Joe Kincheloe's Critical Complex Epistemology/Pedagogy & Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

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Paradis, V. J. (2013). Did Joe Lyons Kincheloe Discover the Golden Chalice for Knowledge Production? The Application of Critical Complex Epistemology and the Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage. (Doctoral Dissertation)

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

 

The power to narrate, to represent, and to silence

 is the power to oppress, to perpetuate suffering. (Kincheloe, 1997, p. 75).

 

 

Prologue: Epistemological Road Trips

 

            The late Joe Lyons Kincheloe (December 14, 1950–December 19, 2008), a world renowned and beloved critical theorist, philosopher, and prolific writer, developed an advanced conceptualization for bricolage, the multidimensional critical complex bricolage, which has been researched and applied for this study.  I had the treasured experience of working with Joe for seven months before he passed away. His tragic heart attack ultimately devastated me and crushed the hope I had for his work changing the world. He was brilliant, fun, and the most loving Master Teacher I have ever known. His wonderfully creative pedagogy incorporates activities to make even the most complex concepts a joy to learn. One example is his metaphoric, but also literal idea of epistemological road trips (Kincheloe, 2008c). He humorously described feeling like “Apostle Paul on Highway 61” while learning to play blues on the piano from a local African American blues band, the Baddaddies, when he was twelve years old (p. 18). Joe had already been trained at that young impressionable age to be a preacher even though, as he put it, he quickly knew he “didn’t want to be a fundamentalist Protestant” (p. 16). It was a racially segregated place and time in the Appalachian Mountains area of Eastern Tennessee. He explained, “We must be willing to take to the road, in much the same way Jack Kerouac did in the 1950s” (p. 19). He does not even rule out spending the night in a Mexican whorehouse the way Jack’s characters in the book had done. However, these epistemological road trips “also might mean traveling the path laid out by subjugated knowledge, exploring a wide variety of data sources excluded by the standardized elementary and secondary school curriculum and the corporatized university course of study” (p. 19).

Thus, epistemological road trips can and often do involve taking to the road. They also involve traveling the Internet highway. We never know who or what we might run into, where we might end up, or what we might learn. His words of wisdom in relation to these risks were contained within the admonition that “to become a seeker of new knowledges and new ways of being we must be willing to sometimes be seen as the fools of the gods” (p. 19).

 

Introduction to the Problem: “She’s Not There”

 

Bricolage, a form of multimethodological/multitheoretical/multiperspectival research is being used on an increasing basis in education, business, entrepreneurship, creative arts, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, nursing, geography, literary studies, ethnic studies, entrepreneurship, environmental sciences, natural resource management, curriculum studies, library studies, feminism, women’s studies, cognitive sciences, organizational theory, marketing, media studies, religious studies, psychology, history, knowledge management, network theory, among other domains (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, 2011; Kincheloe, 2001a, 2004a, 2005a). Researchers using this form of inquiry are referred to as bricoleurs as they select from various research methods, theories, and processes at hand that will serve their purpose for interpretation and analysis during their improvisational unfolding research, according to most definitions of this process. An overused metaphor in the literature refers to the bricoleur as a “handyperson” who uses available “tools” during the unfolding process of the research. Common metaphors used to describe the outcome of this form of research, include quilt, crystal, montage, or cubist artwork due to how the final bricolage represents the different vantage points of the research phenomenon. The result is often a multiperspectival view of the research object or phenomenon.

However, Kincheloe’s version of bricolage, which is not currently being employed by education researchers as he has conceptualized, adds a multidimensional complexity to the process of bricolage that these common definitions and metaphors fail to capture. I share Richardson’s (2012) concern over the mechanistic metaphors that continue to be associated with bricolage in nearly all disciplines and how they may contribute to reductionistic results. I also share his concern over these current studies failing to look to indigenous knowledges, ontologies, and narratives for greater understandings. These failures contribute to failing to meet what Kincheloe was calling for. Mechanistic metaphors are counter to what Kincheloe had conceptualized. Two key points about Kincheloe’s bricolage in relation to Richardson’s concerns are worth noting. First, Kincheloe emphasizes repeatedly the need for researchers to draw on indigenous epistemologies for greater insight; and secondly, Kincheloe was aware of the reductionistic effects of the machine metaphors and was working toward eliminating them. His frustration over these continuing metaphors shows up in his work in multiple places, such as with his statement in his last book, “The machine metaphor—also an ontological concept—looks like a small child’s view of the world when complexity begins to be appreciated” (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 43).

Thus, in order to differentiate Kincheloe’s bricolage from the metaphors that maintain reductionistic tendencies, as well as to highlight the complexity of his conceptualization of bricolage, in this study it will be referred to as the multidimensional critical complex bricolage. Throughout this study, while not perfect since I cannot change the fact that I am white and have had my consciousness influenced by machine metaphors among other undesirable ideologies, I attempt to open up the meaning of bricolage with new metaphors. I am not “there” quite yet; I learn as I practice the bricolage. There may be other metaphors that will contribute to understanding bricolage even more expansively, but this study is a good start.

           

Theoretical and Philosophical Foundation: “Critical Constructivism”

 

As presented in greater detail in the literature review, Kincheloe’s (2005b) conceptualization of his “critical constructivist” worldview forms the philosophical and theoretical foundation for this study. His advanced conceptualization of bricolage forms the conceptual framework (Kincheloe, 2005a, 2008b, 2008c). The worldview he has outlined is uniquely comprised of a complex of tightly interwoven and synthesized theories and tenets, including but not limited to his formulation of an evolving critical complex theory (which is far more expansive than mainstream critical theory/pedagogy). Included are feminist theory, chaos and complexity theories, enactive theory, liberation theology, and more. As he states, “The ‘critical’ in critical constructivism comes from critical theory and its concern with extending a human’s consciousness of herself as a social being­—critical theory promotes self-reflection in relation to social power and its ability to align our self-perceptions and world views with the interests of power blocs” (p. 33). Critical constructivism holds the position that consciousness shapes things into existence, into something that can be perceived (p. 8) and that knowledge is produced by interpretation, often constrained by our location in a complex web of reality and the views we can achieve within that reality. Thus, the more views or perspectives that we consciously work toward attaining such as can be achieved through bricolage it might be assumed the more power we have to consciously construct knowledge and our consciousness. Of course, there is much more involved in this process, as can be learned by engaging in Kincheloe’s formulation of bricolage. Indeed, Alexander Riegler (2012), Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Constructivist Foundations, and a prominent researcher of epistemology and cognitive science, attests, “Cognition is not about information processing but rather about information generating” (p. 241). This might explain, in part, why the process of knowledge production using Kincheloe’s bricolage can theoretically lead to higher order cognition, or what he sometimes refers to as “sophisticated cognition” (Kincheloe, 2004c). According to the theory, multidimensional critical complex bricolage is a process by which researchers enact, as in Maturana and Varela’s (1987) autopoieses theory, rigorous knowledge production hence, they also take an active role in constructing their own consciousness. These concepts are covered in greater detail in Kincheloe’s work and throughout this study as they are relevant to the context of this research (e.g., see Kincheloe, 2008c).

