Step One: Bracketing

The phenomenological process used to understand an experience typically begins with the researcher “bracketing” his or her experience related to the phenomenon. Husserl (1929) and Moustakas (1994) believed that it is only by the researcher being explicit about his or her experiences, can he or she truly see and understand the phenomenon with a natural attitude, or an attitude of taking no position with respect the phenomenon at hand. In fact, Husserl (1929) advocated that the researcher should not take a position about anything in the world while engaging in the phenomenological process. While completely bracketing one’s own experiences seems a tall order, van Manen (1990) argues that because the phenomenologist’s task is to describe a human experience, which may very well be a universal experience, there is value in the researcher describing and setting aside his or her own experiences during the research process.

The researcher’s prior experience with the study buddy activity.

As this section of the thesis is specifically intended to describe the author’s personal experience with the phenomenon in accordance with accepted phenomenological practice, it has been written in the first person and set apart from the rest of the thesis.

My own experience with the study buddy activity occurred three years ago in the same course that I used in my thesis research, MDDE 604: Instructional Design in Distance Education. However, there was a different instructor who put a slightly different structure in place for the activity.

The activity in my experience was described as a peer review, it was mandatory and worth 10% of the final grade. Peer review partners were required to submit their completed projects to each other and then provide critical, yet collegial and professional feedback based on the requirements of the assignment. Feedback was then returned to the partner as well as to the course instructor who assessed the quality of the review.

We were on our own to find partners through the discussion forum in the course. There was no mention of the notion of bears or bunnies with respect to finding compatible partners, nor were there specific guidelines on how we should communicate. My partner for the activity was a student from the Nursing program taking a course in the Centre for Distance Education; she was not as familiar with educational jargon as some others might be.  A full three years later, I remember that the topic that she covered in her material had to do with personal hygiene in a hospital environment and I found the material both interesting and informative. I remember very little about any problems with her work, nothing about the feedback that I gave her and nothing about the feedback that she gave me. While, my memory of the specifics of our interactions is limited, I retained copies of our conversations. I do, however, remember her name, that she was (is?) a nurse, and the city where she lived at the time. I also remember that the experience was a very positive one for me and, I think, for her. We kept in touch occasionally for a year or so after the course ended, but since then have been out of contact.