Representing Ethnographic Research as Drama

This month we published Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post the authors explain why they chose to present their research as a play script.

Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama is an outcome of a large, team linguistic ethnographic research project, Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cities (TLANG). As part of the research project we conducted ethnographic observations in an Advice and Advocacy service in a Chinese community centre in a city in the Midlands of England. We were interested in people’s communicative practices in a context where clients needed help to negotiate bureaucratic systems related to welfare benefits, health, education, insurance, immigration status, and so on.

Following comprehensive analysis of data, we produced a rich, detailed research report. However, we were not convinced that academic writing alone was adequate for the task of representation of social practice. Although we are thoroughly invested in the tradition of writing ethnography, we recognise a need to reach beyond its limitations. With this in mind, we chose to represent the life of the Advice and Advocacy service as Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama, which takes an arts-based approach to the representation of research outcomes.

In linguistic ethnography we typically observe, and ultimately explain, the lives of others. But we wanted to move beyond explanation of cultural life, which can be reductive. We chose to represent the social practices of the Chinese community centre as ethnographic drama because it is a form which by definition resists explanation. It was not our intention to explain or make meaningful the lives of Chinese or Chinese-heritage people in the UK. We were instead concerned with all aspects of communication.

The community centre proved to be a rich site at which to observe the communicative practices with which advice workers render the world more just for their clients. We peered into the hidden spaces where, day after day, mediation, translation, and interpretation enable those with limited capital to gain access to resources which are otherwise elusive, and often out of reach. Through ethnographic drama we did not attempt to explain these cultural practices, but we made them visible.

Ethnographic drama enables us to show the complexities of interactions in which Advice and Advocacy workers are essential figures who keep the city moving. Beyond making social space more habitable, they have the potential to make life better for those who come to them for help. In our observation of the advisors’ practice, more than anything we see people concerned to improve the lives of their clients. In the nooks and crannies of social life they keep the superdiverse city moving. In showing the world rather than telling it, ethnographic drama offers a representation of social life that has the potential to enhance, heighten, and expand understanding, and to bring ethnography to wider audiences.

We are very grateful to Mutlilingual Matters for their generosity and vision in enabling us to take off creatively, turning field notes, transcripts, and other ethnographic material into drama that shows communicative practice in an often-concealed part of social life in the superdiverse city.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous book, Voices of a City Market

The Importance of Giving and Receiving in the Tourism Industry in a Covid-19 World

This month we published Philosophies of Hospitality and Tourism by Prokopis A. Christou. In this post the author explains the importance of the book’s central topics of ‘giving and receiving’ in the Covid-19 era.

In an era of numerous challenges for the tourism industry this book aims to remind travel, tourism and hospitality professionals and students of some of the core rudiments of the tourism and hospitality domain. The acquisition and channeling of certain notions and practices, such as care for the well-being of our guests are deemed crucial at an organisational and societal level. In a COVID-19 world, our guests trust that we will convey them safely to their loved ones, accommodate, feed, and guide them, while taking care of their health and well-being.

Crises like the recent pandemic lead us to reflect on our actions and behaviour towards our employees and guests. Professionalism and quality-driven service provision are vital for the sector’s success. Nonetheless, the cultivation and circulation of virtues such as care, kindness and patience are of the utmost importance if destinations, hotels and restaurants are to be associated by their guests with terms such as “genuine care”, “extraordinary experience”, “anthropocentric-driven”, “unexpected treatment”, “quality” and “satisfaction”.  

This book moves beyond the very basics of what is the professional way to greet a guest, serve a dish, answer a phone, or deal with a complaint. It provides hotel managers, tourism stakeholders, students and other readers with the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of some of the most important and core aspects of tourism and hospitality, such as how to nurture a caring and anthropocentric organisational culture, how to contribute towards the well-being of people, how to cultivate genuine and personalised hospitality, philoxenia and philanthropy, how to trigger certain “emotions”, fulfil and satisfy the “senses”, and create “memorable experiences”.

By reading this book, tourism and hospitality professionals will better understand tourists, how and why they behave in certain ways, what they expect from them, and how the managers’ actions (towards tourists, employees, the environment and the community) may negatively or positively affect their organisation. Tourism stakeholders, such as tourism planners and regional authorities will understand how tourism development and uncontrolled tourism activity may impact on the socio-natural environment of their destination. Idiosyncratic niche forms of tourism and associated ethical issues are also covered in this book, including “dark tourism” and “religious/spiritual tourism”.     

