Psychology 611, Fall 2001
Prof. Martin Packer
Wed 3:15 - 5:45
304 Rockwell Hall
office: 531 College Hall, ext 4852, email@example.com
office hours: Thursday 4:15 - 6:00, or by appointment
Aims of the Course
The aim of this course is to provide advanced training in the theory and practice of hermeneutic phenomenology. The chief aim of the course is that the student will carry out a pilot research project on a topic of their own choice, and that the final product will serve as at least a first draft of a dissertation research proposal.
However, this semester we have an unusual mix of advanced students and students in their first year of the program. My provisional plan is to divide the class into “old-timers” and “newcomers." The old-timers will conduct pilot research for their dissertations. The newcomers will each be assigned to an old-timer, whom they will learn from and assist. More on this below.
At present two distinct approaches to research are taught in the department (and undoubtedly others will be added). Since its inception, the Duquesne Department of Psychology has generally supported an empirical-phenomenology—”protocol analysis”—that is based in the work of Edmund Husserl. This approach solicits first person experiential descriptions (protocols) and performs on them a structural theme analysis. This course, however, deals with a second phenomenological approach to research that has its origins in the work of Martin Heidegger, Husserl’s student.
Heidegger himself (in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 1927/1982, p. 21) described the difference between his own hermeneutic phenomenology and Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology:
For Husserl the phenomenological reduction, which he worked out for the first time expressly in Ideas: Toward a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy (1913), is the method of leading phenomenological vision from the natural attitude of the human being whose life is involved in the world of things and persons back to the transcendental life of consciousness and its noetic-noematic experiences, in which objects are constituted as correlates of consciousness. For us phenomenological reduction means leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being, whatever may be the character of that apprehension, to the understanding of the being of this being (projecting upon the way it is unconcealed).
That is to say, hermeneutic phenomenology moves through two phases. The first phase starts with the identification of an entity, a phenomenon (“a being,” as Heidegger put it), and articulates what and how the entity is grasped; how it is understood to “be” (“the being of this being”). For example (on a small scale), an utterance may be understood to be a specific type of request, or a rude comment, or the punchline to a joke. Or (on a larger scale) a child may be understood to be learning disabled, or hyperactive, or gifted. This first phase of interpretation involves the articulation of this practical (prereflective, prethematic) understanding. How does the utterance get understood as the punchline, the child as gifted? What (social, practical, interactive) work makes this possible?
The second phase turns from “the being of a being” to the ground or context “upon which” the being shows up and is understood. This ground is what Heidegger called the “meaning” of being. It is public, social (or perhaps ‘cultural’ is the better word), and temporal.
These two phases follow from the ontology Heidegger articulated in Being and Time. This is a non-essentialist, cultural and historical ontology. That’s to say, what something is is not a fixed unchanging essence, but is historically and culturally constituted. As such, it can change. Such change is the result of ontological work accomplished in human activity. Interpretive inquiry seeks to articulate this ontological work, and describe its character and effects. (In particular, a person can change, and be changed, as well as change others, and I think this is of particular importance to both clinical and developmental psychologists.) Note, we are not talking about what something means, but what it is. We are not talking about the personal significance of something, but how it is taken up in public, everyday practical activity. Heidegger was keen to avoid a philosophy (or psychology) that seeks phenomena--such as representations, mental states, ideas--that it takes to be ‘inside’ a person’s head. When someone offers a first-person account, for example, they are not ‘expressing’ some inner ‘experience,’ but crafting, designing, a public artifact--a narrative; an argument--that has an effect on the listener because of what it is.
Hermeneutics is the work of interpreting these artifacts: texts, text-analogs, semiotically-structured material of a variety of kinds. Most importantly for our purposes, it is a way of approaching human action, especially social interaction: everyday conversation, children’s play, therapy, etc, etc. Conversation, especially, is an important aspect of everyday life. In large part, the orderliness of everyday life is a result of the order that is produced in conversation. And it is by interacting with others that we come to know and understand them, and forge relationships with them. Typically don’t appreciate just how complex and structured everyday conversation is. Interpretive inquiry draws upon conversation analysis in its articulation of the ontological work accomplished in everyday conversation. Consequently some familiarity with conversation analysis will be required in this course.
