AN INNOVATION FOR RESEARCHERS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM:

INQUIRING INTO THE ORIENTATIONS THAT GUIDE

THE PRACTISES OF EDUCATORS

A. Nettie Campbell

campbell@oise.utoronto.ca

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto


Abstract. This is a report of the design and development of an innovation for researchers in the new millennium.

Abstrait: Ceci est un rapport sur la conception et le developpment d'une innovation pour les chercheurs du nouveau millinium.

Little is known about the orientations that guide the practises of educators such as school teachers (Clandinin, 1986; Fullan, 1993; Pajares, 1992; Wideen & Pye, 1994). The orientations of educators often remain at the implicit level of knowledge (Clandinin, 1986; Drake, 1994; Fullan, 1993; Sloan, 1993) so that there is no clear vision for guiding their practises (Fullan, 1993). Unless the orientations of educators are elucidated, they are unlikely to be changed where appropriate (Clandinin, 1986; Drake, 1994; Fullan, 1993). This is the case in my own experience (Campbell, 1997; Campbell, 1994), and in the experience of one of my mentors (Campbell, 1995). In both cases, once the orientation is elucidated, changes are made where appropriate.

Past research into the thinking of teachers, for example, tended to be "on relatively discrete and isolated aspects of... thought processes and actions, rather than on the whole process of teaching" (Clark & Paterson, 1986). In the new millennium, researchers will require an innovation for helping to elucidate the orientations that are embedded in the whole of the educator's practises. The purpose of this paper is therefore to report on the design and development of a survey-interview for helping to elucidate the values that are embedded in the whole of the educator's practises. I use the term "researcher" here to refer to the outside researcher and to the educator as a self-inquirer. More specifically, the survey-interview is designed and developed for use in an inquiry into teacher's experiences in making meaning of their educational orientations. The intention is to obtain data from a larger number of participants in the initial phase of the inquiry. The intention is also to identify three-to-five key participants for the in-depth interviews in the second phase of the inquiry.

My interest in the educational orientations of teachers emerges from my self-inquiry into the nature of my own orientation and changes in my orientation over time (Campbell, 1998, 1994), and into the nature of the educational orientations of one of my mentors (Campbell, 1995). In both cases, the experience of elucidating and sharing personal stories leads to becoming more conscious, more clear, and more reaching out into the unknown of what really matters to us as educators.

The theoretical framework that I bring to the design and development of the interview-survey is critical wholistic --for which the higher purpose is the evolution of humanity. In this framework, each person is responsible for caring for self and the other members of the human family and the environment, and for inviting others along as we evolve. Thus, in this orientation there is co-evolution of the individual and the culture. I prefer as well, not to apply labels that emphasize difference, but instead, to concentrate on ongoing dialogue among persons who are working toward similar goals of spirituality and ecological consciousness in education.

Criteria for Designing and Developing the Survey-Interview

Two personal experiences help to influence the selection of guidelines for the design and development of the survey-interview: In one experience, I am a respondent in the pilot testing of a survey in which the respondents are treated like objects: Our voices are restricted to written responses for multiple-choice questions, yet the written questions and instructions were illegible. --I learn months later from the researcher that the question-and-answer sheets were prepared at a time when she was in need of new eye glasses. In the second experience, I am an assistant researcher. Several years after the research project is completed, one of the gatekeepers tells me (during a brief and casual discussion), "I remember meeting you when you were interviewing... We put a lot of our time and energy into that research project, but there was nothing in it for us." These two experiences, together with my conceptual framework of wholistic education, lead to my goal of providing the participants with the kind of experiences that I appreciate as a participant in research studies.

Two general categories of guidelines are used for the design, administration, and data analysis for the survey-interview. Some of the guidelines for participants include:

* inviting the participation of the whole person

* accommodating both participants who do and participants who do not routinely reflect on their practises,

* simultaneously accommodating individuals and groups,

* providing a form of activity that is personally worthwhile for the participants,

* inviting the identification of personal benefits, if any, from participating in the research activity,

* providing opportunity for gaining first-hand knowledge as prerequisite for deciding whether to participate in the subsequent, in-depth phases of the research project,

* inviting suggestions for changing the survey-interview so that it better accommodates the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of the participants.

