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Researching Teaching Quality in Higher Education: Ethical and Methodological Issues Andrea Abbas, Paul Ashwin, Ourrania Fillipakou and Monica McLean Funded.

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Presentation on theme: "Researching Teaching Quality in Higher Education: Ethical and Methodological Issues Andrea Abbas, Paul Ashwin, Ourrania Fillipakou and Monica McLean Funded."— Presentation transcript:

1 Researching Teaching Quality in Higher Education: Ethical and Methodological Issues Andrea Abbas, Paul Ashwin, Ourrania Fillipakou and Monica McLean Funded by:

2 Overview Project and Methodology Bernsteinian Reflexivity Critical and focused reflexivity Research as an embedded and transformative process Embodied and personal insight into Bernsteins concepts Conceptual framework: the code, classification, framing, profane (mundane) knowledge, sacred (esoteric) knowledge An Example: Embodiment and insider-outsider perspectives Conclusions

3 Project and Methodology Quality and inequality Role in promoting social justice Multi-method (4 sociology departments) – Key informant (lecturers) – Interviews and life-grids (96) – 24 x 3 year case studies – 12 x video-observation of seminars (and lecturer interviews) – Cross institution marking exercise (3 years) – Final year survey targeting all students in 4 institutions – Stakeholder involvement throughout Sensitive and ethically challenging

4 Bernsteinian Reflexivity Reflexive use of Bernsteinian concepts (e.g. 1977a, 1977b, 1990, 2000, 2003). Also applied and tested through our research Reflexivity – complex interaction of: e.g. researchers cultural backgrounds, dialect or language, class position, gender, age, position in the research field and choice of research methods; with the research process and their profound and multifaceted influence (Law, 2004; Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2000). Seek to make judgements and report findings which acknowledge these. The complexity of the reflexive task is increased in research teams and the ideological and political context is revealed (Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2000).

5 Advantages of Bernsteinian Reflexivity Critical and focused reflexivity Responds to critiques of HE research Systematic and focused Research as an embedded and transformative process Codes (Bernstein, 2000, p.92) Indeed the ambiguity which lies at the heart of the social, the nature of the social order may well require representation in a theory, In the case of my theory this representation is realised in the concept of code, which at the same time as it relays ordering principles and their related practices necessarily opens a space for the potential for their change. Embodied and personal insight into Bernsteins concepts Embodied\subjective experience of being theorised Insider-outsider (subject-object) Contribute to Conceptual Development of Project Highlights Ethical and Sensitive Issues

6 Bernsteinian Concepts Code(s) – tacit rules internalised by individuals and embedded in social phenomena (interaction, consciousness, organisation, artefacts etc.) which hierarchically order (position) social phenomena including individuals. Bernsteins other concepts describe the mechanisms through which codes are transmitted and transformed. Classification – strength of boundaries between categories (agencies, practices or discourses) - acts to translate power and power relations (e.g. UK pre and post-1992 – research team) Framing – operates to control relations within a category (e.g. staff may be differently framed within pre- and post-1992 – and in project) Profane (mundane) – that which is thinkable and refers to people within localised contexts (e,g, how to operate in own university) Sacred (esoteric) – unthinkable knowledge, complex divisions of labour required to relate across contexts - possibility of thinking new things (e.g. 8 universities and theoretical concepts)

7 An example: Bernsteinian Reflexivity and Researchers Complex Biographies Internalised codes through engagement with academia: – Andrea: I have become a sociologist but I studied sociology, social anthropology and psychology in the past and this shapes how I approach sociological theorising and research. – Monica: I am firmly an educationalist specializing in pedagogy in higher education. This means that I see myself as inherently multi-disciplinary (all 4 foundation disciplines influence how I view pedagogy- history, sociology, psychology and philosophy – this is how I was educated) – my focus is the empirical field not any specific discipline. So I am regional by nature and that will affect how I use any theory. – Ourania: like Paul, I see myself as a higher education researcher or, more broadly, social scientist while my key readings come from philosophy and sociology. – Paul: I would not describe myself as a sociologist but as an HE researcher or perhaps a social scientist. Does this impact upon how I position Bernstein or am positioned within the project?

8 Field notes de-coded: a complex interaction of classifications, framings, mundane and esoteric knowledge? Over the past two days I have interviewed five people who have had extremely tough lives. They told me their stories (which together involved abuse, abduction, death, poverty, illness, disability, homelessness and more) with emotion but they did not get upset. They have some similarity to people on the JRF project and yet they have come to university. I wondered why their transitions were so different. Was it just a matter of chance life events? Had something in their lives given them a will to engage with education? Were they just better at academic work? I was in awe of the strength these people had and their optimism. I felt angry at a university system that would degrade their degrees and world that might attach less value to them than those achieved by people whod had much easier lives. I wondered about the qualities in people we were valuing in the current system. I felt these people had something to teach me! (Andrea)

9 Conclusions Example begins to show potential of Bernsteinian Reflexivity (critical and focused, emotional and embodied, transformative and helps to test concepts) Highlights that interpretations of sensitive materials and Bernsteins theories are embodied and biographically informed Brings out the way that ethical and intellectual factors are entwined Written version of paper gives two more examples. Situating the project Accessing the field (Paper will be available (shortly) at We would welcome comments on our early endeavours

10 References Alvesson, M. and Sköldberg, K. (2000) Reflexive methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research 2000, London: Sage. Bernstein, B (2003) Class, Codes and Control: Applied Studies towards a sociology of language,(Volume II) Second edition, Oxon: Rougledge. Bernstein, B. (1979a) Social Class, Language and Socialisation, in Karabel, J. and Halsey, A. Power and Ideology in Education, New York: Oxford University Press. Bernstein, B. (1979b) Class and Pedagogies: Visible and Invisible in Karabel, J. and Halsey, A. Power and Ideology in Education, New York: Oxford University Press. Bernstein, B. (1990) Class, Codes and Control: The Structuring of Pedagogic Discourse (Volume IV), London: Routledtge. Bernstein, B. (2000) Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity, 2nd Revised Edition, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Law, J. (2004) After Method: mess in social science research, Oxon: Routledge


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