Child and youth care is in the Seventh Moment. The Seventh Moment is a term used in qualitative inquiry to describe the trend to open the doors to new ways of studying and looking at human behavior, attitudes, and conditions. The Seventh Moment is a period of “ferment and explosion” (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000, pp 2-12), that is “defined by breaks from the past, a focus on previously silent voices, and a concern with moral discourse, with critical conversations about democracy race, gender, class, nation, freedom, and community (Lincoln and Denzin, 2000, p. 1048).”
In the Seventh Moment, practitioners and researchers are using a variety of qualitative research methods to understand and improve practice. They intermingle literary, poetic, journalistic, fictional, cinematic, documentary, factual and ethnographic writing and representation. No one form is privileged over the other (Denzin, 2001, p 7.).
All of these methods of inquiry are concerned to some degree with the “what is” and the ways it can be shown. The researcher, who is often a practitioner as well, looks into an experience, and shows the experience in a way that is consistent with the way that it is experienced, heard, and/or visualized. The goal isn’t to prove, but to understand by writing about, drawing, performing, etc. and interpreting an experience. Like the child and youth care worker, the researcher tries to be in the moment, open and available to hear, see, and mirror back his or her experience of a child and/or what is going on around them.
Self is always present in the Seventh Moment. Researchers' biases enrich, and inform the narrative, and sometimes become the center of the inquiry. They are present in the moment curious about a phenomenon, feeling, child, youth, adult, etc. And knowing how their presence changes and influences the context of what they see and experience is a key part understanding a phenomenon.
In child and youth care we have seen an increase in performance texts, stories, narratives, and other contextual examples of reflective practice because they fit nicely with the way many of us experience, observe, and think about the work. The way we make meaning of our developmental interactions is often best understood and portrayed in a short story, essay, film, portraiture, painting or other forms of expression that contextualize the experiences, and gives voice to those who might otherwise have been excluded. And these voices “the voices of workers, parents, youth, etc.“ are being heard louder and louder. More than ever before we can see and hear child and youth care as it is experienced in the lived experience of workers, children, youth, family members and others. We are, as Jerome Beker, founding editor of Child and Youth Care Forum said, trying to “hear it deep and look to the questions that do so much to determine the soul of the work.”
I have come to the Seventh Moment with excitement because for many years I was in it without really knowing that I was. Long ago I discovered that narrative (mainly novels, short stories and vignettes) were the best forms to for my voice. In a story or vignette (sketch) I could show and speak about child and youth care the way I experienced and saw it, and by doing this I could deepen my understanding of my experiences. Then as I began studying and reading about qualitative inquiry, I learned that others felt the same way about their work and had developed methods of critical, interpretive qualitative research that fit with how they saw the world.
The workers who presented their stories in this column for three years were in the Seventh Moment. Like me, they didn’t know it, but they were. The method of research we developed, and our stories, were consistent with the interpersonal, inter-subjective, contextual ways other seventh moment researchers are looking at phenomena today.
These stories and our method of study have just been
published in a book: Themes and Stories in Youth Work Practice: In
the Rhythms of Youth, by Haworth Press. We invite you to take a
look, and if you haven’t already, join us and many other child and youth
care workers in the Seventh Moment.
If you are looking for some immediate examples of Seventh Moment stories, simply click on Tales from the Field in this issue of On-line. If you read the “tales” last month you saw a youth under a desk, a worker getting out of the way, and a rainy camping trip turned into a memorable experience. This is the “stuff” that defines our work and how we do it in the Seventh Moment.
Denzin, N. (2001). Interpretive Interactionism. Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications.
Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. Eds. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications.