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Huckaby, M.F. (2018). Making research public in troubled times: Pedagogy, activism, and critical obligations. Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.

Reviewed By: Jae Campbell, Randolph Community College, jrcampbell@randolph.edu

In Making Research Public in Troubled Times, the editor questions the true meaning and purpose of qualitative research by sharing unorthodox methods used in qualitative research, and the benefits of such methods. She shares individual authors accounts of events in our society that benefited from qualitative research. She explores the importance of using qualitative research to inform, teach, question, and bring awareness as well as the charge qualitative scholars have been given to use their methods to transform the world. The introduction was helpful, as it sets up an episodic series for the book, in which each section, weaves together chapters with similar themes. This is ideal for the reader since each chapter has its own narratives, scholarly theories, and methodologies related to qualitative research.

 Section one, comprised of chapters 1-3 is entitled How to Educate Critical Public Researchers: Pedagogies Across Disciplines. In chapter 1 the author question how we judge in research and in education. She challenges the process of judging and states “rather than constructing and exercising judgement willingly according to institutional expectations, it might be productive to approach judgment as a continuous project” (p.16). She challenges the reader to consider judgement as a means to discovery and not to declaring right or wrong, or proving a theory. In chapter two the author shares how the traditional classroom teaching practices neglect to support learning that requires critical qualitative inquiry. Since students have been taught that a demonstration of knowledge means regurgitating what they’ve been told, they often miss opportunities to explore new knowledge. “Teaching well does not involve teaching students what to think. Rather, it involved teaching students how to think critically about the information they consume…” (p.33). The steps to conducting a qualitative research study is discussed in chapter three, along with strong opinions about barriers in qualitative research that’s rooted in historical methods in quantitative research. This leads to a comparison of terminology and practices in conducting qualitative and quantitative research. The author concludes this section by singing the praises of qualitative research by stating “The beauty and challenges of qualitative research and microanalyses are that every interview- even if with the same individual on a different day-is unique and irreplaceable” (p.51). For the advisor seeking to conduct qualitative research in their field, these chapters are exceptionally helpful in critically thinking about the theories and methodologies that influence their work, and how qualitative research can improve the field.

Section two’s title, Sharing Local Critical Activism: What It Means for How We Conduct Scholarship, speaks to how chapters 4-6 discuss qualitative research methods used to reveal inequalities in our society, and improve the lives of the oppressed. “…interactions with the academic communities… highlighted how difficult it can be to then present solutionless critical research during a time when calls of research-as –action-as-solution-making hold privileged space” (p.62), was a profound statement in chapter four, that sets up a series of narratives on how research data provided no solution to issues discovered during qualitative studies. Female students were experiencing sexual assault, harassment, and rape at a predominately male institution, and this was revealed through research conducted on the campus, however administration did not use this data to make effective changes to prevent these situations from happening again. When there is harm and trauma in a culture, qualitative research should be used to explore the basis of these rituals and guide officials in publicizing and rectifying these customs. The refugee women of Burma, who settled in North Carolina are the focus of chapter five. Enduring the struggles associated with being displaced from one’s home land, learning a new culture, and language and not having the means to establish themselves as a culture within a culture posed many challenges for these women. They became a part of a graduate qualitative research study, and a Burmese Women’s Group was formed. This allowed for the researcher to gather data on their lifestyle and interactions within American society, but also provided a gathering place for the women to share, support, and encourage one another. They (Burmese women) even constructed the research questions for the study. Through the process, they learned the value of qualitative research was not to push politicians and society to make changes in their favor, but to establish themselves as valuable in the society. “What can be most detrimental to our research is that, without the expertise and wisdom of participant communities from the start, we often wind up diagnosing the wrong problem or asking the wrong questions” (p.92). In chapter six, the author shares his journey with using film as a method of sharing his qualitative research. Exploring reform in public education that served as a disadvantage to minority children was the focus of his study. “I want viewer-readers to see people speaking about their experiences, explicating their own theorizing, and determining their solutions” (p. 108-09). He uses a combination of real interviews, pictures, and stories to create a cyborg that highlights the struggles of a population. His methods of collecting data and analyzing speak to that of qualitative inquiry. This section was most interesting because it showcased how qualitative research has transformed lives and brought attention to the needs of diverse people in our society. The voice of the student is presented, so advisors would appreciate the firsthand accounts of students lived experiences.

The final section of the book entitled, Strategic Next Steps and Obligations for Critical Qualitative Scholars, acknowledges the societal conditions in which qualitative research must be conducted. The neoliberalism society, one in which, critique and social values are undermined and economic prowess is elevated, has become norm in American society. In chapter seven, the author shares that the result of neoliberalism is a mix of reality an illusion that society can’t distinguish between. In the case of President Trump, she concludes, “The Trump of The Apprentice was carefully constructed as the epitome of neoliberal survivor, with one major difference –he would teach others how to succeed” (p.125). When Trump became President his fictional character from The Apprentice was transformed into a real role, with fictional character capabilities. Scholars of qualitative research must question how this world wide role will develop or demise over time, and how much we will let it affect our understanding of the cultures and people around us. “How might we, as part of the audience to this big show, find a way to contribute to this event in a way that matters and makes a difference?” (p.134). In chapter eight, the author proposes that in order to counter injustice, through the work of qualitative research, scholars should look to the historical events such as the civil rights movement. These types of historical events have paved the way for the advancement of critical research and its usage in transforming our world. “Perhaps entangling posthuman concerns with our past critical work can create new avenues and new openings for keeping our activist hope alive” (p.152). The idea that social injustices of the past made possible the variety of qualitative research studies we have seen over the years, encourages the advisor to be conscientious of injustices posed on students, and create research opportunities to remove those injustices through shedding light on student’s experiences.

As such, the NACADA Core Competency that best supports this literature are those in the Informational Component. When the author addresses the challenges posed by Institutional Review Board’s, she acknowledges “institution specific policies, procedures, rules, and regulations”. By including student narratives about their experiences on campus, advisors are informed about the characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations. Challenging educators to allow students to think critically in the classroom to produce a more autonomous learner, supports advisor’s role in understanding “curriculum, degree programs, and other academic requirements and options.”

The Core Values that are most relevant to this book are commitment, inclusivity, and respect. Since this book focuses on scholarly inquiry and the methods associated with qualitative research, advisors demonstrate the core value of commitment to lifelong learning, scholarly inquiry and professional development when they engage with this text. Several passages reflect on social injustice, politics, global awareness and include personal narratives of students on college campuses.  These passages encourage advisors to support the core value of inclusivity, by diversity, acceptance and equity of varying viewpoints and ideas. By understanding the challenges that female students faced on a predominately male campus, the learn to show respect for the diversity and culture that a college campus has established. This connects to the core value of respect because advisors learn to inherent value of all students.

By far, the best features of the book are those that provide guidance, and suggestions to implementing scholarly inquiry to improve higher education. The worst features are those that seemed to be the authors tangent on personal views regarding political issues. I would recommend this book to advisors who are involved in or eager to make contributions to the field, as this text can be a great reference to construing the results of qualitative research on advising and can be a great resource to those beginning to conduct research. However, this book would not become one of my top ten resources, as I have found scholarly writing that is more holistic in providing the step by step approach to writing a qualitative research report.

References:

Huckaby, M.F. (2018). Making research public in troubled times: Pedagogy, activism, and critical obligations. Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

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