Storytelling as a research methodology

This podcast episode is a conversation with the team working on the Ibali network Project. The Ibali Network is a collective of researchers from the UK, Nigeria and South Africa. The team uses storytelling to explore commonalities and differences of how inclusion and exclusion are experienced across education systems in South Africa, Nigeria and the UK, combined with a critical, ethnographic evaluation of the storytelling research process. The study aims to understand how storytelling could be better and more ethically used in research, especially when working across socio-political and geographic boundaries. 


00:00:01 Speaker 1

Hello everyone and welcome to the BAICE Student Podcast, a podcast for postgraduate students in the field of international and comparative education to share advice and ideas to help you through the long process for easier postgraduate study.

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00:00:22 Speaker 1

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00:01:04 Speaker 1

So today I’m very excited to have the team from the Ibali project on the BAICE Student podcast to tell us more about this innovative project.

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To unpack the concept of inclusive education and explore storytelling as a methodology, and just to have a really good chat.

00:01:20 Speaker 1

So storytelling in different forms is becoming much more widely used as a research methodology.

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We are lucky enough today to have six amazing women with us from the project, so please can you introduce yourselves and tell the listeners a little bit about your background and how you came to be working on the project and perhaps what made you interested in storytelling in the first place.

00:01:41 Speaker 2

Hi, I’m Alison Buckler, and I’m the vice chair of BAICE, so your listeners might know me from that. I am a senior research fellow in international education at the Open University, where I’m also the Deputy director of the Center for the Study of Global Development.

00:01:58 Speaker 2

And I’m the PI for this project, which comes together after, nearly five years of working with this.

00:02:08 Speaker 2

Like you say, amazing group of people thinking about storytelling, thinking about inclusion.

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And this, this bid is really the culmination of, you know, five years of thinking about these issues and how we can think about them more deeply come together.

00:02:23 Speaker 1

Great, Alison. Thank you.

00:02:25 Speaker 3

So hi, I’m Jennifer Agbaire, research associate at the Open University.

00:02:31 Speaker 3

I’m also the executive secretary of BAICE and working with Alison on that, on that front as well.

00:02:37 Speaker 3

This project is really something that we have, like Alison said, have been working on for quite some time now.

00:02:43 Speaker 3

We are all kind of interested in, you know, inclusion issues and innovative methods and my work in the past years has been around that very centrally and that’s where I kind of like really key in.

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I’m also the project manager on this particular bid as well.

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Thank you, Jennifer.

00:03:06 Speaker 4

Hi, I’m Joanna Wheeler and I’m the founder and director of Transformative Story.

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And I’m also a research fellow at the University of Western Cape in South Africa and I’m Based in the UK.

00:03:18 Speaker 4

How did I get interested in storytelling?

00:03:21 Speaker 4

Uhm, I mean, I think anyone who has had kids or has taken care of children, has spent many hours, you know, telling stories and listening to stories and so I just, I’m, I am really interested in the ways that stories kind of weave in and out of our lives.

00:03:47 Speaker 4

And I think this project is a great way to learn more about that, and to think more about that critically in different contexts.

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Thank you, Joanna.

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Hi, my name is Faith Mkwananzi and I’m with the Center for Development support at the University of the Free State. My research is around the areas of inclusion and exclusion in South Africa Indians and I am part of this project because it speaks to the areas that I’m interested in and also speaks to my own, my own experiences.

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So that’s why I’m very passionate about the project.

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Thank you Faith.

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Hello uh my name is Yusra Price.

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I am an anthropologist by training.

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I am passionate about education and storytelling, and my work has been mostly focused in using storytelling to help teach, uhm, ethnography

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And methodologies related, as well as using storytelling to help people tell their story, especially in spaces of advocacy.

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I am part of this project because it speaks to the passions that I have around innovative methodologies.

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I love exploring expressions of art.

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I I love that storytelling as a method and how it invites different ways of doing things, and it brings all of my interests into a central place so there’s nothing left out.

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And that’s what I thoroughly enjoy about it.

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Thank you Yusra.

00:05:45 Speaker 7

So my name is Jane Nebe and I’m an ethnographer on the Ibali project.

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I did my PhD at the University of Bristol where I worked on issues around education, inclusion exclusion and that’s been the motivation for me joining this project.

00:06:08 Speaker 1

Thank you, Jane.

00:06:09 Speaker 1

OK that’s a great introduction to you all.

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Thank you.

00:06:12 Speaker 1

Uhm, Alison, I don’t know if you want to.

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Tell us a bit more about the project.

00:06:19 Speaker 2

Uhm, yes. So this is a two year AHRC funded study that builds on an international storytelling research network that we’ve all been part of.

00:06:29 Speaker 2

For the past five years or so and this new, this new phase of the research is using storytelling approaches with young people and teachers in Nigeria, South Africa and the UK, and the storytelling strand is empirically focused on ideas and experiences of educational inclusion and exclusion.

00:06:49 Speaker 2

So that’s the kind of empirical.

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Strand of the research and then, in parallel, we are planning a critical exploration of this storytelling work, which is going to be undertaken by three ethnographers, and they are they are trained in Nigeria, South Africa and the UK respectively.

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And the ethnographers will individually and collectively document and analyze the storytelling process in each country.

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So they’ll be exploring how researchers and participants from different contexts and in different contexts make sense of storytelling as a meaningful approach to researching and articulating people lived experiences.

00:07:25 Speaker 2

So really, it’s a research study.

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On top of or embedded within another research study.

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And the aim of it is, is really to help us think more critically about the House and the whys of the decisions that we make when we’re researching using creative methods, and especially when we do that in UM and across different contexts.

00:07:43 Speaker 1

OK, so uhm, how did you come to choose these three countries?

00:07:49 Speaker 2

Well, we’ve chosen them because we are from them, and we have collectively, a lot of lived experience and expertise researching, working, being educated, studying in these contexts.

00:08:04 Speaker 2

Uhm, but also we really wanted to explicitly position inclusion as equally relevant across different geographical divides that are often split by this sort of UK based research and then this whole world of development research which kind of others this issue of inclusion.

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So we really wanted to see, and, explore the issue of inclusion across those divides and kind of re calibrate how inclusion is researched.

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In that sense, we were drawing on the work of people who argued that, you know, we need to be using more common analytical frames for doing research under this banner of development.

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And I think as well collectively we are really interested in.

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Thinking more critically about why we choose certain spaces in the world to do our.

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Searching and thinking about what feels comfortable to us, or uncomfortable and why, and we’re really hoping to get.

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Under the they’re kind of under the skin of those questions, which in themselves can be really uncomfortable and thinking about and answering them through the ethnography part of the research.

00:09:11 Speaker 2

And then finally, uhm, I think there’s a there’s a real ethical justification to come.

00:09:18 Speaker 2

Obviously your listeners will be familiar with the compare journal UM being members of BAICE and may have read the UM retrospective review of 50 years of compare articles that was published last year and.

00:09:32 Speaker 2

And something that was really interesting that came out of that review is that the, you know, the the dominance of articles that were written with the first author based in a in a high income context, researching education in a low income context and the.

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Uhm, there they were.

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Almost no, maybe none at all.

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No examples of researchers from low income context researching education in high income context, and it was an almost invisible dynamic in the compared journal across the past 50 years.

00:10:05 Speaker 2

So that, uhm, idea of inverting the lens of who researches education where is something that we’re really interested in as a collective.

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Of people from lots of different contexts with different experience of working in different contexts.

00:10:17 Speaker 2

We’re really hoping to kind of write about that.

00:10:21 Speaker 2

Yeah, that dynamic as well.

00:10:23 Speaker 1

That’s really interesting.

00:10:24 Speaker 1

And from that I’ve kind of got two different questions for the group.

00:10:28 Speaker 1

And I realize you’re at the start of this research, but just to get your opinions and thoughts on this now would be really useful to students.

00:10:34 Speaker 1

So when students are thinking about doing their field work, actually before this, when they’re thinking about what context to look at and why.

00:10:43 Speaker 1

So now, considering everything you’ve just said, and obviously ideas and opinions on this are shifting very a lot and there’s a lot of debate around this, do you think there’s still a place?

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For students from.

00:10:58 Speaker 1

I guess from you know from originating from the UK or from another quite privileged from Northern would say country, do you think there’s still a place for them to be doing research in the so-called global S you still do you think it’s still appropriate and if so?

00:11:15 Speaker 1

What do you think can make it more ethical for them to do?

00:11:20 Speaker 5

I, I, I definitely think that there is still space for students in the global North to come and research in the global.

00:11:27 Speaker 5

South, I mean they, they should be open to the, I mean to lending the experience, claiming the life that people lived in the global South and also.

00:11:40 Speaker 5

I think to be open minded about what they may experience in the global South think, which is what storytelling allows because it allows you to be very reflective and open minded.

00:11:51 Speaker 5

About your own experiences and other people’s experiences and another thing that I think is very important would be to.

00:12:02 Speaker 5

To have a uh mind that’s open to learning.

00:12:06 Speaker 5

And those learning happens through the people that you are going to meet and the people that are definitely going to be to be working with.

00:12:13 Speaker 5

I think that’s what’s going to make it very interesting and useful for a person coming from the global North to the global South.

00:12:22 Speaker 5

I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not people in the global North should come in researching the global South, I think the point is.

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Trying to learn from each others experiences and create relationships and networks during that experience.

00:12:37 Speaker 5

Because we can, we cannot isolate the global South from the club or not, and either can we isolate the north from the South.

