Mining the archives

As I draft, and mobilise my knowledge to build an argument, I need to refresh my memory of the written work of others, to effectively cite.  I have an impression that so-and-so said such-and-such, but don’t quite know exactly where  (ie committing verbatim text and chapter-and-verse to memory is not something well developed in my childhood, excepting by the accompaniment of music).  But I do have this memory-remnant, and in regularly revisited reading (eg of the three synoptic gospels, or of Paul’s letters to the churches) I have a greater remembrance of basic context, so I can  scan relatively quickly for it, and with concordances or electronic search engines these days I can use ‘key words’ to search efficiently and find.

But not all of the documents I have accessed are in a digital form, yet, and my processing of my reading includes integrating the material into my frame, with its selective attentivenesses, and involves some synthesising re-expression, so that when I go ‘back to the literature’ I cannot always find a sentence, or form of words, that captures the remnant memory impression of how I want to speak of the idea I want to reference.

Going back to the literature, however, and searching again, by reading afresh the detail that has been forgotten, can have its own rewards: sometimes, as today, while re-reading Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind, I see things in detail that I don’t remember having seen before.  The hermeneutical spiral and iterative process, that is ongoing for me, has prepared me so that I can read and understand the same words read before, in a different way now.

The process of developing a habit of capturing reflective thinking as I work with my practice issue has now built a large repository of similar data.  The task of drafting, and redrafting to be more concise, has given me some polished resources that can be revisited and sometimes it is there that the precise reference, including a page number, is found.

The process of slowing down my reading, of theoretical and technical writing, by transcribing the material that first caught my attention, which I have used since undergraduate days (1963-6) to assist my memory and understanding has been enhanced recently.  Since 1996, I have captured the transcribed material digitally, and since 1998 I have been consciously capturing my contemporaneous reflective thinking about that first read and transcribe, so that now I have another resource of digitised data to search via simple ‘find’ commands (or someday soon, when I have tidied up my archived files of redundant duplication, I might invoke Google to search my desktop).

So, today, while mining the archives, I have found:

To what extent I need to explore disciplines like semantics, linguistics, psychology, xxx, to be able to deal with the issues that arise in my practice, is open, and may depend on whether I can find a group of cooperative inquirers where these disciplinary resources are available, and I can engage with cooperative inquiry with them (May 2004 draft of thesis conclusion)

Ha! I knew it! add to “semantics and linguistics”,  ‘syntax’, and maybe even ‘TESOL’,  and you have some of  the issues that my current practice is throwing up … prepositions, vocabulary and categories and possible ontologies, developing abstractions, literacy, the context of writing,  etc

Prepositions

He (the non-native English speaker) wrote

Teachers and administrators are in the heart of this transition since they are directly responsible for implementing ICT in educational curricula.

I jumped to correct the ‘in the heart’ to ‘at the heart’.

And then I stopped, and thought, and commented to myself:

Interesting aspect of prepositional use .. why am I (21st century Australian) reluctant to say ‘in the heart’, as a metaphor for the critical/key role they play in this change?

Such a little thing, these prepositions.  Such a minor change?  But if we are talking, and thinking, about sociocultural aspects of change, perhaps there is more to it than that.

When I take offense/challenge

In one of my challenges of another’s drafting was in a methodology chapter, when they were describing the process of thematic analysis, and said

The tentative themes were then categorized according to the research questions to reduce redundancy. This categorizing technique helped to make salient the points that the interviewees wanted to emphasize. One of the refining techniques in the process of interview analysis was comparing two interviews only to show similarities and differences between two teacher participants so that common themes and contrasts could be clearly identified.

I reacted badly to ‘This categorizing technique helped to make salient the points …’

My first reaction was ‘what does ‘salient’ mean?’ – I don’t know, without checking, what it means, how come this non-native English language speaker is using it?

Then I remembered: when I was working with my thesis drafting, and working intensively with the literature, I found my writing ‘mimicking’ the vocabulary of the writers I was reading.  At the time, I shared, with a peer, my complaint with myself over this process, with: “whose thesis/ thinking is this anyway?”

One of my key perceptions of what science teaching (to school certificate learners, undertaking compulsory studies) involved, was that one aspect of the task is to teach vocabulary (eg carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, fibre: what they are; why and how they are different; and, then, what is the value of knowing this – how does it apply to an understanding of good nutrition?).

Similarly, I am seeing thesis studies being about (a) self-directed learning; and (b) functional literacy.

Research, for a learner, is going into the unknown.  In the first instance it is an unknown to them, but may well be known by the ‘field’.  Consequently, one of the roles of the literature review is to take this novice into the field, and to find out what the field already knows about the phenomenon being explored.  Then, if the learner still has an unresolved question, the next step is to design the investigation and take themselves into that new territory, to explore it, and to come back and tell the story (write the report).

The thesis is then the evidence of managing that self-directed study, and developing the functional literacy involved in reporting findings back to the field.  Part of the functional literacy task is to learn the privileged vocabulary of the field.  Part of the functional literacy task is to learn how to be able to use that vocabulary, accurately and effectively, and to construct a report, for the field (peer review), demonstrating the achievement of certain standards of (a) data collection, (b) data analysis, (c) argument development and maintenance while retaining an appropriately open and ‘critical’ stance of one’s own work as well as the work of others.

