, technical instructions…).
After 25 or so years living in Israel, my life takes place in two languages which are now fairly equal in terms of my competence. My PhD study is an interesting mix of the two, demonstrating that my hasty answer to my children, describing clear boundaries between the languages wasn’t exact.
In a discussion with Brenton Doecke at the beginning of my PhD journey, he urged me to emphasize the bilingual nature of my inquiry and not to leave language as a back drop in my research (as I did in my MEd thesis). At that time I did not fully understand this request and could only relate to having sections of text or even specific terms left in the Hebrew original alongside translation. Today I can see how language is a central element in my professional context, permeating all my actions and understandings. My language is heavily soaked with cultural significance.
Yesterday, in a Skype meeting with Graham Parr, my supervisor, we talked about the transcription and the translation of my interview tapes. We agreed that while translating sections of the conversations, I will have a wonderful opportunity to zoom in on the responses from my participants (and my own) and should be able to reach rich understandings of both content and context. We spoke about the importance of being sensitive to the place of my two languages in this study – how I translate my data, how I tell my own narratives of my practice and how important cultural or institutional concepts (whether they are translatable or not) are presented in my writing.
There are many cultural messages playing in my ears as I make decisions about which references to read and their status in the academic world. One of the questions I will need to explore is the place of Israeli researchers in my work.
This morning, I decided to try to clarify my thoughts on the epistemology of my research by rereading a book written in Hebrew:
I decided to start with this reference as I have heard Gabriella Spector-Mersel explain the theories in many different forums and found them to be clear and accessible. I must be honest in saying that although I have no trouble reading academic texts in Hebrew, I usually do it only when I have to. I read in Hebrew as a member of my doctoral writing group and read articles and book chapters as preparation for the sessions of the Qualitative research interest group meetings at the Mofet institute. Other than those occasions, I will usually choose English references. I am now becoming aware that this is not only because reading academic texts is still easier and quicker, it is also because of the cultural messages prominent in the academic world (and indeed in Israel as well), that Hebrew references are less important and influential than those written in English.
Embarking on the task, I was hoping that reading what I have heard Gabriella explain and translating the material slowly from Hebrew into English would help me understand more. I expected this exercise would give me ideas for entry points into writing about my own understandings of epistemology. As a result of this reading I found translation to be an interesting way of approaching a text. It slows down my reading and forces me to grapple with the dense carpet of terms involved. I cannot write a sentence until I reach some degree of understanding. Hearing things said (as familiar as they may be) in a different language, does indeed shed light on the ideas expressed. I remember I wrote about this here when I heard a lecture about the ideas of Dorothy Smith on Institutional Ethnography at Bar Ilan University and here after I first joined the interest groups on Action research and Narrative Inquiry at the Mofet Institute.
Maybe I haven’t dealt much with epistemology but I have spent the morning thinking about language… and then again, much of what I have written is indeed connected to the nature of knowledge and its expression.
I am trying to plan my conference paper with it – does look promising!
It is called Visual Understanding Environment.
Thanks to Oleg Komlik from the ISS PhD Network for sharing this picture which appeared on the facebook page of Economic Sociology & Political Economy.
If it does, I’m sure you will see the results here.
If it helps you, I’d love to hear how.
I was happy to receive a positive response to the abstract I submitted to The Fifth Israeli Conference of Qualitative Research to be held in February at the Ben Gurion University in the south of Israel. I attended the conference two years ago but did not dare to try to join the conversation – now it feels as though the time is right.
My abstract ( in Hebrew)
והרהרתי לעצמי: מי לומד יותר?
כמדריכה לחינוך לשוני, יזמתי השתלמויות מורים במשרד החינוך העוסקות בהוראת הכתיבה. בנוסף לעיסוק בפדגוגיה, בהשתלמויות אלו, המורים נפגשים עם הכתיבה ככלי ללמידה והעצמה מקצועית. בארבע שנים האחרונות השתתפו כ-250 מורים מבתי ספר יסודיים בשש ערים במחוז צפון.
