Positioning Others in Self-Facing Inquiries: Ethical Challenges in Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Research

  • Cheryl J. CraigEmail author
Part of the Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices book series (STEP, volume 20)


In many ways, self-study of practice research—“the study of one’s self, one’s actions, one’s ideas, as well as [the] “not self” (Hamilton & Pinnegar, 1998, p. 236)—is a misnomer (Craig & Curtis, in press). While the research genre unquestionably revolves around self, it always includes others because practices necessarily unfold in the milieus in which we are immersed. We mostly are “assisted selves” because our inquiries are informed directly or indirectly by interactions with others and the responses they, in turn, give back to us (Day, personal communication, 2018). It may be that the term, “intimate scholarship” (Hamilton, 1995; Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2015), is more reflective of the Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices (S-STEP) research tradition. The bottom line is that truth claims are irrevocably “bound up in the contingencies of context” (Nash, 2004, p. 39), and other people are unavoidably implicated. Instead of reliability and validity verifying S-STEP’s truth claims as is the case with the positivist paradigm, verisimilitude (lifelikeness) (Bruner, 2010) and trustworthiness (Mishler, 1990) are two main qualities that other teachers, teacher educators, and researchers use to determine the believability of our accounts of practice and whether our findings would be actionable in their settings (Lyons & LaBoskey, 2002). These “less demanding measuring stick[s]” (Bruner, 2010, p. 45), which trace back to distinctions Aristotle made between episteme (formal knowledge) and phronesis (practical knowledge) (Fenstermacher, 1994; Kessels & Korthagen, 1996: Tirri, Husu, & Kansanen, 1999), necessarily return us to the contested nature of context (Craig, 2009) and to other people and their need to assert their narrative truths as fellow human beings (Spence, 1984). This is especially the case where trustworthiness is concerned because we are called to evidence the same interpretive themes longitudinally, preferably using different research tools. While we can permissibly take up the task of self-facing (Anzaldua, 1987/1999; Lindemann Nelson, 1995) in teaching and teacher education, we soon realize that we “…can’t get to truths sitting in a field smiling beatifically… We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into… those [metaphorical] rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to” (Lamott, 2007, p. 201). The ethically entangled Gordian knot (Craig, Evans, Li, & Stokes, 2018a) for every researcher of educational practice is that other people who have rights to privacy and fair treatment of their own, occupy and interact in all the places that we need to go into to grow as people, professionals, and members of the S-STEP community. So, what are self-study of practice researchers to do? In this chapter, I tackle this research ethics question by addressing the following sub-themes: (1) coming to the question, (2) standing in the story, (3) respecting others’ rights, (4) interpreting actions open-endedly, (5) learning from others, (6) writing sensitively, (7) assuming an intelligent reader, and (8) living with the consequences. To make my points, I draw forward for readers’ examination examples from my own research experiences and inquiries in the qualitative research vein. I end by summarizing the most pressing ethical issues as well as the significant educational opportunities inherent in the self-study research genre.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, College of Education and Human DevelopmentTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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