How do we push past the limits of big data to make sense of education?
Join us at the Open Education Conference in November, where we will introduce a community for narrative research.
Narrative is an everyday social practice with important research implications. Narrative research captures the ways people and organizations make sense of the complex material and social environments in which their lives and experiences unfold.
In a time when big data, analytics, and evidence-based practices dominate educational policy and practice, narrative research offers an important alternative framework from which to approach what it means to know and learn. Narrative research approaches knowledge as always-situated in a given perspective; rather than claiming objectivity, narrative research investigates many given perspectives in depth, framing their intersections.
Social, networked and narrative research practices are not new and have been used traditionally in psychology, sociology, and other academic domains that focus on complex social dimensions that underpin all human functioning. Narrative researchers help organizational decision-makers sense and respond to trends and zeitgeist changes within the workplace and broader society.
In open education and open pedagogy, narrative research investigates the seemingly universal and all-encompassing discourse of open, examining how some stories are valued over others and the hiding of assumptions and hegemonies at work in the field. Narratives help us to keep the human at the center of our research, embodied beings that are often disembodied by large-scale research now in the spotlight of an evidence/accountability movement in education. Narratives also reveal cultures and contexts often less visible through positivist methods of analysis.
“How individuals recount their histories–what they emphasize and omit, their stance as protagonists or victims, the relationship the story establishes between teller and audience–all shape what individuals can claim of their own lives. Personal stories are not merely a way of telling someone (or oneself) about one’s life; they are the means by which identities may be fashioned.” (Rosenwald & Ochberg, 1992b, p. 1). Emerging discourse research, especially when computational linguistics are involved, assists to provide a nuanced mixed methods approach to understanding a large corpus of text and/or narrative.
At Open Ed, we will host a panel to look at narrative as a principle of open pedagogy that challenges the idea of resource as a fixed thing. Using examples from existing courses and R&D projects, we will examine feedback models that take into account the dispositional, resilient, open and emergent aspects of learning. We will address the ways social narrative as an open pedagogy is linked to social narrative as a research method.
There are some emerging challenges facing researchers as we seek to apply narrative insights more openly and consistently to higher education. What do we mean by narrative? Whose narratives are heard and valued? Who is overlooked? When is it most useful to use narrative in research? What quantitative and qualitative relationships exist for narrative research?
These challenges are intensifying as institutions turn to big data projects to understand and reshape learning. Our aim in developing the Social and Narrative Research (SoNAR) network is to address these questions directly and to expand capacity for researchers to collaborate across institutions on developing open and robust narrative models for higher education research.