As I have learned during this research, it is important not to make assumptions about Kincheloe’s epistemologies. He has taken creative license to reconstruct and redefine many taken-for-granted terms, always incorporating his expansive worldview and multidimensional critical complex theories. This includes his version of research bricolage, the focus of this study, as is demonstrated. Thus, I recommend refraining from the tendency to attaching narrow labels or presuppositions to him or his work, and, instead, “phenomenologically bracketing” (setting aside) one’s first thoughts. Using the example of constructivism clarifies the reasoning behind this recommendation. Even though he has adopted the term “critical constructivism,” his take on constructivism is so expansive it cannot be placed into any one box. Thus, we might conclude he had adopted within his theories “constructivist approaches” as Riegler (2012) refers to this discipline for the very reason that “constructivism is not a homogenous paradigm” and consists of many sub-disciplines and approaches (p. 237). Kincheloe has placed the observer in a central role of theory development and engaging actively in constructing their reality through mental constructs in relationship. However, as Kincheloe has done with most terms he adopts, he has greatly expanded the definition of constructivism; thus, we might better distinguish his constructivism by referring to it as a multidimensional critical complex constructivism, similar to the designation made for his bricolage.

Issues of Understanding: The Philosophical Dimension 

A scan of bricolage research has shown that many researchers in education do not seem to understand that for effective and transformative knowledge production bricolage requires a deeper and broader analysis than simply juxtaposing various perspectives and engaging in surface-level discussions. This misconception is exemplified in a recent educational journal in which it was proclaimed by the author of the introduction that, “As a collection, the articles are representational of the power of the bricolage for the ‘doing of’ critical pedagogy and critical research” (Kress, 2011). None of the articles in the journal appear to be bricolage research studies nor were their interrelationships examined, indicating the common misconception that merely juxtapositioning articles in a journal constitute powerful bricolage research. Unfortunately, a growing trend was also noted in which doctoral students are creating “montages” of articles and submitting them for publication as a form of dissertation “bricolage” (Niven & Grant, 2012). Muddying the waters, bricolage has also become connected to what has increasingly become a “ludic postmodernism” (Kincheloe, 1993, 1995b, p. 85; Kincheloe & McLaren, 2005, p. 304), and it has been appropriated as a “postmodern device” (Arikan, 2011). Further darkening the waters, more recently, Marxist theory has been placed in juxtaposition with excerpts from Kincheloe’s advanced conceptualization of bricolage, posthumously, (Kincheloe, McLaren, & Steinberg, 2011)—after Kincheloe had “bleached” any remnants of Marxism from his critical theoretical work (Pinar, 2010, Endnote 12). Kincheloe apparently saw no benefit in synthesizing Marxist theory into his conceptualization, yet after his death, it is being inserted into his work along with outdated Freirean theory he had transcended with his theoretical formulations, thus diminishing his achievements. Scholarly research and education publishing as an industry is strange, bewildering, and very difficult to understand from an outside perspective. For whatever reasons this is being done, it provides another example supporting the pressing need to clarify his work.

 Kincheloe (2001a, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2004d, 2004e, 2005a, 2005b, 2008c) had expanded the conceptualization of critical bricolage in order to facilitate greater rigor and more powerful knowledge production, moving away from traditional critical theory and pedagogy that has been influenced primarily by the Frankfurt School as taken up by U.S. white males. His concept of an evolving criticality requires many diverse perspectives from all over the globe, and it incorporates complexity, chaos, and enactive theories with an emphasis on indigenous knowledges. In relation to the multiple modes of research he recommends, he states, “bricolage has typically been understood to involve the process of employing these methodological strategies, as they are needed in the unfolding context of the research situation. While this interdisciplinary feature is central to any notion of the bricolage, I propose that critical researchers go beyond this dynamic” (2008b, p. 131) [emphasis added]. His objectives are for researchers to engage in critical self reflection during the process and also to ensure that this form of research does not fall into reductionism or become a way of simply creating a hodgepodge of perspectives, much like a montage that does not consider an analysis of the interconnections of the complex relationships. He clarified that his conceptualization involves a discursive process of philosophizing, interpreting and analyzing.  He expresses the benefit of taking this approach: “Here, the theoretical domain is connected to the lived world and new forms of cognition and research are enacted” (Kincheloe, 2004a, pp. 4–5) [author’s emphasis]. As will be shown, enaction is a critical element of Kincheloe’s conceptualization and it provides hope because it results in actually making changes rather than merely talking about changes. Kincheloe (2005b) has situated his conceptualization of bricolage within a unique unifying critical constructivist worldview that incorporates a complex synthesis of critical, complexity, chaos, enactive, feminist, and other theories and philosophies. In his formulation, critical epistemology, critical hermeneutics, critical ontology, and other philosophies are accentuated to provide a deep understanding of multiple dimensions of the phenomena being studied and their interrelationships. He refers to this as philosophical research and asserts that rigor is not possible without this added dimension (Kincheloe, 2005a, p. 336).  He explains, “What researchers are exploring in this philosophical mode of inquiry are the nature and effects of the social construction of knowledge, understanding, and human subjectivity” (p. 337). He explicates, “The various philosophical tools clarify the process of inquiry and provide insight into the assumptions on which it conceptually rests” (p. 336). Thus, bricoleurs are compelled to situate themselves within this process, self-reflect, justify their selected methods, interpretations, and analyses in relation to the phenomenon being researched, exploring “the boundary between the social world and the narrative representation of it” (Kincheloe, 2005a, p. 336).

The understanding of how they are situated in relation to the phenomenon helps bricoleurs choose or develop research processes to address emergent insights and bypass reductionism, and ensures rigor. To assist these ends, critical hermeneutics, “a form of philosophical inquiry that focuses on the cultural, social, political, and historical nature of the research” takes a central role in Kincheloe’s (2005a) advanced conceptualization (p. 342). Thus, as discussed, the process he has developed is deeply grounded in philosophy and social theory, engages deep multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, seeks multiple perspectives, and uses a variety of analytic and interpretive processes with an emphasis on philosophical research and the analysis of dominant forms of power.

This form of research does not as a rule involve devising scientific controlled experiments, although Kincheloe acknowledges the importance of quantitative methods for answering certain types of research questions (e.g., Kincheloe, 2007a, “Empirical Knowledge,” p. 104). Bricolage research typically uses textual and various forms of readily available data as necessary to gain an understanding of the research phenomenon, and is qualitative in nature taking the form of a critical discourse, an important process for this form of research. The completed discursive knowledge product, which is often dialogic in nature, is also referred to as a bricolage (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, 2011; Kincheloe, 2001a, 2004a, 2005a).