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism Ethics by David A. Fennell.

What The Pandemic Has Meant For Us

In this post Tommi reflects on the unprecedented events of 2020 and how they have affected us as a business and as a team.

Well, what a strange year this has been! As England starts its new month-long series of restrictions, it’s a good time to look back on how this year has been for Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications.

At the beginning of 2020, Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications were looking at a good year of publications and a very healthy production pipeline of new materials. Following on from a year where sales had been quite depressed, we were seeing really good financial figures and the business was looking very healthy. We had two members of staff away on parental leave, but we were looking forward to welcoming them back in the summer and to really forging bravely into the future. Brexit loomed as a potential difficulty, and we were thinking about what steps we could take to make the business more environmentally friendly.

During a February vacation taking some friends to visit my home in Finland we had started to see an increased number of reports of coronavirus spreading, and the seemingly drastic measures taken in Wuhan to contain the virus as much as possible. It seemed like a sad situation, but such a long way away from us. I returned to my desk in early March and discussed with Anna Roderick whether we should start to consider our work-related travel to conferences, not really so much from a health perspective, but more because we felt it might just not be worth flying to the conferences if few people would attend. Then slowly the conference cancellations started coming in, and before long there was talk of what would happen if the UK government announced a lockdown. Every day brought different announcements, and it was getting very difficult to believe that anyone had any sensible plan at all. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on actual work, and we all speculated on when we might be told to work from home.

One evening while giving blood at my local blood donor centre, I sat and watched the news on the TV. Since our national government clearly wasn’t going to make a decision anytime soon, I typed a message out with one hand to my colleagues saying that “from tomorrow, we’ll work from home”. We all took our laptops home, and that was it. I expected it to be six weeks, or maybe two months. I did not expect that in November, eight months later, I would still be working from home and that I would have only seen my colleagues face-to-face a handful of times during that period. Had I known it would last this long, I would probably have suggested that we work in the office one last day, all have lunch together, and then go home, but at the time it seemed more sensible to break as many chains of contact as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, over the years our systems have been designed to allow homeworking and remote working while travelling, so the switch to working from home was technically not too difficult, and our team was pretty quickly coming up with strategies to make home working seem less lonely, including a shared 2.30pm break to listen to the same song, with each member of staff choosing the song on rotating days. We definitely have an eclectic taste in music across the whole team! Some of us had been working from home for a long time already, and so Sarah Williams and Anna Roderick were able to give us “newcomers” some tips and advice on how to organise ourselves, and enjoyed a more social atmosphere than before, now that us office workers began to understand the importance of regular contact!

About 10 days after we had decided to work from home, the government made a national announcement that we should all work from home and not leave our houses unless shopping for food, or for essential exercise once per day. All non-essential shops were to close, as were all workplaces that could not operate in a COVID-safe manner. Amazon stopped ordering books to focus on other product lines, and our two biggest wholesale customers closed their doors for an indefinite period. It was clear that this was not going to be a short, sharp shock and then back to business as usual. Together with the senior management team at Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications, we took the decision that the two most important things that we could do were to focus on staff wellbeing, and to conserve as much cash as possible. We immediately stopped all longer print runs and switched to digital printing, and decided that we would delay sending the usual complimentary copies of the books. We also wrote to all of our authors asking for patience with our annual royalties payments. We asked that authors who were either self-employed, in precarious employment or otherwise in a financial situation where the money would make a difference to their daily lives identify themselves to us so that we could prioritise payments to them, and that otherwise we would delay payments to a time when cashflow would allow. Our authors and editors responded with such warm and supportive messages. Many people wrote to offer words of encouragement and support, to insist that others were prioritised, and a good number even offered to donate their royalties to us this year. To all of you, I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you from the whole Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications team. The financial breathing room that this gave us was vital. But even more vital was the psychological boost that we got from feeling that we were genuinely valued as part of the community.

As the weeks went by, the news was mixed. One of our biggest wholesale customers declared bankruptcy, leaving us with a considerable bad debt. Fortunately, around that time the other wholesale customer started to re-open their warehouse, and orders began to come in, albeit at a much reduced volume. At the same time we started to see the sales of ebooks to libraries increase, which gave us some confidence that we weren’t going to be facing a complete halt in income. We were able to start sending out complimentary copies again, and we started to pay royalties. By the end of July we had caught up and paid all outstanding royalties where we knew we had payment preferences recorded. We also saw an increase in the number of manuscript submissions and so we felt that the decision to keep working rather than to go on furlough was definitely the right one. We have been innovative, arranging webinars and events on Zoom to promote the books from authors who have not been able to show off their work at conferences. Expect to see more of this over the coming months as we plan to introduce more of our publications in this manner.

