Category Archives: autoethnography

19th April 2016 Update (Memory Tapes)

I carried out my 5th interview with an ex-media student (known as EXBM), recruited last week (15.04.16) and transcribed it yesterday. I invited her to my house – it was good to catch up. Listening back to the audio, there is definitely something therapeutic about hearing what other people recall and how their education has impacted on their employability footprint. It doesn’t feel awkward in the least but offers the opportunity to attribute meaning to their perceptions of their experiences now that time has elapsed. An image of the self emerges through the language and utterances of others. We don’t do that much in education, although I highly recommend it. Once the certificate has been awarded and the statistic logged we can too easily forget that a part of our shadow remains in the lives of others.

EXBM’s narrative focussed on her own understanding of transferable skills and how they have become apparent in the workplace. She also talked about that idea of mistakes and learning by getting things wrong. She suggested that during the intended scenarios (to mark the end of the data collection phase) that I create ‘scenarios with variables,’ make an unanticipated change to see how the participants react – something I need to think about more in terms of how to incorporate and plan this. I am really enjoying the research dimension that testimonies from the past (EXBM completed the BTEC in Media in 2005!) are informing my current research strategies as they emerge. Sartre would be proud. It really feels like a co-production or co-constructed piece of research in this respect. For the first time I feel like a researcher, even my voice sounded more confident and in control. Each time I press record, although never perfect I am saying ‘erm,’ ‘okay’ and ‘great’ less each time.

It has made me think about my own students and see that they might look back in years to come and see what I was trying to do, not sure they can see this now. They are too distracted by living their lives – as I should accept and respect.

Before the end of the data collection phase (late May) I plan to make an audio selection or  collection of my recorded ex-student testimonies and play it back to my current students/ participants to gage their reactions (if any). I think it will be good for them, after all I might be wanting a Doctorate but this isn’t all about me. I’m not convinced they understand this fully yet but having spoken to past students, I think they might at some point down the line.

5th April 2016 Planning My Audio Tape Timeline

PHOTO OverviewPHOTO Zoom version

The numbers (brown) represent the chronological order that audio tapes (primary contact with various participants) have been recorded. Timeline provides basic overview of key issues extracted from interviews (black) that are serving to drive the direction of the project e.g. the introduction of ‘scenarios’ to test the validity of the transferable skills tracker as part of an orchestrated employability workshop day (to be built in as a project ‘final scene’ before MED2 participants actually exit the course in Mid-June 2016) are something I had not originally considered or even thought about until I started action research cycles and talking to people.

Maybe the stars in the night sky are guiding me after all.

A good couple of days have passed where I have organised myself more and transcribed approx. 8,000 words. Although tedious, I understand the value of transcribing manually and not using digital software. It sort of makes my research feel more real and it is good to think back with a little distance. That said, however, the amount of times I say, ‘great,’ ‘that’s fine,’ ‘erm’ and ‘okay’ is quite frankly hideous!  I really will try to minimise my usage of such words for the next couple of interviews. Every aspect of the self is deconstructed as part of this doctoral journey – all part of it. You need to be prepared for that if you intend to embark on one.

Anyway, time to wrap for the day, sip a glass of red and await the arrival of Annie-Blue and Violet.

5th April 2016 Audio Tapes – Transcription Update


The Nitty Gritty Of The Data So Far, Some Housekeeping

(2 X) Other short interviews (Employability Co-ordinator and Media Educationalist) transcribed. TICK.

(4 X) Ex-media student interviews transcribed. TICK.

(1 X) Cycle 1: Focus group with MED2 discussion transcribed. TICK.

I am thinking it would be nice to extract key quotes (in chronological order) from the audio tapes collection to make explicit how the conversations have rolled forward and informed the research path so far. I need to action next when I have time and whilst I am on top of transcribing… One thing is for sure is that there is more to come next term as the focus groups continue, as well as capturing individual participant data.

I still need to track down a further 2 Ex-media students who are willing to participate as I am aiming for 6 Ex-student testimonies in total to give a better spread of perspectives regarding their employability experiences post-course.

PAR/ Autoethnography – A Marriage Made in Heaven Or Divorce Waiting to Happen?

I have submitted a piece for consideration to the ‘Troubling Research’ event. Think it might be a good opportunity and relevant platform to test my struggle of aligning participatory action research with autoethnography (a potential sticking point – as brought up in my viva last September). I guess I am seeking support/ validation from other researchers to help me defend my position at a later date. I still hold the view the two make sense when merged or running parallel at the very least. A much stronger and resilient framework than operating in silos.