Issues of Application: Transcending Reductionism

Upon reviewing the literature, there is virtually no example of a multidimensional critical complex bricolage study in education or any other discipline, aside from Kincheloe’s own work. Indeed, studies that cite Kincheloe’s bricolage fall short of the rigor he was calling for, leaving out the philosophical bricolage, taking shortcuts, ascribing to an undefined and vague postmodernism, and supplementing quantitative studies with add-on bricolage studies without analyzing the interrelationships and complexities between them and how these may have affected the knowledge produced. In other words, the theory as Kincheloe (2001a, 2001b, 2002, 2004a, 2004b 2004c, 2004d, 2004e, 2005a, 2008b, 2008c) has conceptualized is not fully understood and is being misapplied or not fully applied (Berry, 2006, 2011; Rogers, 2012) (e.g., Benningen, 2006; Fedory, 2005; Helms, Irby, Lara-Alecio, & Guerrero-Valecillos, 2009; Lauer, 2006; MacLean, 2009; Rumble, 2010; Semetsky, 2011). This observation is not meant to insult researchers who have embarked on this complex path of research; indeed, they are to be commended. As mentioned, the current metaphors for bricolage tend to promote confusion over the process and contribute to reductionism. Greater clarification and direction is needed to flesh out the process for Kincheloe’s conceptualization so that the multifaceted problems facing education can benefit from the application of the more powerful, practical, and actionable knowledge that can be produced from this rigorous form of research. Thus, this study has taken bricolage to the next level, demonstrating application in a way it is hoped Kincheloe would have wished and is not meant to undermine what is already being done. All bricolage research can be picked up at any point and carried forward to the next level and perhaps this study will provide inspiration for researchers to continue forward with their bricolage studies.

Due to confusion by some researchers as evidenced in the literature, it is important to also note that, as Kincheloe (2004c), himself, had clarified, “The purpose of the [multidimensional critical complex] bricolage is not to subvert the production of empirical knowledge but rather to encourage the production of a richer, thicker, and more rigorous form of it. . . . Bricoleurs are simultaneously calling for a more rigorous form of empirical knowledge and a more humble claim for what it represents. The two characteristics are not contradictory; instead they are synergistic” (p. 35). Additionally, he states:

 

Contrary to the pronouncements of some analysts, the contingent orientation to research created by the bricoleur’s attention to discursive and contextual dimensions of knowledge production, does not make one anti-empiricist or anti-quantitative. Instead, such concerns make the bricoleur more attentive to the various dynamics that shape what is called empirical knowledge. (2004b, p. 6–7)

 

Research into the application of his conceptualization is crucial so that more researchers understand Kincheloe’s multidimensional critical complex bricolage and can confidently apply it (Berry, 2011). Thus, this study has undertaken an analysis of  Kincheloe’s work that led up to his formulation and has examined how he employed it in his own work, contrasting it to current bricolage research in order to provide more specific direction for new bricoleurs. Kincheloe (1991b) used the analogy of researchers being “mapmakers” who may wish to put everything on the map for an accurate portrayal, but must make subjective decisions about what to include and what to leave out (p. 13). Of course, map makers often have systems for assisting them with making those decisions, but bricoleurs, in a sense, have to make their own systems in context with the phenomena they are studying. While the complexity of this advanced, multidimensional form of bricolage is not conducive for outlining exact procedures or a concise all-purpose map—in fact doing so would be counter to what the process is attempting to achieve—nevertheless, a presentation of general processes following the guidance Kincheloe has provided may be helpful toward getting more rigorous bricolage research off the ground.

Issues of Process: Faith and Trust 

As Francis and Simon (2001) indicate, “having a system or following a process is a defining principle of research” (p. 40). Further, researchers of constructivism, an important process within bricolage, are calling for a move toward considering life “a process of bringing forth a world” (Stewart, 2011, p. 21) and making the processes “practically visible” (Bartesaghi, 2011, p. 22). Kincheloe (2004e, 2005a) has delineated important considerations that should inform some of the choices bricoleurs may face for achieving these goals, thus, he has provided a preliminary system that guides researchers with choosing actions to address social justice issues and alleviate suffering. The system is flexible as it will bend and shape itself according to the researcher’s needs and the topic being researched. Thus, it is true that there is a degree of faith and trust necessary to take on this bricolage process that relies greatly on intuition and creative flow balanced with intellect and reason. In fact, Kincheloe’s bricolage often requires one to learn to juggle many balls simultaneously. Yet Kincheloe was certain we can all learn to do this. To keep the momentum going and avoid dropping the ball after Kincheloe’s tragic and untimely death, bricolage as it’s currently being practiced needs to move up to the next level—the multidimensional critical complex bricolage—for today’s bricoleurs. We are now entering the critical bricolage “moment” for research (Berry, 2011).

Thus, this study examines how bricolage is currently being applied in educational research compared to Kincheloe’s recommended approaches for the multidimensional critical complex bricolage and has highlighted concrete ways to ensure rigor of the research process. Because his conceptualization requires deep interdisciplinary research, several domains have been examined, demonstrating how they might contribute additional insight into the process. Multiple perspectives, philosophies, theoretical frameworks, and metaphors confronted through interdisciplinarity have provided a comprehensive and multifaceted understanding of bricolage research in general and reveal ideas for applications in education.  An analysis that compares and contrasts how the bricolage is employed in terms of process, rigor and outcomes has been used to gain a greater understanding of Kincheloe’s complex research process and to begin the development of recommendations that might help new bricoleurs develop their own process for conducting these studies. Research rigor and how bricoleurs might represent the knowledge produced has also been evaluated in this study. Francis and Simon (2001) describe rigor of qualitative research as being “associated with openness, scrupulous adherence to a philosophical perspective, and thoroughness in collecting data, and consideration of all the data in the development of a theory” (p. 40). This provides a starting framework for incorporating and evaluating rigor.

Kincheloe’s Sound, Long-Standing Eclectic Philosophy

It was imperative to show, first of all, that Kincheloe had adhered meticulously to a sound philosophy in the development of his theories and that, contrary to what many scholars apparently have interpreted, he did not embrace a nebulous, ludic, or philosophical postmodernism (e.g., Arikan, 2011; Hayes, Steinberg, & Tobin, 2011). A thorough analysis of his work will show that he used the term to represent a form of critical epistemological analysis that he had redefined in his customary, if idiosyncratic way. In one of his earlier works, he was clear about his position, stating “the postmodern form of this democratic research demands interrogation” in relation to his discussion about action research (Kincheloe, 1995b, p. 85).  While some people may interpret this to mean that postmodernism is the subject in the sentence that is taking the action—demanding interrogation in the critical sense—what Kincheloe is calling for here is a critical interrogation of  the forms of action research that have manifested midst what he refers to as the postmodern condition. In his text, he had renamed action research as critical postmodern action research, incorporating his critical, analytic version of action research. Thus, using his epistemological license, he delineates a critical postmodernism, again, incorporating his idiosyncratic take on critical theory (see Kincheloe, 2000, “postmodern critique”, p. 88). This critical postmodernism specifies the critical analyses of the symptoms of the postmodern condition—that is—of the pseudo democracy and the “rational irrationality” that has evolved out of the rejection of reason (Kincheloe, 1993, 1995b, 2008c). Kincheloe (1991b) spoke of this current state of the modern era as being the “death of the democratic philosophy of schooling” (p. 1). It can be clearly shown that he had a totally different slant on postmodernism than what some scholars have interpreted. Perhaps the confusion is the reason he abstained from referencing postmodernism at all in his later work. This included replacing “post-formalism” with his advanced conceptualization of cognitive development theory and renaming it critical psychology of cognition, (Kincheloe, 2008b, 2008c), even though the word post-formalism actually had referred to the higher order thinking abilities people are capable of developing beyond Piaget’s theorized “formal” stage of cognitive development and did not relate to postmodernism as many people interpret (Kincheloe, 1991a, p. 44–45). Maybe Kincheloe became tired of repeatedly writing in his work, “Please don’t misunderstand me.” I read extra carefully when I encounter that admonition in his writing. As will be shown in this study, Kincheloe maintained a sound, eclectic philosophy, and he did not throw “reason” out the door.

