Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (1994). Personal experience methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 413-427). London: Sage.

What does it mean to study experience and how does one do it? Experience is reflected in the stories people tell, and through an inquiry into these storiesÑnarrative inquiryÑresearchers hope to understand more about why people do what they do. Experience becomes the starting point for social science inquiries and, ultimately, offers the possibility of individual and social change. Clandinin and Connelly note that the study of experience starts and stops with the researcher's intentionality. The methods of study focus inward (on the internal conditions of feelings, hopes, reactions, moral dispositions), outward (on the environment or context), and backward and forward through time. The authors describe three sets of methodological questions. One set of questions has to do with the field experience, which they see as a relationship between the experiences of the participants and those of the researchers. Because it is a relationship, issues of negotiation, collaboration, and sensitivity become important. The second set of questions has to do with data collection or field texts. The authors describe a number of methods: oral history, annals and chronicles, family stories, photographs, research interviews, journals, autobiographical writing, letters, conversations, and field notes. The final set of methodological questions has to do with creation of the research text. These questions concern voice, signature (how to say what you want to say), inquiry purposes, narrative form, and audience. Personal experience methods offer the opportunity to create a middle ground where there is conversation among people with different life experiences.

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