Casting the ‘net’ in autonetnography

I have a desire to explore the dynamics of learning to be an online teacher in such a way that I can examine closely how I teach online, what I do well, and which areas of my NLTP require development. I find myself drawn towards considering how learning in this way might lead to transformation of my online teaching practice. This professional desire to improve and foster my own transformative learning through autonomous, in-depth critical reflexivity has influenced my conceptualisation of my proposed research that seeks to explore how anaytic autonetnography might be used to develop my networked learning teaching praxis (NLTP)? The figure below is my visual representation of how autonetnography forms the intersection between the concepts of NLTP, transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1991) and online teacher professional development, all of which are encompassed within my epistemological perspective that merges social constructivism with postmodernism.

Conceptualising autonetnography

As an experienced online learner, my epistemological stance is influenced by the belief that knowledge construction is a social process whereby online scholarship is enhanced through interactive collaboration, cooperation and critique of others’ contributions. Muncey (2010, p.12) agrees, claiming “that knowledge of self and others develops simultaneously, both being dependent on social interaction; self and society represent a common whole and neither can exist without the other”. Significantly, Harklau & Norwood (2005) claim that combining the “researcher’s role and reflexivity” (p.278) have largely been neglected. Thus I argue that the fusion of social constructivism (my learning with and from others) whilst exploring in a postmodern sense of who I am as an online teacher reflects Muncey’s (2010) aforementioned claim that learning is co-dependent on social interaction and insight into the self. Recent postmodern researchers (Clarke, 2005; den Outer, Handley, & Price, 2013; Nash & LaSha Bradley, 2011; Soukup, 2012) have followed in the footsteps of Lyotard (1984) who rejected grand narratives in favour of narratives that do not seek closure or totality. Arguably, critical reflexivity of NLTP requires the individual to continually assess and reassess their practice in a more cyclical form, rather than seeking closure to a specific learning experience. Mezirow (1991, p.15) claims that “reflection is not the same as introspection, when this latter term refers to simply becoming aware of the fact that we are perceiving, thinking, or acting in a certain way”. Rather, reflection relies to a considerable extent on memory to frame a remembered experience. In response to such a perspective, Muncey (2010) posits that “memory is a central issue in personal reflections” (p.56) and that whilst postmodernists accept the complications associated with gaps or omissions in memory, those who purport to reflections “constrained within the philosophical traditions of Heidegger or Husserl” (p.94) reject the value of the personal encounter with self in the context of others.

The crux of my conceptualisation is that having appropriate skills to reflect critically on one’s own teaching practice is an explicit requirement of all teachers. However, to maintain a focus on NLTP as opposed to face-to-face or blended teaching practice, my proposed autonetnography is tailored to a specific domain (online teaching), directed towards particular outcomes (insights into my professional development as a neophyte online teacher learning to teach using digital technologies), and a transformative practical professional learning activity. I argue that in the absence of established autonetnographic methodology, transformation learning theory (Mezirow, 1991) provides a theoretical context for such professional development practice (Closs & Antonello, 2011).

Taylor (2009) suggests that there are six core elements that frame transformative learning in the context of teachers’ facilitating such learning for their students. These core elements include: having an original experience, critical reflection of the experience; dialogue with the self and others; a holistic orientation to the experience, where Taylor (2009, p.10) calls for the “engagement with other ways of knowing – the affective and relational”; an awareness of the context of the experience; and, having authentic relationships with learners. Rather than the teacher referring to these six core elements to teach their learners how to participate in transformative learning practice, I suggest that if the developing online teacher utilises these elements to explore their own practice, there is a synergy between transforming NLTP and my interpretation of autonetnography. This symbiotic relationship between the theoretical conceptualisation of transformative learning theory and autonetnography might resonate as a useful professional learning framework for other experienced face-to-face teachers who wish to develop their NLTP.  Such teachers are likely to have previously acquired beliefs about what constitutes good teaching in the classroom, yet are required to examine the origins, nature and consequences of face-to-face teaching practice in the context of NLTP. If the role of the educator in transformative learning “involves assisting learners in their processes of transformation and helping learners overcome situational, knowledge, or emotional barriers so as to trigger transformative learning” (Closs & Antonello, 2011, p.73) then a subjective understanding of the online teachers’ own situational, knowledge or emotional barriers through critically reflexive self-examination using autonetnography may facilitate such action.

Throughout my academic development in HE as a learner and as a teacher, I have been socialised into “academic and scholarly ways of writing” (Armstrong, 2008, p.1) that focuses on writing in the third person. Conversely, I consider the value of turning the ‘gaze’ on to the self, as a unique opportunity for the self-design of bespoke professional learning for teachers moving towards NLTP by writing in the first person.


Armstrong, P. (2008). Toward an autoethnographic pedagogy. 38th Annual SCUTREA Conference, University of Edinburgh.

Clarke, A. (2005). Situational Analysis: Grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Closs, L., & Antonello, C. S. (2011). Transformative learning: Intergration critical reflection into management education. Journal of Transformative Learning, 9(2), 63-88.

den Outer, B., Handley, K., & Price, M. (2013). Situational analysis and mapping for use in education research: A reflexive methodology? Studies in Higher Education, 38(10), 1504-1521. doi:10.1080/03075079.2011.641527

Harklau, L., & Norwood, R. (2005). Negotiating research roles in ethnographic program evaluation: A postmodern lens. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 36(3), 278-288.

Lyotard, J. (1984). The Postmodern Condition. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Muncey, T. (2010). Creating Autoethnographies. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Nash, R., J., & LaSha Bradley, D. (2011). Me-search and Re-search: A guide for writing scholarly personal narrative manuscripts. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Soukup, C. (2012). The postmodern ethnographic flaneur and the study of hyper-mediated everyday life. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 42(2), 226-254.

Taylor, E. W. (2009). Fostering transformative learning. In J. Mezirow, E. W. Taylor & and Associates (Eds.), Transformative learning in practice: Insights from community, workplace, and higher education (pp. 3-17). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Casting the ‘net’ in autonetnography

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