A story behind a story: Developing strategies for making sense of teacher narratives

Tansy Jessop, A. Penny

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper describes a process of analysis and the development of representational strategies in a narrative study. It takes the reader through the often hidden steps involved in doing research, and unveils some of the problematics of narrative and voice. Within the context of rural post-Apartheid South Africa, the researchers were positioned as outsiders, bordercrossing into the lives of the researched, in the name of articulating their voices. The ethical dilemmas of this kind of research are examined, as is the perspective that the researcher is positioned, not as an objective, all-seeing eye, but as a re-presenter from 'somewhere'. The heart of the paper analyses the development of different strategies of analysis, including poetry and various mapping, graphic and matrix techniques. Representational models are developed progressively, in response to the dilemmas and complexities of re-telling 'a' story, and the particular challenge of capturing the contradictory, partial and fluid nature of each teacher's story. The research process culminates in a model which allows for a reading of each narrative as complex, nuanced and intrinsically ambivalent. Against the backdrop of a wider study of teacher narratives (on which this paper is based) and the policy context of education, some conclusions about the implications of narrative study for teacher development in South Africa are drawn.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)213-230
    JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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