[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Marian Iszatt-White of the Lancaster University Management School. Dr. Iszatt-White recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “An educator’s perspective on reflexive pedagogy: identity undoing and issues of power,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Iszatt-White reveals the inspiration for conducting this research and the impact it has on the field:]
What motivated you to pursue this research?
All the authors of this paper are teachers as well as researchers, and spend much of our time working with ‘gnarly’ middle managers on executive education programmes and Executive MBAs. It was piloting an innovative leadership learning intervention (co-constructed coaching – the subject of an earlier paper in Management Learning by Steve and myself) with this latter population that triggered the insights underpinning this paper. Specifically, we realised that adopting a reflexive pedagogy had implications for us as ‘teachers’ as well as for our students. This was not the direction we intended the paper to go, but it really hit us as something important and not well understood in the literature. The idea of ‘identity undoing’, which Brigid had already developed, seemed key to our own experiences and offered a valuable framework for processing and theorizing them.
What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?
A significant challenge in conducting this research was the autoethnographic element – which was not part of the original design but still needed to be methodologically robust. Our original intention had been to validate the idea of co-constructed coaching as a leadership learning intervention, which we had previously proposed. An early draft of the paper, pursuing this intent, happened to mention our own experience of implementing this intervention and our reviewers picked up on this as being interesting. This led Steve and I to home in on this previously marginal aspect of the project and to bring Brigid in as an ‘independent witness’ to our reflections on what it felt like to adopt a reflexive pedagogy. Brigid did a great job of ‘interrogating’ and then narrating key elements of this experience, which we were then able to theorize in relation to identity undoing and issues of power.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
In undertaking this analysis, we problematize the pursuit of a reflexive pedagogical practice within executive and postgraduate education and offer a paradox: the desire to engage students in reflexive learning interventions – and in particular to disrupt the power asymmetries and hierarchical dependencies of more traditional educator-student relationships – can in practice have the effect of highlighting those very asymmetries and dependencies. Successful resolution of such a paradox becomes dependent on the capacity of educators to undo their own reliance on and even desire for authority underpinned by a sense of theory-based expertise. We belief this insight – as well as the innovative use of autoethnographic methods to turn a critically reflexive lens upon academic teaching – will provide food for thought (and for further research) across a wide range of academic disciplines. With the introduction in the UK of the Teaching Excellence Framework, now seems to be a fitting time to review what it means to be an ‘expert’ teacher.