00:12:45 Speaker 1

So it’s maybe rather than not coming as you say and it’s more kind of like.

00:12:52 Speaker 1

A shift in attitude and a shifting kind of perspective and realizing yet coming with an open mind and ready to learn is important.

00:13:00 Speaker 3

I think just to add to that, we’re not assuming you know that, you know, global N researchers are close minded in any way or we do know that every researcher tends to come to research with preconceived notion.

00:13:15 Speaker 3

If they don’t check that, I think it’s what people call unconscious bias, that all of us are really guilty of a different point.

00:13:21 Speaker 3

And we can’t.

00:13:21 Speaker 3

Be guilty of if we’re not aware of that.

00:13:24 Speaker 3

So I guess just to add to what Faith is saying is really about.

00:13:28 Speaker 3

You know, being reflexive about our positionality as research as when we come into contact, especially those that we are not, you know, we don’t have a background or lived experience in would be really, really useful.

00:13:43 Speaker 1

And I guess it’s about being transparent about that isn’t like you said, Jennifer, just having transparency about your positionality.

00:13:49 Speaker 1

I think it’s really important from the officer, yeah.

00:13:52 Speaker 2

Well, I think it’s also about the label, like how you label the work that you do.

00:13:56 Speaker 2

And if you.

00:13:57 Speaker 2

If you say you work in development and then you only work in low income context or research in low income context, then I think that’s more problematic than kind of individual research.

00:14:07 Speaker 2

Study where you might be from the UK but go into your researching garner for, you know, some personal and professional.

00:14:13 Speaker 2

Intellectual reasons, you might have to be interested in something that’s going on there.

00:14:17 Speaker 2

And so as part of this project, but also, you know more broadly in BAICE something that we’re trying to do a lot more of is not think of international education as a as kind of solely rooted in.

00:14:28 Speaker 2

And then in in development studies which you know is actually quite a recent shift for a lot of the work that people do in BAICE and just really trying to think back.

00:14:37 Speaker 2

To more the kind of the origins of.

00:14:41 Speaker 2

Comparative education, but putting a modern twist on those and thinking about them in a more critical way.

00:14:46 Speaker 2

But when?

00:14:48 Speaker 2

Is it not just thinking about development research as being something that can only be?

00:14:51 Speaker 2

On in in in low income context, but thinking about development as a global issue and thinking about the work that you’re doing in low income contexts and how that relates to issues and challenges though so really evident in context that you know wouldn’t be considered, you know, development contexts in the same way.

00:15:09 Speaker 6

And I mean to add to that I think.

00:15:12 Speaker 6

When it comes to your question, often the apprehension.

00:15:16 Speaker 6

Comes from UM.

00:15:20 Speaker 6

I, I guess, impart a history of people coming in, perhaps from the global N, doing research in the poorest of areas and assuming that they are there to give them something that they do not have, to enrich them with ideas and methods.

00:15:38 Speaker 6

And resources that they do not have, and so it perpetuates this divide.

00:15:46 Speaker 6

That we.

00:15:48 Speaker 6

Yeah, it, it, it perpetuates this divide between, you know, the, the developing country and the developed country.

00:15:55 Speaker 6

And in that it would often take away the agency of people to tell their own stories and this idea of giving voice.

00:16:04 Speaker 6

And so I think that’s often where the apprehension has come from and I mean in part to some extent my arms would be like yes and no and.

00:16:15 Speaker 6

I think it does come down to what everyone so far has said is that.

00:16:20 Speaker 6

You must know why you are going to a place before you’re going to do the research in it.

00:16:26 Speaker 6

You’re not going to do research in Africa because you have never been to Africa, or you are going to witness the poor African people and so on because then already.

00:16:34 Speaker 6

Your ideas are skewed, uhm.

00:16:37 Speaker 6

And it’s definitely about understanding what positionality means for you, where you are, where you come from, and where you’re going.

00:16:46 Speaker 6

And like they say, it is like being open minded to the experiences, but also being open to those moments where people confront you and say.

00:16:55 Speaker 6

What are you doing here?

00:16:57 Speaker 6

Or why do you think?

00:16:59 Speaker 6

The research that you are doing is useful or like in because people can often confront you and they could, you know, come up into your face and in those moments you’re going to have.

00:17:09 Speaker 6

To respond to them.

00:17:11 Speaker 6

And uhm, because it’s I think what what’s often echoed is that people are sometimes a bit exhausted.

00:17:20 Speaker 6

By having these tropes and ideas of Africa or developing countries or low income spaces, just being is just perpetuating this idea of what is here.

00:17:34 Speaker 6

Uhm, you know, when we’ve all we when, when so many of us are in that space where we are really working towards collaboration and the give and take of it.

00:17:44 Speaker 6

Also, I think when it comes to a student deciding whether they want to do their research in the global S, not just Africa, but UM.

00:17:54 Speaker 6

You know they need to sincerely have a critical conversation with themselves and reach out to peers and supervisors and mentors in having that conversation before.

00:18:06 Speaker 6

And during and after.

00:18:10 Speaker 1

Thank you.

00:18:11 Speaker 1

All right.

00:18:12 Speaker 1

Sorry, Alison.

00:18:13 Speaker 2

Well, I think, I absolutely agree with what you were saying and I think it really comes.

00:18:19 Speaker 2

Down to the questions you’re asking and the reasons you’re going to those contexts to do the research in.

00:18:24 Speaker 2

And again, if you go back to the, the sort of the.

00:18:27 Speaker 2

Uhm, you know, the early days of comparative education. And, you know, I’m saying this with the, you know, understanding that there are there are other challenges with the way that people framed research in the 1960s that we could spend ages discussing. But the primary focus of comparative education research in the 1960s was to go to other countries.

00:18:46 Speaker 2

To learn lessons, to bring back, to improve.

00:18:49 Speaker 2

You own education system and now we’re appointing a part of education where the main reason people go to research in other countries is to improve them.

00:18:56 Speaker 2

And I think that’s the dynamic that I find really interesting.

00:19:00 Speaker 2

It’s like why are you going to research in this place?

00:19:02 Speaker 2

Is it because you think you’ve got the skills to improve it, or are you actually trying to learn from it to contribute to a bigger global narrative?

00:19:09 Speaker 2

On you know how children can learn better.

00:19:14 Speaker 1

That’s great. Thank you.

00:19:16 Speaker 1

So the project also other than storytelling, which we’re going to move on to in a second, but also talks about inclusive education.

00:19:24 Speaker 1

So just again.

00:19:25 Speaker 1

Open to the group.

00:19:26 Speaker 1

Uhm, what do you consider?

00:19:28 Speaker 1

This the so.

00:19:28 Speaker 1

Much debate and sometimes misrepresentation of what inclusive education is.

00:19:33 Speaker 1

So what does that mean to?

00:19:34 Speaker 1

You as a collective.

00:19:37 Speaker 3

Uh, I think that’s a very interesting question and that really motivated what we’re doing in the research the entire design of our understanding of how we want to do this.

00:19:47 Speaker 3

Is really built on.

00:19:48 Speaker 3

How we are thinking about inclusive education, the term inclusion.

00:19:52 Speaker 3

We think that is really very under conceptualized.

00:19:56 Speaker 3

We think that is such.

00:19:57 Speaker 3

Above development word, now that people just really use the term inclusion and we, we also think that you know.

00:20:08 Speaker 3

We don’t think that there is there. There is a specific definition of inclusion that will be A1 size fits all. A kind of definition, right?

00:20:19 Speaker 3

We think that we should put more thought into what we consider not just inclusive education, but how we research.

00:20:28 Speaker 3

Inclusive education.

00:20:29 Speaker 3

And so we can’t be talking about inclusivity when we are not, you know, also trying to see how we are aligning that to our practice of knowing about inclusivity.

00:20:41 Speaker 3

So that is what is really informing what we are doing.

00:20:43 Speaker 3

We think that inclusion is out there and we think that really engaging with people lived experiences of what inclusion might mean to them in similar and different contexts would give us a better understanding of what.

00:20:56 Speaker 3

That really is.

00:20:57 Speaker 3

And that doesn’t really apply to 1 context that has been described.

00:21:01 Speaker 3

As underdeveloped or.

00:21:04 Speaker 3

But we might just be really surprised to see that these are things that cause across, you know, very many diverse contexts.

00:21:12 Speaker 3

So yes, inclusion is inclusion.

00:21:15 Speaker 3

But it’s something that needs to, we need to, we need to conceptualize more.

00:21:20 Speaker 3

We need to theorize more.

00:21:21 Speaker 3

We need to think about more.

00:21:23 Speaker 3

And we need to engage with more through what people, how people make meaning of what that might mean within outside the education space.

00:21:34 Speaker 2

I I think from when we were writing the bids.

00:21:39 Speaker 2

You know, there’s this sort of pressure to pin down what you mean by inclusion and we, you know we’ve been reading about these things and writing about them for years and you know we obviously had a sort of starting point.

00:21:50 Speaker 2

So, you know, UNESCO has got some quite useful, UM, definitions of what it means to be included in in education.

00:22:00 Speaker 2

And one of the framings that we’re bringing to the project is the idea you know is Amartya Sen’s capability approach and so one of the ways we’re thinking about it is you know he, he, he says you know kind of famous questions that he posed.

00:22:13 Speaker 2

Was equality of what?

00:22:16 Speaker 2

And we are one of our starting points for this research.

