Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm so dizzy

I was asked today to define Hermeneutic Phenomenology but not much came out of my mouth. There is much to consider before one begins such a thing. Like...where do you sit in the universe? Anyway here it goes, I'll do my best. As I know it in this moment of time, it is an extraordinary study of the ordinary from the inside. Which is partly why it is difficult to pin down. It is the study of things and happenings as they appear to us in our consciousness. We live in the world so it really is impossible to pretend we can remove ourselves from it to study something. I believe it is not really a method of generating knowledge but a way of thinking about knowledge. It is an art and a different way to classify meaning. It is often applied to the interpretation of human actions, utterances, products, and institutions. A hermeneutic interpretation requires the individual to understand and sympathize with another's point of view without ignoring your own.
A couple of key points:
  • The world is rich and complex with many causes and effects
  • Truth is a personal experience not universal
  • Knowledge does not have a subject-object relationship
  • Understanding and interpreting are essentially the same thing
  • Interpretation is a task
  • Language is the medium of all understanding
  • Language is not a tool but an activity between the speaker and the listener in order to play with understanding
  • Knowledge lives in the learner
  • Verification comes from dialogue not repetition
  • Dialogue leads to a shared understanding of personal experiences
So... a phenomenological inquiry may give me an opportunity to give voice to that which may not be easily heard over the sometimes overpowering drone of traditional research methods. Have we really listened to what teachers are saying is happening in their classrooms in the 21st Century?
Understanding comes by being in the world together. By creating forums in which people can join one another as co-participants to shape something new. It requires a connection in culture through language.
My experience with teachers is that they have such busy lives. If we are not careful we will reduce teaching to the 101 things I have to do every day to please all the people I really don’t like so much kind of job. Teachers do not need someone from outside telling them they have to change their practice, yet I do see a need for change. One day they may be trusted enough to be asked what they think and involve them in the process of change.


  1. Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for your "easy to read" description of philosophical hermeneutics. I think I'm starting to understand what it means and what you are hoping to do with your research. How will you identify your participants for the study? How will a teacher know what is needed if he/she is not aware of the possibilities?

  2. I am not sure how I will identify my participants (still have a long way to go). I wish to talk with teachers who see themselves as teachers for the 21st Century. The ones who are giving it a go. I do not think they need to meet a criteria in order for me to gain an understanding of the world they live in. I do expect to learn of the struggle and the joy of the work they are trying to do. I do believe I will need a survey of some sort in order to map out the terrain. While I am not looking for universal truths, I would not want to miss an opportunity to make connections.
    This sort of study will need to take place over time and I will need to place myself within the work. I think my study is more likely to become an ethnography of teachers in the 21st Century.