From teacher-in-role to researcher-in-role: possibilities for repositioning children through role-based strategies in classroom research

V. Aitken

This article describes the drama-based research strategy ‘researcher-in-role’, developed during the two-year Connecting Curriculum, Connecting Learning project, based in New Zealand. First, a definition of researcher-in-role is offered along with a survey of relevant literature. Then the evolution and implementation of the strategy within the project is described, and the importance of clear signalling and implications for notions of ‘informed consent’ are explored. Next, the paper shares the data generated where researcher-in-role was used during learning conversations with students. Responses to the researcher-in-role are compared to data generated by a traditional researcher in the same three classrooms. It is shown how the researcher-in-role strategy resulted in data of a different, more complex discursive quality than that generated by the traditional researcher. The data arising, and the strategy itself, are considered through the lens of positioning theory. It is argued that the researcher-in-role strategy entailed a repositioning of the researcher, which in turn opened possibilities for new storylines and admissible actions – including speech acts – to be played out by children within the research relationship. It is also argued that this repositioning resulted in generation of more authentic data, with children more comfortable to reveal their emergent understandings, in the form of advice, instruction or exhortation. The article concludes by suggesting that the researcher-in-role strategy should be of interest not only to drama education researchers but also for other classroom researchers interested in repositioning children and engaging in complex dialogic exchange.

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