00:22:20 Speaker 2

Is inclusion in what you know, what does it mean to young people and to their teachers?

00:22:24 Speaker 2

For UM.

00:22:26 Speaker 2

For them to be included or excluded from their learning.

00:22:29 Speaker 2

And so by using the storytelling approach, UM, that’s something we’re really trying to understand.

00:22:33 Speaker 2

Like, you know.

00:22:34 Speaker 2

Inclusion in what from their perspectives.

00:22:39 Speaker 1

And that’s great.

00:22:40 Speaker 1

And that really talks into as well, the power of storytelling.

00:22:45 Speaker 1

Which I think is really important.

00:22:46 Speaker 1

I’m a huge fan of storytelling in my own research, and I just think storytelling on any kind of, UM, not just to do with education in lots of different ways.

00:22:55 Speaker 1

As we’ve already touched on, this is such a powerful form to get information across and people narrative.

00:23:02 Speaker 1

So in relation to your research, what do you mean by storytelling?

00:23:07 Speaker 1

Another big question for you.

00:23:11 Speaker 4

I think that’s a it’s a really.

00:23:12 Speaker 4

Good question and a little bit like inclusion.

00:23:16 Speaker 4

You know, it’s quite a fashionable term right now.

00:23:20 Speaker 4

There’s, you know, so many.

00:23:22 Speaker 4

Uhm, ways that it’s coming up and talked about and a lot of excitement about it.

00:23:30 Speaker 4

You know, sometimes in academia and sometimes less so in academia, but not necessarily that much clear conceptualization of what?

00:23:41 Speaker 4

It is.

00:23:42 Speaker 4

Methodologically speaking.

00:23:45 Speaker 4

So I think for us, one of the things that has helped drive our interest in working together is a shared sense of what we mean by storytelling that has come together over time.

00:23:58 Speaker 4

And it so it’s really important to be clear about what we mean.

00:24:02 Speaker 4

So when we’re talking about storytelling, we’re focusing not just on the stories that are produced, but on the process of how stories are told.

00:24:11 Speaker 4

Old, which means that storytelling.

00:24:14 Speaker 4

We’re looking at storytelling as a relational activity.

00:24:17 Speaker 4

It has someone who is telling a story and someone who is listening to the story at the same time, and both of those aspects are important to understanding storytelling.

00:24:29 Speaker 4

We also look at storytelling.

00:24:32 Speaker 4

As a creative and iterative process, which means that we are not using this methodology in search of the story.

00:24:42 Speaker 4

You know a singular story the right story.

00:24:46 Speaker 4

But more seeing storytelling, particularly autobiographical storytelling, which is what we’re working with as being about the way that we make sense of our experiences to ourselves and to others.

00:25:02 Speaker 4

And that means that you have multiple versions of a story that you might.

00:25:07 Speaker 4

And part of what we’re doing methodologically is working through those different versions so that the person who is telling the story can craft the version that they choose to craft.

00:25:19 Speaker 4

Through that process, so.

00:25:20 Speaker 4

So therefore you have to also have lots of different ways of being creative because stories are expressed not just in words, they’re expressed in many other ways.

00:25:32 Speaker 4

And as researchers and as facilitators, we then want to bring all those different dimensions into the.

00:25:39 Speaker 4

Storytelling process so when so when I.

00:25:42 Speaker 4

Say that it’s.

00:25:43 Speaker 4

Creative I mean that we use lots of different forms of creative expression.

00:25:47 Speaker 4

So we might use theater, we might use.

00:25:48 Speaker 4

Movement we might use.

00:25:50 Speaker 4

Making or sculpture or drawing or.

00:25:55 Speaker 4

Silence or creative writing or music.

00:25:58 Speaker 4

So any form of expression could potentially be part of a storytelling process.

00:26:06 Speaker 4

But what we’re also thinking about is how does thinking about story structure help you to move through those different expressions of what the story is?

00:26:19 Speaker 4

So I guess that’s not, it’s not a very I’ve not given you a very academic definition, but.

00:26:25 Speaker 4

More a kind of.

00:26:27 Speaker 4

Sort of what, what, what does it really mean in practice that we do and I think that.

00:26:34 Speaker 4

That that could hopefully be helpful for students to hear because sometimes we get a bit lost in the in the theory and don’t really come down to land on what it actually means in practice.

00:26:50 Speaker 1

So with that in mind, when you’re saying that, it’s not you.

00:26:52 Speaker 1

Know you haven’t given.

00:26:53 Speaker 1

A particular academic kind of response to that.

00:26:57 Speaker 1

So my next question would be then what makes storytelling research so for students that may be?

00:27:04 Speaker 1

Uhm, haven’t considered using this kind of methodology before.

00:27:08 Speaker 1

Maybe in the past they’ve been used to using.

00:27:11 Speaker 1

May be quite quantitative.

00:27:13 Speaker 1

Kind of methodologies or uhm, they use more traditional kind of interviewing techniques?

00:27:20 Speaker 1

Uhm, could you just explain to him a bit more that what makes storytelling research?

00:27:25 Speaker 3

The question about, you know, what makes storytelling research?

00:27:30 Speaker 3

I, I, well, I think the response to that is perhaps to think about what we constitute as research in very simple terms.

00:27:37 Speaker 3

What does Social Research do?

00:27:39 Speaker 3

What’s the purpose of, let’s say, qualitative research?

00:27:44 Speaker 3

We, we classify which we will classify storytelling on the simply I think it is.

00:27:52 Speaker 3

About working with people to understand their realities and explore how these might in turn generate knowledge that creates an understanding of the issues that we as researchers are concerned with.

00:28:04 Speaker 3

If that’s the case, then definitely there is no question about, you know, whether storytelling is a research or what.

00:28:12 Speaker 3

Makes it a research, but it is an approach that does exactly that, only it does this through a, I would say an epistemological and ontological process that tends towards being more inclusive, you know, one that’s kind of aims to create.

00:28:27 Speaker 3

Uh, to a great extent.

00:28:29 Speaker 3

A space where traditional research power hierarchies are flattened.

00:28:34 Speaker 3

Uh, storytelling as a research practice also tends to move our ways of knowing in a traditionally central academic space to something that is less exclusionary, a less exclusionary space in that sense.

00:28:52 Speaker 3

So that’s that there might.

00:28:54 Speaker 3

I’ve read around arguments that say, well, you know, you can just.

00:28:58 Speaker 3

We tell stories all the time.

00:29:00 Speaker 3

I mean, we get people to talk to us about things that are happening with them.

00:29:04 Speaker 3

How can we then classify that kind of knowledge that we get as storytelling and students might actually grapple with defending that, you know, in to some maybe examiners.

00:29:19 Speaker 3

Supervisors, for example, who might?

00:29:21 Speaker 3

Not be taken to the idea of just going out there.

00:29:24 Speaker 3

To get.

00:29:25 Speaker 3

Stories from people.

00:29:26 Speaker 3

I would say that the reality that, you know, a storytelling approach tend to align with more indigenous ways of knowing, you know, that are not typically academic.

00:29:36 Speaker 3

Ways of knowing does not take away from, you know, it’s research.

00:29:42 Speaker 3

It’s the potential that it has to help us to understand the realities that research set out to, to understand, to explore the lived experiences of people, to engage, to connect in ways.

00:29:55 Speaker 3

You know that.

00:29:56 Speaker 3

The research a researcher under participant would normally do, and it’s a question of knowing as a research and what you are using the storytelling approach for.

00:30:05 Speaker 3

What are you going out there to find out?

00:30:07 Speaker 3

Why are you going out there to do this kind of thing?

00:30:10 Speaker 3

How can you justify the ethical implications of this?

00:30:14 Speaker 3

All of this feed into the approach.

00:30:16 Speaker 3

It fits into the design, feeds into how you carry out risk and storytelling research and I think that that is core.

00:30:22 Speaker 3

Uh, to understanding why it is research in the first place.

00:30:28 Speaker 1

I think there’s something to be said as well.

00:30:29 Speaker 1

Isn’t there about the?

00:30:32 Speaker 1

Output being accessible too often accessible to people that aren’t in the academic sphere.

00:30:37 Speaker 1

That’s still important, that this work is you know, reaches and that they understand.

00:30:42 Speaker 1

And what’s come out of it?

00:30:43 Speaker 1

And the lessons learn.

00:30:44 Speaker 1

And it’s a really accessible kind of output, I think, which is really important.

00:30:49 Speaker 4

I was just.

00:30:49 Speaker 4

Thinking about the question, Jennifer’s answer to the question and I think.

00:30:56 Speaker 4

Another part of the answer is that.

00:31:00 Speaker 4

If we take a step back and look critically at the field of Social Research and qualitative research, we can identify certain biases, historical and current biases, within our own field of research.

00:31:17 Speaker 4

I mean, there are many.

00:31:18 Speaker 4

There’s no point listing them all here, but certainly one of them is that it’s heavily text based.

00:31:25 Speaker 4

So if you think about the process of interviewing for example, or focus groups, the researcher decides the questions, goes and asks the questions of a group of people or an individual rights down there.

00:31:37 Speaker 4

Answers and then decides what the those answers mean.

00:31:42 Speaker 4

And then writes about.

00:31:44 Speaker 4

So storytelling is research in in that it makes us question some of those assumptions about what counts as knowledge, who gets to decide the meaning of that knowledge, and how that knowledge is then used.

00:32:02 Speaker 4

And I think that that’s one of the really.