Some of the guidelines for data collection and analysis include:

* accommodating an intensive and concentrated data-collection situation,

* requiring a short period of time to complete,

* allowing for the collection of data from a larger number of participants than be accommodated in the in-depth phase of the inquiry,

* preventing slow-start to the data collection,

* accommodating sensory, feeling, knowledge, opinion/value, and demographic types of questions,

* avoiding multiple and "why" questions,

* focusing attention on the structure of the questions,

* facilitating the questions being taken seriously,

* accommodating unexpected responses, and

* allowing for the analysis of data for individual and/or for group portraits.

Designing

For collecting the snap-shot of data about each participant's experience, I design a brief, mail-type, survey-interview of open-ended and structured questions. This mode of collecting data is convenient, and easily administered and managed (Merriam, 1988). The survey-interview can satisfy the design-and-development guidelines specified for the participants and for the collection and analysis of data. A total of eleven questions are included: Current practise, change in practise over time, option to participate in the in-depth study, benefit of being a participant in the pilot study, suggestions for changes in the survey-interview questions, and demographics. The number of items per question ranges from one to fourteen. An example of the first item in a fourteen-item question is, "Can you identify a change in your practise that is both complete and important to you?" Where appropriate, "optional" questions are included. The two questions included on the final page are demographics and the option to participate in the in-depth inquiry. For reasons of confidentiality, the final page is folded vertically.

Pilot Testing

Pilot testing involves the rigorous examination of the biases, sequences, and clarity for determining the usefulness of the survey-interview (Merriam, 1988) for inquiring into the educational orientations of educators, for obtaining data from a larger number of participants than can be feasibly be accommodated in the next phase of the inquiry, and for identifying key participants for follow-up interviews in the inquiry. As the first participant in the pilot testing, I am able to readily respond to each question. My responses describe the educational orientation that is embedded in my practises, and changes in my orientation over time. I judge both the choice and wording of the eleven questions and the time required to complete them to be appropriate for the intended use of the survey-interview.

For the second phase of the pilot testing, a total of seventeen school teachers are the participants. There are two administrations of the survey: One with nine teachers and one with eight teachers. I prepare for each administration by gathering together all of the required materials, then sitting quietly and visualizing myself interacting authentically with the participants. In introducing the survey-interview to the participants, I say, "This is not an evaluation. There are no right or wrong answers to any of the questions. You are the expert in your own story, so I look forward to learning from you." I then briefly describe two alternative visualization activities "one of which I would like to lead while inviting your participation --for the purpose of bringing our energies together into the research activity."

I tell the participants, "whatever depth you achieve in the visualization and in the other survey-interview activity is acceptable, since that depth is a personal matter." Following the visualization activity of their choice, I introduce a critical incident that lead to a change in my practise when I was a school teacher. I add, "In telling my story, I disclose what I would be comfortable hearing tomorrow morning. I invite you to do otherwise." To invite additional ownership of the process by the participants, I add:

Please complete your own copy of the survey-interview for describing your teaching practises. You may choose to complete it alone --as both interviewer and respondent for each question. Alternately, some of you may choose to participate as partners or in groups of three or four --while alternating as interviewer and respondent. As you complete your own copy of the survey-interview, I will make myself available to answer any questions you may have. Also, please feel free to tell me in person, or to write in the margins, any suggestions that may come to mind for allowing the questions to better address your own experiences. I will be pleased to use these suggestions for improving the survey-interview.

Analyzing the Data

In analyzing the data, I focus on working themes for helping to guide choices in search of orientations, concrete universals, and naturalizations (Merriam, 1998). Orientations emerge from assessment of the participant's theories of action. Concrete universals emerge from studying one specific case in great detail and then comparing that case with others that have been studied in equal detail --so that what is learned in one situation is transferred to another. And naturalizations emerge from using my tacit knowledge and intuition and personal experience to make meaning of the natural covariances of critical incidents --both inside and outside the context. This approach to data analysis is intended to allow the reporting of a) the fullest possible complexity and dignity of the participants' experiences, b) experiences that resonate for the participants and others who have voice in the education of children, and c) experiences that resonate for outside researchers.

