Scholarly Personal Narrative

In our book, On Being a Scholar-Practitioner: Wisdom in Action, we propose six qualities comprising a stance of scholarly practice: pedagogical wisdom, theoretical understanding, contextual literacy, ethical stewardship, metacognitive reflection, and aesthetic imagination. In addition, we suggest that Scholar-Practitioners engage in communities of practice to further their own capacity for scholarly practice; to share the wisdom they have gained through thoughtful study of their practice; and to advocate for quality education. The resources provided in the S-P Library relate to one or more of these ideas. They are not the result of exhaustive reviews. Rather they are materials that have informed our thinking, inspired light bulb moments, or provide portals to other relevant resources.

Introducing the Scholarly Personal Narrative

This section of the Nexus Library features Scholarly Personal Narratives (SPNs) written by students in a Creative Inquiry course that we teach. The SPN is a capstone project for students completing a Master’s of Education degree. The eight-week, virtual course aims to provide learners with the opportunity to:  
  • frame an inquiry question;
  • identify, locate access, and obtain relevant information for inquiry;
  • evaluate the quality of the literature and information they are gathering;
  • interpret information using various theoretical lenses;
  • use information to develop and warrant conceptual arguments related to the intent of their inquiry;
  • examine epistemological and methodological issues associated with scholarly creative inquiry; and
  • articulate and present their inquiry experience with Scholarly Personal Narrative in terms of their insights about themselves as teachers, writers, and researchers.
  Additional resources for understanding the nature of Personal Scholarly Narrative as a genre for practice-based inquiry are listed in the Books section of the SP Library. See, in particular, the descriptions for our books—On Being a Scholar-Practitioner: Practical Wisdom in Action and From Moment to Meaning: The Art of Scholar-Practitioner Inquiry—and Robert Nash’s book, Liberating Scholarly Writing: The Power of Personal Narrative.  The Personal Scholarly Narrative is one form of practice-embedded inquiry falling under the broader umbrella of interpretive ways of knowing. Additional resources on the nature of interpretive inquiry are also available in the SP-Library.  

Bell, Maura (2021). Get to the Point(e): Dancing between the Reggio Philosophy, Culturally Relevant Teaching, and Trauma- Informed Care


In this Scholarly Personal Narrative, I explore the conceptual and practical connections between the Reggio Philosophy, Trauma-Informed Care, and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. As the title suggests there is an embedded ballet metaphor. Content related to dance is used for a narrative element connecting to the true focus of the paper: a synthesis of content from these frameworks. The layout of the paper is organized thematically, focusing the image of the child, formation of relationships, families and cultures, the classroom environment, and the importance of a reflective teacher. From the Reggio Philosophy, some of the concepts explored include inherent rights and abilities of children, constructivist theory, inquiry-based learning, reciprocal relationships, and the environment as the third teacher. Literature from Trauma-Informed Care dives into the flight, fight, and freeze response, the prevalence of adverse child experiences, and how trauma shows up in the classroom. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy includes a variety of terminology, but in essence, this paper aims to show the value of a commitment to examining bias, affirming culture and identity, and repairing damage when done. Related terminology within that content includes Anti-racist Anti-bias teaching and culturally sustaining teaching, to be specific. Throughout the paper, I use the language of learners, students, and children interchangeably. My own professional work is centered around early childhood education, but the message can likely be translated to other contexts within the teaching and learning dynamic. While a full scope of these conceptual connections is not presented, the paper demonstrates the strength of incorporating elements of different philosophies and educational frameworks in  pursuit of meaningfully reaching the members of a learning community.   Bell--SPN Bell--Commentary

Varghese, Brooke (2021). Making the Familiar Strange and the Strange Familiar: How can individual early childhood educators foster classroom cultures of safety and inclusion?


 In this scholarly personal narrative inquiry, I examine the question: How can individual early childhood educators foster classroom cultures of safety and inclusion? My purpose is to connect troubling moments from my own personal experiences in classrooms of various cultural settings to literary discourse on child development, cultural influence, and neuroscience to determine effective approaches that foster safety and inclusivity. Throughout these moments are scenarios that highlight the ways in which culture and attitudes towards learning, the self, stress, and difference are transmitted within individual classroom interactions. Vulnerability, empathy, and trauma informed practice provide avenues for understanding how to foster safe spaces, and educational theories such as reality pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching illuminate practices that cultivate inclusivity. I consider the need for teachers to explore their own cultural biases, and triggers, as well as how the attitude of the individual teacher towards learning and classroom management can be either a positive or negative influence on students. Finally, I take a metacognitive approach to examine both the nature and my own experience of scholar-practitioner inquiry.

Varghese SPN Varghese--Commentary

Wachtel, Julie (2022) A First Grade ESL Community of Practice


In this Scholarly Personal Narrative, I ask, what am I noticing about the ways in which ESL students regard their peers as language models, and how can I effectively leverage this tendency with five-, six-, and seven-year-olds? Interrogating and researching a troubling classroom moment between an ESL and non-ESL student, I discover pedagogical wisdom largely through metaphors of Indonesian gamelan.

In Chapter 1, I describe the national EL achievement gaps and the iniquitous policies behind them, situating this inquiry as critically important; then, I begin to unravel my troubling moment through the lens of Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (SCT). In Chapter 2, I investigate Second Language Acquisition (SLA). In Chapter 3, I wrangle with shifting away from individual learning or traditional transmission of knowledge, towards a shared community of learners. In Chapter 4, I metacognitively reflect about writing this narrative inquiry and becoming a scholar-practitioner. My study is heavily influenced by the work of Lev Vygotsky, and his SCT of learning. Muriel Saville-Troike provided great insight into the process and theoretical underpinnings of SLA. Cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Etienne Wenger’s concept of “community of practice” is at the heart of my study as I theorize about its use in the elementary classroom. In studying this inquiry, I’ve developed a pedagogy of authentic collaborative learning that includes students and teacher, promoting the success of both ELs and non-ELs. I have also learned that scholar-practitioners—like me—don’t stop inquiring after the pages end; this is a lifelong endeavor. Wachtel--SPN Wachtel--Commentary  

Waters, Nikki (2019) Relational Pedagogy: The Foundation for Success in the Classroom


In this project, I pursued the question, how do I enact a relational pedagogy in the early childhood classroom when the current emphasis is often on academic achievement? Along this journey, I was confronted with words like creative dissonance and currere, words I had never heard before but later turned out to help me tremendously on my journey of inquiry. Throughout my narrative, I wrestle with the idea and the name of classroom management, the thought of not relying on rewards and punishments, survive a cognitive earthquake, build a new foundation based on relational pedagogy to replace my old and cracked foundation based on behaviorism, and propose the replacement of the term classroom management with classroom engagement. With the introduction of classroom engagement comes the opportunity to stop teaching to the test and to engage students through inquiry-based learning. Throughout this quest, I constantly found myself grappling with new ideas, turning over old ideas, only to create new discoveries of my own. I have learned so much about myself, so much about my pedagogy, and I know the learning will not stop here. I look forward to these new adventures in teaching and in the inquiry of life!

Waters--SPN   Waters--Commentary