00:32:04 Speaker 4

Interesting features of it, as you said Emma, that the story itself takes on a life of its own which is not controlled by the researcher.

00:32:14 Speaker 4

You know, the person who’s told the story can decide what they’re doing with it.

00:32:17 Speaker 4

So where does that leave?

00:32:19 Speaker 4

You know what the role of the researcher and how do we take account of all the different forms of knowledge that are created in the storytelling process?

00:32:27 Speaker 4

So all of those questions then come in to thinking about how storytelling is research.

00:32:34 Speaker 4

And I think that if we really engage with them, it can potentially help us broaden our horizons of how we see research.

00:32:47 Speaker 2

And I think if I, I again, building on those two answers for me, coming in with a background in education, one of the reasons storytelling research is so fascinating to me, or the idea of stories as research is, you know, my work is, is really rooted in social, cultural ideas around how people learn.

00:33:07 Speaker 2

Is about people learning together, and you learn through the conversations that you have.

00:33:13 Speaker 2

And actually, more conventional forms of qualitative research sort of really contradict that idea of collective learning, as Joanna and Jennifer were saying, because there’s all this power, so you’re controlling that knowledge.

00:33:23 Speaker 2

You’re not opening yourself up to come to being.

00:33:27 Speaker 2

To learning from it and.

00:33:31 Speaker 2

I really like what Walter Benjamin says about the difference between a story and a piece of information and a piece of information is sort of, he says.

00:33:42 Speaker 2

It’s kind of shot through with guidance on how to understand that and that’s what a lot.

00:33:46 Speaker 2

Of other qualitative research comes with.

00:33:49 Speaker 2

It’s kind of tells you how to read something, whereas what a story is, it doesn’t come with that guidance.

00:33:55 Speaker 2

It’s up to you to interpret it and that’s.

00:33:57 Speaker 2

Where I find really exciting is how kind of storytelling as research doesn’t.

00:34:03 Speaker 2

Give people the answers.

00:34:05 Speaker 2

It just helped people to think about issues in different ways and that’s, I’m sure that’s a quote from one of our articles or blogs, because I feel like I’ve said that, or we’ve written that lots of times before, but it’s about this kind of what.

00:34:17 Speaker 2

And Hannah Aaron would call this objective in between or what Santos would call the contact zone.

00:34:23 Speaker 2

I think for me, storytelling can be researched and is really powerful as research because it opens you up to seeing these spaces where people are coming together to learn together through the through the narrative of the story.

00:34:38 Speaker 1

OK, now you just mentioned your blog, which I’d just like to.

00:34:42 Speaker 1

Actually, Faith did you have something to say? And then I’ll come back to the blog.

00:34:46 Speaker 1

Sorry, Faith.

00:34:47 Speaker 5

Yeah, I mean, I wanted to add to what Alison just said, I also think that, you know, using storytelling, it really goes beyond the instrumentalisation of research participants, especially those that we view to be from poor backgrounds because it does give participants the agency and the freedom to decide what stories they want to tell.

00:35:13 Speaker 1

Brilliant. Thank you.

00:35:16 Speaker 1

So Alison you mentioned the blog and the blog on the BAICE website which all the students should take a look at.

00:35:22 Speaker 1

It’s really great, really accessible and super interesting.

00:35:26 Speaker 1

But that also reflects on the risks associated with using storytelling as a methodology.

00:35:31 Speaker 1

Could you explain these a bit more to the listener and maybe students are considering using these methodologies maybe?

00:35:37 Speaker 1

Any advice that they can have to counter these risks?

00:35:41 Speaker 6

So this this is actually a question that I brought up earlier so.

00:35:47 Speaker 6

In work that I in storytelling work that I’ve been using.

00:35:51 Speaker 6

Uhm, outside of the body project, but also definitely strongly related to.

00:35:57 Speaker 6

Was in working with what we’d call vulnerable groups of people.

00:36:03 Speaker 6

From people with migrant refugee asylum seeking backgrounds.

00:36:08 Speaker 6

Uhm, people who experience various forms of violence is on a daily basis.

00:36:15 Speaker 6

And never in storytelling would you want to exclude anyone from being able to participate in this process of, you know, having the opportunity to tell your own story using your own forms of expression and getting it out there.

00:36:31 Speaker 6

And one of the concerns that was brought to my attention was around retraumatization was one of them, but also it’s I think in thinking of risk when it comes to the storytelling process is it’s in, you know, the risk that sits with the participants or the people, the storytellers themselves, you know you are opening up stories and experiences of yourself that you know you wouldn’t have told otherwise and then also, as a facilitator, you can never be prepared for all there is, nor can you list them.

00:37:14 Speaker 6

Things happen spontaneously in the workshop. That puts you in a, you know, ethical conundrum. And so in thinking about risk is not just about you mitigating risk for the participants themselves, but also caring for yourself and your colleagues within that process.

00:37:35 Speaker 6

And I think when it came when in thinking about the risk of you know people feeling deep discomfort, people having trauma resurface and more it’s what we have bought into a kind of a support network or forms.

00:37:55 Speaker 6

Of care.

00:37:57 Speaker 6

What comes over the top of my head is that we put things in place.

00:38:02 Speaker 6

Four people so like psychological support, support and trauma, social worker of these children and more.

00:38:10 Speaker 6

And if we are working with organisations, is also negotiating with organisations, what forms of care is important and other people that we need present.

00:38:21 Speaker 6

In those workshop spaces, uhm.

00:38:25 Speaker 6

Also, what I think is very important is the closed group when it comes to the the storytelling.

00:38:35 Speaker 6

The whole point is to have a closed space, almost.

00:38:38 Speaker 6

It’s the facilitators, it’s the participant, and you people is not meant to come in and out, you know, you can’t just allow anybody to permeate the space, because there is.

00:38:51 Speaker 6

It’s you.

00:38:51 Speaker 6

You’re so highly vulnerable when you’re telling a story, any story.

00:38:57 Speaker 6

And so within the there’s also the fact that people, at the end of the day, their stories for them.

00:39:05 Speaker 6

So in terms of like dissemination or shading it further it they really become the ones who decide that and they’re always if we could help them figure out whether it’s something they would want to share and the implications of shading in different spaces.

00:39:21 Speaker 6

As for the facilitators, it’s so, so important to debrief with one another.

00:39:28 Speaker 6

And sometimes what might affect you might not affect the next person, and so you cannot always foresee what might cause you deep discomfort.

00:39:39 Speaker 6

Uhm, you know, compared to someone else.

00:39:42 Speaker 6

So definitely debriefing and having someone to speak to afterwards.

00:39:46 Speaker 6

And it definitely helps that we have one another to speak to.

00:39:50 Speaker 6

You know we’ve, we earlier we spoke about what kind, what kind of work would go into it and how much time we actually spend reflecting on the day that has just passed.

00:40:02 Speaker 6

Or sharing with one another something that has happened in the day that maybe no one else has seen?

00:40:08 Speaker 6

It’s because your eyes can’t be everywhere all at the same time, so it’s also just having the time afterwards as facilitators to do.

00:40:15 Speaker 6

But even and speak with one another and support one another and so.

00:40:20 Speaker 6

I think, yeah, that’s it’s the point that I’m making is that I can’t at all in any way list various kinds of risks that would come from this.

00:40:31 Speaker 6

UM, but that’s the risk.

00:40:34 Speaker 6

In different ways is a part of it.

00:40:39 Speaker 7

Alright, so just following on what is Roger said the whole notion of which that’s.

00:40:47 Speaker 7

One cannot fully answer page all of the risk out there.

00:40:53 Speaker 7

We can only try your best before going onto the field.

00:40:58 Speaker 7


00:40:58 Speaker 7

But then again, I think as facilitators while on the field, one has to be continuously reflective because?

00:41:09 Speaker 7

Uhm, within this situation?

00:41:13 Speaker 7

Look, it look like there’s no risk.

00:41:16 Speaker 7

But when you go back and think about what has happened or what is happening for time, you can then envisage, likely with writing for arising form in an incident or something that happened.

00:41:28 Speaker 7

So I think as well such as we should continuously.

00:41:32 Speaker 7

You cannot fully anticipate audience even why in this section sometimes you would encounter or BTC likely which possibilities after?

00:41:44 Speaker 7

Don’t search.

00:41:45 Speaker 7

Thank you.

00:41:48 Speaker 1

I think that’s so interesting and you both really touch on that kind of element of when you’re working with people and they’re giving their story that it’s the respect that’s required around it and it is actually real privilege I think to be in that space and to be receiving that story and.

00:42:02 Speaker 1

I really like how that was put across.

00:42:06 Speaker 1

Thank you.

00:42:08 Speaker 1

So I I guess.

00:42:09 Speaker 1

With when people are doing students and.

00:42:12 Speaker 1

Conducting research or.

00:42:14 Speaker 1

Uhm, more advanced academics are conducting research then it’s.

00:42:18 Speaker 1

There’s always that kind of, UM, having to evidence things, isn’t there?

00:42:21 Speaker 1

There’s always that kind of having to back things up.

00:42:23 Speaker 1

So how do you know?

00:42:24 Speaker 1

In this circumstance, ’cause.

00:42:25 Speaker 1

Obviously it’s not like you’re doing, UM.

00:42:29 Speaker 1

Research that you’re like in a in a hard science that you’re backing up or that you can check or UM, so how do you know that story?

00:42:37 Speaker 1

Is true.

00:42:41 Speaker 7

OK, so there are two ways to look at that question.

