Wednesday, 12 October 2011

making it up as I go along?

I am coming out of blog and twitter hiding to make a note to myself. It's busy at the moment, really busy. Since we last spoke, I've (finally) gained ethical approval for my PhD research and I have my participants on board. This is a great moment, because they are all interesting people I already know from my leadership mentoring on the NPQICL programme. I have a busy year ahead of me (living in denial about that) with my shiny new digital voice recorder and a bit of an experiment with Dragon transcribing software. I am well aware of the limitations of this software, but given my life, any time saved even if I have to do quite a bit of correction is good. But on to the point - I am learning something as I begin to talk to my participants, hence the note.

Although I have put careful thought and time into putting together my research proposal, ethics paperwork and information for participants I am now seeing more clearly that this is only one part of my research design. Perhaps because this is a narrative study, I am tuned in to how the actual research is constructed as I (and others) talk it out. I have reflected on how I have explained the study to participants in my first round of meetings before we 'get going'. I realise now that this talk is laying the foundations for certain types of interaction, certain types of 'co-construction' we will achieve together. The study itself has become a narrative construction, the idea of the study a narrative text, if you like, which can itself have multiple meanings and be critically considered.

This is a risky business. I liken it to the best sort of mentoring conversations: you really have moments of not being sure, even not having a clue, but you work with the uncertainty and questions. A detailed blueprint may give the false impression of security, but I have committed to building meaning together with others, so I must give up an element of control. As I talked out the idea of the study and listened to questions and comments my idea of what this conversation might be like shaped up. I saw opportunities and avenues, I grasped on to useful metaphors that provided 'ways in' to actually exploring what I was interested in regarding the construction of professional narrative identity.

I now realise why it has been hard to plan the visual 'map making' of conversations I have previously described. Each visual representation will reflect a different encounter, different stories, and just like oral narratives the visual ones will have to find their form. Finding a way to depict ideas might take some 'playing' and that is what I hope to support my participants in doing. The first ones may not work as well as latter ones, who knows?