It is expected that students will employ this logic of inquiry of hermeneutic phenomenology (interpretive research). That is to say, you will seek to articulate the ontological basis for some phenomenon. You will investigate the social interaction in which an entity comes into being, and the social ground upon which this occurs. For example, a student could study the classroom interactions in which a child becomes a “reader,” inquiring into the different ways this is understood, and the social settings, routine practices, and networks of artifacts that make these possible. Concretely, this will require that you collect relevant samples of human action and interpret them.
Organization of the Course
Some students enrolled in the class have taken my master’s level Introduction to Qualitative Research, while others have not. In addition, about half the class are first-year students, while the other half are more advanced. A number of aspects of the course design follow these differences in background and familiarity.
First, during the first few weeks of the course we will devote a number of class sessions to an introduction, overview and review of the logic of interpretive inquiry. The chief responsibility for this will be taken by those students who have some prior familiarity with the approach--this will provide these students with a useful review, and practice explaining interpretive research. It will also provide an introduction to students for whom this is the first course in interpretive research. A list of the issues to be covered in these classes meetings is given below; assignments will be made during the first class meeting.
List of Topics
Heidegger’s ontology; the ontological blueprint
modes of engagement
the hermeneutic circle
the game metaphor for social interaction
the turn-taking structure of conversation
the logic of interpretive inquiry
interviews as interactions
the fore-structure of interpretation
the conduct of interpretation
different modes of discourse; recognizing narrative and argument
status, intimacy and openness movements
validity in interpretation
After this, we will turn to student presentations of research. These presentations will be somewhat different for “old-timers” and “newcomers.” Read on for more details.
During the course, three short papers are required from each “old-timer” student, each addressing (and refining) your chosen research project. The first paper delineates the research question or problem to be investigated, drawing from selected examples from the existing literature. The literature review should not be exhaustive; its purpose is to stimulate the reader’s interest in the research problem and to establish a clear focus on the relevant issues. Every research project is an effort to answer a theoretical question or solve a practical problem; sometimes both. The product of the project is a proposed answer or solution, albeit tentative. (Students will be encouraged to design a research project that can contribute at both a theoretical and a practical level. The rationale for this will be discussed in the first class sessions). Clarity about the question to be asked or problem to be solved is crucial to the success of a project: the identification of the relevant phenomenon depends on this. This clarity is not always achieved before the project begins, but this paper will provide an opportunity to formulate the question and/or problem as clearly as possible. In addition, unless the question or problem has relevance to the broader scientific community, it is unlikely that much attention will be paid to the project. The literature review is a way to seek to discover the problems and questions currently recognized as important and pertinent to the research community. Your research need not simply adopt one of these; it may instead show, for example, than a certain issue dissolves if the phenomena are viewed from a different perspective.
This first paper will be presented in class, but need not be handed out to class members prior to the presentation. A copy should however be given to the instructor at least three days before the presentation (i.e. by the Friday preceding the class on Monday). (Use of e-mail to distribute papers is encouraged.) Student presentations of the first paper will be scheduled in the first class meeting.
The second paper reports on a preliminary data analysis, and will be the basis of a second class presentation. You should plan to identify an occasion of the phenomenon pertinent to your research question, and observe, record and transcribe the activity that is constitutive of this phenomenon. You should also document the context. The result of your analysis will be a preliminary answer to your research question, and/or preliminary solution to your research problem.
For the second class presentation copies of the data (i.e., transcripts) and of the analysis and results should be made available to seminar members several days in advance, so that students can be prepared to offer suggestions during class. We will establish when and where these materials will be delivered for class members; punctuality and reliability will be important contributions to the success of this course. Each non-presenting student should bring comments and suggestion on the day’s presentations (these can be written directly on the material distributed); a copy should be given to the presenter, and a copy to me.
The third paper will be a more polished development of the first and second papers. It should include a data analysis revised in accordance with suggestions made during the second class presentation, and a dialog with the literature, including your answer to the question identified in the first paper. This paper should also reflect on the overall success of the research project--did it achieve what it was intended to achieve? How would you modify the study to improve it in the future? This third paper need not be handed out to the class, but is due at the end of the semester.
