On Being An Insider-Outsider In Qualitative Research Essay

Generally speaking, there are two logical positioning in qualitative studies – insider or outsider but sometimes researchers adopt both positions when it becomes necessary. Insider-qualitative researchers are those who choose to study a group to which they belong in terms of experience, language or identity, while outsider-researchers do not belong to the group under study. According to Denscombe, the insider position allows researchers to have their: identities, values and beliefs to play a role in the production and analysis of qualitative data and therefore researchers should come clean about the way their research agenda has been shaped by personal experiences and social backgrounds. On the contrary, the outsider position allows researchers to know that their self is intertwined with their research activity, but proceed on the basis that they can exercise sufficient control over their normal attitudes to allow them to operate in a detached manner, so that their investigation is not clouded by personal prejudices.

I chose to present myself in the research as both insider and outsider. On one hand, I was an insider because I was once a teacher in the Ghana Education Service and had similar or almost identical experiences to those of my participants. On the other hand, I was an outsider because I did the research as part of my studies in a western institution whose values and philosophies are different from those of Ghanaian context to which I bear affinity. Dwyer and Buckle (2009) have noted that the insider and outsider positions are: a binary of two separate pre-existing entities, which can be bridged or brought together to conjoin with a hyphen. This hyphen can be viewed not as a path but as a dwelling place for people. This hyphen acts as a third space, a space between, a space of paradox, ambiguity, and ambivalence, as well as conjunction and disjunction.

My insider-outsider position in the research yielded for me some benefits. For instance, my insider position enhanced the depth and breadth of my understanding of my participants; a situation that may not be accessible to a non-native researcher. My outsider position gave me the opportunity to engage in critical reflexivity. Critical reflexivity enabled me to examine myself as a researcher, and the research relationship in order to respond to the participants and analyze the data from their perspectives other than mine. I therefore used words like: they and them to acknowledge my outsider status in relation to the participants‟ insider status. The outsider position allowed me to listen, interpret and critique my participants‟ experiences based on postcolonial theory. Although my outsider position required me to be neutral in the research, I acknowledge that, to a certain degree, the processes of data collection and interpretation may have been influenced by my own background, beliefs and values.

Nonetheless, I believe that the awareness of this connection allowed me to remain sufficiently distanced and, to some extent neutral during the processes of data collection and analysis, that the researcher’s self plays a significant role in the production and interpretation of qualitative data. The researcher’s identity, values and beliefs cannot be entirely eliminated from the process – again in stark contrast to the ambitions of a positivistic approach to social research. Among practitioners of qualitative research there is a general acceptance that the researcher’s self is inevitably an integral part of the analysis, and should be acknowledged as such the researcher’s identity, values and beliefs play a role in the production and analysis of qualitative data and therefore researchers should be on their guard to distance themselves from their normal, everyday beliefs and to suspend judgments on social issues for the duration of their research the researcher’s identity, values and beliefs play a role in the production and analysis of qualitative data and therefore researchers should come clean about the way their research agenda has been shaped by personal experiences and social backgrounds.

At the extreme, this approach can take the form of celebrating the extent to which the self is intertwined with the research process. There are those who argue that their self gives them a privileged insight into social issues, so that the researcher’s self should not be regarded as a limitation to the research but as a crucial resource. Some feminist researchers and some researchers in the field of ‘race’ make the case that their identity, values and beliefs actually enable the research and should be exploited to the full to get at areas that will remain barred to researchers with a different self. So some feminists argue that only a woman can truly grasp the significance of factors concerned with the subordination of women in society. Some black researchers would make a similar point in relation to ‘race’ inequality. Researchers know that their self is intertwined with their research activity, but proceed on the basis that they can exercise sufficient control over their normal attitudes to allow them to operate in a detached manner, so that their investigation is not clouded by personal prejudices.

The review has shown some inconsistencies and differences in the authors‟ submissions regarding what really constitute teacher motivation. In effect, myriads of definitions have been given for the concept of teacher motivation although two definitions have emerged common. They are: the psychological processes that influence teacher behavior towards the achievement of educational goals; and the conditions and factors that promote commitment in teachers, allowing them to enjoy teaching and thus fulfill their goals.

Also, the literature has revealed inconsistencies in what the authors have identified as factors affecting and facilitating teacher motivation. For instance, whereas some authors have perceived altruistic and intrinsic factors as being responsible for teacher motivation, others have rather posited that extrinsic factors are responsible for teacher motivation Furthermore, although authors like Akiba et al. (2012), Barrs (2005), Bennell and Akyeampong (2007), Croasmun et al. (1996), Dinham and Scott (2000), Fineman-Nemser (1996), Ibidapo-Obe (2007), Ingersoll (2001), Lambert (2004), McCreight (2000), Ololube (2006) and Sargent and Hannum (2005) have agreed that motivation has implications for teacher professional practice, they have expressed varied views on the issue. Common views, however, have indicated that poor motivation causes attrition, low morale, burnout, absenteeism, lateness and the lack of commitment in teachers and these affect workforce planning in education.

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