Still, there continues to be promulgated the conjecture (stated and implied in various works) that Kincheloe’s work referencing postmodernism led to the “inauguration” of his conceptualization of bricolage research and/or that the bricolage is a postmodern device (e.g., Arikan, 2011; Hayes, Steinberg, & Tobin, 2011) but from the perspective being presented here, these conclusions are emphatically incorrect. For example, Hayes, Steinberg, and Tobin attribute Kincheloe’s (1995b) article, “Meet Me behind the Curtain: The Struggle for a Critical Postmodern Action Research” to being “etymologically speaking, a single parent to Joe’s articulation of bricolage a decade later” (p. 85). Ironically, etymology requires the tracing of the history of words or ideas. Thus, in the same book by Hayes, Steinberg, & Tobin, which is a compilation of Kincheloe’s articles, is an article written in 1991. In it, Kincheloe (1991b) states, in relation to the complexity of researching socially embedded experiences in education, “The attempt to quantify these experiences results in a violation of their nature. Thus, a new type of research methodology must be utilized to understand these types of experiences. The new research must ask qualitative questions” (p. 12). In the particular article referenced here, “Exposing the Technocratic Perversion of Education: The Death of the Democratic Philosophy of Schooling,” he does not mention postmodernism at all. He speaks entirely in terms of the “modern era” that has now morphed into an insidious form of Western positivist epistemology he has described in his last book as “FIDUROD” (an acronym representing its attributes: formal, intractable, decontextualized, universal, reductionistic, and one dimensional knowledge production) (see Kincheloe, 2008c, pp. 21–25). This epistemology had developed, according to Kincheloe, as a backlash to the worldwide anti-colonial rebellion in the 1940s and 1950s and the subsequent U.S. civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, and feminist movements of the 1960s.  Kincheloe chronicles the devastating effects of this particularly intractable form of Western epistemology that currently dominates research in great detail in his book, Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction (Kincheloe, 2008c).

Clearly, Kincheloe (1991b) was not referring to qualitative research in general in this 1991 article—that had been happening for decades. He was seeking a “new type of research” (p. 12). This quest for research comprised of multiple perspectives can be traced back to the first edition of Teachers as Researchers published in 1991 and even much further yet, to his very first book published, a booklet titled, Understanding the New Right and Its Impact on Education. In this booklet, written in 1983, he clearly conveyed the complexity of the issues surrounding the Kanawha County textbook controversy, an incident that occurred in 1974 and had resulted in violence, including the bombing of a school bus. He analyzed the emergence of the New Right Wing and he argued for educators to take time to understand the complexity of the issues, to research multiple perspectives, and to engage in unfettered debate. In his own words, he had begun this quest for new ways of thinking “in the late 1980s” (Kincheloe, 2006c, p. 140). When all of the signs are taken together, combined with his abandoning the term “postmodernism” in his final conceptualization and in his last works, it seems clear that Kincheloe was attempting to completely sever his work from an increasingly ludic postmodernism. Thus, connecting a postmodernist ambiguity or a postmodern “philosophy” (providing one can even define such a philosophy) to his conceptualization of the multidimensional critical complex bricolage is a huge disservice and dishonor to Kincheloe and the more than forty years he had spent developing it. While Kincheloe is ambitiously and simultaneously accomplishing many things with his version of bricolage, his multiperspectival approach does not assume that all perspectives are equally valuable. As he had concluded in his very first booklet (and a close reading of his work reveals he had not moved from this perspective), “When the complexity of the problem is widely understood, we can see the folly of simplistic, black-and-white answers. With extreme positions exposed, rational and productive exchange of ideas becomes possible” (Kincheloe, 1983, p. 40). Unfortunately, ludic postmodernism and the narcissism it engenders are not conducive to this happening. Practicing bricolage as he has conceptualized can help get us out of this quagmire.

In conclusion, the complexity and issues surrounding Kincheloe’s work and factors that may be holding up progress in terms of application have been introduced. These issues and many more are taken up in this research to provide greater clarity for his research process. Reading carefully, whether he is writing about postmodernism, positivism, or epistemology, his philosophical position is strong and consistent throughout all of his work from his very first booklet, Understanding the New Right, written in 1983, to his last work, Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction written in 2008. Kincheloe seems to have been on a very specific quest, and through the analysis conducted by this study, it appears he had been highly successful accomplishing what he was wishing to accomplish. For mysterious reasons, which perhaps this study will begin to uncover, Kincheloe chose to sometimes write in an ambiguous style that left his discourse open for interpretation, such as the example in which his reference to postmodernism could be interpreted in two different and opposing ways. This leaves researchers open to interpreting his writing in the ways that suit their own position, if they are not reading his work in complete context or taking time for intertextual interpretations. However, it will be noted here, that with his version of research bricolage, upon which his own work has undoubtedly been based, he has always included a statement in his definition of bricoleur not seen in other definitions: “Some connotations of the term involve trickery and cunning and remind me of the chicanery of Hermes, in particular his ambiguity concerning the messages of the gods” (2004b, p. 1). Perhaps, there are people who do not heed that clue and are not reading Kincheloe’s work carefully. There may be some surprising messages from the gods before this analysis is over.

 

Background of the Study

 

Researchers in many domains, including education, use bricolage, a multimethodological and multitheoretical form of qualitative research, but these studies vary significantly in their approaches, rigor, and outcomes. It was not known, before conducting this study, how these studies compare with Kincheloe’s advanced conceptualization of the more rigorous employment of the bricolage, referred to here as the multidimensional critical complex bricolage. The increasing use of bricolage in ways that do not incorporate adequate rigor may be contributing to the “triple crisis of representation, legitimation, and praxis” that Denzin and Lincoln (2008, p. 26) cite as being an issue for educational and social sciences research today. As researchers increasingly find that reductionistic research methodologies and positivistic studies fail to satisfactorily answer their research questions or find workable solutions to problems that arise from complex, rapidly changing social conditions, they are increasingly turning to forms of inquiry that provide greater promise, such as bricolage. Thus, it is important to gain more knowledge about how to approach bricolage research in order to encompass these complexities effectively. Kincheloe’s multidimensional critical complex bricolage offers a rigorous and potentially more fruitful process if applied as he has recommended. While a handful of new bricoleurs are taking the leap and beginning to implement some of his recommendations, until this study, it had yet to be fully explored or applied as conceptualized other than by Kincheloe, himself. Thus, research citing Kincheloe’s bricolage is analyzed in this study in relation to his advanced conceptualization, and his process is described and clarified.