The course grade for “old-timers” will be determined by the quality of the three papers as well as class participation with regard to other students’ projects. Students should actively help their classmates; this is especially important with regard to the second paper presentation.
Newcomers will be expected to begin to explore a possible topic for research, and to end the semester with a design for a research project, but not to actually carry out this project. Three short papers will be required. You should plan on making a short in-class presentations of both the first and second papers.
First, a review of the literature. This need not be as extensive as the old-timers’ review. Indeed, the newcomer may need to explore and report on several distinct literatures, as you start to narrow down your area of interest, and the question you want to answer.
The second paper will stem from your apprenticeship to an “old-timer.” You will select (after discussion with them) some of the data collected in the old-timer’s pilot study, and analyze it using interpretive techniques. This paper will report this preliminary data analysis. It should offer a preliminary answer to your old-timer’s research question.
The third paper, due at the end of the semester, will be a short research proposal, describing the question you seek to answer and how you would plan to answer it, how you would recruit participants, what data you would collect, how you would analyze it. This paper should include a completed IRB proposal. But you do not need to submit this proposal to the IRB, and you will not actually conduct the research. This is just a proposal, not a research report.
Protection of Human Subjects
You should be aware that the federal government is becoming increasingly sensitive to the important matter of protecting the well-being, rights, and privacy of human participants in medical, clinical, and behavioral research. Duquesne University’s Internal Review Board (IRB) has recently changed the requirements for gaining approval to conduct research with human participants. Every researcher, including a student in a class such as this, is now required to obtain IRB approval of their project before recruiting participants. We will discuss the procedure to request IRB approval in an early class.
One step in the procedure is to take (and pass!) an on-line federal course dealing with the history, ethics and responsibilities of protection of human subjects. You should plan to take this course before the second class meeting, print the ‘certificate’ that you’ll be awarded on successful completion, and give me a copy. (Keep one for yourself.) The course will take around 1 to 2 hours. The web site is: http://cme.nci.nih.gov/
You should also take a look at the Duquesne University Internal Review Board information at: http://www2.duq.edu/research/policies.cfm#human. This page includes samples and downloadable forms.
Introductory Readings On Reserve:
The following readings are relevant to the introduction we’ll be conducting in the first weeks of the course. They are on reserve for this course in the Gumberg Library (ask the Reserve Clerk). The first four in particular, will provide an overview of interpretive research (and/or contrast it with empirical-analytic research).
Thompson, J. B. (1990). The methodology of interpretation. In Ideology and modern culture: Critical social theory in the era of mass communication. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
John Thompson was a student of Anthony Giddens, and has written on Paul Ricoeur’s work. Here, in the methodology chapter to his book on ideology, he gives his version of the logic of interpretive inquiry: how it begins in the hermeneutics of everydayness, of “doxa” (Greek: opinion), but then proceeds to a depth hermeneutics. It does this through techniques of objectification, of which conversation analysis is one. (There’s a clear debt here to Ricoeur’s notion of a dialectic of understanding and explanation in his book “Interpretation Theory.”)
Carr, W. & Kemmis, S. (1986). The natural scientific view of educational theory and practice. Ch. 2 in Becoming critical: Education, knowledge and action research. London: Falmer Press.
Like Popkewitz, this chapter addresses the empirical-analytic or “positivist” approach to educational research, tracing it back to Comte, J. S. Mill, and Thomas Nagel and Carl Hempel. It provides a brief summary of the history whereby educational research came to be almost entirely research of this kind. And it introduces the challenge presented to the positivist model of science by Thomas Kuhn’s highly influential 1970 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (It is from Kuhn of course that the term paradigm has been handed along.)
Read this chapter if you want to become a little clearer about empirical-analytic research, which is the approach students are taught in most research methods classes.
Carr, W. & Kemmis, S. (1986). The interpretive view of educational theory and practice. Ch. 3 in Becoming critical: Education, knowledge and action research. London: Falmer Press.
This chapter will give you a brief overview of the “interpretive view of educational research,” the second of Popkewitz’s three paradigms. Carr & Kemmis trace the recent roots of interpretive inquiry in education to the social phenomenological work of Alfred Schutz, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (authors of the influential The social construction of reality) and “ethnomethodologist” Aaron Cicourel. Each of these writers emphasized the importance of studying how people define the world in which they find themselves.
