Monday, September 19, 2011

Reflections on Mindful Inquiry by Bentz and Shapiro

My relationship with research to date could broadly be described as lukewarm.  The research projects I was required to do throughout secondary school and most of college were just that, requirements, which I typically did not find to be particularly captivating or illuminating. The research I did for my Master’s thesis was assigned to me because it was well funded, not because it aligned with my areas of interest. It primarily consisted of quantitative analysis of survey data and the more qualitative aspects were quite dry.  As a result, I did not particularly enjoy the development of my Master’s thesis and had trepidation about embarking on PhD research under other programs.
As I read the opening chapters of Mindful Inquiry, I realized that, ironically, positivism is at the root of the negative associations I have had with research.  I was unaware that I had been indoctrinated in positivism in my earlier education, particularly given how science focused my degrees have been. Now that I understand more of what positivism espouses, it makes sense to me that I always had a hard time with “pure” science and looked to balance it with ways of thinking that were more holistic and integrated. I am excited to be embarking on my doctoral inquiry and research in a postmodern era in which there is a challenge to positivism as the official scientific philosophy.  I resonate with the new (both historically and for me) ideas that a researcher should also be a philosopher and that research is improved by the mindful and reflective integration of the researcher into the process.  The shift into the postmodern era also seems to create the space for the constructive critique of modernity that I believe to be necessary in order to develop a new paradigm that will sustain an abundant future for all life.  
 While most of my research interests focus around the creation of sustainable communities and the reconnection of people with nature beginning in childhood, I have not yet clarified the specific question I want to delve into for my dissertation. Continuing to learn about the variety of methods now available for research in the social and human sciences will help me to better understand the type of new knowledge I am looking to create and how to most effectively obtain it.  One thing I am very clear about is that I am interested in knowledge that I can put into practice in my community. I do not want any more credentials that primarily gather dust on my resume; I want to do work that I am passionate about and that makes a tangible impact. The idea of a “scholar-practitioner” that is discussed in this book aligns with my ambitions beautifully. Although it is premature to hone in on any particular research methods, action research seems like it may be a particularly good fit and phenomenology, ethnography, and quantitative and behavioral science research also particularly peak my interest.
There was a lot for me to learn from this book and I eagerly marked it up with my green crayon. I found the spiral of mindful inquiry to be particularly helpful in creating a new framework for the research process that is creative, deeply personal and rooted in the broader context of my area of focus. As I begin to think critically about new concepts such as my personal ontology, I am struck by how much more there is for me to learn about myself as a researcher, about the process of mindful inquiry, and about sustainability education as a field. This environmentalist, middle-path seeking, status quo questioning, yoga doing, family-focused mom is looking forward to the journey of becoming a mindful researcher.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted you to know how meaningful and rewarding it was to me to discover the way in which our book was helpful and valuable to you. And you sound like a wonderful person doing wonderful things.

    Jeremy J. Shapiro (