Home > education, management, research > Lifting our voices: a reflection on Voice in curriculum, in doctoral research, in life

Lifting our voices: a reflection on Voice in curriculum, in doctoral research, in life


“Lifting our voices” by Ken Long     (PAR journal entry J20090724.doc)

In this essay I will describe a construct we are calling “Voice”, my background, my research, and some implications for the doctoral research process in general and how it is affecting Dr Alana and me in our mentor-mentee relationship.

I am a retired Army officer, in my 7th year teaching at the US Army Command & General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth KS. In a series of  Participatory Action Research (PAR) cycles, we determined that our most interesting question was; “What happens when we increase “Voice” in the college?”

We defined “Voice” as a construct that encompassed all manners and methods of formal and informal dialogue with respect to the curriculum, the environment, the policies, procedures and classrooms of our college by any member of educational community. It includes what is said and implied, the reactions, the dialogue, the consequences, and the effects on infrastructure and policy.

We are interested in this question because it affects more than just students and faculty, but many people in our society and in our Army; it touchs what we teach, how we teach, and how we decide. It evokes powerful archetypes and icons of our culture like freedom of speech, speaking truth to power, “speaking out”, raising our voices, “testifying”, story-telling; it tests our assumptions about our strong traditional military hierarchy and the nature and process of educating leaders for work in the modern complex, uncertain world. In short, it is an intersection of many interesting cross sections of our layers of society and speaks to who we are as people in various roles. It puts the question to us: How do you respond to the Truth of others?.

The seed crystal for this concept emerged from the  earliest mentor- mentee discussions between Dr Alana and me, beginning with the idea of Personal Learning Environment movement and the uniquely suitable PAR method of helping students and faculty define these PLEs in each situation. As a new concept in open education,  I started looking at the ripple effect of this concept unfolding from  the center of PAR discussions into the widest reaches of the college, and eventually the construct of Voice came into being as a result of ongoing PAR discussion and inquiry.

One of the PAR outcomes for me was to document the change in my own 1st person teaching practice, which has a tradition in the AR community  as outlined in this post at my blog, which includes extensive footnotes and references: https://kansasreflections.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/a-reflection-o…s-of-knowing-p/

The more I explored my own Voice, the mor ways I looked to make myself accountable and accessible to the wider community through writing, speaking, recording and “performing in public. My sense of communities of interest widened to include groups of students, peer faculty, senior Army leadership, Colorado Tech faculty and peer students, students in Dr Alana’s mentoring group, broad communities of interest accessible through the web through social networks, twitter, Youtube, my blog, etc.

My own practice is becoming a daily reminder of DR Alana’s promise of the revolutionary power of PAR.  That by shipping out your ideas to other nodes in the network of interest, the ideas will seek and find a place where they may be implemented. So its necessary to keep pushing the frontier even in ideas that may not be feasible in your present circumstances.  You give back to the world by sharing all your ideas, nit just the ones that are practical for you today.

This leads me to the video of my research process and current status Dr Alana has uploaded. That is me being open and accountable for my actions with an invitation to the world to discuss and dialogue, where I can inform and in turn be informed.

An outcome of that video, seen by several hundred people in the 10 days since I published it is that I have new contracts interested in my work within the college, and I used it as a “listen-ahead” before my meeting with the college Dean to get permission to conduct my research within my college. It establishes a an opening statement in a dialogue that will shape and refine my research and my practice, and also the college itself as it has ideas that are of interest to the Dean and senior Army leaders.  Voice changes us through the actr of speaking, and listening and engaging.

As an artifact between Dr Alana and I in our mentor and mentee relationship, we have a touchstone here, an artifact that marks the story in this time and place. I see it as part of the ongoing defense of my dissertation, which I interpret to mean the “discourse of my dissertation” because I frame this as an opportunity for growth and knowledge creation which will unfold in cycles, in the same way that PAR evolves and unfolds in cycles to find the most important things to work on.

In practical terms, it is a way for Dr Alana to shape this lump of clay in the doctoral way and to shape the final dissertation defense  through this phase of preparation. It’s a great rehearsal for me to unpack and express my complex thoughts. It is said that writing is thinking, and I would extend the idea to that of “presenting” to incorporate more than just the written word. I highly recommend you try the technique as it has a tremendous clarifying and focusing effect on you as you hear the ideas come forth. I knew more about my research proposal at the end of making the video than I did when I first began to sketch out the slide. As an artifact it will continue to pay me back for the investment in creating it.

Additional references:

My background, outlined at LinkedIn.com http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ken-long/9/294/293

My blog with plenty of doctoral writings and narratives : https://kansasreflections.wordpress.com

Our departmental blog at Command & General Staff College: http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/BLOG/blogs/dlro/default.aspx

My Youtube Video channel, which includes doctoral narratives, and mini-lectures that are used within classes that I author and teach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtIEL-gn0l4

A great guitar instrumental with 3 legends of the guitar:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdJ9RS_Xubs

Supporting graphics:

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