Researcher`s Positioning and Knowing in Qualitative Research

Aliya Zafar
University of Florida
[email protected]
I will share my experience of engaging in an
empirical study in Pakistan and how my
identity as a researcher shifted and changed
as I investigated teachers perceptions of
action research(AR) for professional
development (PD) in Pakistan.
I found myself in the midst of conflicting
identities of being a novice researcher, a
graduate student at UF, and a Pakistani
female educator.
Fulbright/ graduate student at UF since 2006.
Taught English courses in P-12 and to
undergraduate & graduate students.
Multiple identities because of traveling:
China, India, United Kingdom, and USA.
Enthusiastic about QR.
Emerging as a novice researcher.
Maintaining equal status between researcher and
Co-constructing knowledge.
Following research conventions in the U.S. such
as IRB, consent form.
Colonized by the British; gained freedom in
East and West Pakistan separated in 1971.
After colonization British systems of governance
and the English language prevailed.
Current population: 170 m.
Major Languages: Urdu, English , Punjabi, Pashto,
Sindhi, Siraiki, Balochi.
Teacher education in Pakistan is almost nonexistent.
Banking education (Freire, 1970) dominates.
The need to develop teacher education programs
for both pre-service and in-service teachers in K12 as well as in higher education is a huge concern
and a need.
(Common Wealth Report, 1993; Ministry of education (Moe) 2008; United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2008).
I became intrigued by AR for PD of teachers in Pakistan
during my M.Ed. program at UF.
Action research is “…a spiral of cycles of planning,
execution, fact-finding, and reflection leading to social
action and social change” (Borko, Whitcomb & Byrnes,
2008, p.1029) .
Purpose: to investigate the perceptions of teachers and
school leader(s) regarding AR for PD in a K-12 school in
Participants:12 Pakistani, female teachers
Introduced AR, conducted focus group
interviews; and collected field notes, and
Participants perceived AR as a viable form
of teacher PD if the required support (time,
flexibility) was provided by the
administration, parents and school leaders.
Position of researcher /participant
in the US
Position of researcher /participants
in Pakistan
Inviting participants to the study
Assigning participants to the study
Protecting participants through IRB No understanding of IRB protocol
approval, consent form etc.
even after reading, explaining and
Junior researcher, graduate
student learning how to research,
looking for access and support.
Researcher as a god of knowledge
who would make participants
exemplary teachers.
Compensation for participants.
No expectation of compensation.
Aware that support is required to
carry out research.
Perceptions of being privileged to
be chosen by the researcher.
Facilitators providing a space for
the researcher to conduct the
study within the set schedule.
Making accommodations for the
researcher- adjusting the schedule
to meet the need of the researcher.
Researcher as a learner.
Researcher as an expert.
Social constructionism
My desire to be seen as a ‘local’ was unsettled in
transnational research.
post colonial.
‘Halfie’ researchers ‘whose national or cultural
identity is mixed because of migration, overseas
education, parentage’(Subedi, 2006).
Participants problematized my desire for legitimacy
as an insider.
Owing to Western discourses Westernaffiliated researchers cannot avoid how
research is connected to discourses of
power and hegemony (Subedi, 2006).
Halfie’s shift between multiple identities
and confront the politics of representation
(Abu-Lughod ,1991).
Participants assumed subordinate positions
creating the “Self” and “Other” binary.
Presence prior to the researcher's arrival,
requesting permission to leave the room.
Informed consent as a western construct;
perceived differently by participants and school
Role of school leader in the research activity.
Assumptions of power in relation to western
experiences and knowledge.
Influence of positivist epistemology.
Feedback from participants:
We thought this would be another one of
those sit and get workshops where we would
be lectured but it was not … we were able to
participate … we enjoyed that.
You should come more often and spend more
time with us.
We really enjoyed the ice breaking activity, we
were able to share our experiences. It seemed
that what we said was valued.
research is inextricably linked to European
imperialism and colonization (Denzin, Lincoln
& Smith, 2008).
Knowledge used for domination and control
by constructing “positional superiority” (Said,
1979, p.7).
Research seen as a positivist construct.
Positivist frames of reference can pose
several challenges for researchers in post
colonial contexts.
Geographic decolonization is not
synonymous with deconstruction of binaries
that position the self as “Other” (Said, 1979)
and is further reinforced by hegemonic
practices and constructed consciousness
(Hinchey, 1998).
What gives us the right to study them?
When we speak of others in our voice do we
not displace and appropriate theirs?
Is representation of others free of the play of
power and domination in any way possible?
Does it all come down to who writes whom?
(Geertz, 1995, p.107)
The image of the helping Western colonizing
Other must be resisted.
Traditional ways of doing science should be
deconstructed (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith,
Relationships of trust and transparency of the
research process are vital to creating a third
hybrid space (Bhabha, 1985).
Abu-Lughod, L. (1988) Fieldwork of a dutiful daughter, in: S. Altorki & C. F. El-Solh (Eds.) Arab
women in the field: studying your own society . Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press.
Bhabha, H. (1985). The third space: interview with HomiBhabha. (Jonathan Rutherford,
Interviewer). In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Community, culture, difference. (pp. 207-221).
London: Wishart.
Borko, H., Whitcomb, J. A., & Byrnes, K. (2008). Genres of research in teacher education. In M.
Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research
on teacher education:Enduringquestions in changing contexts(3rd ed.). New York, NY:
Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y., & TuhiwaiSmith, L. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of critical indigenous
methodologies. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Gramsci, A.(1999).Selection from Prison Notebooks. New York: International publishers.
Greetz, C. (1995). After the fact: Two countries, four decades, one anthropologist. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Hinchey, P.H. (1998). Finding freedom in the classroom: A practical introduction to critical
theory. New York: Peter Lang.
Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.
Subedi, B. (2006). Theorizing a 'halfie' researcher's identity in transnational fieldwork.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(5), 573-593.

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