Constant State of Evolution
Many of the activities that the AQR arranges for the benefit of members come under the heading of "education" and exactly what falls under this heading is perennially open to debate and change. This article looks at the evolution of the education programme, and what's in store for 2009.
Open to Change
The remit for the education sub committee is, in some respects, handed down from the legacy of convention and past successes but in others it is open to change as it is bound to reflect the interest and approach of the incumbent "officers".
The "convention" particularly relates to the Foundation and Moderating Skills courses that are fixed points in our annual timetable and these comply to the robust idea of education as the passing on of experience. Here, seasoned researchers pass on the philosophy and practice of the trade to those who are fresh to it.
Following on in this pattern we are planning to add two additional workshops in the next year for more experienced researchers: an Advanced Moderating Skills workshop, developed out of the Excellence seminars, and the return of a specialist Children's Research workshop. There is a possibility that these could also become calendar fixtures in the future.
Aiming for Coherence
The question does arise, however, as to the model and beliefs about qualitative research best practice that the AQR wishes to champion. We have, therefore, spent some time examining the values, beliefs and content of our courses to ensure a coherence of both belief and content.
On a day-to-day basis we researchers rarely articulate or re-examine our beliefs and it is easy to presume that our own idiosyncratic vision is shared throughout the industry. It only took a couple of education sub-committee meetings to realise that, for all that we do have shared values, younger researchers and older researchers get passionate about different bits of the craft.
Older researchers recall halcyon days when they artfully maintained a prophet-like mystery, a fusion of anthropologist, sorcerer and alchemist and inspired a trail of clients to follow them. Younger researchers, by contrast, are team players delighting in being transparent and believing that there can be, no telling without showing. They diligently focus on using every means of technology to locate and show the lived experience, alongside its interpretation.
You will recognise this as a "baby and bathwater" moment. Such moments come about because qualitative research has not only grown in status, so that now it really matters to decision makers, but has also evolved in character to the extent we are not sure whether it is one baby, twins or triplets. Any disparity of views reflects the real diversity across practitioners at both the research interface and analyses and interpretation stages.
So we turn to a different conception of education, the Socratic idea of staging events that involve members in airing their views through potentially provocative debates and discussing the ways forward for the future of qualitative research. We know, from the attendance and successes of the Excellence seminars and the AQR/QRCA events, that there is an appetite among members for occasions where they can discuss salient issues among themselves so long as the springboard for thinking is supplied by quality papers/ speakers. We have adopted a "morning through lunch" format for these, as this is easier for members to fit in to their crowded schedules, and the forthcoming events include one on ethnography and another on client perspectives. Given the growing popularity of this format, we suggest you keep an eye out for details. It's first come, first served.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, March 2009
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2009