Our “summer” pub lunch together

We arranged a few social events, including the ubiquitous Zoom “pub quiz” that has been a lockdown experience for most Brits, afternoon drinks, and even a shared Devon cream tea, which Sarah Williams organised for us one week. In the summer we managed to meet face-to-face on one occasion, with seven of us sitting around a large pub table at a time when social restrictions had been lifted temporarily. I still hold onto that lunch as one of my favourite lunches of the year! Although I certainly miss seeing my colleagues every day in the office, I think we have managed as well as is possible to keep a sense of togetherness going, which will prove vital as we now head towards a more difficult winter lockdown.

What will the coming months bring? I think February 2020 shows that we cannot take anything for granted, but equally so does March, April and May. It has been a much tougher year so far than I could ever have imagined when it started, but it has not been as bleak as we thought it would be at some times during April and May. We still expect that Brexit will cause some headaches for us as trade regulations and rules around exporting change. We do not yet know how bad the winter spread of coronavirus will be, or when we might be able to have more normal interactions with each other. Conference travel and bookfair travel seem a very long way away still. We can only imagine that with the levels of financial intervention that many countries have had to take over the past year, budgets of all publicly funded institutions will be strained, and this will no doubt have an impact on us in the future. But we are financially much more stable today than we were in February, and I believe that we are also more resilient as a team.

I could not be prouder of how my colleagues have responded to the difficulties and challenges this year has produced, and how we have still managed to find positives and celebrate successes. I strongly believe that this year has shown that we can overcome some really difficult situations when we, both in-house and as a wider community, work together to make sure that we look after each other’s interests.

Tommi

The Unique Challenges of Language Education in South Africa

This month we published Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society edited by Albert Weideman, John Read and Theo du Plessis. In this post the editors describe the unique challenges of language education in South Africa and the value the book will hold for a wider audience.

How do language testers respond to the challenges of education in an environment that is in transition, and in many respects unprepared for change? The short answer is that they do so as language testers in most environments would: as responsibly as they can, using the professional tools at their disposal.

South Africa is not alone in respect of the challenges thrown up by rapid massification of higher education since the last decade of the previous century. South Africa’s transition, however, was different from the challenges of massification elsewhere: it was complicated by the difficulties to move from an unjust system to a constitutional democracy. Its past considerably inhibited what needed to be remedied. That was not the only complication: there was also the constitutionally enshrined multilingual character of the country. A third difficulty lay in the degree of preparedness of new students arriving at university to handle the demands of academic language. How, in such a case, does one first identify, and then provide opportunities for language development to those who need it most? Once again, South Africa is not alone in noting that too low a level of academic literacy may be detrimental for the successful completion of a degree. Enough challenges, one would say, for a whole lifetime of work if you’re an applied linguist.

A quarter of a century on, we have now taken stock of the professional response of applied linguists to its transition, and this book is the outcome. The responses of our applied linguists may in certain respects be different from those in other environments, so it is a pity that the international language testing community still knows too little about how these challenges have been tackled. Indeed, the format and content of the innovative solutions of South African applied linguists to these large-scale language problems are noteworthy. Described in Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society, their solutions offer several new insights into how they set about designing them, and are well worth a look.

Unsurprisingly, in an effort to identify and tackle the challenges early, the professional attention of language testers soon turned to the education sector that feeds into higher education: the school system. Here, too, there are language solutions that will interest a wider audience. Fortunately, the professional efforts of applied linguists in South Africa have been well recorded, though thus far mostly locally. This book offers a selection of the most significant innovations in conceptualization and design for the attention of a global readership.

In compiling a volume about language assessment at university level, co-editor John Read was the first international scholar to notice the lack of attention to the designs described in this book, and he was also the first to propose putting all of this together. His diligence and professional approach are evident in the content of the book.

We would welcome enquiries and discussion with colleagues. If you have an observation or an idea to share, please contact the corresponding editor, Albert Weideman: albert.weideman@ufs.ac.za.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Linguistic Landscape of Post-Apartheid South Africa by Liesel Hibbert.

