An Invited Outsider or an Enriched Insider? Challenging Contextual Knowledge as a Critical Friend Researcher
Researchers conducting studies in communities have long taken an interest in exploring the different merits of positioning themselves as “insiders”, “outsiders”, or “in-betweeners” in relation to their participants. Yet research exploring the role of the researcher as a “critical friend”—a supportive yet challenging facilitator in self-evaluation processes—has not been fully examined. This chapter speaks to the FUGuE element of transformation—which in the present context, I define as a process where structures and forms undergo conversion. The chapter provides my account as a FUGuE researcher of exploring the methodological implications of my research with a small group of teachers at a primary school located in the Latrobe Valley in Central Gippsland. The emergent relationship now informs my teaching and research practices. The discussion draws on a recently commenced longitudinal study exploring teachers’ use of strategies and processes aimed at improving literacy practices—a phenomenon known as capacity building—through collaboration in a professional learning team, within a context of school improvement. Due to a prior connection with the school, I was invited to become a critical friend and active participant as the school initiated a new Professional Learning Team (PLT) in literacy. Informed by recorded conversations from the PLT meetings, my aim was to conceptualize the role and transformative implications of researching as an invited critical friend within a professional community. This chapter contributes to the methodological discourse of educational research by offering a contextualized analysis of the tensions among the notions of trust, credibility, and positionality as a critical friend researcher.
KeywordsCritical friendship Professional learning Insider–outsider Researcher identity Trust Transformation Social Cognitive Theory
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