Reflective Practice During a Time of Change

Reflexive Practice, Research Diaries and Witchcraft

I feel at the moment I want to begin every post with: in the current situation, or during this challenging time … whilst I do not want to amplify the platitudes, the pandemic has amplified fractures, and needs. More than ever do I find solace in reflective writing, in pausing, letting my mind wander on walks or during lunch breaks in the garden. There is so much input at the moment, and not much processing.

Normally, I would go for walking meetings with colleagues and friends, or for sanity coffees. In both situations the spaces we are in, permit our minds to meander and physically as well as metaphorically walk through spaces. I would be able to share thoughts, or get input all the while moving. The field of embodied cognition explores these interrelationships between body, movement, and cognition.

a sandy path leading through wild flower meadows

However, not only our own movement but, like in the case of sanity coffees, movement around us, seems to have an impact. We would be in a space of noise and movement, encapsulated in ‘sitting at our table bubble’ and again, whilst we are fixed, everything around us is moving, and maybe thus the dynamics of conversations are fluid. From sharing latest news, to project ideas, back to gossip, looping around to ‘take away tasks’ and back to real life. But maybe this is just habitual, a cultural script; for that’s what one does when being in the space ‘Café’.

white cup filled with cappuccino

Somehow, the fixed space of virtual meetings, seems to put stop rules on thinking. As if everything is limited to 17″ or whatever your screen-size. I miss the movement, the interrelation between physical movement and thought. Screen meetings work well for operations, for organising and task focused conversations. They are more difficult for deep conversations however, as if my possibility thinking is becoming limited, and the multidimensionality of micro-bodylanguage, and non-verbal cues are getting lost. Not to mention hugs. Everything is flat. Social interaction has become two-dimensional. Maybe the accumulation of these elements contributes to the feeling of dissociation, because a big part of living and working is happening in two dimensional space.

So this thinking about thinking and reflexive practice made me revisit something I wrote in my PhD dissertation, which by now, after all this time, and in conjunction with the research diaries, feels more like an accumulation of thoughts I meant to follow up on, than a finished piece of work. Over the last half a year or so I did have some headspace to go back to ideas, and concepts I meant to explore, and found that often the things I am drawn to now have their roots in work and studies done many years ago. And like a puzzle things are coming together.

standing stone

So back in time we go to think about thinking, before picking up and moving forward with reflexive practice writing, about creativity, SoTL and academic development in general.

So here were my first thoughts on thinking about thinking (Sheridan, 2011), and this is where the witches come in. As Tiffany Achings, a witch in training, was encountering the mixed messages of the different levels of thought:

As Delamont (2002) advises; an ethnographer should learn, even be passionate about, all types of reading. The drafting of the conceptual framework coincided with reading Wintersmith (Pratchett, 2007).

First Sight and Second Thoughts, that’s what a witch had to rely on: the First Sight to check what’s really there, and Second Thoughts to watch the First Thoughts to check that they were thinking right. Then there were the Third Thoughts … they were odd, seemed to think for themselves, and didn’t usually turn up very often.

Pratchett, 2007, p. 44

Reading about the notion of different thoughts helped me to conceptualize ethnographic research. I understand the First Sight as the researcher encountering the field. It stands for collecting data of reality of everyday life (Berger & Luckmann, 1991, p. 33) and implies the inevitable impact of the researcher on the field (Atkinson & Hammersley, 1994; Ball, 1990; Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002, et al.). It is the first impression—raw data, uncorrected field note recordings, inescapably carrying the focus of the researcher, and thus the ideas and concepts s/he brings into the field.

The concepts help to initiate Second Thoughts. For me the notion of Second Thoughts typifies the interface between theory and practice. The concepts create a scaffold for the research project and offer the means for reflection. Second Thoughts are the dialectic between ongoing research and the theoretical framework. They negotiate between the data gathered, fieldwork, research planning, literature and the theoretical framework.

Third thoughts are:

PersonaI notes (PN): These are uncensored feeling statements about the research, the people I am talking to, my doubts, my anxieties, my pleasures. […] Finally, writing personal notes is a way for me to know myself better, a way of using writing as method of inquiry into the self.

Richardson, 1994, p. 382

This strange space we are currently living and working in, where life continues, but movement is on hold, third thoughts have more space to emerge and the task of critical thinking becomes more complex, deeper yet.

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