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The first level categories were formed on the basis of the meaning units (Figure 4). At this level, the fist level categories describe the variation on the whole data.

On the second level, the first level meaning categories are thematised under three broader themes: 1) values, 2) interpersonal characteristics and 3) general orientation towards the world (Figure 3). These categories seem overlapping, but if we look at the context (go back to meaning units) we can find differences. Values are related to one’s world view and ways of thinking. Interpersonal characteristics, on the other hand, were described more as those qualities that are somehow inborn, that a person either has or does not have. Basic orientation towards the world was more related to how we should approach issues, and how we should think and act in intercultural situations and the world. All these three categories, however, were seen to be part of ethical orientation, which formed a third level description category to describe the nature of intercultural competence.

3.5 Narrative research approach

This research also lies within the framework of narrative research22 (Clandinin, 2007;

Goodson & Sikes, 2001; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998; Riessman, 1993, 2002; among others). According to Bruner (1990, p. 35), narrative is an organizing principle by which people organize their experience, knowledge and transaction with the social world. Bruner (1986) defines different ways of knowing: narrative paradigmatic cognition, which aims at generalizations; and narrative cognition, which attempts to reach the uniqueness of each event and experience. In this study the assumption is that there is no way that we could absolutely ‘objectively’ describe the process of intercultural learning or intercultural competence, or argue something so general about them that would apply to all or even most of the situations and contexts. My aim in this research is to analyse the nature of intercultural learning and intercultural competence and to broaden and deepen the knowledge that we have on these phenomena. Although the individual experience and perspective is emphasized in this study, my starting point as a researcher is not pure scientific relativism (e.g., Denzin & Lincoln, 2000), however, as the aim of the study is to draw some general conclusions about intercultural competence and learning on the basis of the results.

Heikkinen (2002, p. 15) defines narrativity to be a loose frame of reference to various types of studies, the characteristics of which is that attention is paid to narratives as producers and transmitters of reality. Narrative research has become increasingly popular in the area of social sciences, and various researchers see the ‘paradigm shift’ (Bruner, 1987, 2002; Cuba & Lincoln, 1994) from realism towards constructivism as a reason for the popularity of this approach. According to Heikkinen (2002), on a more general level, the so-called narrative shift can also be connected to the cultural shift from modernism to postmodernism. While ‘modern’ thinking was interpreted as a period of grand totalising explanations of the world, or so-called metanarratives that attempted to explain what is ‘real’, postmodern thinking is characterized by constant change, multiplicity, fluidity and uncertainty, and great stories are replaced by local and individual narratives (Andreotti, 2010, pp. 6–7).

I use the term ‘narrative research’, although the concept of narrative inquiry is also widely used (e.g., Clandinin, 2007; Connelly & Clandinin, 1990).

In this study, narrative research is combined with biographical research.

However, it is important to point out that not all biographical research is narrative and, on the other hand, not all narrative research is biographical (Hyry, 2007). As mentioned earlier, based on my research findings, developmental processes towards intercultural competence do not necessarily start during a stay in a foreign culture or during teacher training; teachers’ attitudes towards diversity, their awareness of cultural, global and societal issues as well as their skills to encounter diversity may have already started to develop in childhood. The biographical approach enables the investigation of intercultural learning as a lifelong process.

In Articles III, IV and V, narrativity appears in three ways. First of all, it is the way I understand the nature of intercultural learning: I see it as a lifelong process in which earlier experiences affect how new experiences are understood and interpreted (compare Kelchtermans, 1993, 1994). Furthermore, I understand narrative research to be a study on the development and change in people’s lives.

The significance of stories is highlighted, especially in the turning points of life.

When starting to collect the second data, transformative learning theory formed my strongest theoretical framework, and that theory emphasizes the significance of these ‘turning point’ experiences. However, during the interviews, I found out that intercultural learning is not only triggered by this type of experience but can also be a gradual process that includes many different, and sometimes ordinary, daily experiences.

Secondly, the narrative biographical approach appears in the way I have collected the data. There are several related concepts used in the narrative field to describe the nature of research data, such as a story, narrative or a life story (Hyvärinen & Löyttyniemi, 2005; Clandinin & Connelly, 1994). In this study, stories and narratives are used synonymously and are seen as a natural way to organise experiences and construct and deconstruct identities. According to Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, and Zilbe (1998), narratives provide us with access to people’s identity and personality. In the act of narrating, a teacher’s identity is seen to be a result of constant negotiation and reflection and is thus more like a fluid process than a fixed state.

According to Clandinin ja Connelly (1994, p. 416), narratives are characterised by the following elements: time, place, plot, person and scene. However, in my study, I want to define narrative a bit differently. I see narrative or story as a tool that helps a person understand and analyse an experience and a form through which the experience is expressed. A story also mediates this experience to the reader (Josselson, 1995, p. 32). A story has a point, a message, and is made up of events that are relevant from the perspective of this message. Plot is often related to narratives and stories as a central element. Article number V in this doctoral thesis, Rethinking teachers’ intercultural learning, presents teachers’ narratives in a plotted form. In other narrative articles (III and IV), stories are not necessarily characterized by a clear plot but more as having a clear meaning or a message.