Does Complexity Research Have To Be Complicated?

We recently published Complexity Perspectives on Researching Language Learner and Teacher Psychology edited by Richard J. Sampson and Richard S. Pinner. In this post the editors explain how their conviction that complexity should be simple inspired the book.

What makes learners and teachers in additional language classrooms tick? How does this ticking change over time? And in what ways does the ticking coalesce with that of others? In a nutshell, this volume looks at how we can explore such questions. Of course, the ‘ticking’ is psychology, and we are talking about how people have been researching the dynamics of L2 learner and teacher psychology through the lens of complexity thinking.

One of the points of departure for this book was an encounter we had at a café in Toyama, Japan, a number of years ago. Before heading to a symposium at the local university, over coffee we started discussing complexity, and a tendency in published work towards being overly-technical and elitist. Both of us had written books in which we approached our own research from a complexity perspective, and we thought, “If we could do it, surely it can’t be that complicated!” We also shared our observations of discussions with various colleagues, through which we had noticed consternation at the mere mention of ‘complexity’. Not only fellow teachers but also researchers seemed to find complexity research horrifying, alienating, confounding.

Complexity is ubiquitous in everyday life, not least of all in our classrooms as we engage with our students in learning, teaching and researching. Complexity perspectives understand that it is through co-adaptive interactions over time that novel phenomena emerge, phenomena that could not have been predicted based on consideration of any one element alone and out of context. These ways of thinking provide a set of tools to describe in a more contextualized and dynamic fashion things observed in our practice for a long time. They also furnish a reminder of why research that reduces and separates has little relevance for those of us who interact with real people in real classroom environments. Yet, there seemed a danger of complexity being lost as an academic fad. We were keenly aware that there needed to be more research using complexity perspectives to look at what goes on inside the language learning classroom.

To this end, we decided to organize a symposium on complexity at the biennial Psychology of Language Learning conference which was to be held the following year in Tokyo. Our idea was that ‘complexity should be simple’, and we were out to show the world (or the few people we predicted might come to our symposium) the usefulness of this way of thinking and doing research. Amidst inviting speakers, one colleague suggested that an edited volume along the same lines might be well received.

We wrote a call for chapter proposals, and spent a good part of the conference chatting with people to encourage them to add to our collection. We asked our contributors to open a window on how they use complexity in real research. We wanted them to show readers what the complexity paradigm offers, how it is useful for making sense of the lived realities of the psychological and social human-beings in our classrooms. The authors who have contributed to this volume have done an incredible job of doing just this, looking at a variety of psychological dimensions. And what we noticed, both through the enthusiastic participation of the many who ended up attending our humble symposium, and in the weeks and months following as we crafted this collection together, was an atmosphere along the lines of, “It’s high time for this!” We hope you agree!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics by Phil Hiver and Ali H. Al-Hoorie.

Can Learning a Foreign Language in School Really Make you a Better Writer in Your First Language?

This month we published Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Writing Strategies by Karen Forbes. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book.

-I’m really bad at languages.

-What makes you say that? You speak English really well, so you’re already a really good language learner!

-No, but English doesn’t count, it’s not a language like French is. It doesn’t have, like, verbs and tenses and stuff like French does.

The above conversation is one I had many years ago with a new Year 7 student when I was teaching languages in a secondary school in England and it has always stuck with me. It’s just one example from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had over the years as a language learner, teacher and then researcher which have really made me reflect on the position of ‘language’ more broadly within the school curriculum. There’s something interesting here about this student’s perception and awareness of language – if he doesn’t view his mother tongue as a ‘language’, then it may be difficult for him to make connections with other languages. There is then a related question about the respective approaches and priorities of first language and foreign language teachers in schools.

These two subject areas are often based in separate departments and the teachers will understandably take very different approaches to teaching their respective languages. Yet, given that both have a shared focus on developing important language skills, there are perhaps opportunities to encourage more joined-up thinking and collaboration between language teachers. We tend to think more about how students draw on their first language as a resource in the foreign language classroom (or indeed, how the first language may even hinder foreign language learning), but how can the skills and strategies explicitly developed in the foreign language classroom, in turn, help learners in their first language?