 

Statement of the Problem

 

Bricolage is being used as a research methodology in many disciplines, including education today, but there is little guidance and few historical examples for conducting rigorous inquiries. Upon cursory analysis, it appears that either people do not know about or they do not fully understand the late Joe Kincheloe’s advanced conceptualization of critical bricolage. If they do know, they choose to take shortcuts and skip over important components, such as employment of the philosophical bricolage, critical hermeneutics, critical complex epistemology, and the fourth dimension of research. There is little assurance that simply using multiple methods and theories will escape reductionism. Thus, the findings from such studies may fall short of contributing new knowledge to solve the complex issues facing education today. Kincheloe was confident that researchers can do better than this, which was the purpose behind his conceptualization of the multidimensional critical complex bricolage. He had asserted that without the added dimensions of philosophical research, adequate research rigor could not be attained (Kincheloe, 2001a, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2004d, 2005a, 2005b). To date, no one has thoroughly analyzed the process Kincheloe recommended to conduct this form of research or has used this advanced conceptualization cohesively and comprehensively for knowledge production. Perhaps this has not happened to date because Kincheloe’s work is extremely complex, multidimensional, theoretical, and philosophical, and it requires intertextual and hermeneutical analysis of his work in order to gain a thorough understanding for purposes of application. Unless more inquiries such as this one are conducted, this potentially powerful research process will likely not be used as intended, at the risk of researchers continuing to use reductionistic forms of bricolage that may not produce meaningful or useful knowledge that can contribute to the magnitude of change that is required to solve pressing educational and social problems. Indeed, it has been seven years since Kincheloe first presented his advanced conceptualization, and while bricolage research continues to increase rapidly, overall, it is failing to produce knowledge that is making a difference.

Where do we begin? In a book Kincheloe published with Kathleen Berry (Kincheloe & Berry, 2004), he had presented bricolage as he had theorized it up to that time. In the book, Berry (2004a) suggests beginning the research using a point of entry text she refers to as a POET through which various ideologies, philosophies, theories, and numerous other perspectives may be threaded. While the concept of the POET is helpful in one sense, it is potentially inadequate and constraining once researchers delve into the full complexity of multidimensional critical complex research. Decisions regarding what to include, what to exclude, what is valuable or not when confronting a potentially infinite number of decision points among numerous texts that become included in the analysis require a more intuitive, less structured process. Thus, using a POET has been further clarified to determine what it might offer when applying Kincheloe’s advanced conceptualization of bricolage. This is discussed as relevant to the study and the POET, a potentially useful construct, is considered in multiple contexts.

 

Purpose of the Study

 

The purpose of this study was to examine the differences and similarities between Kincheloe’s (2001a, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2004d, 2004e, 2005a, 2008b, 2008c) multidimensional critical complex bricolage and the bricolage that is currently being applied in education research in order to assess how his advanced conceptualization might contribute to researchers conducting more rigorous research. Because this consists of interdisciplinary research, several domains were examined for their potential contribution to educational research. This analysis has more clearly differentiated between commonly used, less effective bricolage research methods, the more effective applications, and Kincheloe’s advanced multidimensional critical complex bricolage, and it provides guidance for applying his more rigorous form of bricolage. It is noted that Kincheloe did not advocate formulas, steps, or blueprints due to the improvisational approach that is necessary as the research unfolds, thus, his discourse has left it open for researchers to discover their own approaches. This does not mean there is no planning involved and he does provide guidance for making research decisions during the process of inquiry. It is believed that this study, which differentiates and demonstrates his bricolage process, will lead to greater understanding of how to approach this form of inquiry as well as provide a cursory analysis of how rigor relates to knowledge production. Rigorous inquiry, as recommended by Kincheloe, can result in applicable solutions to complex educational problems, increase knowledge, and improve researchers’ abilities to undertake increasingly rigorous analyses with the potential for profound knowledge production. Thus, this study has examined the gap between current bricolage research in education and what Kincheloe had proposed, has developed ideas for a process for employing the process and evaluating the results, and has applied the process by analyzing an excerpt of text from his work in Rigour and Complexity in Educational Research: Conceptualizing the Bricolage (Kincheloe, 2004d, pp. 62-67). Additionally, this final bricolage, this dissertation, represents an example of a study completed using the multidimensional critical complex bricolage.

 

Rationale for the Study

 

Even as education is becoming increasingly complex it still operates under industrial age, traditional paradigms that fail to address the growing diversity, rapid changes, and flood of information (Nieto, 2005; Nieto & Bode, 2012; Reigeluth and Carr-Chellman, 2009). Education has been on a downward trend, with the United States moving from first place globally, to tenth place, according to Jobs for the Future (2010). Jobs for the Future (2012) now recognizes that the fragmented “reductive” way education has been provided has failed, and accelerated processes for remediation are required for more students than ever. These factors, along with others, are an indication that the needs of learners are not being met and a high quality education is not being provided. That these issues of rapid changes and complexities are not being addressed calls for a new paradigm, according to some researchers (e.g., Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009); however, compelling and telling are the accounts of wars, arguments, and in some cases ad hominem attacks over paradigms (Denzin, 2010b; Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, 2011; Kincheloe, 2007b; Lather, 2006). Norman Denzin reviewed the historical trends of these issues and maintains that, “we need a moral and methodological community that honors and celebrates paradigm and methodological diversity” (p. 425). Donmoyer (2006) argues that it may have been appropriate to adopt Kuhn’s idea of paradigm during the 1970s, but that “it is now time to leave our hermetically sealed paradigmatic universes and engage with those in power in their own terms. . . . My argument for abandoning paradigm talk, in short, is based on strategic and pragmatic considerations” (p. 29). Thus, researchers do not agree as to how these issues with paradigms should be resolved.

Knowledge produced today within the imposed imperialistic and positivistic constraints combined with longstanding disagreements has limited ability to resolve these paradigm issues (Kincheloe, 2008c). The multidimensional complex critical bricolage circumvents paradigm wars, accommodates chaos and complexity directly, considers and honors multiple perspectives, identifies hidden dimensions of complex issues and future possibilities, and provides a rigor that can result in actions that alleviate the suffering. There may be hope for changing today’s education systems that currently fail to fully recognize and address the complex needs of learners or incorporate knowledge production in the learning process (Kincheloe, 2001a, 2005a, 2008c).  Although Kincheloe (2005a) states that the bricolage “does not enter this paradigmatic situation as a knight on a white horse,” he attests to its power for transforming both knowledge and the researchers who use it and for moving research in a positive direction (pp. 331–332). As he contends, knowledge cannot be separated from the knower, thus, rigorous research is a transformative act (Kincheloe, 2001b, pp. 472–473). This study has seemed to show that this is, indeed, the case.