My second reaction to ‘make salient’ was with the combination, and the ‘implicit’, for me, in the term ‘make’.  I was reading this as a forcing process and by (me as) the analyst.

So, was the combination ‘make salient’ an expression of the non-native English language writer, or was it how a writer in the field of methodology had expressed it, which this learner, like me, was finding infiltrating their own native expressions as they worked at becoming an initiate of the field?

And my reaction to ‘make salient’?… Was it my tendency to try and disown bias?  Was it me trying to give the impression of ‘objectivity’ when, in data analysis, particularly,  it is the person of the researcher who is doing the ‘making sense’ of what is there, is doing the choosing of the category tag, etc?

So now, how  do I understand the objectivity/subjectivity divide?

In research there is no capacity to separate the researcher (subject) from the research (object).  Claims that this happens/ can happen are only claims.

And, further, when I am brought up against this issue, in drafting that is dealing with Engestrom’s Activity System Model (ex Leont’ev, ex Vygotsky), [and something which is new to me], how do I now understand how the ASM is seeing subject-object and via a mediating tool like language?

A Practice Dilemma for Self-Study when helping

My practice involves helping.

The questions I ask, of my practice, to proceed into self-study, include:

1. How do I improve my practice?

2. How do I help you improve your learning?

3. How do I live my values more fully in my practice?

(from Jack Whitehead see http://www.bath.ac.uk/~edsajw/ )

I am beginning to recognise a persistent dilemma in undertaking this kind of self-study.

When my practice is with others, the process of my gathering data, for my focus, runs counter to ‘being there’ (presence a la John Heron), and being there for the process of helping.  And yet, unless I can know more about my practice, about the nature and quality of my helping, how can I work at improving it?

For the one I help, it is their objective that is their primary focus.  Asking them for information about my inputs is a distraction from that objective.  When that is the case, to proceed with my agenda destroys the helping relationship, shifting the ground.  When my focus moves from helping, I cease to be there, and cease to be effectively there for the one I am intending to help, and to keep on helping, and by being focused on their primary concerns and focus.

I can engage in relatively contemporaneous post-activity reflective work; gathering and documenting observations of the helping event.  I can engage in post-action reflection, and document that.

When the helping relationship is ongoing, I can work with my post-activity reflective work, and undertake some pre-activity reflective work as I design my likely inputs, and I can document that.

I can engage in reflection-in-action, and especially when the action involves writing a response.   It is more difficult to capture reflection-in-action in a live and synchronous interchange.  That is when ‘being there’ is much more significant.

But asking for evaluative input, from the person being helped, long after the event of helping, when the pressure of their immediate and primary task concern has abated, is likely to be asking for what is not remembered, and if remembered is now far from being relatively contemporaneous.  It may be coloured by layers of interactions since.

How then to find out the efficacy of my helping, from the other’s viewpoint (member checking aspect of validity)?

What does the literature have to tell me about this dilemma?

When I first noticed some of the dimensions of this dilemma, it was in respect of my professional development activity design.

(p.48-9 of my thesis

http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/288/

During that process, a number of challenges to, and dilemmas of, the design and its assumptions arose.

  • [do people change, if and when they know their behaviour and what and how to improve?]
  • [is self-disclosure of, for, and by the practitioner ethical, or does it amount to a power play involving ingratiation?]
  • [when does a practitioner introduce challenges to assumptions?]
  • [if a practitioner has a mental model that goes beyond evidence-based research, because it has been framed in a different knowledge system, but appears relevant to the problem, when and how does the practitioner introduce such a frame, so that it too can be open to consideration and examination?]

My second recognition of some of the dimensions of the dilemma related to trying to establish a cooperative peer research team. Here I noted (p.53)

Concurrent with the preparations to contact a group and begin the professional development activity, I explored the potential to participate, as a peer, in a group, with others working in a like area.   It was, for me, a matter of congruence.   I needed to be doing what I was asking others to do.   I needed to find out, by doing, where it was easy for me, and where it was difficult for me.

….

While looking for such a group I was also aware of a dilemma: if my thesis was soundly based, then such a group would also need to build self-awareness, and in that group.   For me to bring my material to such a group of peers would need me to move out of the peer role for at least the input of the relevant self-awareness materials.

When I first recognised the dilemma, in practice, I noted (p.152-3)

One change that developed during the activity was the awareness of being there (Heron’s indicator of whole person facilitation engagement (Heron, 1999)) and adding that to my focused reflective categories.   To ‘be there’ I needed to disengage from my previous practice of in situ, in vivo, notetaking.   My experience of operating as a participant-observer in the action design included the training and testing of my memory and recording capabilities.   I reached the point where I recognised that my increased capabilities, together with being there, were sufficient to capture the material that is significant for ongoing practice issues, providing that the necessary records are made as soon as possible after.   I could ‘give myself’ to being there, attending with all my being to the moment and the interactions, and very little would be lost in the later recording.   Indeed, when my attention was distracted from being there, I often did not retain a good recollection of the distraction, let alone the other interactions operating at the same time.

