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Narrative Theory

Teacher Education Quarterly

The Rise of the Life Narrative

Currently we are almost half way through the project, and a little over half way through data collection. Respondents have mainly been interviewed three or four times in this period and most will be interviewed a further two to four times before the close of the project. Interviews begin as unstructured, but as the project progresses and initial analysis is undertaken, so progressive focussing takes place and some degree of structure begins to emerge in the questions asked. Nevertheless, it is the intent of the interviewers to keep open as many avenues as possible for as long as possible to ensure that early closure of important narratives does not ensue. The extent of focus and structure is dependent on the individual interviewer and each interviewee.

The desire to keep interviews unstructured at the beginning comes from a desire to get the life storytellers to rehearse their story with us, with as little intervention as possible. The role of the interviewer is one of listener, and we try, at least in the first interview, to keep as close as we can to our “vow of silence.”

As the next interviews progress this means our interview questions grow from the original, largely unmediated, life story. As the interviewer begins to cross-question the life storyteller using the data sources, such as documentary data and other testimonies, we move from life story to life history. The process of triangulation represents this move to life history.

The Life History

From initial analysis of the texts a number of broad themes have emerged. In this case the theme was around the importance placed on early childhood experiences to explain later life events and choices. The respondent whose stories we use in this paper is one of the respondents who fit into this themed group. The stories have been selected to provide an overview of the range of experiences in childhood and adolescence that may be seen as important for identity formation in later life, and for the quests that have developed from these experiences.

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  • Date of publication: 08/08/2012
  • Publisher: Teacher Education Quarterly
  • Subject:
    Narrative Theory
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