Writing autoethnography: a lonely path to go

Performing an autoethnographic study is indeed a lonely path to go. There are not many researchers using this method (yet) in Nordic countries. In educational research, there are rather few in other parts of the world as well. This is understandable, because when one, according to his method, is supposed to write about own experience, it would make the teacher reveal what is most vulnerable: her practice. Most teachers feel vulnerable about insight into their own practice.  This is a paradox, because the insight is there already – from the students. My belief is that there is not enough education and support given in teacher education and training to make teachers confident  in their work.

My study is not first and foremost about my own practice, even though I put myself as a teacher on the stage and clearly show how I stumble, make mistakes and errors, and then gain new insight by listening to my students in a different way. It is these situations, when I (the teacher) have to go beyond what I have learned of methods and didactics, and meet the students in new ways which are the focal points in my study. May be this could inspire someone to reflect on new ways to gain insight into the profession, art and complexity of teaching.

This lonely path turned out to be not as bad as it might seem because this particular type of loneliness revealed some wonderful opportunities as well. But how badly I missed some experienced conversation partners! I turned to other (written) autoethnographic investigations for  support. I read a lot of them! This revealed to me what later became one of the cornerstones of my study: there is no «one way» to perform a study like this. Every new study has to be invented. It is creative work indeed. It showed me therefore that even though I would have liked very much, and indeed needed, support from others, I would, in the end, have to go my own way, make my own choices, stumble
my way through the bushes until I found the way I wanted to build, the way I wanted to build it. This demanded courage, an amount of stubborness or stamina, a lot of humour and (self-) irony, but of course – it gave a lot of freedom. Nevertheless, I would have loved talking to others, regardless of media, who had been creating their
own paths of autoethnography.

Creating your own way of performing a research study must not be misunderstood. There are still rules, or ways to make such research trustworthy and worth while investing resources into by the (research) community. This was in my study secured by transparency on every step of the study, not between text and life, but on how I performed every step. In addition, the study is built on dialogue, communication with readers and with other texts and studies, recognition of the narrated situations (not only by other teachers, but for everyone who works with people) intersubjectivity and solidarity.

Do you have questions? Thinking about performing a reflective study like this? Please comment below.

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3 kommentarer den “Writing autoethnography: a lonely path to go”

  1. Vigdis-

    I think you have hit upon something that I am attempting to study, namely to what extent this may be lonely work and how people manage to find community, even a fractured one, in this area.

    I am very interested in your discussion about «This revealed to me what later became one of the cornerstones of my study: there is no “one way” to perform a study like this. Every new study has to be invented.» What interests me is the variety of differences this requires in the specifics for the study, while still having something constant enough that there is a similarity with the various forms of study. Not quite sure how to resolve this tension.

    Maybe we can explore this together?!?!


  2. Vigdis-

    I think your mention of how it is assessed or evaluated, what makes it «good» or «trustworthy» or whatever other terms are used may help the most with understanding this.

    In other words, perhaps the best way to approach this is through considering how to assess how well this were done, and thereby the criteria may be established?


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