- Narrative Inquiry in Language Teaching and Learning Research by Gary Barkhuizen, Phil Benson, and Alice Chik
By Gary Barkhuizen, Phil Benson, and Alice Chik.
New York: Routledge, 2014. ix+132 pp.
Narrative research has been widely used in fields of social sciences such as psychology, sociology, and education. Narrative inquiry is "an established umbrella term for research involving stories" (Barkhuizen et al., 2014, p. 3). Narrative research in the field of language teaching and learning, albeit comparatively recent, has been burgeoning since the 1980s (e.g., Curtis & Romney, 2006; Nunan & Choi, 2010). This growing body of narrative research necessitates a comprehensive understanding of what narratives entail, how to conduct narrative studies, and how to apply findings in narrative studies to practice. The book Narrative Inquiry in Language Teaching and Learning Research fulfills these purposes. It offers language teachers and researchers an insightful and accessible introduction to understanding, conducting, and utilizing narrative research in the field of applied linguistics.
The book consists of an introduction and six chapters including topics such as oral, written, and multimodal narratives, and research methods (data analysis and reporting) in narrative research. The goal for the book is to offer suggestions for those who are interested in narrative research. In order to orient readers to the scope of narrative research in language teaching and learning, the authors select research papers from approximately one hundred and seventy-five published studies and cite examples that address how to conduct narrative research. The large collection of published studies not only provides readers with concrete [End Page 111] examples of narrative research but also covers a wide variety of topics such as language teacher self-reflective journals and language learning histories that readers may align themselves with based on their own academic interests.
The book devotes its first chapter to an overview of approaches to narrative inquiry. In order to explicate these approaches, the authors make distinctions between some similar looking concepts in conducting narrative research. For example, the authors differentiate between "analysis of narrative" and "narrative analysis." In accordance with Polkinghorne (1995), "analysis of narrative" refers to research in which stories are used as data, while "narrative analysis" refers to research in which storytelling is used as a means of analyzing data and presenting findings (p. 3). Making such a distinction is important for researchers to determine the type of study they are to conduct. The authors further present several approaches to narrative inquiry, encompassing language memoirs, studies of language memoirs, autobiographical case studies, biographical case studies, and studies of multiple narratives.
Chapter 2 focuses on oral narratives in language teaching and learning research. Interview is introduced as the most frequently used instrument for oral narrative and is applied in areas including adult language learners in formal learning contexts, mature and heritage language learners in informal learning contexts, migrant and sojourn language learners in informal contexts, and pre-service and in-service English language teachers in formal contexts. The authors then divide interviews into semi-structured interviews and open interviews, and illustrate both types of interviews with examples from empirical studies. The examples are discussed with respect to the frequency and duration of data collection, and transcription conventions of interviews. The authors also raise ethical issues for conducting interviews. The readers will find the end of the chapter particularly helpful as it presents a checklist of the detailed steps for conducting semi-structured interviews.
Chapter 3, entitled "Written Narratives," presents another form of narrative data. The authors outline six contexts in which written narratives are constructed, including those of language learners writing about and analyzing their own experience, language learners writing about their learning experience for research projects, pre-service and in-service language teachers writing narratives for course requirements, teachers and teacher educators writing about professional development, language teachers writing about their teaching practice for course [End Page 112] requirements, and language teachers writing about teaching for research projects. Among the abovementioned six contexts, the authors explicate learner diaries, language learning histories, teacher narratives, and teacher and learner narrative frames with examples from empirical studies. The authors not only point out their advantages, but also...