These are some of the key questions which formed the starting point for the research study at the heart of this book. It focuses on language learning strategies and, in particular, the development of writing strategies. It explores how even beginner or low proficiency adolescent language learners can develop effective skills and strategies in the foreign classroom which can also positively influence writing in other languages, including their first language. At a theoretical level, it is hoped that this book will shed light on our understanding of the construct of cross-linguistic transfer between a learner’s first language and foreign language writing strategies. However, pedagogical implications are also important here and, as such, a step-by-step guide is provided for developing and implementing a cross-linguistic programme of language learning strategy instruction.

Karen Forbes
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
kf289@cam.ac.uk

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Crosslinguistic Influence and Distinctive Patterns of Language Learning edited by Anne Golden, Scott Jarvis and Kari Tenfjord. 

Border Watching: The Impact of Brexit and COVID-19

This month we published Tourism and Brexit edited by Hazel Andrews. In this post Hazel discusses the impact that Brexit and subsequently the COVID-19 pandemic have had on the UK.

When I was initially invited to write a book about tourism and Brexit it at first felt problematic. Although the referendum on leaving the EU had taken place nearly two years before in June 2016, when Tourism and Brexit was conceived, the UK had not left the EU and a withdrawal deal had not been settled. It was hard to envision what tourism to and from the UK would be like. In addition, Brexit was subject to on-going debate not only in the UK parliament, but also in numerous news media forums and, for me, like many others, a bit of Brexit fatigue had set in. 

However, Brexit is too important an issue to be left un- or under-explored, especially from the perspective of tourism and the ramifications that a change in freedom of movement might bring to travel practices, which sit alongside understandings of how welcoming a place the UK would be as it reconfigured and repositioned itself on the global stage. The implications of the UK’s departure from the EU has consequences far beyond the country’s immediate borders.

The referendum campaign and the resulting outcome drew attention to stark divisions within the UK, not only in terms of whether to leave or remain, but also between the countries that make up the UK and further still in terms of class and regional identities, age, education and so on. Questions of identity seemed to be at the forefront of debate.

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum result things felt strange as if something palpable had changed in the atmosphere of the country. Many regarded family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in a new light, wondering which way they had voted. Couples divorced, people left the country or began to actively seek citizenship elsewhere. Trust in the UK and those around us had changed.

Those who voted leave doubtless placed trust in the campaign leaders that exiting from the EU would herald a new era characterised by easily made trade deals and control over the UK’s external borders. Since June 2016 and the ongoing debates, it seems that trust has become a keyword in the sociocultural and political landscape of the UK.

The UK officially left the EU on 31st January 2020, entering a transition period as the UK and EU began negotiations about their future relationship. The debates were far from over, but Brexit was no longer centre stage, it had been usurped by COVID-19.

COVID-19 has wrought damage around the world in many ways. It is understandable that it presently dominates much of our thinking. Among its side-effects has been the immeasurable damage to the tourism and hospitality sectors. However, in September 2020 Brexit was front page news again.  

This reemergence into the spotlight was based on the UK Government’s announcement that they would break international law with the Internal Markets Bill, thus changing elements of the Withdrawal Deal that they, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had themselves agreed with the EU. The move was widely condemned in the UK and EU, as well as within the United States. Questions were raised about how any other government in the world would be able to trust the UK ever again.

Campaigns to leave the EU and Johnson’s response to COVID-19 have both made appeals to a sense of national character. Among such traits is the idea of fair play, enshrined in expressions like the motto of the London Stock Exchange ‘my word is my bond’. It seems ironic then that one of the qualities that is supposed to make us who ‘we’ are could so readily be abandoned. Perhaps going forward questions will be not just based on how welcoming the UK is, but also how trustworthy.

English-Welsh Border sign on the A494 highlighting different COVID-19 rules © Hazel Andrews

Border watching has never been more important whether this be the safeguarding of the borders of our bodies against the Coronavirus and the placing of our trust in those around us to help keep each other safe, or the need to watch not only what the external borders of the UK will be after 31st December 2020, but also what the internal borders in the UK will look like in the years to come.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Brexit and Tourism by Derek Hall.

DMC Theory and Long-Term Motivation

We recently published Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education by Christine Muir. In this post the author introduces and explains DMC theory and the lessons we can learn from it. 

It’s not always easy to stay motivated. During these unprecedented times, as we face up to the continuation and consequences of the global pandemic, it may be more important than ever to look to the future and continue working towards achieving our long-term goals. However, for many, it may also be more difficult than ever to be able to do so. In some respects, it feels like a strange time to be discussing such a uniquely positive and energising motivational construct as directed motivational currents (DMCs). A motivational experience characterised by the feeling of being wholly caught up and carried forwards by a current of motivation in a seemingly effortless process of goal pursuit. 

