Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Storying Our Research

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Storying Our Research

Article excerpt

We ended the previous volume year in deep contemplation about the final word of this journal's title: English. We asked, Why English? Why English only? Why not Research in the Teaching of English(es)? We begin this new volume year-RTE's 50th anniversary-thinking about the first word in the journal's title: research. We come to this first word having thought a great deal over the past several months about story. Perhaps it has been on our minds as we have brainstormed ways of marking this 50th volume year-a year that in any person or institution's life traditionally invites commemoration through stories. Story has crept into our conversations about manuscripts as we have pored over them, sometimes hearing the words of a former colleague, who-in his research methods courses-would often say of a research report: "I believe the author, but the story's all wrong." We know for certain that story became a centerpiece of the discussions that unfolded at our weekly editorial team meetings after we read the five papers that comprise this issue. Many of the authors in this issue push on or play at the edges of the conventional research article published in the social sciences, inviting a conceptual turn from research report to story. As editors, we feel this conceptual turn, and the articles and essays that inspire this turn, foreground a set of social and ethical responsibilities that researchers in the teaching of English(es) carry into their inquiry and writing.

Todd DeStigter opens this issue with an argument about argument. Using ethnographic anecdotes drawn from his years of research in AP Composition courses in a predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side, DeStigter surfaces and questions the assumptions undergirding argument's esteemed status in the ELA curriculum. Like authors previously published in RTE (e.g., Newell, VanDerHeide, & Wynhoff Olsen, 2014), DeStigter takes up the epistemological underpinnings of argument, but rather than asking how students might be taught to write better argumentative essays, he explores why and how argumentative writing has assumed its place of privilege in U.S. curricula in the first place. In addition to questioning argumentation's utility in fostering democracy and students' socio-economic prospects, DeStigter makes visible a set of Cartesian and Kantian philosophies that pose questions not just for language and literacy educators, but also for researchers. To challenge argument's position of privilege is, among other things, to call into question the Cartesian and Kantian claims to "an objective, extra-human reality made accessible through a combination of rigorous observation and abstract reasoning" (p. 17). After perusing DeStigter's article, readers may wonder in relation to their own scholarly pursuits: What does it mean to know, and how varied or multiple might be our ways of knowing? Is there really such a thing as an "extra-human reality"? Might the "reality" we report in the written accounts of our research be constructed by a human narrator, who, in showing her humanity, makes her reliability-or unreliability, for that matter-more visible? As researchers, we might even walk away from DeStigter's article asking ourselves whether knowing, convincing, and/or proving is, or ought to be, the function of research in the first place. Might research, like stories, serve to imagine, to evoke, to inspire? In the spirit of DeStigter's quest to legitimize "other, nondominant modes of contemplation and expression" as well as "actions that grow from them" (p. 30), this question seems well worth our consideration as teachers, as researchers, as persons.

Like DeStigter, Rebecca Woodard contributes to ongoing scholarly conversations about writing instruction, while also raising questions for the researcherwriters who comprise the readership of RTE. Her investigation into the links between two teachers' writing instruction and their out-of-school writing practices honors the rich histories and experiences of teachers beyond the confines of the "professional. …

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