Working with your supervisor: follow-up 2

Thanks for sharing the Byron (Byron, n.d.) slides on creativity. The SCAMPER framework (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate and Reverse) contains many useful questions that allow for a developmental approach to a situation. Perhaps Byron’s framework is more suited to physical materials development. I’d like to supplement this with a look at a method that is aimed at educational research genesis.

Wagner (1993) discusses blind spots and blank spots in research arguing that “[i]gnorance is a better starting place than truth for assessing the usefulness of educational research” (p. 15). This position contrasts with Bryon (n.d.) whose framework relies on an existing base on which the SCAMPER can be applied. A blank spot is a question whose answer is not yet known (Wagner, 1993). Standard methods are often the result of accepted ways of answering the traditional questions in a discipline (Gray, 2004). Blank spots can be conceptualised as those areas that have not yet been filled in (Wagner, 1993). Blind spots, however, are areas “in which existing theories, methods and perceptions actually keep us from seeing phenomena as clearly as we might” (Wagner, 1993, p. 16). In other words, the self-same standard methods may direct the researcher away from more productive techniques or questions due to the strength of the acquired traditionality built up within the discipline of its methods. Senge presents this idea using a popular story;

“[A] passerby encounters a drunk on his hands and knees under a street lamp. He offers to help and finds out that the drunk is looking for his house keys. After several minutes, he asks, ‘Where did you drop them?’ The drunk replies that he dropped them outside his front door. ‘Then why look for them here?’ asks the passerby. ‘Because,’ says the drunk, ‘there is no light by my doorway.’” (Senge, 1990, pp. 45–46).

Wagner’s (1993) way of discovering blind spots is to adopt interdisciplinary views on a single topic. His idea is as relevant today as it was then (hence the article’s reprint in Thompson & Walker’s, 2010 Doctoral Companion), as interdisciplinary perspectives still have much to offer education research.

I’m wondering how much scope for lateral thinking my future supervisors will ‘allow’ me. The dialectical tensions between creativity and conformity may well be a recurrent feature of the relationship. Only time will tell.


Byron, K. (n.d). Promoting creativity – cultivating the research mindset: What is Creativity in Research? Retrieved on October 3 2016 from

Gray, D. (2004). Doing research in the real world. London: Sage Publications.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday.

Thompson, P., & Walker, M. (2010). The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion: Getting to Grips with Research in Education and the Social Sciences. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wagner, J. (1993). Ignorance in Educational Research: Or, How Can You “Not” Know That? Educational Researcher, 22(5), 15–23.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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