Reflecting on reflection
Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in the position of writing a beginning and an end to my book. Introductions and Conclusions have always been the hardest thing for me to write. They are often the only parts of a book that some will read closely. And, when writing them, I envisioned someone standing at a library shelf reading these two pertinent sections and mulling over whether to take this book home to read further, or put it back on the shelf. So I needed to be concise and outline the main points.
In my book I make an argument about the ‘streams’ of practices of digital literacy in student writing. I argue that practices don’t really have a beginning or an end; that they build on, and point to, distant histories and futures. Writing the beginning and ending to my book has made me reflect on this very aspect in my own work. As I have culminated my thoughts on issues that I have been studying and writing about for years, and developed my arguments for renewed understandings of literacy, I needed to reflect on and reconsider positions I had developed in my doctoral research.
But my reflections stretch farther back to a pre-PhD life; to when I was a Literacy and ESOL teacher within inner-city areas of Leeds and Bradford, and my wanting to better understand the digital literacies of my students. Whilst writing both my Intro and Conclusion I began to ponder about my experiences during this early stage of my career; how my students were deemed as having a very ‘low’ level of Literacy in the world of the classroom, yet exhibited expertise as core participants of online worlds when they would do such things as buy and sell things on eBay, connect with family and friends around the word to have discussions and solve life’s problems, and organise visa and asylum applications for themselves and others. This was a very complex and sophisticated set of literacies that I was not a part of, which they leveraged for personal gain, and which was a world apart from the Literacy that I was evaluating them against in lessons and tests.
Years later, what I have found is similarities with students and people in other contexts and levels of Literacy.
Going back to my Introduction and Conclusion, I felt that writing them in the best way I could necessitated moving beyond the research itself. All writings foretell a future, and this is a key part of how a Conclusion is written. But they also draw from a past leading up to the carrying out of the research, and this is an integral part of one’s Introduction. So, in sum, I noticed my self being incredibly personal in both.
For more on writing Introductions and Conclusions in academic publishing, see this post by Pat Thomson: