Phenomenological Vignette and Anecdote Research

The network "Phenomenological Vignette and Anecdote Research" - in short "VignA" - is an association of researchers at different institutions in several countries who work with phenomenologically oriented vignettes and/or anecdotes in research and/or teaching.

The Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck was the starting point for vignette and anecdotal research. Several research teams at the Institute for Teacher Education and School Research (ILS) have been working on the development of vignettes and anecdotes in the school context since 2009, supported by a two-fold grant from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). This approach of "Innsbruck vignette and anecdotes research" has been further developed, especially at the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano ("Brixener Vignette Research") and at the Alpen-Adria-University of Klagenfurt, where vignettes and anecdotes are also tested in social spaces beyond school.

At the center of research on vignettes and anecdotes in (in-)formal educational contexts and social learning spaces are methodological procedures that are suitable for exploring (extra-)school dimensions of experience, for example on phenomena of learning and teaching or pedagogical action, as 'close' as possible to the participants. Vignettes and anecdotes are aesthetically condensed and situational narratives, which, generated in an experiential research attitude, embody learning experiences and make them physically perceptible.

Phenomenologically oriented vignettes are qualitative survey instruments that capture moments of experience from everyday school life or from life and social spaces and condense them into concise scenes. They are written as close as possible to the participants in the field in a research attitude based on shared experience and are condensed from protocols of experience into narratives rich in experience. Vignettes are characterized more by a special precision of conciseness - in the sense of pregnant, i.e. pregnant with meaning - than by precision. The starting point is an understanding of learning as experience, which requires that the articulation of experience be presented in an appropriate and respectful manner.

The following research questions are central: What kind of experience (mathematics, languages, cello ...) is it to learn, teach, understand ...? What happens to people? How do they respond to the demands they make? How do such experiences articulate themselves physically, spatially, temporally and/or relationally? By answering these questions, differentiated insights into educational phenomena in different contexts can be gained. The empirical approach of vignette research seeks to differentiate the surplus of meaning of experiences without rashly categorizing or conclusively establishing it.

Vignettes can also be used as instruments of professionalization in the education, training and further education of (prospective) educators and in school development (including kindergarten or other formal educational institutions). When applied in social spaces, they serve to understand movements in public space and to reflect on social order and question its power of impact.

Phenomenologically oriented anecdotal research emerged as a further development of the research approach of vignette research and is a research method for investigating learning processes over longer periods of time. The interest is focused on questions like: What do students experience during their several years of schooling, what do they learn? What is remembered and how? How have the learning experiences shaped them? While vignettes are created in a participatory and experiential perspective, research talks about remembered learning experiences and their transcriptions form the basis for anecdotes. Anecdotes are also used as instruments of professionalization, for example in the context of school development processes.

Starting from Innsbruck, these research approaches have spread and developed at different locations in Europe and Africa. In order to exchange the latest findings as well as to carry out and plan further projects and events, network meetings - with different topics (see News) and cooperation partners - take place regularly. The collection of vignettes and anecdotes gives an insight into the work of the researchers. (Recent) publications are listed under Literature. Network Structure explains the structure and management of the network. Further information on the network can be found under Links & FAQ.


All pictures on the website are by Tobias Loemke; more information can be found under "Archive of Attentiveness".

Images: © Tobias Loemke »Moving leaves«, »Turquois shadow«, »Dancing geraniums«, »Red needles« (2015)


English Translation of website: (free version), Alexandra Miltner