Kathy Douglas and others refer to the benefits of a “community of practice” for the reflective teaching and development of alternative dispute resolution. My own work is focussed on how mediators develop their professional identity. In the course of this research, I came across the book Intercultural Communication: a Discourse Approach (Ron Scollon, Suzanne Wong Scollon and Rodney H Jones, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). These authors provide an explanation of the concepts of community (Gemeinschaft) – a group to which one belongs from birth versus society (Gesellschaft) where one’s membership is voluntary, goal directed and based on shared mutual interests (see pages 65-66).
This provides an interesting contrast with the early mediation and dispute resolution literature. That literature reveals some academics consider mediators share a ‘community of practice’ rather than membership in a profession. I found this book useful as I have been working on developing the design of my interview process. Part of that process has been to reflect on ways to enhance through the interview, the connection between data collection in interview and the analysis of that data. This reflection led me to consider whether I should adopt a professional intercultural communication perspective/approach for my interview design.
My research participants are Solicitors who have become Mediators. I am a Solicitor, which in research terms means I am considered a researcher who shares that world with my participants, i.e., the profession (professional culture) of Solicitors. However, I am not a Mediator. Therefore I do not in research terms, share my participants’ other and new world, i.e., their new professional culture of ‘Mediators who are also Solicitors’. Ensuring appropriate data collection for data analysis I feel includes ensuring I move forward with a perspective that will assist in gaining a deeper understanding of how my participants view and feel about each world/professional culture they now occupy.
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