כמורת מורים העוסקת במחקר על למידתם המקצועית של מורים, אני מודעת לכך שלאורך תהליכי ההוראה וההערכה, אני בעצמי מתפתחת באופן תמידי. למידה זו מתרחשת בהקשרים חברתיים מגוונים: בדיאלוג עם המורים המשתתפים בהשתלמויות בהנחייתי, באמצעות השיח הכתוב בפורום המתוקשב שמלווה את ההשתלמויות ובחשיפה לפרקטיקה של המורים בכיתותיהם. למידה זו מתרחבת כאשר אני יוזמת דיאלוג עם חוקרים אחרים סביב טקסטים כתובים שאני מפיקה על עבודתי.
כמחנכת וכחוקרת העורכת מחקר פעולה נרטיבי על עבודתי עם המורים, הכתיבה עצמה היא ציר מרכזי בלמידתי ובעבודתי. עבורי, הכתיבה היא דרך עוצמתית לחקור את מעשיי. הכתיבה מאפשרת לי לעקוב אחרי שינויים במחשבתי ובעמדותיי ולהבין את המניעים לשינוי. דרך הכתיבה אני שואלת את עצמי שאלות ומגבשת כיווני פעולה. כתיבה רפלקטיבית ביומן מחקר ובבלוג, עוזרת לי לערוך רפלקציה משמעותית, לשקול חלופות ולהגיע למסקנות.
בהרצאתי אציג דוגמאות של טקסטים רפלקטיביים, המעידים על הלמידה שלי מתוך שיח ופעולה וקטעים מתוך ההתכתבות שלי עם מורים. בנוסף, אציג את הדרך שבה, לאורך שנים, למידה זו מוצאת את אותותיה בעבודתי, במחקרי ובפרסומיי. אמחיש כיצד הידע שלי מקריאה מקצועית מעובד בכתיבה רפלקטיבית, מוצא את דרכו לעשייה החינוכית שלי ומעובד שוב בכתיבה מקצועית. לבסוף, אדון בתרומתו של בלוג מחקרי להתפתותי המקצועית.
בחקר הפדגוגיה שלנו כמורי מורים, עלינו לתאר את דרכי הוראה שלנו, להמליל את הידע שנוצר באינטראקציות מקצועיות שונות ולשתף עמיתים בידע שנבנה. הרצאה זו הינה צעד נוסף בשיתוף ובחיפוש דיאלוג מסוג זה.
The other abstract, which I submitted today is in English. If it is accepted (and I really hope it will be) I will post it here in March. The paper for that second conference is about blogging as an academic activity. I am interested in exploring the dialogic nature of blogging in general and academic blogging in particular
On the home page of the Israeli Teachers’ Union web site there is a warning, issued before the Hannukah school holiday:
More or less says:
Do not, under any circumstances, agree to any professional learning in the school holidays…
Certainly a sad sign of the times. Maybe I’m breaking the rules then as I sit here and attempt to write an action research article about my work.
השתלמויות בזמן חופשות
הרינו מורים לכם בזאת, שלא להשתתף ולא להיענות לשום דרישה של גורם כלשהוא
במשרד החינוך או ברשות המקומית, המזמינים אתכם להשתלמויות או לישיבות בזמן החופשה.
החופשה היא זכות המוקנית לכם בתוקף הסכם קיבוצי וזכותכם ליהנות
הסתדרות המורים תמשיך לשמור על תנאי העבודה והזכויות
לשירותיכם בכל עת.
חג חנוכה שמח וחופש נעים
Since I heard read about the National Writing Project in the United States (while studying for my Masters), I have been inspired by the philosophy of the project, the way it is organized and the way teachers respond to its activities. I have often daydreamed about flying to the States to take part in a three week summer workshop and then attempting to reproduce the experience here in Israel.
When I finally read this article by Locke, Whitehead, Dix and Cawkwell (2011) my daydream came to life again. Throughout the reading I found many connections with my own study. I will jot down some of those thoughts here.
I did not know that there was an attempt in NZ in the 1980s to create a NZ Writing Project. The idea certainly did suit the NZ literacy scene of that decade. After the project ceased to function in NZ years ago, the researchers recently revived the idea and created a six-day non-residential workshop for teachers, based on the NWP model.
As I read the article I asked myself: Does this mean that my study is irrelevant? That all has been done before? The answer is, of course, quite the contrary. I believe this study is another anchor to hold on to, another sign that what I am doing is important. Somewhere else in the world, with a different group of teachers, others are using similar principles of professional learning to reach out to educators with their unique professional needs.