Insights

Questions and suggestions by the participants result in minor changes in the wording of some the questions on the survey-interview. One change is substituting "something happening" or "an experience" for "critical incident." The other change in wording involves omitting (from some of the questions) the invitation to "think back over..." Nine of the seventeen participants chose the partner or small-group process for completing their own survey-interview. Sixteen of the seventeen participants respond to the question on a critical change in their practise. A typical response describes a change from an academic orientation to a wholistic orientation. In the academic orientation, the participants focus on the students' learning of the subject matter. In the wholistic orientation, the focus is on the students learning of the subject matter within the context of learning to care for themselves and others. Sixteen of the seventeen participants answer a question regarding a worthwhile experience in their practise. Typical responses include "a simple thank you" and "seeing the light bulbs go on when the child finally get the answer." Eleven participants cite specific benefits from completing the survey-interview. A typical response is: "It made me stop and think about how I've spent my career. Pleased that I was asked to do this." Another example is: "I need sometimes to be reminded of all I have learned,.. and to keep this in focus." Nine of the seventeen participants agree to be interviewed for the in-depth inquiry.

Discussion

The survey-interview is shown to be useful for identifying the educational orientations of the participants, for collecting a rich snap-shot of data from a larger number of participants in the initial phase of the inquiry, and for identifying key participants for the in-depth phase of the study. Although a common limitation of the critical-incident approach to research is that some participants are unable to readily identify incidents in their practises (Campbell, 1998), only one participant in the pilot testing did not identify a critical incident that lead to change in their own practise. This result may be influenced by the large number of participants who chose to work through the survey-interview with a partner or small group. On the other hand, it may be that many of the participants had previously discussed critical incidents of change in their practises since many of the participants welcome the activity as an opportunity to reflect on their practises, and half of the participants agree to be interviewed in the in-depth study for discussing their experiences further. My wholistic approach to the administration of the survey-interview may also have influences these responses.

Conclusion

In the new millennium, one of the major challenges for researchers will be to help educators elucidate their educational orientations so that these orientations may be changed where appropriate. In this report I therefore discuss the design and development of an innovation for use by researchers --for helping educators to elucidate their orientations. The innovation is a survey-interview. The outcome of the pilot study is that I will use the survey-interview and its wholistic guidelines for administration in future inquiries into the orientations of educators. I will also make the surviey-interview and guidelines available for use by other researchers who inquire into the educational orientations of educators. In both cases, I advocate use of the survey-interview as emergent.

References

Campbell, A.N. (1998). The Critical incident approach to research. Paper 1 in the Symposium, Innovative research practices for Adult Education: Creating knowledge for shaping the future. Paper in Proceedings for the 17th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education: 47-48.

Campbell, A.N. (1997) Spirituality as integral to adult education. Its meaning and significance in our time. Paper in Proceedings for the 16th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. Montreal, Quebec: 51-55.

Campbell, N. (1994). The teaching and learning of adults: Extending the conceptual frameworks to include involvement in the arts. Theory Practice. Abbotsford, B.C: University College of Fraser Valley: 82-87.

Campbell, A.N. (1995). Virginia Griffin's path and contribution toward the Holistic Orientation: The past, present, and future of Adult education. Paper in the Proceedings for the 14th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education.

Clandinin, D.J. (1986). Classroom Practice: Teacher Images in Action. London: Farmer Press.

Clark, C.M; Peterson, P.L. (1986). Teachers' thought processes. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching. New Your: MacMillin.

Drake, S.M. (1994a). Confronting the ultimate learning outcome: We teach who we are. Paper presented at the symposium, Organizing for learning: Hearing the voices of learners, at the AERA Conference, New Orleans.

Fullan, M. (1993). Changes Forces: Probing the Depth of Educational Reform. London: The Falmer Press.

Merriam, S.B. (1988). Case Study Research in Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Pajares, M.F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Clearing up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62 (3): 307-332.

Sloan, D. (1993). Forward. In R. Miller et. al. (Eds.), The Renewal of Personal Meaning in Education. Branson, VT: Holistic Education: 1-5.

Wideen, M.F.; Pye, I. (1994). The Struggle for Change: The Story of One School. London: The Falmer Press.


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Prepared August 3, 1999 by the ACÉÉA/CASAE Internet Working Group