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Tales of the field: Impressions of college teaching

Taylor, P.C. (1997) Tales of the field: Impressions of college teaching. In: Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 1997, 24 - 28 March 1997, Chicago, IL


This paper examines research in science education, making a case for the interpretive researcher to value both reason and emotion for generating a reflective and reflexive understanding of the classroom experiences of teachers and students. It discusses the role of rationality and emotions in fieldwork, and presents two impressionistic "tales" based on observations of teachers of college science and mathematics in Florida. These composite accounts attempt to portray, through the lens of the researcher's own experiences, the experiences of the persons under inquiry. Literary and artistic metaphors are used to explain the construction of such accounts. The paper argues that a major challenge for ethnographic fieldworkers is how to include the emotions while avoiding the construction of a "self-absorbed self" who loses sight of the culturally different other. Two appendixes present the tales, "A Stern Tale About Learning" and "Familiarity Breeds Intimacy," along with the actual research context of the two accounts.

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