 

Research Questions

 

The purpose of this study was to examine how bricolage is currently being applied in educational research compared to Kincheloe’s recommended approaches for the multidimensional critical complex bricolage in order to highlight in more concrete, contextual terms how new bricoleurs might improve the quality of research bricolage. Because this is an exploratory study, the questions started out general and tentative. Originally, the goal was to provide an introductory assessment regarding the potential contribution Kincheloe’s multidimensional critical complex bricolage may have for bricolage research and knowledge production and whether this current study in fact produces greater understanding or new knowledge. The study went beyond these goals in profound ways. This is evidenced throughout the study, including showing that Kincheloe, modest about his own contributions to knowledge and research, has made profound contributions. This conclusion had been intuitively determined before launching this research project.

In light of the dissertation title, Did Joe Lyons Kincheloe Discover the Golden Chalice for Knowledge Production?: The Application of Critical Complex Epistemology and the Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage, the following questions have been examined in this study: What is the nature of the new knowledge produced by this study? How might it be useful? How is bricolage research currently being used in education and other domains? How are these applications different from and similar to Kincheloe’s critical complex bricolage and to what extent? How do the research outcomes and knowledge production in these examined studies, including this current study, reflect the degree of rigor with which the bricolage or the critical complex bricolage has been applied? What are the implications of the findings for future educational research? What additional insight is provided by performing an analysis of Berry’s (2004a) Point of Entry Text as a way of launching an inquiry? How might the knowledge produced be evaluated?

This study was improvisational and qualitative in nature, thus, many new questions arose during the course of the inquiry. Where they were directly relevant to the study, these new questions were interwoven; where they were not relevant, the questions were posed as possible avenues of research for future bricolage studies.

 

Nature of the Study

 

            This research is an exploratory and improvisational multidimensional critical complex bricolage study in which multiple perspectives, ideologies, philosophies, theoretical frameworks, and methodologies were used to analyze and apply Kincheloe’s (2005a) conceptual work for bricolage. An ongoing environmental scan of bricolage studies conducted by other researchers was used to compare them with Kincheloe’s work in terms of process, rigor and outcomes. Analytic assessments were performed based on Kincheloe’s (2001a, 2005a, 2008c; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004) criteria and additional research-developed criteria. This required back-and-forth analyses and a cyclical, improvisational process as comparisons were made and the differences, similarities and benefits of the methods were clarified. Additional research into various research methodologies (e.g., hermeneutics, phenomenology, currere, semiotics, theoretical, interpretive, political, narrative, etc.) was conducted to aid the analyses and the literature review as the research unfolded. Justifications for decisions made throughout the research process were provided, which involved incorporating researcher self-reflexivity. The study is discursive in nature and has included analyzing existing textual data and performing intertextual analyses, including of Kincheloe’s works. Thus, there are no research participants, rendering the study exempt from the standard IRB review process.

 

Significance of the Study

 

            This study has focused on crystallizing Kincheloe’s multidimensional critical complex bricolage and the contribution it makes toward more rigorous bricolage research in academia. At the same time, the process for this type of research has been demonstrated and delineated within the study. Kincheloe’s contention was that a rigorous multimethodological, multitheoretical, multiperspectival and analytic discursive process that includes a philosophical bricolage will produce knowledge that can change the world. This study has opened up the conversation for new ways of looking at validity of bricolage research by expanding researcher understanding of the criteria Kincheloe had developed and by providing insights for developing criteria specific to any given research study.

In addition, Kincheloe (2008c) has contended that even elementary school students can be taught to produce powerful knowledge by learning the research skills associated with the multidimensional critical complex bricolage and critical complex epistemology. They can be taught research skills right from the start and throughout their education to become adept bricoleurs.  The impact of teaching young children higher order thinking skills in ways that they enjoy can take learning to a whole new level and create an entirely new view and process for education, as Kincheloe has noted in his works. It was beyond the scope of this dissertation to fully explore those possibilities, although they have been touched on. The thought of how this research process can improve education at all levels was a great motivating force behind this project and is a source of inspiration for future research, especially given that U.S. education is not succeeding in closing achievement gaps (Aud & Hannes, 2010). Something must change.

Using the bricolage research process as a primary mode for learning provides ramifications for new visions for curricula, and in fact, many of these new visions are already presented in Kincheloe’s other works and can be expanded upon (see  Kincheloe, 1989, 1991a,1993, 1995a, 1995b, 1999, 2000, 2001b, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2005b, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d, 2008b, 2008c). His theory purposely blurs boundaries between disciplines, thus doing away with rigid divisions in education, although he expresses the importance of maintaining a balance between subject and context (Kincheloe, 1991a). There are multiple benefits for this, including increasing both depth and breadth of learning and making learning more relevant.  It also becomes feasible to develop interdisciplinary activities that literally span all age and ability levels through relatively easy differentiation and scaffolding techniques and by taking an improvisational, learner-centric approach. As learners make some of their own choices in learning they become more motivated. When learning and researching reaches what Kincheloe (2005a) refers to as the fourth dimension of research (p. 346) the researcher becomes an independent, impassioned learner, the research becomes almost entirely improvisational or inner directed, and it unfolds naturally with less need for specific or pre-determined instruction in the traditional sense. This does not rule out the need for teachers, of course, but simply changes the role teachers serve and also recognizes that we are all teachers of something for someone.

There are multiple applications for the multidimensional critical complex bricolage, in addition to learning and academic research. For example, it would be useful for investigative purposes such as crime investigations, as well as for developing new uses of social networking technologies for research and learning in communities. It can also be used to improve the quality and rigor of online and distance learning.

            In conclusion, the purpose of this study involved researching and applying an advanced conceptualization of research bricolage, the multidimensional critical complex bricolage, as developed by the late educational critical theorist, Joe Lyons Kincheloe and as represented by the last book he wrote just a few months before he passed away, Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction. He stated in at least two places in this book that it would change the world. I happen to believe him. Joe was a true genius, as great a genius as Einstein, and as alluded to by other scholars, his work is, perhaps, directed to us from the future. It is hoped that this dissertation is a contribution, if only a beginning, to his assertion that if we all work together in an atmosphere of love, we can “alleviate suffering,” solve the world’s most complex problems, and make the world a better place for everyone.

 

Definitions of Terms

 

The specialized terms and definitions are derived from Kincheloe’s various works. He has included definitions throughout his books and he defines the key terms clearly and succinctly as he has applied them in his work. Thus, the following terms are used in this study and are important for understanding his evolving complex criticality, critical complex epistemology, and his multidimensional critical complex bricolage:

 

Autopoiesis. The self-construction of life forms in tandem with their environments. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 171); Autopoiesis involves the production of a pattern of life organization. Cognition in this ontological context involves the process of self-production. (2001b, p. 315)

 

Bricolage. The French word, bricoleur, describes a handyman or handywoman who makes use of the tools available to complete a task. Some connotations of the term involve trickery and cunning and are reminiscent of the chicanery of Hermes, in particular his ambiguity concerning messages of the gods. If hermeneutics came to connote the ambiguity and slipperiness of textual meaning, then bricolage can also imply imaginative elements of the presentation of all formal research. I use the term here in the way Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (2000) employ it in The Handbook of Qualitative Research to denote a multimethodological form of research that uses a variety of research methods and theoretical constructs to examine a phenomenon (see Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 171)

 

