Axiology – What do I value in research?

I originally wrote a post on axiology back when I was taking a course in Epistemologies – In the fall of 2011 as I was completing the first year of my PhD studies. It is interesting now that I look back on things, that I see how my axiology has changed.

When I started my PhD and when I wrote my research proposal, I was very much a pragmatic researcher. My focus on the world was very much about doing research that had an impact on practice. If it didn’t impact practice, what use was it? That was how I thought.

That being said, I always thought the most useful part of my dissertation study (the iPad student) was in the collection of user stories – that is, in collecting true stories that described how the iPad could actually be used. The design of a faculty development program, and the teaching of iPad workshops, was not nearly as interesting as the user stories. Actually, the user stories needed to be a pre-cursor to my study. I had hoped that an earlier study that I was peripherally involved in would result in user stories that I could use – that didn’t happen. And so, the value in my iPad study was not in the workshops (which failed miserably) but rather, in the user stories we collaboratively wrote and self-published. You can read them at http://ipad-fm.ca or download the free eBook (for iPad – in the iBooks Store).

So now I’m changing my focus completely. I’m taking a little bit more time off of my PhD studies – to allow myself a little more time to heal – because no matter how quickly I may want healing to happen, it takes time.

During my time off, I’m reflecting on where I want to go next. I’m looking at other opportunities for a dissertation study. In doing so, I realize that I’m not interested in doing pragmatic research. I’m much more interested in narrative. I’m more interested in working on collaborative stories, working with people to help tell a story, to help describe a lived experience in a way that helps to educate others. It is not just a different project, it is also a different epistemology – it is a whole different way of viewing the world. When I look back, I can see that parts of the old me had these same values. I always did say that with my original iPad research, the interesting part was the collection of user stories. In my future work, I expect that my focus will be much more on the lived experience stories. On exploring how others approached the situation, and documenting a narrative that helps others who face that same situation approach it better informed than they otherwise would have. Exactly what my new project will be, I don’t know yet. There are a lot of different things that will influence it – but one thing is for sure, it won’t be the same sense of pragmatic research that I was looking at before. The idea of doing a study that is an evaluation of an educational intervention feels kind of like watching paint dry. It is something that I would have been interested in before, but is certainly not something that I want to spend my time doing now.

It is interesting how these things change. How life’s crisis help us see something differently.

Today, my axiology, that is what I value in research, is authenticity. I value lived experience, with all the complexities that that entails. It will be interesting to see where this new path takes me.

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