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‘Either/or’and ‘both/and’ constructs

(Andersen, 1987) came to mind, but it’s my impression that, given the extent to which family therapists (and trainees) oſt en feel research not to be what they would want necessarily to focus on, it is the ‘either/or’ that might more oſt en win out at that point in time – either APEL or research and an MSc, rather than a clinical qualifi cation and a degree. Considering refl exivity – at a minimum

that to be refl exive means to monitor one’s own behaviour and the meaning given to language by its context (Tomm, 1988) – the invitation to refl ect further on subject and/or participant further invited that participants both should and could encompass both to inform their thinking. A social constructionist concept of refl exivity requires researchers to become aware of their feelings and biases, their history, values and assumptions and to scrutinise them closely (King, 1996). As further cited by Salmon & Farris

(2006), for Gergen & Gergen (1991), T e foremost feature of refl exivity is

probably an at empt to redress the power inequalities between the researcher and the researched in order to construct meaning and to achieve an expansion of understanding. I felt this consideration was insuffi ciently

addressed in the training, despite the invitation to do so by the discussion about subject and participant. In only four days, there are necessarily constraints to what can be enlarged upon. T e isomorphic dimension of revisiting power in the therapeutic domain was therefore somewhat lost for possible further consideration. I also recalled that, in an AFT workshop (National Conference, 2008), Gary Robinson spoke about how his ability to be curious was enhanced by doing his PhD research, and so I felt an opportunity was lost to emphasise the stance of curiosity: “T e f eedom just to ask”. And so to the considered i.e. the

refl ected-upon narrative regarding the practical: “T ese chairs are awful”, “T e lighting in this room is very poor”, “I must remember to use black pens”. For me, the value of the length of sessions

was dominated by how long I had to sit to learn (given the necessarily didactic nature of much of the teaching). T ere was disappointment when the equipment didn’t work and gratitude when I learned power point notes would be forwarded. Being


given generous information about www sites for enquiries was clearly containing. T e need to ensure required tasks bridging days 1-2 to 3-4, were additionally communicated at the end of days 1 and 2, despite being in the writ en orientation/ guidance notes T e food: ‘Food for thought’ may be an

apt metaphor: the timely break and food provided at lunchtimes clearly requires suffi cient time for people to digest what has gone before as well as what is on the table. Suffi cient time allows for informal discussions, time for group re-connecting, refl ections, ‘gossip’ etc, humour, aff ection and questions not necessarily asked of the trainers. Particularly pertinent in Nel’s study (2006) was his fi nding about the value of peer support in relation to managing anxious loneliness (see also Skovholt & Ronnestad, 1992). T is seemed especially provided for in the small-group work, the patchwork pairings and, not least, in the opportunities over lunch and tea breaks for students to share their fears, worries and wants. I was intrigued to experience the

questions as to the role I had in at ending, disappointed that modelling lifelong learning didn’t seem to be considered, and bemused by questions about which loo I would use and whether or not I would lunch with my fellow participants. On refl ection, such questions seemed to arise from a context in which learners needed to believe trainers do indeed inhabit diff erent spheres. Given the length and rigour of what is involved for trainees, the notion of an endpoint (and beyond) where being subject to assessment is over, this is easily understandable. I found myself diff erently appreciating

the ‘tell me/us’ compared with ‘explore for yourselves’ dimensions of trainees’ needs. T at there is a balance to be struck was underlined by my experience. Talking about positioning and

dialectics at an AFT workshop, Peter Rober referred to the tension for trainers in, “showing too much risking that students get too passive” and that “pace is important”, advocating that to go slow can be a good way to go fast (2008). Given the uncomfortable chairs and the didactic nature of the training, I certainly found myself wondering about pace, and appreciating that the content included the trainers showing their own work.

I found myself refl ecting on whether

the project might not provide examples of possible sample questions for people to choose from (if they haven’t an inspirational idea) and whether, in discrete geographical patches, similar studies could be undertaken, providing overall a meta-view. I was thinking here about consolidating group endeavour and maximising the positives of mutual aid. It may be that the emerging value of using a patchwork text vehicle (Akister, 2005; Scroggins & Winter, 1999) and partners in the last three cohorts of the foundation course was an infl uence in such refl ections, as might be the specifi c geographical and remote and rural challenges our students have to work from. I wrote process notes for all four days of

the module but was not sure about using them in the report. I wondered whether to include these or not?, I wondered about how participants decide what they wish to incorporate, to put as appendix or to keep as their own notes’ I’m of the view that my notes – at ending to refl exivity in a way the module could not capture were important components to refl exivity – my refl ections on refl ections would be lost to my learning (and the evidence, somewhere/somehow of such) unless they were somehow appropriately documented. T is led me to consider what the learning portfolio (Nicholls, 2002) and learning log practice(s) might contain that, from a summative (rather than formative) standpoint may not be suffi ciently appreciated. And, from this, whether a formative exercise, with one’s patchwork pair, of such process refl ections might also be a rich opportunity to promote refl exivity. I especially liked the enquiries about

which papers had been helpful and why; the pre-module welcome and questionnaire(s), which seemed to me to off er a template about enquiries and therefore isomorphic to the overall endeavour. It made me think about writ en orientations given to families at ending for an initial family therapy session. Specifi cally considering Kolb’s cycle of

adult learning (Kolb, 1984; Schön, 1987) and the extent to which this particular module provided learning opportunities as suggested, prompted the following: • Abstract conceptualisation may be one way to start (as was the ‘starting’ point of the research and refl exivity module). • Refl ective observation was provided for

Context February 2012

“Walk a mile….. and/or sit awhile”, with both/and in mind

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