The Role of Video in Classroom Research - Window, Lens or Distorting Mirror?

Year: 2015

Author: Clarke, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation examines the status of video records of classroom events vis a vis any interpretive accounts that might be constructed using such records as a source of data. Three possible metaphors are offered for the role of video in classroom research: (i) as a window through which to see the classroom; (ii) as a lens through which to focus on selected aspects of classroom activity; and (iii) as a distorting mirror, in which the researcher sees not so much a representation of the classroom, but rather a reflection of their own values and perspectives reconstituted as classroom data. The key verbs are: see, focus and reflect. Each metaphor has significant entailments for the meaning and authority (as evidence) that can be accorded to the resultant images for research purposes.

The strategic deployment of available technologies in educational research reflects a purposeful process of data generation rather than data collection. Data “collection” has never been an apt description of the research process and the agency of the researcher must be acknowledged more explicitly. Specifically, the researcher must accept responsibility for the data generated and place on public record a transparent account of the decisions made in the process of data generation and analysis. These three metaphors help differentiate between the various roles of video in different research designs.
• Video as Window suggests a neutrality to the act of video recording that assigns the technology the role of independent (and implicitly unbiased) recorder of classroom events. In many studies, video functions in our research reports as precisely this sort of window on a form of “classroom reality.”
• Video as Lens is a metaphor that immediately accords specific agency to the researcher in the construction of the video record, literally zooming in to focus attention on selected aspects of classroom activity and ignoring others. These acts of selection arguably represent essential economies of focus when studying settings as complex as school classrooms.
• Video as Distorting Mirror suggests that our video records of classroom activities can be thought of as reflections of ourselves as researcher, constructed through the amplification and combination of events, objects or people; reflections that are distorted through their representation in the performative acts of those whose actions, motives and experiences we ostensibly seek to understand.

Each of these three perspectives on the research use of video will be illustrated with examples drawn from various studies undertaken by the presenter.