Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Integrating Reflexivity: Negotiating Researcher Identity through Autoethnography

Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Integrating Reflexivity: Negotiating Researcher Identity through Autoethnography

Article excerpt

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I am a Taiwanese woman who grew up in Taiwan and came to Canada in 2012 to pursue graduate studies in education. My journey to study commenced in 2014 after a prolonged struggle with subjectivity in my master's research project.

In 2013, I began an examination of Taiwan's science education reform policies from 1990 to 1994 for my master's study (Huang, 2014). I interviewed three policymakers who formulated the reform policies and 10 secondary science teachers in Taiwan. In my role as a researcher, I found myself caught between the conflicting positions of the policymakers and the teachers. Specifically, my initial findings suggested that the policymakers I interviewed believed that Confucian traditions have obstructed scientific innovation and inquiry-based learning in Taiwan. They also perceived Confucian traditions as a cultural burden in Taiwanese society. However, the teachers I interviewed felt pulled in two directions by the contradictory concepts of Confucian learning culture and the new reform initiatives. They viewed Confucianism as a valuable cultural asset that should be passed on through education.

The competing perspectives of the policymakers and teachers made me attentive to the relationship between my life events and academic writing. As a learner in Taiwan, I have witnessed the profound impact of Confucianism within my family1 and how Confucius' values have brought together people of different social and religious milieus. In particular, Confucius2 strongly upheld the value of ren [benevolent rule or loving others] in creating the ideal harmonious human; he also valued the concept of li [respecting others] as a moral code to maintain social order (Li, 2003). Because of my cultural experience, a part of me shared the teachers' perspective that these values must be preserved and passed on through education.

At the same time, my opposition to Chinese traditional customs, such as traditional discipline in class and submission to our teachers, motivated me to investigate cultural issues in science education in Taiwan. My zeal for scientific values such as wonder, innovation, and respect for nature induced me to support the Western approach to science education that promotes critical thinking and questioning. Therefore, I also concurred with the policymakers that societal values shaped by Confucian traditions might have restricted change in Taiwanese learning culture.

During the research process, it became clear that I could not ignore my dichotomous view of Confucian traditions. I constantly encountered struggles between my cultural experience and the motivation for my research. Countless times during the interviews, I had hesitated, unsure of what to ask or how to follow up because I was afraid of revealing my own bias. I also wrestled with guilt during the data analysis phase because I saw myself as betraying my cultural experience by undertaking research that upheld Western models. Hence, I struggled to draw conclusions that might lead to the destruction of beliefs in Confucius' values.

While delving into my unreconciled views on Confucian traditions, I began to wonder what cultural experiences have shaped my researcher identity and academic ways of knowing, and have driven my research inquiry in the past and present (Clandinin, 2007; Mitchell, Weber, & O'Reilly-Scanlon, 2005). In what ways, if at all, did these experiences and my role as an insider affect my interpretation of the data and writing of the final text (Hamdan, 2009; Taylor, 2011)? Thus began my journey of selfdiscovery to make sense of my identities through writing reflexive ethnographies.

The Call of Autoethnography

"Autoethnography calls to me" (Pathak, 2010, para. 2) because it allows me to use personal experience to critically examine my cultural practices (Ellis, 2004). The stories of autoethnographers are not merely personal narratives or autobiographies; the goal of an autoethnographic story is to connect "the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political" (Ellis, 2004, p. …

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