The Interpretivist and The Learner

Bonnie Amelia Dean
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 13  •  2018  •  pp. 001-008

In the time that we study for our dissertation, our learning takes many turns. Sometimes we feel excited, motivated and accomplished, while other times frustrated, tired or unsure. This paper presents a poem to illustrate one student’s PhD journey through reflection on those fluctuations, milestones and learning moments experienced along the way.

Central to the journey presented here is learning about the interpretivist paradigm, its approaches, methods and critics. Interpretivism is a qualitative research approach which, in many disciplines, continues to be the positivist’s poor cousin.

This original paper takes an autoethnographic approach, expressed through poetry. Autoethnography uses self-reflection to connect personal experience to wider social and cultural understandings and has been seldom applied to investigate and uncover the contested and emergent doctoral experience.

Little opportunities arise during doctoral studies for the student to pause, reflect and communicate new learnings or knowledge without the boundaries of academic discursive conventions. In this way, the poetic medium of expression offers an original contribution to the field. The poem also illuminates the struggles with finding voice, an ontology that resonates, and the place that marks independence from others in becoming a researcher.

Poetry affords ideas and feelings intensity through a distinctive style and rhythm of literature. This original poem offers a creative artefact that can be useful for supervisors and students at any stage of their dissertation, to ignite conversation on the challenges of higher education study.

This paper invites others to consider their learning journey and discovery of self, to reflect on and record the milestones, tensions and catalysts of learning.

It opens doors particularly for those exploring, or wanting to explore, qualitative research through an interpretivist paradigm where knowledge is socially or experientially co-constructed and the researcher is inseparable to the research.

Becoming a researcher as synonymous with being a learner is a crucial discovery that widely connects to being a practitioner in any field. Learning to love the red pen is a metaphor of doctoral studies used to denote acceptance of feedback on written work as well as acceptance more broadly that there is always more to learn.

What if we encouraged doctoral students and academics to challenge convention and write/produce/create authentic expressions of learning? Encouragement should be afforded to doctoral students and academics to reflect during and beyond their research journeys, in a medium that personally resonates to empower deeper insights and understandings.

autoethnography, interpretivist paradigm, learning, poetry
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