Interpretation also has connections with a long tradition of biblical exegesis, with the “linguistic turn” in analytical philosophy since the work of Austrian eccentric Ludwig Wittgenstein (popularized by Peter Winch), and the ‘verstehen’ sociology of Max Weber and Wilhelm Dilthey. The interpretation of action must make reference to the interpretations of the actor, their motives and intentions, and the social context of rules and “forms of life” in which the action is located.
Where empirical-analytic inquiry is directed towards instrumental ends of prediction and technical control, interpretive inquiry, argue Carr & Kemmis, can foster communication and change the way people understand themselves and their situation. In a real sense, then, interpretive inquiry “aims to educate: to deepen insight and to enliven commitment” (p. 93).
Taylor, C. (1971/1979). Interpretation and the science of man. [reprinted from The Review of Metaphysics (51)]. In P. Rabinow & W. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: A reader (pp. 25-72). Berkeley: University of California Press.
This is a classic paper, frequently reprinted, and one of the first statements of the interpretive approach for an English-speaking audience. Taylor emphasizes the importance of examining the “intersubjective” background of human activity, before one can properly investigate the “attitudes” and “choices” that social scientists have focused their attention on. His examples are drawn from the political realm of opinion polls and studies of voting behavior, but his arguments are equally valid for psychological phenomena. At times his prose seems a little murky, compared with more recent explications of the interpretive approach, but Taylor was opening fresh territory. (His 1964 The explanation of behavior and his 1989 Sources of the self are well worth taking a look at too.)
Ricoeur, P. (1971). The model of the text: meaningful action considered as a text. Social Research, 38, 529-555. Reprinted in Dallmayr and McCarthy, (1977). Understanding and social inquiry: University of Notre Dame Press. (pp. 73-101).
This is a classic and important article, in which Ricoeur asks what needs to be done if we are to be able to study human action in a systemtic way. Action is “fleeting,” here one moment, gone the next. Ricoeur proposes that this means we need to “fix” it, to make it an accessible object for our inquiry.
Fixing action involves changes that are analogous to those when we fix speech (spoken language) as writing (written language). Ricoeur describes these changes: in the relationship to the world, relationship to agent, relationship to recipient, and temporality.
This analysis is an important corrective to any simple notion that when we record or transcribe what people say and do, we simply produce an “objective record” of their activity. On the contrary, transcription and video- or audio-recording transform the phenomena. In large part the transformations are beneficial to the researcher, but it is important to be aware of them.
MacIntyre, A. (1984). pp. 97-99 from Ch. 8: The character of generalizations in social science and their lack of predictive power. From After virtue: A study in moral theory. 2nd ed. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
Another short excerpt, in which Alisdair MacIntyre discusses why the social sciences cannot discover law-like generalizations from which to predict human behavior. He points out that “the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to with a lob across the net.”
Caputo, J. D. (1987). Radical hermeneutics: Repetition, deconstruction, and the hermeneutic project. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Section from Ch. 10: Science, rationality, and play. (pp. 214-222.)
In a course dedicated to research “method,” it seems only right that these be among the last words: “any account of scientific rationality must see that in its finest hours -- in moments of crisis and discovery, of revolution and progress -- reason requires a moment of free play and intellectual legroom (Spielraum). We do not destroy the reputation of reason with this talk of the play; we just tell a more reasonable story about it.”