Constructivist. An epistemological position that maintains that the knower personally participates in all acts of knowing and understanding. Knowledge does not exist “out there” in isolation from the knower. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 171)

 

“Critical” and “Complex” as in Critical Complex Pedagogy/Epistemology/Bricolage. Note: When Kincheloe attaches the designator, “critical” in front of terms, this represents the incorporation of his own unique and more rigorous version of evolving critical theory, which he describes in his work and is summarized in Chapter 2 Literature Review. It is, of course, associated with the identification of dominant power and finding solutions to alleviate oppression and suffering. The word “complex” denotes the engagement with complexity theory. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 247)

 

Critical complex hermeneutics. A form of hermeneutics (interpretation) that has engaged with critical and complexity theories. It is interested in the ways power operates to shape consciousness, behavior and maintain control—or, in a more productive vein, end human suffering and upgrade human life. It moves beyond what’s visible to expose hidden structures and intentions. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 247)

 

Critical complex pedagogy. Attuned to the importance of complexity in constructing a rigorous and transformative education. Because of the importance of complexity, I often refer to my version of critical pedagogy as a critical complex pedagogy. (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 8, 119)

 

Critical psychology of complexity/Critical complex cognition. Aware of many different perspectives, the vantage points of diverse disciplines of knowledge (e.g., history, philosophy, sociology) and transdisciplinary ways of seeing such as cultural studies (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 173). Views learning as an untidy process of constructing new relationships in the interaction of cultural understandings, the influences of the information environment, familiar stories, idiosyncratic ways of making meaning, and schooling. (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 161)[Author’s italics]

 

Discursive or Discourse Analysis. The study of discourses where a discourse is defined as a constellation of hidden historical rules that govern what can be and cannot be said and who can speak and who must listen. . . . Discourses shape how we operate in the world as human agents, construct our consciousness, and, in an epistemological domain, what we consider true. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 68)

 

Disciplinarity. A process where disciplinary boundaries are crossed and the analytical frames of more than one are employed by the researcher. (Kincheloe, 2001b, p. 685).

 

Enactivism. A theory of mind that begins with an understanding of the relationship between mind and its contextual surroundings. Such an understanding demands that we ask why we see mind or any other phenomena as separate from its surroundings. Enactivism places great emphasis on how an entity interacts with its environment. . . . entities actually cre[a]te themselves (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 176). This theory of mind was developed by the Santiago School where the mind is viewed as a self-creating organism that produces meaning instead of merely processing information as mirror images of external reality. Cognition in such a context emerges from the interaction, the relationship between the mind and its context—its external environment. This emergence is an enacted phenomenon—enacted in the interaction of mind-environment—that leads to an entity’s awareness of its self and the context around it. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 172)

 

Epistemology. Constitutes the branch of philosophy that analyzes the nature of knowledge and what we believe to be true. Epistemology asks how do we analyze knowledge? How do we know it’s true? How do we produce knowledge and what is the status of that knowledge in the world? In other words, how do various individuals react to the knowledge we produce? An educational epistemological question that emerges in this context involves what do we consider valid and important knowledge and which parts of it should become part of the curriculum? How do we figure out what to teach [or learn] and is the knowledge we choose of any worth? (Kincheloe, 2008c, pp. 15–16)

 

FIDUROD. An acronym for the basic features of a contemporary mechanistic epistemology that is used sometimes unconsciously to shape the knowledge that permeates Western and Western-influenced cultures. The letters represent the attributes, Formal, Intractable, Decontextualized, Universalistic, Reductionistic, and One Dimensional. (Kincheloe, 2008c, pp. 21–24)

 

Hegemony. The process of maintaining domination in contemporary democratic society not through the use of force, but through winning the consent of the people. (Kincheloe, 2002, p. 129)

 

Historicity. The state of being in the world, our place in space and time and the way it shapes us. Such a concept is very important in critical and enactivist theory. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 253)

 

Historiography. The study of history, including historical research methods, epistemological and ontological issues, and schools of historical interpretation (Kincheloe, 2005b, p. 22)

 

Hyperreality. French social theorist’s Jen Baudrillard’s conception of the contemporary landscape marked by the omnipresence of electronic information. In such a landscape individuals begin to lose touch with the traditional notions of time, community, self, and history. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 172)

 

Intentionality. A feature of cognitive and linguistic states where an observer understands that they possess content and are about something in the world. This makes living things harder and more complex to study than non-living things. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 142) [Author’s italics]

 

Multilogicality. A critical complex concept that focuses on transcending reductionism by gaining access to a wide diversity of perspectives when involved with research, knowledge work, and pedagogy. (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 159)

 

Phenomenology. The study of phenomena in the world as they are constructed by our consciousness. As it analyzes such phenomenon it asks what makes something what it is. In this way phenomenologists “get at” the meaning of lived experience, the meaning of experience as we live it. In this effort phenomenology attempts to study what it means to be human. (Kincheloe, 2005b, p. 142)

 

Poststructuralism. A social theoretical position emerging from within French structuralism in the 1960s, in response to structuralist claims to objectivity and universalism—eg., Piaget’s universal stages of child development or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. . . . In a postructural context language becomes extremely important as it culturally, socially, and politically inscribes particular situations. As it uncovers these dynamics, poststructuralism fosters resistance to the power they exert in the regulation and discipline of individuals. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 69)

 

Reductionism. An epistemological position that asserts that a researcher can best appreciate phenomena by reducing them to their constituent parts and then piecing the elements back together according to causal laws. There is no need in reductionism for multiple perspectives and a variety of research methods. Reductionists believe that such multilogical activity would just add noise and confusion to a simple process. (Kincheloe, 2008b, p. 160)

 

Semiotics. The study of the nature and influence of signs, symbols, and codes. (Kincheloe, 2005b, p. 24)

 

Subjectivity. In a critical context the term is used not as merely the opposite of objectivity but more as the characteristic of being a subject—a socially constructed individual whose identity is always connected to the shifting effects of power relations. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 172)

 

Theory. Is not an explanation of the world— it is more an explanation of our relation to the world. (Kincheloe, 2004b, p. 2)

 

Zeitgeist. German term for the “spirit of the times”—the ambiance, the character of a particular historical era. (Kincheloe, 2008c, p. 69)

 

 

 

Assumptions and Limitations

 

It is assumed that knowledge is socially constructed in a symbiotic manner; that is, members of societies or groups collectively and in complex, synergistic ways construct their shared realities. At the same time, individuals consciously and unconsciously construct their own realities (Kincheloe, 2001a, 2005a, 2005b, 2008b, 2008c; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). Knowledge continuously evolves and, thus, supports an improvisational approach to research and a tentativeness of the results.  Essentially, this study adopts and is conducted under Kincheloe’s critical complex constructivist holistic, multidimensional worldview and holds the assumptions presented in Chapter 2 (see Table 1. Key Points of Kincheloe’s (2005b) Critical Constructivist Worldview).

