At the end of May Mia Perry the foundation’s research director presented a paper on ‘Embodied Methodologies’ (based on the introductory chapter of a book she is currently co-editing with her colleague Carmen Medina at the University of Indiana).
After an exercise to raise awareness of the body’s impact on experience, she introduced the various paradigms that attend to the body in research in different ways (e.g. phenomenology, semiotics, social theory, post-structuralism, etc.) and pointed to the lack of resources that could move theory into practice in research and in teaching. They were holding the question: How do we do embodied research and how do we do embodied teaching? She gave an example of the methodology that Carmen and Mia have developed in their work.
The reception of the paper and the nature of the conversations that were sparked afterwards confirmed a few things. Firstly, academics in the fields of language education and the arts share the deep concern for the disembodied way we still carry out most of our work as teachers and researchers. And secondly, they don’t know how to change. Questions and comments almost all consisted of either distressing anecdotes of schools that attempt to override the body (e.g., a school with a policy that only allows children to use the toilets during break times) or questions as to how we might engage in this work in practice (i.e., “I agree, but what can I do about it? How do I teach differently?”)
Overall the conference experience confirmed her continued assertion that this type of holistic work is much needed, sought after, and still quite rare in practical application in the field of educational research and teacher training and practice.