Reviewing posts here

I have been reviewing my earlier bout of posting here (April 2009), and recognising some very useful thinking then.

Following the passage of time, I am now wondering if I have something more synthesised to report?

I have collected a WORD file of the posts here, and I can annotate that with comments ..

I am building an index of what is here at my Tiddlywiki to ‘get an overview’, as well as the refreshing that comes from re-reading, and maybe editing or commenting here on

Now I have a surfeit of ways of reviewing and capturing thinking … hmmm: where and how to simplify?; what to do to protect against malevolent reflexivity?

EBNE thinking (deBono)

Another connection with a chat today, with Hildegund at Facebook, is the post at Edward de Bono’s site, and about thinking, and what he calls EBNE thinking: Excellent, But Not Enough.

This ties in with my post about Use, and especially the remark about operacy knowledge.

It also ties in with John Heron’s ‘practical’ apex, and with presence and presentational capacity – what we can enact, bodily

This looks like taking me somewhere else, very soon now.

And right now, I am wondering: is it better that this thinking be recorded here at Edublogs, or on my Tiddlywiki .. or might it be sufficient, at my Tiddlywiki, to have the reference to here?  Oh! the bother of journalling, electronically!!!  Bother my archiving propensities.  Bother Academici teaching me to be careful.

Times and seasons

Shane has posted about not blogging, and I have shared Bacon’s ‘Reading makes a man full ..conference, ready .. writing, exact’

Yes, there are seasons for writing .. seasons for preparations before writing.  For me, the last month’s silence here (apart from a brief report in) has been the season of learning, before I have anything to say.  It has also been a season of more intense face-to-face engagement, including some intensive post-graduate writing mentoring.

That has meant that I have also had to forego staying in touch with the electronic media and my collection of watching spaces, via Google reader.  Two weeks ago I took the brave step of ignoring some 60 posts … and finding one poster who offered another device to her readers.  This week, in the interests of balancing work and rest, I expect to ignore another 40 posts.

But before I do that I want to capture, here, one or two that have caught my eye:

The one on healthy lurking has lessons for my engagement at CRIAN and helpful facilitating others’ interactions there.

Michael Jensen’s one on Kevin Rudd’s communication has something to say about communication style and bounces, at church, with what Peter Sholl is sharing, and is about to share, about quality of preaching and that leads back to our Grumpy Bishop .. and the art of rhetoric – something to record to my ‘to do’ list at Tiddlywiki. Now to capture that, elsewhere.

Reflexive reflecting

I attended the Stephen Downes lecture on 3 April 2009. I opened my account here on 6 April 2009.  I opened a twitter account on 21 April 2009.  I started to set up Google Reader for RSS feeds on 14 April 2009.

Time I took stock and reviewed my learning (reflexive reflecting)

The overwhelming feeling is of being run over by a bus … while activity at the internet has increased, so has activity face-to-face …

I have found that I can more quickly scan and evaluate the feeds of Christian sites, than I can scan inputs from sites feeding the new technology or creative thinking issues, but, that even so, scanning, when it is quick, takes time.  I am setting the end-of-day routine for the sorting scanning.

I have had one very productive flurry around stuff from Cognitive Edge, so effective thinking is very much back in my RAS (reticular activating system = foregrounded attention), and part of that is prompted by the face-to-face connections and current practice related focus developing there.

I am more aware that my notes here are notes for me, and possibly less than comprehensible to others, and that I also need to follow in Stephen Downes’ footsteps and develop a routine of writing-for-writing’s sake, and of syntheses that are referenced (though now I think about is these are two different tasks; and I can see that Stephen’s productivity is a function of this discipline being in place for some time – the scientist’s journal!!!).

A useful meta-process idea

at Cognitive Edge has noted

Yesterday I outlined a series of known effects that produce errors in perception and judgement in humans. I argued then that attempts to train people not to commit such errors was itself an error and a good example of the idealistic approaches to management that seem to dominate much of the management and training literature.

This is what I recognise, these days, as a meta-process/ meta-statement – error at two levels, and the risk of faulty thinking that goes with such potential confusion.  (from Gregory Bateson)

This time its application is definitely for me, and my high internal locus of control and closure potentialities and my big picture thinking (NTJ in MBTI) … any idea/ ideal/ idealism is likely to have this kind of incongruence built in (ie inherent)!!! Can I think critically about that?

The visual forcing the thinking

Ahhh, so this process is ‘beginning to work’ – at another level.

The work on posting images, and working on images to reconsider articulation, has borne fruit … I have a development on my know-what-how-why venns+text

And that suggests that it might be worthwhile to revisit my intricate interactivity one for learning-inquiry-evaluation.

An aside, about images – this time I have not aligned it.  That means it takes up its own space and other text follows on after, not wraps elsewhere – obvious when you look at the options diagrams, but you do need to know what you are seeing.  Clicking on the image here will give you a larger view, and the whole view.