Collecting Narratives of Critical Engagement and Resistance

This post describes a new project emerging out of the BELMAS CEPALS network, follow the link to learn more about the network –

Now more than ever there is need for critical policy scholarship to explore, critique and contest government policies that arguably aim to dismantle public education and entrench disadvantage in England.  Researchers’ hands are tied by the reduction in research budgets and the pace at which new initiatives are proposed and implemented.  How critical scholars can position themselves and find ways to present critical and evidence-based analysis and alternatives is an urgent matter.  Inspired by a fascinating talk on narrative theory by Prof. Ivor Goodson (click here to read about the talk), the ‘Collecting Critical Narratives’ project is an experiment in how we might do research in these adverse conditions.

The Collecting Critical Narratives project seeks to develop a model of collaborative and distributed research focused on collecting the narratives of headteachers and teachers currently navigating this turbulent period of educational change.  Although the details have to be firmed up, one idea for the research design is for members to develop and work towards a shared methodology, with each member of the research team conducting between 2 and 5 interviews.  The data would then be collated and analysed to produce a rich series of narrative accounts that detail how professionals are seeking to survive, subvert or resist the Coalition’s deluge of educational change.  These narratives will hopefully provide a voice to those resisting and a counter-narrative to the invidious charge that those opposed to national policy choose their own vested interests over the opportunities of young people.

There are many questions that this approach to research will have to address.  If funding cannot be found in the first instance, how can the researchers balance the commitment to the research in relation to their other professional and personal commitments?  Furthermore, how will those without institutional support meet the basic expenses of doing research?  How will the data be collected and analysed to fit the busy schedules of the headteachers the project seeks to work with and also the considerable resource costs of transcribing audio data?

Despite these practical concerns the Collecting Critical Narratives project represents an exciting departure, where we as researchers and teaching professionals aim to identify and amplify the often un-noticed acts of courage and conviction of professionals committed to a good education for all.

James Duggan

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