Being an insider

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What is distinctive about practitioner inquiry or WBL inquiry is that the inquirer/researcher is a participant, at the centre of the inquiry and observes from the inside. The central focus or questions to be answered arise out of practice and are fed back into it. (Middlesex University)

Because your learning arises from your experience of challenge at work, and is gained in part by social engagement as you explore and naturally discuss the challenges being faced, you bring considerable insight to your learning area and inquiry. You already have considerable knowledge and information of the context of the challenge, of what influences it, of the culture that surrounds it. You know a great deal about the people involved and the policies and structures and processes. You are not a stranger, you are immersed. Being an insider with insider knowledge brings special pressures and requirements for careful handling.

You bring both a personal and a professional perspective to your inquiry must be thought about, you will be a key source in your learning resources. Reflective processes that enable you to explore your values, beliefs and actions is a critical dimension of undertaking your workbased learning inquiry. You have at least two roles, you are within the organisation undertaking your work, and you are an inquirer. These two roles can often challenge each other and the ability to manage this duality and the challenges and conflicts that might arise within that duality is a theme within the literature on workbased learning. You are personally involved. Having a process and place to explore and capture what this means is a very important reflexive process and is likely to involve discussions and reflective processes with others.

You work alongside others you have an existing relationship with. This knowledge of them as people requires careful and ethical thought as you design your learning area. People who you work with know you as a colleague, and you will have ongoing relationships with them at the completion of your learning within this development area. You are privy to a great deal of knowledge already about them. , and they will be aware that you will be sharing with your mentor and facilitator and readers of your outcome aspects of learning that come from your engagement with your colleagues.

Understanding the dimensions and responses to being an insider researcher is a dimension to the literature of wbl and several researchers and theorists have and continue to write on it. Alan Durrant (2009) discusses two fundamental considerations: there must be consideration of ethical matters at design of the project stage, and secondly that you need to think about the ethical dimensions to being a workbased learner. There are many resources that can help you with this.

One of the challenges of workbased learning inquiry is the need to be able to negotiate a pathway through all of the challenges of conflicts of interest between the partners and the people engaged with. The ethics process at Otago Polytechnic is a very helpful space which has been designed to help you identify and explore and respond to any ethical dimensions that could arise.