Just Who Do We Think We Are? Methodologies for Autobiography and Self-Study in Teaching

By Wilson, Anna V. | Issues in Teacher Education, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Just Who Do We Think We Are? Methodologies for Autobiography and Self-Study in Teaching


Wilson, Anna V., Issues in Teacher Education


Just Who Do We Think We Are? Methodologies for Autobiography and Self-Study in Teaching Edited by Claudia Mitchell, Sandra Weber, & Kathleen O'Reilly-Scanlon New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2005

Co-edited by three teacher educators, the main focus of Just Who Do We Think We Are? Methodologies for Autobiography and Self-Study in Teaching is the critical reflective practice of self-study and the autobiography of one's teaching practices. Co-editors Mitchell, Weber, and O'Reilly-Scanlon (2005) bring together:

a wide range of self-studies in teacher education, each of which grapples in a different way with issues of method and methodology, and in doing so addresses some of the gaps in the existing professional literature, where the focus has been more 'about' self-study and less about the range of possibilities for doing self-study or determining a critical framework within which to examine self. (pp. 1-2)

The contributors represent diverse countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa, as well as the United States. Each author writes about his or her work in elementary, secondary, adult education, and university classrooms. From beginning to experienced classroom teachers, as well as university professors teaching and/or mentoring graduate students, they share their practice of self-study and critical reflection. Eight basic questions, designed by the editors, guided the contributors' work:

1. How do you go about engaging in studying your own teaching?

2. What was particular about the way that you went about doing selfstudy?

3. What studies formed your work, and/or served as a kind of methodological foreshadowing?

4. What aspects of your teaching were you involved in studying (or assisting others to study)?

5. What challenges in terms of method did you encounter?

6. [What] ethical concerns [emerged during your work]?

7. [Did you encounter questions of] acceptability [of critical reflection and self-study] as a legitimate form of research?

8. [What materialized as] unexpected [in your work]? (p. 6)

Self-study is the focal point of this volume, with each of the four main sections focusing on self-study through a qualitative framework. Each section uses a different methodological lens. In contrast to similar texts in which the reader moves sequentially through the work, the editors deliberately arranged this text in such a way that alternative groupings are viable, enhancing the use of the text in qualitative courses at the university.

The first section, "Self-study through memory and body," positions the combination of memory work and embodiment as a means of deconstructing reflective practice through self-study. For example, Weber unpacks the "pedagogical possibilities of exploring issues related to clothing and footwear," and she illustrates "how working within the space of memory, material culture and performance" (p. 6) contributes to the critical reflective self-study of her teaching practices. In a similar fashion, two chapter authors, Perselli and Deery, discuss the practice of self-study through fictional memories and drawings to enable beginning teachers to engage in self-study of their teaching practices. Weber's, Perselli's, and Deery's exploration of everyday phenomena encountered in our classrooms, such as bullying, emotionally engage the reader through the use of "uncomfortable conversations" contextualized within the critical reflective lens.

The second section, "Self-study through literary and artistic inquiry," locates inquiry in the "emerging scholarship on arts-based methodologies and self-study" (p. 6). The first three chapter authors, Biddulph, Hamilton, and Szabad-Smyth, explore the use of artistic representations as part of the process of critical self-reflection and/or autobiography of their teacher identities. For example, Biddulph presents his "developing a visual methodology to review 'self'" as he unpacks how "identity" as a gay/bisexual male "is managed in educational environments" (p. …

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