Life story is a broader concept compared to story or narrative, as a life story can contain many smaller narratives. In this research, life story and biography are used synonymously. Atkinson (1998, p. 8) understands a life story as being a story that a person chooses to tell about his or her life, told as competently and honestly as possible – what is remembered of it – and what the teller wants others to know of it, usually as a result of a guided interview by another (see also Huotelin, 1994, p. 76). Hatch and Wisniewski (1995, p. 129) divide life as lived, as experienced and as told. Life as lived refers to what really happened. Life as experienced refers to a human being’s images, feelings, thoughts, desires and meanings. Life as told is a narrative affected by cultural conventions, other people and social context.

Researchers can only usually study life as told. I am aware that these individual narratives always reflect something general and common because they are related to a certain cultural, historical and social context. For my narrative biographical articles (IV and V), I have asked my research subjects to tell their life story from the perspective of intercultural learning. My data includes 10 holistic life stories, which each include several different ‘smaller’ stories.

The concept of narrative identity is closely related to the idea of life as lived, experienced and told. Conception of narrative identity includes an idea that identity is formed and modified through stories. Narrative identity is a means or tool to understand oneself: separate and fragmental events of life can be organised according to the plot and the original events can then be understood in a new way. Peoples’ identities are dependent on the way how they tell about themselves. (Holstein ja Gubrium, 2000, p.

205). Thus, narrative identity mediates between life as lived, life as experienced and life as told. According to Ricoeur (1992) narrative identity occupies a middle ground between neutral description and ethical prescription as it does not only refer to “what is”, but also “what ought to be”: desires, norms, goals and ideals. In narrative identity, the person is not merely the one who tells the story, or merely the one about whom the story is told, but individuals can be considered to be both readers and writers of their own lives ( Ricoeur, 1987, p. 246). Narrative identity can also be considered as a social construction because people’s stories include other people’s voices as well.

These voices can be, for instance, cultural assumptions coming from our immediate surroundings or other groups. (Ihanus 1999, p. 250).

Narrativity also appears in the way I have analysed, interpreted and reported the data. I have explained my data analysis process in Chapter 3.7. of this summary.

3.6 Biographical interviews

In the second phase of my research process I collected my data by conducting biographical interviews (e.g., Atkinson, 1998, 2002; Riessmann, 2004) in 2005.

According to Atkinson (1998), in a biographical interview, the interviewer can be seen as the guide in the process. Both interviewer and interviewee are collaborators, composing and constructing a story the teller can be pleased with.

In the beginning of each interview situation I attempted to encourage teachers to speak as freely as possible so as to get data consisting of narratives. The aim was to get richer data than I would have gotten through theme interviews.

As an epistemological starting point, I assumed that when people tell about their life, they aim at producing everyday life narratives, which also reveal the reasons, aims, assumptions and beliefs behind these narratives (Bruner, 2002, pp. 101–103). The idea in the interview was that rather than answer some separate questions on a conceptual level, a person tells about and reflects on his/her experiences, events and possible turning points in life. In the narrative interviews, I asked my research subjects to give an account of their life story from childhood to the present, with an emphasis on intercultural learning.

Kelchtermans and Ballett (2002) have developed a research methodology called ‘autobiographical self-thematisation’, which encourages respondents to reflect back on their life and career (autobiographical) and narratively share their experiences and the meanings these hold for them (thematisation). A variation of this same idea was used in my study, as before the interview (about a week earlier), I asked the teachers to draw a picture that would somehow illustrate the experiences or turning points that have been meaningful for their intercultural and professional learning in various phases of their life (see Appendix 3). In the interview I first asked the teachers to explain their life story with the support of the drawing. I then presented the interviewees with some questions and comments in order to focus more on the themes that I found relevant and interesting. In most cases, the interviews proceeded chronologically according to the teacher’s course of life, starting from childhood and ending with their future plans. Interestingly, one interviewee questioned the understanding of intercultural learning as a chronological continuum. She was of the opinion that intercultural learning, professional growth and the personal life are strongly intertwined and inseparable in her process. Rather, she wanted to describe various elements and experiences that may have affected her intercultural learning, but did not think that the best way to tell about those issues was to start from the childhood and end with future plans. The narrative biographical interviews, which were more like conversations, lasted from one and a half hours to more than three hours each. I interviewed ten teachers altogether. Four of the interviews took place at interviewees’ homes, three in their work places, one in my work place, one in the cafeteria and one at my home.

3.7 Narrative analysis and the analysis of narratives

Bruner’s idea of narrative cognition and paradigmatic cognition (see Chapter 3.5.

in this summary) can also be seen in the analysis methods of narrative research.

Polkinghorne (1995) distinguishes the analysis of narratives from narrative analysis as categorically different ways of doing narrative research. The analysis of narratives highlights the categorization of the narrative into different themes or classes. This is close to many other qualitative data analysis methods aimed at coding the data, comparing differences and similarities and creating themes or categories. In my doctoral thesis, Article III is a clear example of this type of analysis of narratives. As the analysis is explained in the article, I focus here to explain more the analysis process for Articles IV and V.

In Articles IV and V, I have started the analysis process by applying the analysis that resemble what Riessman (1993, p. 15) calls a holistic content analysis. After transcribing the life stories word by word, I first concentrated on the content of each life story as a whole and looked for those meaning units (usually expressed in the form of stories) that have been relevant on the basis of my research questions.

I was basically looking for any experiences and ideas from the interview that I interpreted to have somehow affected my research subjects’ intercultural learning.

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