Becoming a Teacher in Central Australia: Picturing Resilience through Arts-Based Research Methods

Year: 2016

Author: Beltman, Susan, Papatraianou, Lisa, Strangeways, Al

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Enhancing resilience is recognised as key to addressing teacher attrition (Johnson et al., 2016) and addressing the challenges of the profession (Beltman et al. 2015; Papatraianou, 2012). However, two significant areas of teacher resilience are yet to be examined: the factors constraining and enabling resilience in remote and regional parts of Australia, given the shortage of quality, specialist and lead teachers in remote and rural schools (Boyd et al. 2013); and how arts-based participatory approaches to research and to pedagogy can be used to represent and explore these lived experiences of teachers. Research has been undertaken on preparing teachers for regional and remote settings (Strangeways, 2016), but scant literature exists that explicitly documents the challenges and resources encountered by teachers in these settings (Sullivan & Johnson, 2012). While arts-based approaches have been used to explore pedagogical issues (Dixon & Senior, 2009), bullying (Belliveau, 2006), and teacher development (Mitchell et al., 2013), they have not yet been used in research on resilience. This qualitative study drew on a resilience framework to examine the enabling and constraining factors that support and limit rural and remote teachers’ capacity to thrive in the profession. It also examined how arts-based participatory approaches to research can be used to generate new understandings of resilience. An existing data set of interviews with 9 Central Australian preservice and beginning teachers on the development of their teacher identity were thematically examined using a resilience conceptual lens to create a place-based model of teacher resilience. Some of these and other pre-service and in-service teachers participated in an arts-based workshop to help them prepare representations of their experiences of resilience in the form of analogue drawings, line-graphs, artefacts, photography and/or collage, which mediated individual interviews. Participants then shared and interpreted theirs and others’ representations of resilience in a focus group whose aim was to create a collaborative picture of the resilience challenges and resources of central Australian preservice and beginning teachers. The preliminary findings indicate the value of developing place-based models and exploring how these differ from ‘traditional’ or normative understandings of teacher resilience. They also highlight the importance of drawing on diverse methodological approaches to resilience and show how arts-based representations of teacher challenges offer new insights into the embodied complexity of teaching. Further, they raise previously unasked questions that can inform the development of remote and regional ITE and school policy to address teacher attrition.