Metz M. L. & Simmt E. (2015) Researching mathematical experience from the perspective of an empathic second-person observer. ZDM Mathematics Education 47(2): 197–209.
Researching mathematical experience from the perspective of an empathic second-person observer.
ZDM Mathematics Education 47(2): 197–209.
In this paper, we explore the implications of adopting (and developing the capacities necessary to adopt) an empathic second-person research perspective. Such a perspective aims to mediate participants’ access to their own experience, thereby providing a rich source of first-person data as well as a powerful pedagogical tool. Working within the enactivist tradition (Maturana and Varela 1987; Varela et al. 1991), we acknowledge and welcome the co-evolution and intertwining of awareness, description, and experience that such an approach necessarily entails, and we further note a blurring of the distinction between teacher and researcher that occurs as the research method prompts changes in the very aspects of experience we are observing. We begin by weaving together insights based on Varela’s “empathic coach” (Varela and Shear 1999) and Gendlin’s (1962, 1978, 1991) Philosophy of the Implicit and practice of Focusing. We describe how we developed and refined our own use of these methods to prompt and describe learners’ evolving experiences of mathematical doubt and certainty. We then further elaborate the nature of the empathic coach and close with a discussion of implications for teaching mathematics.
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