Sunday, 11 July 2010

Getting research assumptions on the table

OK, perhaps I should be actually reading those books I’ve picked out instead of blogging, but for now it’s useful in clearing my head. As I’ve said before, at this stage I’m ‘clearing the decks’ so to speak, and orientating myself. I can see a time quite soon where I’ll need to plan for a decent literature search: but to do that I need some criteria. That’s where the blog comes in.

Firstly, I wonder if it will help me to generate a list of assumptions. These might prove interesting to see whether they bear theoretical weight. My first assumption / belief is that individuals’ sense of themselves changes as they work alongside others, as does the way they act. I’m basing this on material I’ve read (some of Jillian Rodd’s research with early childhood leaders still is relevant) and my own experience. My own experience is of experiencing significant transitions working in community projects, charities, local authorities, Sure Start, running my own consultancy and most recently in higher education as a senior lecturer – both the contexts and the people have shaped how I saw who I was and have changed what and how I work. This is not to say I have not had consistent ‘threads’ in my own identity and practice (I certainly have) but I can note the shifts. The second part of my own experience comes from supporting the development of others: volunteers, staff I have supervised and part time professional students in the children’s workforce. In particular, my role as a team member in the excellent National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership (NPQICL) have allowed me the privilege of supporting and mentoring many leaders who themselves have reflected on their own ‘journey into leadership’.

Secondly, I think that change happens on several different levels, with each working together to affect change. This can range from conscious, rational thought (perhaps focused by a reaction to a critical incident or from structured reflection for example) to subconscious, incremental change. In fact, I’d like to think that people change through a process of what could be called incremental adaptation – in other words, as we interact with our professional environments, we seek a balance between our own needs and values and the behaviour required to perform our role. In my experience, I’ve been privileged to work in roles that have allowed me to align my beliefs, values with behaviour and actions required or compatible in the role. In fact, it’s the principal driver for my selection of role. That’s what you get for starting off working with churches and community organisations.

Thirdly, I believe that anyone can identify even subtle changes to the way they see themselves and how they perform their role(s) is supported in the right ways. I’m a passionate believer in people development and in the value of structured reflection. For me, it might be talking with my colleagues or my wife or by praying, journaling ...or blogging at the moment!. Most people freeze at the thought of talking eloquently about the development of their ‘inner selves’ – and perhaps rightly so, but if asked the right question, given the right tools and environment: people can identify what’s going on for them. If I did not believe this, I would be foolish to attempt research with individuals and professional communities in the very real and down to earth world of early years settings. This is why I think getting the methodology and methods right will be so important, amongst all the other elements.

There you go – there will be more than three, but it’s a start.