A little while ago I was invited to give the keynote talk at the fourth annual Languages, Texts and Society conference. In discussing the content of my talk with the organisers – LTS is both run by and organised for postgraduate and early career researchers (PGRs) – I was asked exactly this ‘million-dollar question’: perhaps, the organisers asked, you could include ‘some thoughts on fostering individual DMCs, especially in the context of PGRs trying to operate in the current climate. I appreciate it might be unfair to put you on the spot, but perhaps we can work down from that idea’. So, hardly any pressure at all…

The area of DMC theory that has continued to be the most compelling for me personally has, however, been rooted in exactly this issue: is it possible to translate the underpinning principles of DMC theory into sound pedagogic practice? Is it possible to design our instruction in such a way that students might experience this distinct type of motivational outpouring?

None of the attendees of the LTS conference were, to my knowledge, currently experiencing a DMC, yet we reflected together on lessons DMC theory might provide to help reinvigorate flagging motivational reserves. For example, we discussed the relevance of self concordant goals, goals that tap directly into the core of who we really are, and the eudaimonic wellbeing we can feel in striving to achieve them (the experience of which is a hallmark of all DMC experiences). We discussed the importance of affirmative feedback, a structural feature of DMCs key to maintaining the current of motivation over time, and so therefore of looking backwards as well as forwards to recognise how far we’ve already come in our goal striving.

DMC theory certainly cannot offer a ‘magic bullet’. Yet, the positioning of DMCs as representing a perfect form of long-term approach motivation facilitates not only the potential for pedagogic innovation via intensive group projects (one area of focus in Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education), but also a framework able to facilitate the investigation of other aspects of long-term motivation. Long-term motivation is a broad, fascinating and important area of scholarship that has, to date, received remarkably scant research attention.

The empirical findings presented in Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education, and the areas for future research foregrounded – for example links with study abroad, and the emergent evidence indicating potential lasting positive effects from DMC experiences – give strong support for the argument that this is an area of research with a significant amount to offer.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

Small Stories: A Research Methodology To Work With Migrant Young People and Children

This month we published The Multilingual Adolescent Experience by Malgorzata Machowska-Kosciak. In this post the author explains ‘small stories’ as a research methodology.

‘Small stories’ as a methodological framework enable prioritizing children’s and young people’s lived experience; it is placing their voice at the very forefront of a research process. Not only does it facilitate expression of migrant children’s voices but also facilitates incorporating their authentic lived experiences in the educational research. It brings together Laura Lundy’s model (2007) as it provides young people and children with affordances to express their views (Space), facilitates the expression of their views (Voice), creates opportunities for their voices to be listened to (Audience) and have their views acted upon (Influence). Thus, it goes hand in hand with the Children’s Rights framework.

What are “Small Stories”?

The term “small story” was first coined by Alexandra Georgakopoulou and is defined as “Small incidents that may (or may not) have happened, mentioned to back up or elaborate on an argumentative point occurring in an ongoing conversation” (2007:5).

Small stories that are presented in this book are more than narratives as they are combinations of saying–doing–being–valuing and believing. They become safe spaces where children’s identity work takes place.

Children’s small stories presented in the book were often constructed by co-participants (including the researcher), but more frequently they were spontaneously initiated by the young participants. Threads from these stories were very important to children as fragments of these stories recurrently appeared in their narratives, whenever the chance to talk about them occurred. They included events from the distant past “dead relatives” or more recent past “ I talk with more grown-up voice”, or were concerned with retrospective accounts of different situations “going to the pub”, generalizations “they have only one dance”, assessments of or justifications for particular behaviours “pack of lies” or choices. They sometimes signalled what role children were playing within the particular group (peers, heritage schools), how they positioned themselves within that group and, most importantly, how they exercised their agency, the choices they made and the plans they had for their future, thus, their own voice is central in the research process and the researcher becomes the new apprentice in the discovery process.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom by Kimberly Adilia Helmer.

Behind the Books: Language, Culture and Identity in Two Chinese Community Schools

Sara Ganassin speaks to Prue Holmes about her new book Language, Culture and Identity in Two Chinese Community Schools: More than One Way of Being Chinese?.

Language, Culture and Identity in Two Chinese Community Schools is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!