00:42:46 Speaker 7

Now, if the story is true, you can look at it from the angle of whether the story is genuine or authentic, or you can look at it from the angle of what.

00:43:00 Speaker 7

The process of getting this story is rigorous, all right, if you recall what Joanna said.

00:43:08 Speaker 7

And for our research, what storytelling means to us is not the idea of this perfect story, but the process of construction.

00:43:19 Speaker 7

You know the meaning, how people make sense of something that that has happened to them or something that is happening to them.

00:43:28 Speaker 7

You know how the constructor can construct meaning of their lived experiences, so in that sense.

00:43:34 Speaker 7

The focus of research will not be to identify whether the story is true or not, but trying to understand how they have been able to construct meaning from the way they have presented the story.

00:43:49 Speaker 7

Then when it comes to the other dimension of regal, the process of getting this story.

00:43:55 Speaker 7

How are we truly authentically getting this story as it should be done?

00:44:01 Speaker 7

I think Joanna will be able to answer that better.

00:44:05 Speaker 7

Yeah, I mean it.

00:44:07 Speaker 7

It’s a.

00:44:07 Speaker 4

Really interesting question, and I think as Jane said the question of whether or not the story is true, it kind of assumes that there is a truth to be found in this story.

00:44:21 Speaker 4

So if we let.

00:44:22 Speaker 4

Go of that idea and recognize that the story is about, as Jane said, is about the storyteller making meaning.

00:44:32 Speaker 4

Through the story, then, the question is not whether or not it’s true, but is this the best version of the story that the storyteller wants to create?

00:44:42 Speaker 4

And so the therefore I guess when we look at sort of what we mean by quality or rigor and storytelling, you know you can do storytelling it at lots of different levels of depth and the process that we’ve been talking about is a five day process at a minimum.

00:45:02 Speaker 4

That’s very different from a one hour interview, you know, and that’s not to say that you couldn’t get a narrative from a one hour interview, but it will be different from the type of story that we’re talking about that is created through an extended process.

00:45:21 Speaker 4

So I think the question of truth in this story is really more about.

00:45:30 Speaker 4

Uhm, the level of expression that is in the story.

00:45:34 Speaker 4

And when you see a story where someone is very confident in their expression of that story, it.

00:45:44 Speaker 4

Really comes across in the story itself.

00:45:47 Speaker 4

There’s a quality to that story that is different from other ones.

00:45:52 Speaker 4

And that I think is what we’re hoping for, you know, for participants to feel like they can they can achieve in their own story and that looks very different for each person.

00:46:02 Speaker 4

It’s not the same.

00:46:04 Speaker 4

The stories are all different, just like the people are all different.

00:46:09 Speaker 1

So you started.

00:46:09 Speaker 1

To talk a bit there about that process of uhm, that it’s, you know, it’s an extended process.

00:46:15 Speaker 1

It isn’t just something that you do very quickly, so could you maybe let students know maybe what a typical day looks like?

00:46:23 Speaker 1

Uhm, when you’re doing storytelling research and how do you facilitate?

00:46:29 Speaker 1

The approach what do you need to be prepared for.

00:46:33 Speaker 2

Well, I think the first thing to say is that this is not an off the shelf method that you can.

00:46:41 Speaker 2

Do in this context and this context, and over here and with these people.

00:46:46 Speaker 2

There’s a there’s a set of common sort of principles and activities that we use in this approach that we might use in different contexts.

00:46:55 Speaker 2

But the actual way that workshop would happen in different contexts is very dependent on the, UM, the research question that you’re interested in the people that you’re working with.

00:47:07 Speaker 2

The time that you have.

00:47:08 Speaker 2

The age of the people that you know, the familiarity of the group with each other and very practically your budget is a really, you know, big consideration.

00:47:18 Speaker 2

So you’ve got all these things and every workshop would, you know, we would spend weeks and weeks planning and.

00:47:27 Speaker 2

But in terms of the sort of format I guess.

00:47:33 Speaker 2

And again, others feel free to come in who’ve done it in different.

00:47:35 Speaker 2

Contexts but the.

00:47:37 Speaker 2

The idea is so the end the end result of the workshop is a for each participant too.

00:47:46 Speaker 2

Come away with a 3 to 5 minute digital story, which will be a narration of their story over a series of images that is recorded on a on a tablet.

00:47:55 Speaker 2

So and that will be their story.

00:47:58 Speaker 2

And in the process of getting there involves a whole range of activities that help people to sort of zoom out and see their whole life and then zoom in on a particular issue and maybe zoom out again in again and moving between these different kind of levels of thinking about their story across the week and then.

00:48:18 Speaker 2

Helping them to.

00:48:21 Speaker 2

To kind of decide on the what their story might be about and then helping them to generate a construct a narrative around that around that uhm instance or occasion or event that they that they have chosen to write about and.

00:48:36 Speaker 2

We would do that through a whole a huge range of activities on an individual level and in a group level really high energy.

00:48:46 Speaker 2

Activities and then much more quiet and reflective ones come, you know, using, as Joanna said earlier, lots of different kind of modes of expression.

00:48:54 Speaker 2

So drama and art and collage and.

00:48:58 Speaker 2

And so on and so on and then uh.

00:49:01 Speaker 2

Are uh really core?

00:49:04 Speaker 2

Sort of strand of the UM, workshop is the story circle.

00:49:09 Speaker 2

Uh, because this is a this is a process that’s based on iterative story development, and the story will change and develop across the across the week or across the period of the workshop.

00:49:18 Speaker 2

And in the story circle, UM, the participants come together and share their story, and they’ll do that multiple times.

00:49:25 Speaker 2

Uhm, and in each story circle, they would have a a critical friend and there will be prompt questions.

00:49:31 Speaker 2

So even though the story that they tell is is very much a personal process, sorry, a personal story, the process.

00:49:38 Speaker 2

Of generating that.

00:49:39 Speaker 2

Story it is a collective activity.

00:49:44 Speaker 2

So that that is a kind of snapshot, but then there would be loads of different ways that it would vary.

00:49:48 Speaker 2

So Faith and I are doing a storytelling process with, UM, adolescent girls and Zimbabwe and most of whom have only.

00:49:57 Speaker 2

Had a couple of years of formal schooling and so one of the UM.

00:50:03 Speaker 2

Kind of tweaks.

00:50:04 Speaker 2

That to the design.

00:50:05 Speaker 2

So this is all based on Joanna sort of approach that she’s bringing into this group and one of the tweaks that we made for those involving research was this.

00:50:13 Speaker 2

The entire workshop is text free, so it’s a it was a week long workshop on storytelling without using any text and we had loads of different ways of helping the girls to articulate UM.

00:50:24 Speaker 2

Their story without having to read anything or write anything down.

00:50:27 Speaker 2

And that was a, you know, a big attempt to make that that workshop really inclusive of.

00:50:32 Speaker 2

You know, the girl who had the lead.

00:50:33 Speaker 2

Just the least educationally stability to be able to read and write, but making it the same for everybody so she didn’t feel like she was losing out by not being able to read and write.

00:50:42 Speaker 2

And I’m sure other people have loads.

00:50:44 Speaker 2

Of different examples on how it might look different in different contexts with different people.

00:50:49 Speaker 1

I think that’s really important, isn’t it?

00:50:50 Speaker 1

The contextuality of it is just is really important and even.

00:50:57 Speaker 1

You’re saying the workshops adapt and change depending who you’re working with and et cetera, but do you think it’s also important for students if they’re going to come?

00:51:07 Speaker 1

Do this methodology and to make it part of their research.

00:51:11 Speaker 1

To do some level of training as well.

00:51:13 Speaker 1

Uhm, I know I had a great opportunity to attend some workshops myself and also making your own digital stories.

00:51:19 Speaker 1

Really helpful, isn’t it?

00:51:20 Speaker 1

Because then you understand the process that other people are going through.

00:51:25 Speaker 1

Nodding to agree.


Thank you.

00:51:30 Speaker 5

Alright, so let me first speak to my experience. I started considering and using storytelling in 2017 and prior to that I.

00:51:41 Speaker 5

Had never thought.

00:51:42 Speaker 5

Of it as a method that could be used in academic research.

00:51:47 Speaker 5

And I I became exposed to storytelling.

00:51:51 Speaker 5

By reading other people’s work and subsequently using it in the small projects that I was, I was part of them.

00:51:59 Speaker 5

And I guess the 10 for me was when I attended a workshop, a storytelling workshop in Cape Town in 2018, where I saw the potential actually of the method and decided that this is what I wanted to do with most of the projects that I was going to be part of their.

00:52:19 Speaker 5

After so knowing what I know now.

00:52:23 Speaker 5

About the potential and the challenges that that come with using storytelling that Yusra mentioned, I would definitely encourage anyone who’s thinking about using storytelling to think about the things that we have already discussed and also be really honest to themselves in terms of why they want to use.

00:52:44 Speaker 5

Storytelling as a method.

00:52:45 Speaker 5

So for example, you would ask yourself questions such as.

00:52:49 Speaker 5

Why am I interested in and why?

00:52:52 Speaker 5

And what is it that storytelling can do that other research methods cannot do?

00:52:58 Speaker 5

And what’s in it for the participants?

00:53:02 Speaker 5

What is?

00:53:03 Speaker 5

What is it that the people participating are going to get out of the process and out of the output?

00:53:09 Speaker 5

So for me those are very important questions to ask before considering storytelling.