A notable assumption is that the researcher is not an isolated observer of the research phenomenon who has no influence on the subject or object of the research, thus, the researcher’s positioning must be described in relation to the subject/object and the interpretations derived during the course of the research. The researcher and the objects under study are inextricably interlaced in complex ways. What we claim to observe is based on our interpretation of our perceptions. Thus, the dialogue throughout the study will shift perspectives back and forth as appropriate for presenting the research from the first person perspective to the third person perspective that maintains a thread of formality throughout as is generally preferred by the educational community. Also, I will switch between referring to Joe Kincheloe as “Kincheloe” or “Joe,” depending on the context.

While the multidimensional critical complex bricolage is a powerful process for analysis and problem solving, it is time, place, and object constrained and what is found may or may not be applicable for similar situations. What we know and understand is tentative. The research bricolage can continue indefinitely; the researcher determines whether the process has been carried far enough. It can be picked up and continued at any point in time and head in any number of new directions. Bricolage does not produce finalized knowledge in the traditional sense because any one of the facets may be picked up and continued in new contexts or a different timeframe, or as Kincheloe (2008c) often framed it, in a new “Zeitgeist.”  However, what bricolage can offer is a broader and deeper perspective of phenomena being studied and often immediate and/or more optimal solutions to research problems.  Due to the multiple interconnections produced by the bricolage, there can be an inherent redundancy to the discourse, which is simply a characteristic that bricoleurs accept as a means of understanding complex phenomena in different contexts (Kincheloe, 2005a).

And finally, it is noted that Kincheloe has a multitude of works, both single-authored and co-authored. Based on the belief that co-authored works may have clouded what were Kincheloe’s unique ideas, combined with the observation that this clouding continues with works published in his name alongside other scholars even more than four years after his death, this study will be narrowed down to considering only the works (books, articles, and chapters) Kincheloe published as the sole author, and only up until the time of his death. His last single authored book was Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction which was published in the fall, 2008, just before his passing in December, 2008. This stand is taken based on the contention that in order to fully and deeply understand Kincheloe and his work, it is imperative to restrict the analysis to the work that was his alone. Once this is sufficiently accomplished then further analyses can be conducted of his co-authored works to determine more exactly what his contributions were and to determine how his work is being muddied in the scholarly literature today. This position also assists this current project by keeping it sufficiently narrowed. Of course, there is the limitation of this research being conducted by a novice bricoleur, but as Kincheloe contended, the only way to learn is by doing.

Bricoleurs are comfortable with these limitations (Kincheloe, 2001a, 2005a, 2008b, 2008c). Further limitations and assumptions are covered throughout the study as they become revealed and are relevant.

 

Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks

 

            As is presented in the literature review, Kincheloe’s unique evolving critical constructivist worldview forms the philosophical and theoretical foundation for this study. It is comprised of a complex of tightly interwoven and synthesized theories including but not limited to Kincheloe’s evolving critical theory, feminist theory, chaos and complexity theories, enactive theory, and liberation theology. During this study, multiple theoretical frameworks from which to view the bricolage inquiry process have been used. These were decided upon and delineated during the process of conducting the research. The multidimensional critical complex bricolage calls for multiple frameworks and perspectives for the purpose of transcending the tendency toward research reductionism and in order to obtain multiple views of the subject. This enhances knowledge and increases understanding about the phenomenon being studied. As Kincheloe (2008b) states, “Using the cubist-like perspectives of Georges Braque or Juan Gris, bricoleurs understand the importance of viewing social, cultural, historical, political, or educational phenomena from diverse perspectives simultaneously. In the process, critical bricoleurs appreciate the profound value of seeing from the positionalities of discarded vantage points in particular” (p. 156). Thus, as a bricoleur, I have sought traditionally excluded perspectives to include in this study.

A conceptual framework for the multidimensional critical complex bricolage, which Kincheloe (2001a, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, 2004d, 2004e, 2005a) has provided in his work and is summarized in the Literature Review in Chapter 2, was used to support the analysis. The components of Kincheloe’s multidimensional, nonlinear, reiterative framework have been further elucidated during the research as it has progressed.

Kincheloe (2004c) highlights what it is that bricoleurs attempt to accomplish with this form of research:

 

A central task of bricoleurs is to search for new relationships that provide insights into new dimensions of the lived world. In their aversion to the unconnected disinterestedness of forms of positivistic and rationalistic modes of analysis, bricoleurs are careful not to turn to a nebulous intuitionism or a corrupt relativism. Neither do they seek the comfort of unexamined warm and interconnected mystical feelings about their oneness with the world. There is too much injustice, too many people in pain, and much cultural work needed to address these dark realities (Bookchin, 1995). . . . They choose particular interconnections because of their relevance to the alleviation of human suffering and the cultivation of the intellect. (p. 66)

 

            As the excerpt indicates, there are specific critical goals involved in the process of engaging with this form of research and, along with these goals, specific criteria that drive the multidimensional critical complex bricolage.

 

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

 

This study is organized according to the five chapter format for dissertations as recommended by the University. Minor adjustments have been made from the standard template. Chapter 4 has been divided into unique subsections as they evolved during the unfolding process of bricolage. Chapter 5 also has unique subsections derived in the same manner. This was required in order that this unique, highly complex research process could unfold and evolve, while at the same time the coherence and cohesiveness of the study is maintained. It will remain for future bricoleurs to develop new, perhaps flexible formats for presenting these more complex forms of bricolage studies, although it may very well be the case that each study is so different that templates would only serve to constrain the creative, improvisational process. Upon examining bricolage and other qualitative studies, it has been found that many universities leave the structure of the dissertation open and flexible. It may be required that other universities follow suit. Since this current study is already pushing many boundaries, it will be a task for those who follow to establish new, creative approaches to disseminating the complex knowledge products that emanate from this form of bricolage study in a format that best meets the needs of their universities, stakeholders, or other readers.

To summarize, Chapter 1, “Introduction,” has introduced the study, Chapter 2, “Literature Review,” presents a synthesis of the literature pertaining to the study, and Chapter 3, “The Research Process” describes the overall research process used to conduct the study. Customary to most qualitative studies, the review of the literature has evolved in context with the entire research process and is discussed where it is relevant in order to meet the needs of the inquiry as the study progressed. Chapter 4 presents the “Analysis and Results,” which is the heart of the bricolage, and Chapter 5, “Evaluation, Recommendations, and Conclusion,” presents an evaluation of the study in terms of how well it aligns with Kincheloe’s conceptualization of bricolage and how well it meets the rigor he was asking for. It also provides a general assessment of the quality of knowledge that has been produced. Recommendations for research have been interwoven throughout the study, and Chapter 5 provides additional insights pertaining to Kincheloe’s legacy and his wishes, along with recommendations for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Paradis, V. J. (2013). Did Joe Lyons Kincheloe Discover the Golden Chalice for Knowledge Production? The Application of Critical Complex Epistemology and the Multidimensional Critical Complex Bricolage. (Doctoral Dissertation)

 

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Big Deal-Catch Up 
“As a child I wanted so desperately for magic to be real. I would work for hours collecting what I hoped were just the right combination of ingredients to make some type of magic potion that would provide me with special powers….I found such magic in words viewed in a postformal matrix and I observe and practice that magic everyday.” (Kincheloe, 2006, Reading, Writing, Thinking, p. 13)
 
 
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