Collective Analysis: ‘Workshopping’ data about
how violence impacts on learning
by Evelyn Battell
For two-and-a-half years, eleven practitioners across the country
have been exploring the impacts of violence on literacy practice.
They hope that the project, Moving Research about Addressing the
Impacts of Violence on Learning into Practice, will help the literacy
field to develop a stronger understanding of effective models for
Evelyn Battell’s role in this project was to examine the team’s
research processes. She paid careful attention to key elements of
the research model and studied the value of each in practice. One
element of the project was the workshops at which practitioners presented
all or some of their data, and engaged others in analyzing it. The
project chose to ‘workshop’ data partly because practitioners
more often gain knowledge at workshops than by reading research reports.
The workshops also expanded the number of people engaged with the
research findings and process, and allowed the researchers to hone
their analysis, expand their thinking, and develop a strong presentation
about their research.
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Here is what I learned when I examined how the workshop participants
answered two questions:
- What did you learn about violence and learning and about research
- Would you take part in ‘workshopping’ data again?
Surprise at being asked to help with analysis
One of the common reactions was that the participants were surprised
to find themselves in a workshop about research processes. This difficulty
occurred because ‘workshopping’ data
has not been a common practice in the literacy field up until now.
Most participants found themselves quite pleased with the experience,
after the fact, but the process was bumpy to begin.
Values inherent to research in practice
Another set of reactions had to do with the values inherent in research
• information comes from practice;
• one needs to analyze in terms of practice; and
• research in practice is an attempt to crystallize our practice.
One respondent said, “It makes sense to look at and evaluate
the data in a workshop with other practitioners—to sort out
the information within the practice rather than away from it.” Another
said, “research in practice comes back to being able to rely
on colleagues and the support that they provide and how much more
we can achieve by establishing that support and calling on that support—not
only in research but in the day-to-day as well.”
There was some discussion of the value of research-in-practice style
practices for research itself. Inherent in research in practice is
thinking that consults the field: “This,” said one participant, “breaks
down the stereotype of narrow thinking guarded by the keepers of
that part of the data field, gets past control and credentialism.” Another
participant said she wanted to use the idea herself of ‘workshopping’ data,
probably with her students. A third said she liked that we made the
research learner-focussed and acknowledged the researcher’s
A number of comments addressed some of the difficulties of research—particularly
isolation. Collaboration and consultation during the research process
with colleagues and students brings new perspectives to the analysis
and interpretation; “Research need not be isolating,” one
participant said. Workshops, it was pointed out, are good ways to
share, to make new connections and to find new resources. All of
these qualities can improve research.
Appeal of research in practice
The appeal of research in practice came through loud and strong.
Practitioners were pleased to be part of the process: they felt validated
and liked being part of the research rather than just hearing about
it. One respondent said it was important to be able to contribute
as a practitioner before the research was published.
Some participants learned more about research from witnessing the
work we were variously doing.
RiP takes more forms than I thought it did; there are many modalities.
liked that I learned something practical—that physiology
can set up chemical processes that affect learning. I like
that because it’s tangible and more real to me. It’s
reassuring to me that there is a physiology that goes along with
Using art [is] another way of bringing expression, of approaching
a topic. I like that there were the two approaches; several people
were doing several things.
Another respondent said she liked the broad range of approaches
to a traditional concept.
Finally, there were a number of cautionary comments for others planning
to workshop their data, and on the difficulties of both RiP and research
on violence and learning. One comment was that everyone was researching
things they couldn’t
define. Another issue that came up again and again was that the emotional
stress of dealing with questions of violence means you have to spend
a lot of time with everyone involved: defusing, supporting, interpreting
and making plans. Some participants felt they were unable to help.
They wanted to be warned in the advertising that this might occur.
Alternatively, presenters might more carefully focus some time at
the end of the workshop to help participants see how they had been
of assistance in the research process.
EVELYN BATTELL has been an ABE instructor in the
college system in British Columbia for many years. She has played
a central role in numerous national and local materials development
and research projects including Naming
the Magic: Non-Academic Outcomes in Basic Literacy (2001)
and Hardwired for Hope: Effective ABE/Literacy Instructors (2004).