3rd April 2016 A Employability Scenario Workshop Event?

My kids are at their grandparents for a couple of days so I can try to get on top of my awaiting transcription work – audio recordings with my ex-media students, who are now very much part of my research narrative. It’s funny how I then turned to ironing for nearly three and a half hours in the hope that my laptop might miraculously autoscribe for me. No surprise, it didn’t. So I thought I might just return here to report a new avenue of thought I happened to arrive at whilst ironing. My researcher instinct knew that if I ironed some clarity might happen.

Mini Break-Through Or Break-Down.

My thought is this:

At the end of tracking their ‘Top 5’ transferable skills accrued during their final project on the course (April-June), I think it would be good to take on board the idea suggested by GW and RJ of ‘scenarios’  but take it one step further – actually hold a transferable skills workshop/ research event where participant learning can culminate in a co-production. We can devise scenarios for each other (including me, students can ask me to react to scenarios they create for me). Whilst devising scenarios, participants (and me) can take on board and integrate some of the retold experiences of the ex-media students interviewed.

I had considered if I should add ex-media suggested key transferable skills to the list (see my previous post) however this would just mean the list gets longer again and would inevitably further deter usage (based on focus group feedback). The way to incorporate their employment experiences/ narratives is to incorporate them within a summative workshop event. Participants can determine the format and content (including how to record the evidence generated). Therefore (hopefully), having had the chance to reflect over a series of months (via using the tracker), participants will actively engage more with a subject that on the surface is really quite dry. Something I am aware of. The workshop activities will facilitate aural application of transferable skills in a participant-devised setting. Participant knowledge can be applied through role-play.

There can be 3 levels of input:

  1. Self-devised scenarios (co-production).
  2. Scenarios based on ex-student narratives.
  3. Unknown scenarios, I can obtain from Employability specialists/ Human Resources.

The summative transferable skills research workshop will signify a timely and appropriate opportunity in time to fuse the diverse components of this research project:

The three key story strands so far are:

1) Action Research Cycles: Participant tracking documentation (ongoing) punctuated with reviews (focus group and individual).

2) Ex-media student narratives (audio interviews X 4 so far).

3) My own engagement as facilitator of action research cycles and workshop event. I too will be a visible and active participant as I (alongside the the MED2 participants) will be subject to elucidating verbal responses to scenarios based on my own thinking and employment history (education/ media sectors). The Further Education (FE) sector is continually at the mercy of further cuts and redundancies therefore I too need to think about my own skills at this point in time and I believe it is useful for participants to see me work through similar devised scenarios. No-one is immune as we all share space on this evolving sphere. The research workshop event can be viewed as an attempt to bridge any anxieties associated with employability as we try to individually frame our positional skills but as a collective cohort. In creating and participating in a practice led event such as this, it will serve to test the viability of the research problematic itself.

I now need a tutorial just to throw this back to by supervisors at BU before I get carried away. I am due one in a couple of weeks, by which time I will have finished transcribing my interviews. I haven’t transcribed one word today and my kids left the house seven hours ago.



Less is more (29.03.16).

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 14.30.56

Reducing the list, ‘the list is too long’ they (my participants) tell me. Acting on feedback during cycle 1 (review tool), MED2 participants felt that the list needed to be shorter if they were to update/ use it on a regular basis, hence the above screen grab of the paper-based tracker they are using at present.

My ex-media student narratives begin to unfold and inform my path. Scenarios they tell me. They give me an idea, a way to help assess the value and validity of my project. A mock interview to prise out participant articulation of skills. A constructed reality no doubt but preparation for what is to come. That frightening door towards  the world of (un) employability and the confidence to take that next step in their lives.

My role: grappling with past narratives and reflections to inform the present project and perhaps even impact positively on the future of some of the participants. It’s interesting to hear what students would change about what I/ we did…  I can see their point(s), not one single suggestion is unreasonable. I can see what they mean. Thankfully they haven’t said me yet but maybe they are just being nice or even worse take pity on their struggling ex-media teacher stressing about her next step.

Needless to say this is a particularly interesting and perhaps more useful way of looking in the mirror, after all when we die, it doesn’t really matter what we thought of ourselves but how other people remember us, perhaps this is where truth lies, anything else could be viewed a self-deception.