Sunday, 29 August 2010

Creativity, dialogue and empowerment: influences on a PhD methodology

Selecting a methodology and designing method(s) for a piece of research is influenced by your research paradigm amongst other things - your academic 'world view'. I'd like to put that (very important) issue to one side for a moment to think about another influence.

For me, if my methodology and methods can also reflect my passions and experience all the better. After all, the reality of PhD study requires stamina (I'm told) and I guess stamina in turn requires engaging with your passions and interests. 

In the spirit of that, I'm remembering the sorts of things I'd like to connect with in this process. Of course, the 'health warning' here is that it would be easy to be led by our interests and passions and let these direct the design of PhD research more than your research paradigm, questions and so forth. As the piece of work is so personal, though, my hope is that there can be a convergence of my questions and interests. We'll see. 

Here's a list of a few things I've really enjoyed doing over the years I hope I can draw on in some way of other:

  • Principles of community development and informal education have always underpinned work with young people, communities and families - both in youth work, neighbourhood work, community development projects and in the early years. These principles link to principles that can be found in participatory action research amongst other approaches. 

  • My community arts work has found ways to get people 'telling their own story' by giving people tools to express themselves in a way which bypasses some of the pressures people can feel when asked to talk about themselves or any other subject they may struggle to articulate. This makes me think about what Giddens has to say about levels of consciousness (discursive/conscious vs. practical/tacit) and what David Gauntlett (and others) have to say about helping people access that 'everyday' or 'ingrained' information they may never talk about in everyday life.
  • My 1-1 work (such as mentoring leaders) which has encouraged people to see their experience in a wider context and come to realisations about the meaning, significance and priority of what they are doing or have done. For me, an effective research environment should be empowering, safe and should not place the 'researchers' bias onto the subject. Saying that, I've got a sense that my research paradigm and methodology won't draw a firm line between researcher and subject - more of than another post. 
Methods I have in my imagination involve things like making and discussing 'situational' (Clarke, 2005) or cultural maps and perhaps making, manipulating, positioning and negotiating metaphorical models of self and 'community'. The goal is insight into perceptions (to go back to symbolic interactionism) - supporting people and groups to articulate and communicate (perhaps in the wider sense) about their professional selves - how and why they change.