Readings by the Instructor:
It will be a good idea, especially for those of you who have not taken my masters level course in research methods, to get a sense of my approach to phenomenological research. Please plan on reading the following within the first two or three weeks of the semester:
Packer, M. J. (1985). Hermeneutic inquiry in the study of human conduct. American Psychologist, 40, 1081-1093. [Gumberg library]
Packer, M. J., & Addison, R. B. (1989). Editors' introduction. In M. J. Packer & R. B. Addison (Eds.), Entering the circle: Hermeneutic investigation in psychology, (pp. 13-36). Albany: State University of New York Press. [Gumberg library; Duq bookstore]
Packer, M. J. & Addison, R. B. (1989) Evaluating an interpretive account. In (Eds.) M. J. Packer and R. B. Addison, Entering the circle: Hermeneutic investigation in psychology. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Here Ritch Addison and I explore several approaches to the evaluation of interpretive accounts, and consider their status once one abandons any “foundational” conception of validity (one that sees knowledge as grounded in objective facts, or in formal principles). We consider and reject the suggestion that an interpretation is just a hypothesis with a fancy label (at least if a hypothesis is taken to be simply “a guess,” as Karl Popper suggested in his famous “falsification” logic of “conjecture and refutation”). Instead we locate interpretation within the hermeneutic circle that the “fore-structure of interpretation” pitches the researcher into. We suggest a way of thinking about the truth of a theory, or statement, or claim, or interpretation, that does not appeal to some kind of correspondence test. Then we consider four approaches to evaluation: “namely requiring that an interpretive account be coherent; examining its relationship to external evidence; seeking consensus among various groups; and assessing the account’s relationship to future events” (p. 279). We conclude that, judged against a traditional notion of truth and validity, one that seeks some kind of procedure of evaluation (like a comparison of p and alpha) each of these will seem to be flawed. But the traditional view has hidden problems (see Sam Messick’s long article of “Validity”). Viewed as reasonable checks, all of which require interpretation for their application, and none of which can guarantee certainty, they provide as good an approach to evaluation as we will find, either in interpretive research or empirical-analytic research.
Packer, M. J. (1999). Critical interpretive research: An introduction. Available on-line at <www.mathcsduq.edu/~packer/>.
Packer, M. J. (2001) An interpretive methodology applied to existential psychotherapy. Methods, in press. [Available from instructor]
Other Relevant Readings:
Take a look at the following. You don’t have to read them completely (focus on the editors’ introductions in the case of the edited volumes):
Packer, M. J. (2001). Changing classes: School reform and the new economy. New York: Cambridge University Press. [available in Duq bookstore]
This book is written for a non-academic reader, but it still deals with the same issues as the two journal articles mentioned above. It is the result of an attempt to look at the institution and practices of schooling in context--the economic context of a closing General Motors assembly plant near the school district, and the political context of two major initiatives for school reform, one from the Governor, the other from the National Science Foundation. The product of participatory field-work (I joined the district’s committee to foster reform) it is written in a “creative non-fiction” genre.
Rabinow, P., & Sullivan, W. M. (Eds.). (1979). Interpretive social science: a reader. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Silverman Center: Gumberg library]
Messer, S. B., Sass, L. A., & Woolfolk, R. L. (1988). Hermeneutics and psychological theory: interpretation perspectives on personality, psychotherapy, and psychopathology. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. [Gumberg library]
Nofsinger, R. (1991). Everyday conversation. Sage. [Gumberg]
Packer, M., & Greco-Brooks, D. (1999). School as a site for the production of persons. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 12, 133-149.
Written with one of our graduate students, this journal article illustrates the interpretive analysis of the first day of school in a first grade classroom. This is part of an ongoing project rethinking schooling as a place that changes the kind of person that a child is.
Packer, M. J., & Goicoechea, J. (2000). Sociocultural and constructivist theories of learning: Ontology, not just epistemology. Educational Psychologist, 35(4), 227-241.
Written with another Duquesne graduate student, this article joins the current debate about the character of learning, as cognitive and constructivists are challenged (and confused) by sociocultural researchers. Jesse and I argue that the debate so far has been focused only on epistemology, and we draw attention to the ontological level to try to make sense of some of the disagreements, and propose an alternative account of learning in terms of ontological change.
week 1. Aug 29: Introduction. schedule volunteers
week 2. Sep 5: First of 3 weeks of review:
week 3. Sep 12: Second week of review:
week 4. Sep 19: Third week of review:
week 5. Sep 26: First week of student presentations on first paper
week 6. Oct 3: Contd.
week 7. Oct 10: Contd.
week 8. Oct 17:
week 9. Oct 24: First week of student presentations on second paper
week 10. Oct 31: Contd.
week 11. Nov 7: Contd.
week 12. Nov 14: Contd.
week 13. No class: Thanksgiving Break
week 14: Nov 28: Class discussion of revisions.
week 15: Dec 5. Class discussion of revisions. Course evaluations.