The "Space Between": Moving from Dependant Learning to Independent Doing in Laser Optics and Astrophysics

Phillip Brooker, Christian Greiffenhagen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

This paper explores how early-stage researchers in science move from learning about science to position themselves as practitioners of it. The paper draws on ethnographic field observations of two masters-level postgraduate students in laser optics and astrophysics made over the course of several months, as well as video recordings of one of these at work. The paper aims to show how early-stage research is managed and done by researchers (i.e., how these researchers can produce "professional" quality research despite still learning what it takes to do so). This study draws on two kinds of EM/CA studies: firstly, science education, both in school classrooms (e.g., Lynch and Macbeth, 1998; Macbeth, 2000) and at an undergraduate level (e.g., Benwell and Stokoe, 2002; Lindwall and Lymer, 2008); secondly, professional science (e.g., Garfinkel et al., 1981; Lynch, 1985). However, there are few, if any, ethnomethodological studies honing in on early-career researchers coming from a "learning" background and moving towards "doing" science for themselves. Whilst approaches other than ethnomethodology have covered this "space between" to some extent (e.g., Campbell, 2003; Delamont and Atkinson, 2001; Roth and Bowen, 2001), enculturationist studies such as these prefer to account for the cognitive and cultural problems that early-stage researchers face, entirely neglecting the work that characterises their endeavours as specifically scientific. By studying the work of research at this stage, it becomes apparent that researchers' introductions to these surroundings are not experienced as a "reality-shock" (Delamont and Atkinson, 2001: 88) where all vestiges to instructional learning are suddenly removed, leaving students to either successfully adapt to the unfamiliar world of independent (although guided) research or fail. Rather, this transition (if it is even a "transition" at all and not an "extension") happens over a much more drawn-out period (with no definitive start- or end-point) which ensures that researchers don't experience this as any sort of shock at all. This is partially because being an undergraduate learner does not necessarily preclude you from accurately imagining and understanding the work of scientific research, and partially because the process of doing the work itself guides researchers' activities. Consequently, looking at this material ethnomethodologically allows us to produce a different account of this sort of research, one which doesn't necessarily rely on sharp conceptual distinctions between a "learning stage" and a "research stage" only traversable through cultural adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 10th Conference of the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
Subtitle of host publicationCommunication, Interaction, Language, Activities, Practices, Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2011
EventThe 10th Conference of the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis: Communication, Interaction, Language, Activities, Practices, Conversation - University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
Duration: 10 Jul 201114 Jul 2011

Conference

ConferenceThe 10th Conference of the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
Abbreviated titleIIEMCA2010
CountrySwitzerland
CityFribourg
Period10/07/1114/07/11

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    Brooker, P., & Greiffenhagen, C. (2011). The "Space Between": Moving from Dependant Learning to Independent Doing in Laser Optics and Astrophysics. In The 10th Conference of the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis: Communication, Interaction, Language, Activities, Practices, Conversation