Moving Research About Addressing the Impacts of Violence on Learning Into Practice.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Patterson, Pam
Pub Date: 09/22/2010
Publication: Name: Resources for Feminist Research Publisher: O.I.S.E. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 O.I.S.E. ISSN: 0707-8412
Issue: Date: Fall-Winter, 2010 Source Volume: 33 Source Issue: 3-4
Topic: NamedWork: Moving Research About Addressing the Impacts of Violence on Learning Into Practice (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Battell, Evelyn; Hornstein, Shayna; Horsman, Jenny
Accession Number: 257127040
Full Text: MOVING RESEARCH ABOUT ADDRESSING THE IMPACTS OF VIOLENCE ON LEARNING INTO PRACTICE. Evelyn Battell, Shayna Hornstein, Jenny Horsman, Christianna Jones, Jucly Murphy, Ningwakwe/E. Priscilla George, Kate Nonesuch, Mary Norton, Nadine Sookermany, Sheila Stewart, Heather Ward Edmonton: Windsound Learning Society, 2008; 263 pp. + CD

What does it really mean to work on violence and learning in literacy? What does it mean to change practice in the light of what is known? Given these research questions posed by the collaborative team self-identified as aboriginal (2), of colour (1), and white (8), I carried certain expectations into the reading of this document of a 2'/2 year project titled Moving Research about Addressing the Impacts of Violence on Learning into Practice. The researchers' intent was to move research about violence and learning forward and to experiment with new models for research and practice--the focus being on practitioner research. While the overall project was framed as collaborative, it was collaborative only in discussion and support; each individual fashioned her own research project. While I laud a research design in which the discrete projects are designed to engage each researcher's particular strengths, it can make it difficult to achieve a cohesive, focused and powerful piece of written work. And this diversity proves to be both the strength and weakness of Moving Research about Addressing the Impacts' of Violence on Learning into Practice as text.

As a white woman who lived through an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive childhood, I looked to learning as an activity that provided stability and accomplishment. Schooling, as institution, was another story. While there were certainly teachers and spaces that provided me with safe environments in which to learn, the underlying ideology was not much different from home's. In responding to a research text purporting to address the impacts of violence on learning, I framed certain questions on how this might be taken up. Would the violence be named? Would assumptions be made that violence has a negative impact on learning? Would the research be applicable to an interdisciplinary education field? Would the researchers be self-reflective, self-critical and engaged in practices which would name violence as systemic and inherently an abuse of power? And if so, would they recontextualize and reflect on the project by challenging oppressive systems and practices?

Perhaps such expectations are unrealistic, when dealing with such a complex and interwoven consideration as violence. While not specifically highlighted, all 11 researchers were women, and it appeared that, to some extent, the practitioners and learners with whom they worked were also women--most did not self-identity as feminist. How does this locate the pre-existing underpinnings and assumptions for this study in a systemically violent society in which women are named and gendered? How can this effect a context for analysis and deconstruction and provide a grounding for socio/political praxis?

The planning and presenting of the research as interdisciplinary, and the overall project organization, speaks to a respect across difference and an attention to the future development of a shared learning/researching environment. I found that I needed to foreground the reading and critique of each project with this consideration. Various projects made use of a range of tools such as traditional surveys and interviews, and some used arts-informed or expressive strategies. Each research was then shaped through use of analytical, critical, arts-based or holistic methodologies. Some worked with learners, some with practitioners. The differences between discrete research texts reveal each individual's experience in literacy practice, with innovative teaching and research, and with a knowledge of, and ability to use, critical reflexivity and critical analysis.

While I certainly recognize the value of witnessing the struggle, there is a clear distinction and strength found in the work of researchers who choose to work within a critical (yet creative) paradigm that engages ongoing self-reflexivity with social and political analysis. These strengths are evident in the work of Jenny Horsman, Sheila Stewart, Christianna Jones and Shayna Hornstein. Jenny Horsman asks of herself and her participants (who are also practitioners), "What is being learned?" and "How can 1 arrive at more effective ways to design and facilitate learning in my workshops?" Choosing to take on a research rooted in practice and engaged with theory, she deals directly with the overarching research questions. There is a strong sense of ongoing reflexivity and attention to her own complicity and an awareness of the need to challenge and reinvigorate her research by using holistic and arts-informed processes as strategies. She queries whether the use of arts informed tools may result in deflecting participants (and researcher) from a direct confrontation with "violence and learning," but articulates their importance and use, and pinpoints the dangers. She writes, "The longer I stayed with the theme of violence and learning ... the clearer I became that, as educators, we need to increase our awareness of the impacts of violence on learning; change our educational practices to support successful learning; and increase potential for individual and systemic change" (p. 71).

Following Horsman, Sheila Stewart's research models an excellent example of a self-examined practice that speaks responsibly across a community of practitioners-of-difference. Not content with a straightforward thematic conclusion, she picks at her findings, teasing out yet an/other troubling level. Storying becomes her focus for data gathering and reframing unfixed conclusions. Christianna Jones takes us ever deeper into community, exploring the historical roots and present day ramifications of the residential school system. Shayna Hornstein, the only non-literacy worker, weaves an honest, stunning and engaging analysis of the traumatic repercussions that can occur as a result of power imbalances within the health care system. These combined works in dialogue encourage a complex engagement with violence in relation to systems and structures and present potentials for learning and practice.

Given the presence of such strong contributions in this work it would have been useful for the project coordinator to provide a more developed critique and assessment of process, outcomes and future possibilities regarding the research model. But despite some limitations, there is no question that this document, as a text for beginning researchers and for all those interested in work that engages innovative strategies across an interdisciplinary learning field, is very useful. As a feminist researcher, workshop leader, and artsinformed practitioner, I found much in this document of interest to my own research, learning and teaching.

Reviewed by Pam Patterson

Centre for Women's Studies in Education

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.