00:53:15 Speaker 5

And I mean similar to choosing context that was discussed earlier.

00:53:21 Speaker 5

You would need to be sincere about the intention because storytelling is beyond hearing and listening to people stories.

00:53:30 Speaker 5

It was a lot in the process and after we’ve actually exited the field as we call it research, so I think.

00:53:41 Speaker 5

Most of the answers to those questions would require reading widely, obviously.

00:53:47 Speaker 5

What storytelling and other methods?

00:53:50 Speaker 5

Because then that’s going to help you make the decision and the choice, but most importantly.

00:53:56 Speaker 5

I’m not sure that it would be a good idea to just go to the field and say I’m going to you very telling without getting some orientation in the form of it can be seminars, it can be workshops like I attended or some maybe attending.

00:54:16 Speaker 5

Webinars on storytelling?

00:54:18 Speaker 5

Uh, because I think, like I said it, there is a lot involved in the storing storytelling process.

00:54:25 Speaker 5

Like what USRA and others have already highlighted.

00:54:28 Speaker 5

It’s quite a lot of ethical challenge.

00:54:30 Speaker 5

Changes that would come with it for both facilitators and participants.

00:54:36 Speaker 5

So for example, you have emotions involved, you have time, we have money involved and other risks that are part of the process.

00:54:45 Speaker 5

So I guess as someone who has been both.

00:54:50 Speaker 5

A participant in the facilitator in the storytelling process.

00:54:55 Speaker 5

And seeing how rewarding the storytelling process is for both participants and researchers or facilitators alike, I would definitely encourage anyone considering this.

00:55:10 Speaker 5

If at all possible, attend a storytelling web shop.

00:55:15 Speaker 5

And be a participant first, then you will be in a position to be able to facilitate because you learn a lot.

00:55:22 Speaker 5

Uh, by just being a participant?



00:55:26 Speaker 1

You really do.

00:55:27 Speaker 1

I think understanding the process and what the participant goes through is just invaluable.

00:55:33 Speaker 1

Jennifer, did you have something to add?

00:55:35 Speaker 3

I was just saying that I totally agree to everything that Faith has said and which really feeds into what you strong was saying earlier about, you know, all that needs to be considered.

00:55:46 Speaker 3

In the process of what to prepare.

00:55:48 Speaker 3

For I think.

00:55:49 Speaker 3

For a PhD student, in addition to that is really.

00:55:52 Speaker 3

Be realistically thinking about what is possible within the scope of a PhD study.

00:55:58 Speaker 3

You know, the time limits that I involved, you know, for you to think about because you might have, you know, yeah, you would have to think about, you know, the restrictions that you might have, you know, it depends in some context, for example because of.

00:56:11 Speaker 3

All of these.

00:56:12 Speaker 3

Strong ethical implications that are there.

00:56:17 Speaker 3

You know I’m working in Uganda now where you take it may take you like 22 months to get ethical. Clarence Forest or attended research that is as intensive and rigorous as we are. You know we; we are advocating. So those are some kind of issues to think about but also.

00:56:34 Speaker 3

The elements of collaboration in facilitating a storytelling workshop is really, really, in my experience, really key.

00:56:43 Speaker 3

I think about, you know, haven’t also been a participant and a facilitator.

00:56:48 Speaker 3

I think about how I would have gone through the process if I didn’t have a Joanna there, or Alison or a Faith, but.

00:56:55 Speaker 3

You know, and now that we’re going forward with it, I still, you know, think about how really useful it is to have that kind of collaboration in in really successfully pulling off.

00:57:08 Speaker 3

A workshop, it’s it.

00:57:10 Speaker 3

It comes in.

00:57:11 Speaker 3

Just not just about the friendship that you would need to lean on if you if you can’t have that, but also the care you know the handling of the tensions and the pressures that would come in, the constant reflection on your, you know, your own facilitation.

00:57:29 Speaker 3

And you know how that’s working for everyone, you know, reaching out to the participants.

00:57:34 Speaker 3

Sometimes it’s also really.

00:57:37 Speaker 3

Easier or even doable when you have that collaboration.

00:57:41 Speaker 3

So for a PhD student who might intend to be a lone worker.

00:57:45 Speaker 3

Uh, in a storytelling approach, you know, it might be important to consider whether that might be possible within the scope of the PhD work, and whether to consider really after the training and everything, getting some kind of support.

00:58:01 Speaker 3

Uh, in that respect, in terms of facilitation, things we’re going through, but also thinking about what that might mean for those who would be supporting, it’s your PhD.

00:58:09 Speaker 3

And when you talk about output, for example, what might they be interested in that and what would they get?

00:58:14 Speaker 3

So all of those kind of, you know things are really like.

00:58:19 Speaker 3

Important to think about for a PG I feel if I’m honest, I would really recommend an early career researcher and a PhD student to maybe consider the storytelling approach, which I think is really uh.

00:58:38 Speaker 3

An interesting a fascinating, fascinating, fascinating, and a useful way to do research even at PhD studies.

00:58:46 Speaker 3

Is what elements of a period of a storytelling approach would be useful could enrich you know your research, you.

00:58:54 Speaker 3

You could go on, you know, after your PhD for example, to do something more elaborate, more extensive.

00:59:00 Speaker 3

You know, if you don’t have the resources and the support to do it at that level.

00:59:04 Speaker 3

But what elements of the storytelling approach?

00:59:06 Speaker 3

Could at this moment more realistically and practically support and enrich your work and maybe think about that more in moving forward with the approach for your PhD.

00:59:18 Speaker 1

Yeah, and the solutions of that as well could be working with like a local organization, couldn’t it?

00:59:22 Speaker 1

I know for my PhD I’ve been working with a local organization that already works strongly with the community, and for them it’s been.

00:59:30 Speaker 1

Uhm, useful process for them as well and sharing the stories for their own advocacy.

00:59:35 Speaker 1

So it’s kind of like it’s not only given me kind of people to work alongside and to help invaluably with, but also it’s to know that it’s of use to them is really important as well, I think.

00:59:48 Speaker 6

So, I mean we’re talking about the storytelling methodology and approach, but.

00:59:53 Speaker 6

Well, what’s, what’s very useful and insightful about the process itself is that there are elements.

01:00:00 Speaker 6

I mean, we’ve also speaking earlier about there are elements of storytelling that can help people do different forms of expression.

01:00:07 Speaker 6

So it’s like Jennifer is definitely there are there are pieces to storytelling that can help people.

01:00:14 Speaker 6

Articulate something.

01:00:16 Speaker 6

You know, one of the one of the activities we do is like there over of life.

01:00:20 Speaker 6

You know, using the metaphorical river in drawing and illustrating it to talk through a a topic or prompt or an experience and so that that that there is an element of the story to the fuller storytelling process that you could use in conjunction perhaps like with.

01:00:40 Speaker 6

With interviewing and so on.

01:00:41 Speaker 6

So it’s not to say that, you know, in order to do storytelling, it’s.

01:00:45 Speaker 6

It’s either or.

01:00:46 Speaker 6

You either you either going to use it or you’re not going to use it.

01:00:49 Speaker 6

But you can take inspiration from the storytelling method itself and incorporate that into the methods that you are interested in you.

01:00:56 Speaker 6

Using and what I also want is I I’m thinking about a friend of mine.

01:01:02 Speaker 6

She takes such keen interest in storytelling, but she is so, so anxious and she cannot imagine herself being in a room facilitating it.

01:01:18 Speaker 6

So like, you know, how do you then uhm, what’s nice about storytelling as a method and in the process itself is that there are different elements to it that you can use.

01:01:32 Speaker 6

To kind of cater to your comfort and what you feel capable of doing.

01:01:37 Speaker 6

And so sometimes it could be a remote facilitation even there is just …so I was also thinking about like you know, if you are interested in the method but you are also so anxious about being the main facilitator.

01:01:51 Speaker 6

Like Jennifer said, having a network of people to support you is super, super important because that’s where your advice lies, your debriefing lies.

01:02:01 Speaker 6

Uhm, but that there are also ways to think creatively about this that can make you feel comfortable in facilitating it differently.

01:02:13 Speaker 6

You don’t have to be super extroverted all the time like everyone in this podcast.

01:02:21 Speaker 1

I guess, like Jennifer Connor said as well, you need to remember sometimes as a PhD student that your PhD hopefully isn’t the last piece of research you’re going to.

01:02:28 Speaker 1

Be involved with.

01:02:29 Speaker 1

So even just touching on an element like you’re saying can be really then lead to more involvement with digital stories or different forms of storytelling over research as well?

01:02:38 Speaker 2

Yeah, I guess, I think one of the things that I love the most about being in this collective is that we all come to it with distinct expertise and interests, and it’s a real embodiment of social cultural learning, which is what my background is in and it’s, you know, it’s happening in practice and I absolutely love that and I it, it runs really counter to this other narrative in academia, which is this kind of this superstar academic who doesn’t need anyone else who has all the, you know, forced our F papers and all the big Pi grants and yeah, exactly. And, and I think the challenge for PhD students is that that.

01:03:27 Speaker 2

That you know.

01:03:29 Speaker 2

Well, it’s actually quite a short period of your academic career overall is really focused on pushing you towards this identity, it being a sort of an independent.

01:03:36 Speaker 2

And research.

01:03:37 Speaker 2

Yeah, not working in a collective.

01:03:39 Speaker 2

And so I think that it’s hard in the PhD to work in a collective because you have to be constantly proving that it’s, you know, independent.

