Taylor & Coia 2009 Co/Autoethnography

Taylor, M., & Coia, L. (2009). Co/Autoethnography. In C. A. Lassonde, S. Galman, and C. Kosnik (Eds.), Self-Study Research Methodologies, 169 – 186. Sense Publishers.


Summary: This chapters provides an overview of co/autoethnography. The authors define teaching as “…an intentional personal activity” (p. 170). In co/autoethnography, “we write narratives to better understand our struggles, decisions, and directions” (p. 174). This approach uses diverse data gathering strategies/methods. All researchers analyze data simultaneously. Analysis is considered, “…collaborative, reflective, and participatory” (p. 177). It requires at least two individuals. Three phases of co/autoethnography include : (1) the writing and re-writing of autobiographical narratives, (2) sharing of those narratives, and (3) the discussions that result from sharing narratives. The strength in this methodological approach is that “it allows us to live and examine the complexities of teaching while not requiring an over simplification of the practice of teaching” (p. 179).

  • “My students (teacher leaders) are struggling to figure out which voice to use as they write. I encouraged them to stop writing from the voice of academics or Researchers with a capital R and start sharing their own stories – with strong knowledge and authority as teachers” (p. 169).
  • “Teachers tell stories about teaching in order to make sense of their experience” (p. 169).
  • “Co-autoethnography is a bridge between these two arenas: a method that prioritizes the stories of teachers as ways of making sense or theorizing about teaching, while not discounting the culture of teaching that includes the use of quantitative and so-called scientific research. Co-autoethnography places knowledge construction and theorizing in the thick of teaching and reflection, rather than seeing teaching and knowledge about teaching as separate entities” (p. 170).
  • “First and foremost teaching is an intentional act undertaken by people” (p. 170).
  • “An important corollary of the idea of teacher as person-in-relation is that teaching, being a teacher, is fundamentally different from other professional relationships. It is sometimes overlooked that our students come to us not as problems to be solved, but as people becoming. Teaching is more a question of being with or engaging with than problem-solving. Unlike clients or patients who go to lawyers or doctors to have their problems solved or to be cured, our students come with lives to share and we help or guide and learn with them. Our students are people with whom we work” (p. 171).
  • “The cultural meaning of teacher educator is in part reflective of the low status of teachers in general in our society, but we are also held in low esteem by many of our colleagues at the university, by national agencies, by the teachers we work with in schools, sometimes by our students who are less than impressed by the idea that one learns how to teach, and even by our colleagues in teacher education who often it seems, prefer to identify themselves with other disciplines” (pp. 171-172).
  • “Our teaching culture does not always include all teachers: there is a clear distinction between technicians who follow recipe models to teach and teachers who accept an aesthetic or humanistic approach” (p. 172).
  • “This methodology addresses two important aspects of our process: the importance of blurring the researcher’s role so that she is neither completely subjective, as an insider, nor completely objective, as an outsider; and the understanding of the self as multiple, dynamic, and always changing” (p. 175).
  • “Autoethnography provides us with a vehicle to examine our pictures of our selves among the cultural portraits of ‘teacher’ that are created by others” (p. 175).
  • “In a sense, we are doing an ethnography of our self as teacher within the context of what that means among teachers, as part of the inside culture of teaching, and within the greater cultural context of what that means from outside the world of teaching in society” (p. 175).
  • “Co/autoethnography allows us to be reflective and do self-research in a way that mirrors how we engage with one another as teachers and people. We are always insider/outsiders. Our understanding of ourselves and others fluctuates according to context and setting. While no one can completely understand another, we do not completely understand ourselves. Our understandings of ourselves and others can, however, be enhanced by composing our autoethnographies together” (p. 176).
  • “The telling of the experience by the person who had the experience is given epistemological weight and privilege, but it is recognized that each of us is not transparent to ourselves and that others can and do add to our understanding of ourselves” (p. 179).
  • “The personal understanding of our success, failure and the challenges we face int eh classroom are to some extent socially constructed by the public understanding of teaching people to be teachers” (p. 179).