Research-in-Practice Projects (RiPP) started as a way to encourage and support practitioners to engage in research about their practice. College and community practitioners were eager to participate in research activities but seldom had the required resources and energy to write a research proposal for a small individual project. Practitioners explained that their “proposal-writing” energy gets directed to program delivery proposals. RiPP offered an alternative. Building on previous research-in-practice projects carried out in Alberta by The RiPAL Network, RiPP involved five literacy practitioners in research-in-practice projects and provided them with research education opportunities and support.
In the fall of 2003, literacy program coordinators, instructors and others involved in literacy practice were invited to participate in a facilitated meeting to explore possible research topics they might be interested in pursuing. During the following weeks, those who were interested in continuing with the project developed individual research proposals. Throughout the next eighteen months, five practitioners collected data, analysed it and wrote their findings. The group came together several times to discuss the research stages they were navigating and the challenges they were facing. Online discussions allowed the group to stay in touch and maintain the level of support required to make progress in their individual projects.
The process was not without challenges. Writing, especially, became an almost insurmountable hurdle that was hard to make space for in busy professional and personal lives. Practitioner researchers worked for many months; dedicating many more hours than the project had anticipated, to produce research reports that would be rigorous but also speak clearly to the audience they care about most, other practitioners and community members.
In this report, Paula Davies examines one teaching strategy, the use of narrative in the classroom. Paula argues that the use of students’ personal narratives in the classroom is a valuable teaching strategy because it facilitates the students’ understanding of specific course content, it enhances their engagement with classmates, class activities and course content and it creates a classroom community. These developments enrich the learning experience because they allow students to be seen. Being seen means that each student is valued as an individual, that his or her culture, background, personal history and personal knowledge is acknowledged and has a place in the classroom.