Viewing Gadamer’s horizons

“Hermeneutics must start from the position that a person seeking to understand something has a bond to the subject matter that comes into language through the traditionary text and has, or acquires, a connection with the tradition from which it speaks”

(Gadamer, 1960, pg 295)

In selecting the most appropriate methodology for my research it was important for me to embed my own personal experiences of maker education into the interpretive process. It’s part of who I am as a researcher and I concur with Heidegger’s use of the expression ‘dasein’ to describe ‘being-there’ in an attempt to highlight that a human being can only be taken into account as being in the middle of a world with others (Solomon, 1972). My own maker education observations cannot be separated from the world I live in because they’re situated and formed from historically lived making and education experiences.

From the start I’ve recognised that phenomenology is not easy as an early researcher, particularly without adopting transcendental reduction to renounce assumptions (Husserl, 1999), but I’ve made the commitment to engage with the philosophical underpinning of hermeneutic phenomenology to reveal the lived experiences of teachers in secondary schools.

Heidegger (1927) acknowledged that understanding is connected to a given set of fore-structures, including one’s historicality, that cannot be eliminated and so it is imperative for researchers to identify and journal interpretive influences. He described pre-understanding as a structure for being in the world, with Koch (1995) later adding that it is an ‘indissoluable unity between a person and the world’. Both works have helped me to recognise that interconnectedness with maker communities and in adopting research journaling for its usefulness in triangulation, I’ve also found the reflective benefits as a record of ideas and observations to be constructive towards the study design. I’ve already documented my decision to journal from the preparatory phase of my study in an earlier blogpost and this approach is proving to be supportive in developing my thinking and making personal assumptions and bias explicit. (Colaizzi, 1998; Polkinghorne, 1989).

Heidegger and Gadamer both offer the philosophical underpinnings for me as a researcher to fully understand the contextual and complex experiences of teachers with maker education, the situated meaning of making in schools, by generating an interpretation using the hermeneutic circle (Heidegger, 1927).

Hermeneutic circle or spiral?

The hermeneutic circle is a metaphor for understanding and interpretation viewed as a circular movement between the parts (qualitative data from interviews in this case) and whole (understanding of maker education as the phenomenon), with each adding meaning to the other throughout an iterative process. Gadamer’s belief that no-one stands above and before all others within an interpretive hermeneutic inquiry aligns with my standpoint to study maker education with teachers as co-researchers, and is a methodology to ensure that all participants are at the centre of the inquiry. I believe it is here that we can breathe new life and insights into maker education in schools, as new knowledge and understanding emerge during the process of dialogue between me as a researcher, the text of the data collection and teachers as dialectic partners.

“To reach an understanding in dialogue is not merely a matter of putting oneself forward and successfully asserting one’s point of view, but being TRANSFORMED into a communication in which we DO NOT REMAIN WHERE WE ARE”

(Gadamer, 1960, pg 375)

Interpretation is critical to the process of understanding and Gadamer views that as a fusion of horizons, of which Polkinghorne (1983) describes as a dialectical interaction between the expectation of the interpreter and the meaning of the text. In my own research, interviewing and questioning teachers forms an essential part of the interpretative process and I hope one in which we can make new horizons collaboratively, rather than re-creating somebody else’s meaning of maker education as a researcher.

In Mindstorms (1980), Papert examined how the computer served as an ‘object-to-think-with‘ to enable children to realise their personal objectives and learning across any subject. The methodological framework for my thesis will not be constructionism, however ‘objects-to-think-with‘ will be positioned as the lived experiences of teacher using hermeneutic phenomenology to examine maker education using the following research title:

New horizons in maker education:

A phenomenological study of teachers’ lived experiences in secondary schools.  

Bringing together the horizons of the known and unknown can facilitate the shattering of prior ways of knowing and understanding (Holroyd, 2007) which I hope will become my personal contribution to educational research around maker education.

“To have a horizon means to see beyond what is close at hand” (Gadamer in Truth and Method, 1960)

References

Colaizzi, P. (1978). Psychological research as a phenomenologist views it. In: Valle, R. S. & King, M. (1978). Existential Phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology. Open University Press: New York.

Costache, A., 2016. Gadamer and the question of understanding: Between Heidegger and Derrida. Rowman & Littlefield.

Gadamer, H.G., 1960. Truth and Method, translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, London: Bloomsbury.

Heidegger, M., 1927. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. First English Edition.

Holroyd, A.E.M., 2007. Interpretive hermeneutic phenomenology: Clarifying understanding. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology7(2).

Husserl, E., 1999. The essential Husserl: Basic writings in transcendental phenomenology. Indiana University Press.

Koch, T., 1995. Interpretive approaches in nursing research: The influence of Husserl and Heidegger. Journal of advanced nursing21(5), pp.827-836.

Papert, S., 1980. Mindstorms: Computers, children, and powerful ideas. NY: Basic Books, p.255.

Polkinghorne, D., 1983. Methodology for the social sciences: Systems of inquiry.

Polkinghorne, D.E., 1989. Phenomenological research methods. In Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology (pp. 41-60). Springer, Boston, MA.

Solomon, R.C., 1972. From rationalism to existentialism.

Header image by Justin Novello on Unsplash

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