01:03:47 Speaker 2

A thought and that it’s, you know, it’s you own that knowledge generation so you can jump through the hoop of getting the PhD and I think that’s the real.

01:03:56 Speaker 2

It’s, it’s one of the big challenges, right, reflecting back on, you know, having done a PhD, I think, and now supervising students who really want to work collectively, but having to kind of caution them about, you know.

01:04:07 Speaker 2

How far they can go with that within the within the confines of the PhD is really challenging and.

01:04:13 Speaker 2

But I think, you know, again on the other hand, we really don’t want to say that you can’t do this within a PhD in like Bushra and Jennifer.

01:04:20 Speaker 2

And Faith has said it’s about elements of it and Jennifer speaks really articulately about how she had already done her PhD.

01:04:28 Speaker 2

I mean, she can explain it better, but she only got her data when she started looking at storytelling.

01:04:33 Speaker 2

And then it was through understanding storytelling and the kind of epistemological shifts that she went through made her think completely differently about the data that she’d already got.

01:04:44 Speaker 2

You have to say it much more articulately than we can.

01:04:48 Speaker 1

This meant we’d onto actually my last question, Jennifer, but I just want to say before I move to the last question and then I’ll come straight back to Jennifer with that because I don’t want to keep you too long.

01:04:58 Speaker 1

Is there any quick, very quickly, is there any reading that people should be doing?

01:05:02 Speaker 1

And can you signpost people to about digital storytelling?

01:05:07 Speaker 2

Well, I mean, Joanne has written a lot about this, so I’d put you towards.

01:05:12 Speaker 2

Joanne’s work and I I really love and I always come back to Michael Jackson’s work from the politics of story telling. His book. Uhm, I think that’s, you know, really talks really beautifully about.

01:05:25 Speaker 2

You know, especially the thing the question earlier about truth and stories and you know, he’s he writes really wonderfully about.

01:05:31 Speaker 2

You know, even the stories that we tell ourselves in our heads aren’t true because they’re how we make sense of things to ourselves and that, you know, that that really resonates with the work that we do.

01:05:44 Speaker 2

Recently we’ve been thinking about UM, so a lot of Hannah Arendt’s work is obviously very relevant to the work of storytelling and this idea of the subjective in between. But we’re trying to sort of.

01:05:55 Speaker 2

Maybe move away from Hannah Arendt, work a little bit and think about.

01:05:58 Speaker 2

A you thinking about that idea in a different way?

01:06:03 Speaker 2

And Santhosh, his work about contact zones.

01:06:05 Speaker 2

Uhm, I find really helpful in thinking about the kind of intercultural translation and how story stories put you at that point where you’re forced to come to translate and.

01:06:15 Speaker 2

It’s what comes out of that translation that is the really fascinating thing about stories.

01:06:19 Speaker 2

They’d be my top three.

01:06:22 Speaker 1

Right, and I’ll put links to them as well.

01:06:25 Speaker 1

On the BAICE website.

01:06:26 Speaker 1

With their podcast.

01:06:28 Speaker 1

So something that we’re going to be asking all our guests on the podcast, which I’m going to start with Jennifer, just to put you on the spot because of what Alison mentioned earlier is.

01:06:37 Speaker 1

Uhm, what?

01:06:38 Speaker 1

You wish you’d been told as a PhD student that you now know and didn’t know that?

01:06:43 Speaker 3

Well, that’s them.

01:06:44 Speaker 3

I could, I could write the whole thesis on that.

01:06:49 Speaker 3

I tend to keep it very short.

01:06:54 Speaker 3

Very, very short, but I think it’s for me, it’s about, you know.

01:06:59 Speaker 3

What it really means to be a either an insider or outsider in a research process.

01:07:07 Speaker 3

How that is really nuanced and how that doesn’t necessarily.

01:07:13 Speaker 3

Always tie down tight, tight to or only links to your background or where you’ve lived or how much you’ve lived there.

01:07:23 Speaker 3

I’m saying this because of my specific case of having been a Nigerian who was researching Nigeria and I was very at home with the idea, you know, of research.

01:07:33 Speaker 3

In Nigeria, I had a supervisor who was really.

01:07:36 Speaker 3

We who had lot of experience, you know in working in the Nigerian context as well.

01:07:41 Speaker 3

So she really cheered me on but I think she did try to raise my awareness of how sleeping I was constituting myself as a Nigerian and.

01:07:56 Speaker 3

My knowledge of context how that really is.

01:07:58 Speaker 3

To that she, she, she, she.

01:08:00 Speaker 3

** *** signaled from the beginning that you would need to calm down a little bit about what you think you know about context, because that means everything about how you engage with your participants, how you go ahead to even be open enough to know, uh, and to learn from the process.

01:08:20 Speaker 3

I took her advice, of course.

01:08:21 Speaker 1

So trying to get past another like assumptions, trying to trying to get past our assumption.

01:08:23 Speaker 3

Yeah, exactly.

01:08:25 Speaker 3

But I wish that, you know, I had done.

01:08:29 Speaker 3

I I wish that I had really engaged with that more deeply or I have.

01:08:34 Speaker 3

I was really pushed to do that more because it was a shock, you know, to a very large extent when I went into the field and.

01:08:43 Speaker 3

Even though before that I had written all about how I might be an outsider.

01:08:48 Speaker 3

Even though I’m an insider, because I was in a comparative reason.

01:08:52 Speaker 3

That was for between the northern and the southern part of Nigeria.

01:08:57 Speaker 3

And, you know, eventually my entire argument became about how you shouldn’t really homogenize anywhere, even within specific regions of a national boundary.

01:09:07 Speaker 3

So you can’t even homogenize the entire T of the north, for example, but also about.

01:09:12 Speaker 3

The kind of effect that has on the researcher who is going out there and feeling more confident about being, you know, part of the process.

01:09:20 Speaker 3

I’m trying to distinguish themselves from someone who would be a total include outsider, so I think the meaning of otherness.

01:09:27 Speaker 3

In this case has been really deeper that we would think it is and how to really engage with that constantly you know as you go on and not take for granted at all what positionality really means within research.

01:09:42 Speaker 3

I think that’s something I’ve wish I knew more about or I engaged with in a.

01:09:49 Speaker 3

A level at that time.

01:09:52 Speaker 3

I know all about it now at last.

01:09:58 Speaker 1

Obviously, OK, I do, you know, go.

01:10:00 Speaker 7


01:10:04 Speaker 7

I think it’s a.

01:10:05 Speaker 5

For me it’s really a difficult one.

01:10:10 Speaker 5

Yeah, because most of the my PhD research was definitely was driven by my own, my own experiences as a migrant.

01:10:20 Speaker 5

So I understood my personality welfare, but I think knowing what I know now in terms of methodology.

01:10:31 Speaker 5

I would have really considered, uh, using some elements of storytelling because what I did in my PhD was narrative interviews, but I was not familiar with the storytelling methodology then.

01:10:50 Speaker 5

Yeah, but if I would have to go back to the field, I would definitely consider storytelling because I think there’s some rich stories that I missed from.

01:11:03 Speaker 5

Uh, from the participants that I was working with, and I think they those stories may have driven my passion maybe in a different direction, but I do see that there are lot of migration and issue migration and education issues that are very.

01:11:20 Speaker 5

Contentious nowadays, which I feel like I didn’t do justice to then because of my lack of knowledge in terms of methodology.

01:11:30 Speaker 1

Thank you, Joanna.

01:11:34 Speaker 4

Oh, it’s a really.

01:11:36 Speaker 4

I haven’t thought about that for a long time.

01:11:38 Speaker 4

It kind of while since my PhD uhm.

01:11:45 Speaker 4

I remember I remember someone telling me in the course of my PhD I forgot who it was.

01:11:49 Speaker 4

Now I think it was one of my colleagues where I was working that uhm.

01:11:56 Speaker 4

When you’re doing the PhD, it feels like the most important thing that you’ll ever do or ever write.

01:12:01 Speaker 4

And then when you finish it, you realize.

01:12:04 Speaker 4

That it’s probably not.

01:12:07 Speaker 2

That’s what, that’s what blood man told me.

01:12:10 Speaker 4

Is it OK?

01:12:11 Speaker 4

Clearly there’s like a handbook for supervisors where this gets put in it, but I remember, you know, when I was in inside the PhD, It was so hard to keep that perspective because it just felt.

01:12:26 Speaker 4

All consuming like nothing could possibly be more important than what I was doing in.

01:12:31 Speaker 4

The PhD it.

01:12:32 Speaker 4

Was the most important thing I had to think about all the time, you know?

01:12:37 Speaker 4

And it was really only.

01:12:40 Speaker 4

Afterwards that I was able to see that.

01:12:44 Speaker 4

It’s a lot better.

01:12:46 Speaker 4

It would have been a lot better if I could have treated the PA.

01:12:48 Speaker 4

HD more like what it was, which is a stage in an academic career rather than the defining moment of who you are and who.

01:12:58 Speaker 4

You will be forever and ever.

01:13:00 Speaker 4

Uh, so I I think.

01:13:03 Speaker 4

But it’s.

01:13:03 Speaker 4

It’s very hard.

01:13:04 Speaker 4

To do that, because there’s so much about the structure of a PhD that pushes it into every corner of your being.

01:13:14 Speaker 4

That it can really take over.

01:13:15 Speaker 4

And I think I was lucky that when I was doing my PhD I was working and I had two kids, so.

