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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Positionality Statements: Finding Your Compass in the Landscape of Research

Alright, pedagogical pathfinders, today I'm tackling the daunting, thrilling, sometimes blush-inducing topic of positionality statements.

In the teacher-researcher marathon, the positionality statement is your comfy, tried-and-true running shoes. It's your starting line, your pacing guide, and your secret weapon for avoiding those pesky, sprained-ankle-inducing pitfalls.

"So, what exactly is a positionality statement?" I hear you ask. Well, my darlings, it's an honest look in the metaphorical mirror, a deep-dive exploration of your own identities, beliefs, and experiences that shape your perspective and approach to your research. But how do you write one? Fear not, let's unpack this step-by-step:

1. Who Do You Think You Are? Before you set off on this journey, you must get to grips with your own identities. Ask yourself, "What are my roles?" "What experiences and biases shape my perspective?" Dig deep, and don't shy away from the nitty-gritty.

2. Checking Your Biases: We all have biases – they’re as much a part of us as our penchant for late-night snacks or our uncanny ability to lose our keys. It's important to recognize and articulate these biases. It doesn't mean you're flawed – it means you're human.

3. Privilege: The Invisible Backpack: Examine the privileges that influence your perspective and relationships with your students. This can feel about as comfortable as walking across a room full of LEGOs barefoot. OUCH! But remember, it's not about guilt—it's about awareness.

4. Dynamics 101: What do your relationships with your students look like? How do your identities and experiences affect these dynamics, and what impact could they have on your research?

5. Theoretical Stances: Your Secret Sauce: Reflect on your pedagogical beliefs and stances. What theories do you subscribe to? What's your secret sauce that gives your teaching its unique flavor?

6. Embrace Humility: A positionality statement isn't about painting a polished, picture-perfect image. It's about authenticity, acknowledging limitations, and showing your commitment to growth.

Here are more detailed examples of positionality statements for teachers. Remember, these should be customized to your unique perspectives and experiences.

1. The Passionate Rural Educator: "I am a seasoned English Language Arts teacher with over 15 years of experience, dedicated to shaping minds in the rural Midwest. Raised in a similar community and being a white, heterosexual woman, I am conscious of my privileges and my insider position in this context. My teaching philosophy embraces a sociocultural approach, reflecting my conviction in the value of community-oriented pedagogy. I recognize that these views could potentially cause a blind spot in my research, leading me to underemphasize individualistic learning styles. My aim is to bring my passion for community learning to the forefront while being aware of the need to cater to the diversity of learning styles within my classroom."

2. The Urban STEM Innovator: "As a Black female science teacher in an urban charter school, my positionality is heavily influenced by my intersectional identity and commitment to inclusive education. I have a deep understanding of the systemic inequities that affect my students, and I am aware that my experience as a woman of color in STEM guides my teaching and research. My teaching philosophy is rooted in constructivism, with a strong bias towards hands-on, experiential learning. I am cognizant that my personal experiences and biases could color my interpretation of my research and my interactions with students."

3. The Bilingual Advocate: "I am a bilingual special education teacher serving a diverse group of learners in a southern border town. My Mexican heritage and experiences as a Spanish speaker in the U.S. significantly shape my teaching philosophy and research perspective. My belief in the importance of linguistic diversity and culturally responsive teaching is central to my identity as an educator. As a member of the community I serve, I must be vigilant about potential biases that could arise from shared experiences and cultural assumptions. While my own experiences as a bilingual student inform my advocacy for my students, I recognize that I must continually reassess my biases and assumptions."

These positionality statements reflect the educators' self-awareness, honesty about their biases, and understanding of how their identities and experiences might influence their research. Writing such a statement is a critical process that fosters self-reflection and informs research design.

Writing a positionality statement is like assembling a particularly tricky IKEA furniture – it might feel challenging and you might have a few 'spare' pieces at the end, but oh, the satisfaction when you've done it! It’s a crucial step in your research journey, helping you understand not only where you stand but how you might need to adjust your gaze.

So dust off your favorite notebook, get your best writing pen, and let's get this show on the road. Remember, every educator's positionality statement will look different, just like every one of us has our own unique teaching style. Happy exploring, and keep shining, my exceptional educators!


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