Distancing when undertaking first person action inquiry: two devices


  • David Francis Collins Birmingham City University UK


distancing, drama, first person action inquiry, visual autoethnography


In the context of doctoral study and seeking to explore how art-based pedagogies may empower educational practice, the desired outcome of action and change involving social work practitioners made action inquiry a clear choice for the author. A process of self-examination is integral to the author’s inquiry as a means of contextualising professional practice in terms of social, cultural and political dynamics, and to appreciate the journeys of participants in the author’s inquiry. In this article the author discusses distancing, a process of estrangement, as a means of exploring and analysing personally generated data. Two devices are developed to enhance distancing in self-inquiry, particularly when the data is challenging because it is ‘too close’ to the inquirer. The first is a visual Johari Window (Luft and Harrington 1955), involving a series of self-portraits and collaged images related to the author’s educational journey in life. The second is a dramatic device inspired by the work of Dorothy Heathcote (Heathcote and Bolton 1995) that involves the development of a fictitious character who presents the work of the author and provides opportunities for transformative reflection. The character of William Loveday is developed during a number of educational events using an iterative spiral of planning, performance, evaluation and further performance.

Author Biography

David Francis Collins, Birmingham City University UK

Senior lecturer in social work