01:13:26 Speaker 1

What’s grounded developers then as well, do it.

01:13:26 Speaker 4

I did.

01:13:26 Speaker 4

It part time.

01:13:28 Speaker 1

You’ve got to yeah, can’t.

01:13:30 Speaker 1

Compute, so I had.

01:13:31 Speaker 4

To sometimes leave it, you know.

01:13:33 Speaker 4

Yeah, but, but aside from that, I think, you know, it doesn’t.

01:13:38 Speaker 4

I wish I had known that.

01:13:40 Speaker 4

It doesn’t have to define what you will be doing as an academic in the future.

01:13:46 Speaker 4

Yeah, you know, you can, you can go through the PhD and you can also leave it behind, although of course you still take it with you, but you know you can go in other directions.

01:13:55 Speaker 1

We can shift focus on meeting, yeah.

01:13:58 Speaker 4

Yeah, yeah.

01:13:59 Speaker 4

But at the time, you know, it just felt like it was so…

01:14:02 Speaker 1

That’s really important for students to hear, actually.

01:14:03 Speaker 4

It’s just.

01:14:06 Speaker 4

Yeah, yeah.

01:14:08 Speaker 4

It will be over.

01:14:09 Speaker 4

And you can. You can.

01:14:10 Speaker 1

Wrong night.

01:14:11 Speaker 4

There can be other pathways that you don’t see when you’re in it.

01:14:14 Speaker 4

They’re just sort of hidden because you’re so, you know, focused on the PhD.

01:14:22 Speaker 6

As someone who has not yet done their PhD, I have been battling with it for a long for a longish time, so there are so many people who are encouraging me to do the PhD as this natural next step in my academic career.

01:14:47 Speaker 6

And I still hold this thing where I say that.

01:14:53 Speaker 6

I’ve always imagined that any PhD I do will become part of something else.

01:15:07 Speaker 6

So what I mean by that is that I’ve always imagined that a PhD and the work I do comes alive.

01:15:13 Speaker 6

And that dissertation and the red robe and the certificate that says I’ve officially clocked university.

01:15:19 Speaker 6

Uhm, will be the formality of it, but that I would want to create something that I can return to once I’ve submitted everything and.

01:15:31 Speaker 6

I haven’t found what it is that I want to do.

01:15:36 Speaker 6

At times I feel like there’s a clock ticking.

01:15:39 Speaker 6

You know something that’s chasing me there saying, you know you are turning 51, uh, you’re gonna have to start doing a PhD Sometime real soon if you want to be eligible for funding.

01:15:54 Speaker 6

And so I’m defiant in that I’m actually going to go study a second master’s because.

01:16:01 Speaker 6

It’s something that’s going to contribute to the to the actual career that I’m forging and creating, but I don’t, I’ve not yet let go of the PhD So I think I’m in a very fortunate space and place because I have people who have already done the PhDs and I have a support network of, you know, people who established in their various careers.

01:16:26 Speaker 6

And then I always make use of my support network is 1.

01:16:31 Speaker 6

Whether Joanna wants to receive messages and voice notes from me or not, I will send it to you.

01:16:39 Speaker 6

So I guess I guess I would be in the same place as those students who are really struggling with the question of do I or don’t I?

01:16:48 Speaker 6

And if I do, it’s dedicating so much time of my life, a minimum of like three years.

01:16:55 Speaker 6

To something or more and if I don’t.

01:17:01 Speaker 6

Will that impact me in any way?

01:17:03 Speaker 6

Will I have regrets?

01:17:05 Speaker 6

I don’t know.

01:17:07 Speaker 6

So I’m still in that little liminal space of decision making.

01:17:11 Speaker 1

And I think it is a big decision when you’re actually already working in research.

01:17:15 Speaker 1

So then do a PhD I think is a is a big decision.

01:17:19 Speaker 1

Yeah, I understand that, Jane.

01:17:22 Speaker 1

And then Alison.

01:17:25 Speaker 7

What I’m thinking about the question, I think there are so many.

01:17:32 Speaker 7

It’s funny, but there’s so much I wish I could have.

01:17:36 Speaker 7

I wish I had known he left before I saw the PhD But I’m I just wanna focus on one of them.

01:17:44 Speaker 7

And that is I’m not being afraid to make a change.

01:17:49 Speaker 7

You know, sometimes we will feel that we’ve come too far to stop or to go back or, you know, to change the direction whether the methodology you have chosen, the research purpose you have chosen, you know and then thinking about overspending, I’ve read so much at.

01:18:09 Speaker 7

Those are stuff like that.

01:18:11 Speaker 7

But I I think what I would have, looking back, wish I had known that it was OK to make any change I felt was necessary at that time were done methodologically, whether in terms of my research public OK and research questions, things like that.

01:18:33 Speaker 1

That’s good advice.

01:18:34 Speaker 1

Thank you, Jane.

01:18:35 Speaker 1

Now listen.

01:18:37 Speaker 2

Uhm, well, when Joanna was speaking, I was reminded of something that my dad kept saying to me in that final year and I also had life going on in my final year of my PhD.

01:18:50 Speaker 2

I was expecting a baby.

01:18:51 Speaker 2

Was due as I was submitting, so it was kind of against the clock to get it in and.

01:18:55 Speaker 2

And my dad said you know you’re never going to finish it.

01:19:00 Speaker 2

You just have to decide to stop working on it and it’s that kind of knowing when that point is was having people around you can help you know when that point is because you could make your PhD.


Oh no.

01:19:10 Speaker 2

D last for your whole career.

01:19:11 Speaker 2

Uhm, but you can’t.

01:19:13 Speaker 2

You need to get be getting on with the rest of your career ’cause that’s the exciting part.

01:19:16 Speaker 2

So having people around you.

01:19:18 Speaker 2

Who can help you know when to stop is really good and then my second one is much more.

01:19:25 Speaker 2

Is practical in a way and it’s about the examiners that you pick up and really try to be involved in that discussion with your supervisors because especially if you’re using something that’s a bit.

01:19:37 Speaker 2

Different or more creative? Uhm.

01:19:42 Speaker 2

I think supervisors push you towards examiners who have a really big footprint in the field or you know big status and that that can really benefit you in the future.

01:19:52 Speaker 2

You know, I’ve had a brilliant examiner who also happens to be very prestigious and he’s been a great sort of support through my career since.

01:19:58 Speaker 2

Then because you know.

01:20:02 Speaker 2

But I’ve also had students who we’ve picked someone.

01:20:05 Speaker 2

You know, we’ve picked people and then they’ve had really difficult viewers because there’s this kind of way of thinking about what a PhD is and should be.

01:20:14 Speaker 2

That’s actually very old fashioned and what I was saying earlier about.

01:20:18 Speaker 2

Uhm, learning and you know in collectives and thinking about learning as a more.

01:20:23 Speaker 2

Kind of social cultural thing.

01:20:26 Speaker 2

It is changing slowly, but not everybody is on board with it and I think if we keep you know.

01:20:32 Speaker 2

There are certain ways that we can kind of push back against that as students and supervisors and picking an examiner who.

01:20:40 Speaker 2

Buys into those ideas of thinking about learning differently and thinking about what knowledge is in a different way.

01:20:44 Speaker 2

I think it’s probably more useful to launch your career than someone who’s just a big name on a, you know, PowerPoint somewhere.

01:20:51 Speaker 2

So yeah, so pick supervisors carefully.

01:20:55 Speaker 2

Sorry, examiners.

01:20:55 Speaker 2

Pick examiners.

01:20:59 Speaker 1

Thank you so much.

01:21:01 Speaker 1

I think it’s been such an interesting conversation and really lead into kind of some bigger themes.

01:21:06 Speaker 1

Obviously, we’ve been focusing a lot on storytelling.

01:21:08 Speaker 1

But really like.

01:21:10 Speaker 1

Just on the consideration that’s needed when thinking about methodology on PhD’s on any projects that you’re involved in and how much to consider, just the practicalities, the ethics, the reason, being honest with yourself of why you’re choosing a methodology I think is really, really important. And also just I think you’re such a great example.

01:21:31 Speaker 1

Of collaborative work.

01:21:33 Speaker 1

And, you know, and just having that kind of, uhm, working with people that.

01:21:39 Speaker 1

You respect and really trust and that can have that support has really come through, I think during this conversation.

01:21:47 Speaker 1

So it’s been great.

01:21:48 Speaker 1

I’ve loved chatting to you all.

01:21:49 Speaker 1

I’ve learned so much about my own research as well, and I think it’s going to be really invaluable for students.

01:21:55 Speaker 1

Thank you all very much.

Alison Buckler profile
Alison Buckler
Jennifer Agbaire
Jennifer Agbaire
Yusra Price author profile
Yusra Price
Jane Nebe
Jane Nebe
Faith Mkwananzi profile photo
Faith Mkwananzi
Joanna Wheeler
Joanna Wheeler
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About this Podcast Series

The BAICE student podcast is a series featuring informal chats with academics and practitioners in the field of international comparative education. The podcast aims to explore the issues that are important to students and early career researchers, from fieldwork to ethics to innovative methodology, trying to get the answers you cannot get from an academic paper.

BAICE is a charity, registered in the UK. The BAICE Media Hub supports BAICE's charitable objective of stimulating and disseminating knowledge and research in the field of international and comparative education. Views expressed in outputs hosted on the BAICE Media Hub are those of the contributors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the BAICE Executive Committee or the wider BAICE membership.