Here the authors are emphasizing the NZ context. I should look closely at how they do that so that I can think hard about how to emphasize the Israeli context in my own thesis and publications. In the past I have heard this stressed in feedback on my work.
The article is of course relevant in that it is another example of practitioner research in the field of teacher learning and teacher education. There certainly are many of these articles being published in respected journals. The authors write:
“These objectives had given rise to a series of research questions, which are currently being investigated via a series of methodological lenses: ethnographic, case study, critical discourse analysis and self-study, but reflecting overall an action research ethos” (p. 277).
I am interested in the way they have chosen the phrase “action research ethos”? This approach encourages me to return to the way I am trying to envision my work as practitioner research within a narrative framework. As I read this article I don’t see the need to choose one approach over the other.
I believe the authors (as a group or individually) will publish additional articles on this interesting project. Here they chose to examine two of the many research questions arising from the study. This is also a structural feature of the article that I should examine. The authors describe the study as a whole and then zoom in close in order to present material relevant to two research questions and then zoom out again.
I should inquire into the intensity of a 6 day workshop rather than a ‘once a fortnight’ session.
How do you say “writers workshop” in Hebrew? “Sadnat Ktiva” – סדנת כתיבה really doesn’t say it all for me.
Could I set up one course as a workshop based on the NWP principles?
Do I have to be an expert writer to run a workshop like that? Why does this question arise when I am thinking about a NWP style workshop? It doesn’t occur to me when I am planning and implementing my own courses here.
Could a workshop like this be a follow up to my courses? Stage 2 maybe? Could I do it in the summer? It is possible – but the only time unit possible today in Israel is 30 hours.
The mix of primary and secondary school teachers from several subject areas is an interesting aspect. The article seems to indicate that this has positive potential, but would be better in a longer workshop.
And finally… I must find a way to participate in a writing project workshop – maybe in NZ…
Thanks to SB who sent me the article!
Locke, T., Whitehead, D., Dix, S., & Cawkwell, G. (2011). New Zealand teachers respond to the ‘National Writing Project’ experience. Teacher Development, 15(3), 273-291.
So many of these points in this blog post ring a bell with my work:
Thank you so much to Professor Michal Zellermayer and the members of the Action Research and Self Study Interest group at the Mofet Institute!
Yesterday I had the honor to present my article for Journal X to the members of the group. Most of the participants are experienced teacher educators and researchers and all have a real interest in the sort of research I am doing. The atmosphere in the group is very supportive, and even though I was the first to present this year, I did not feel threatened or pressured at any stage.
As I approached the front of the room I asked myself a number of questions:
How will my work be accepted?
How does my research fit in under the category of Action / Participatory research?
How will I react to the criticism I will… may hear?
Was this text appropriate for this framework?
and last but not least…
Did I make a mistake volunteering to be the first?
I will begin by answering the last question – No! I certainly did not make a mistake, Presenting my article and receiving thoughtful and intelligent feedback from this group was an incredible honor and supplied me with a lot of material to think about and work on. The changes which were suggested in the structure of the article are similar to those that my supervisors would have suggested (I suppose).
Professor Zellermayer directed the group to look closer at the article using the characteristics of Action Research papers based on the work of McNiff and Whitehead and the analysis proved very useful. The main criticism which arose is that I haven’t spelled out the “What is my concern?” which is motivating my study in general and this article in general. This is one of the differences between a paper which fits in as a chapter in my PhD to a journal article which must stand on its own. This of course is something to consider in every article I attempt to create.
According to Professor Zellermayer and the members of the group, The article should begin with the answer to ”What is my concern?” . Again and again I find myself being pulled back to opening my writing with more traditional academic styles and material on the context of the study, where really what I should be doing is plunging my reader into the study with the kind of professional texts which are at the heart of my work. The same thing happened when I wrote my paper for my confirmation process.
I have to take off my doctoral student cap now and replace it with my teacher cap. I hope to continue this reflection on the wonderful feedback I received yesterday as it had motivational value as well as a real push in a positive direction. I received many comments pointing to the strong points in my writing and also concrete comments in the direction of improvement.
Have a nice day!