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Critical autobiographical research for science educators

Taylor, P.C. and Settelmaier, E. (2003) Critical autobiographical research for science educators. Journal of Science Education in Japan, 27 (4). pp. 233-244.



In recent years the popularity of qualitative research in science education has increased dramatically. This is an evolving field in which new forms, such as critical autobiographical research, are emerging. This form of research focuses on the researcher’s own life-history, involves writing in the narrative first person voice, and can give unique insights into the social and cultural forces shaping his/her own practice. Autobiographical research can be part of a multi-method participant-observation study, helping the researcher to deal with his/her own biases prior to interpreting and representing the perspectives of other participants. Autobiographical research also can form the whole inquiry, especially in cultural research, thereby enabling science educators to become cultural researchers and reveal hidden cultural forces influencing the social structures of schooling, the curriculum and their own pedagogies. Autobiographical writing, which is part of the inquiry process, commences with a descriptive account of key-issues and develops further into reflective thinking, generating new insights and heightening the researcher’s sensitivities towards those issues, thereby enabling the researcher to see his/her research in the context of his/her biography and culture. An important goal of autobiographical writing is to develop pedagogical thoughtfulness. Another goal is moral; through the writing process we can come to understand how to make increasingly educative our interactions with others who share a commitment to educating the young. Not surprisingly, there are critical voices questioning the rigor and legitimacy of literature-based autobiographical writing. However, these concerns are largely unfounded because good autobiographical research attends to a set of quality standards. Critical autobiography as research is thus a powerful and legitimate means for making science classrooms more culturally relevant and more meaningful to students worldwide.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Japan Society for Science Education
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