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Critical questioning unsettles white noise in educational research

Carnes, R. (2013) Critical questioning unsettles white noise in educational research. In: 28th Annual Research Forum (WAIER): Research Informing Reform, 10 August 2013, The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle.


Critical theory is analytical of itself, its approach and “the social forces that make up its own basis” (Marcuse, 1968: 156). As a product of the dominant social and systemic forces in which it operates, critical educational research also requires such analysis. Reform can be difficult when underlying assumptions of research approaches are themselves shaped in an environment dominated by white noise. As much a systemic issue as an individual one, white noise occurs in the thinking, decision making and communication of dominant Settler cultures in relation to Indigenous people.

This PhD research project has considered what helps and hinders Aboriginal education in Western Australian prisons. Adopting the culturally and academically rigorous method of yarning, the researcher prioritised Indigenous voices in exploring this question. This paper identifies some pivotal challenges the researcher has grappled with such as the subtlety of her own internal white noise and her reactions when her privilege has been confronted or challenged. It presents some crucial questions that have arisen in the research process that could be of assistance to others seeking to conduct culturally appropriate educational research in a way that acknowledges white noise. Pivotal to these questions is asking, “Who says? Who decides?”

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