Teacher Talk: Post-Formal Stories
What is a post-formal story? What shape does it take, what tale does it tell? Obviously, there are no systematic, prescriptive answers to these questions. The answers differ with each story because of the idiosyncratic context constructed by the storytellers. In the case of Teacher Talk, the story varies from personal anecdotes to more formal analyzes of the participants' experience in relation to theory, deemed relevant by me, the researcher. Even though other post-formal stories take diverse forms, a post-formal story contains certain critical nontraditional perspectives.
One perspective is to recognize the different types of narratives that facilitate the understanding of our experience by acting as different lenses through which our experience can be examined. Laurel Richardson (1997) identifies five types of narratives that are instructive in our attempt to understand the nature of the post-formal story. Richardson identifies the everyday narrative (an examination of what we did today), the autobiographical narrative (“how people articulate how the past is related to the present”), the biographical narrative (understanding other people's lives; empathizing with the life stories of others), the cultural narrative (participating in the narratives of one's culture; understanding the cultural meanings and their relationships to one another), and the collective story (giving “voice to those who are silenced or marginalized in the cultural narrative”) (1997, pp. 29—33).
Teacher Talk, being a post-formal story, contains a bit of all of Richardson's narrative types. Specifically, through the process of critical reflection, Teacher Talk contains parts of autobiographies, and through the post-formal conversation, biographical and collective narratives emerge. The understandings constructed by the participants (including the research story) occurred because the participants were able to link the events of their lives into a narrative (Polkinghorne, 1988). Identifying critical moments in our lives and temporally linking them, provides the larger con