Perscussions and Photostories: Reimagining educational research data and discussion starters with arts languages

Year: 2021

Author: Chapman, Susan

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In reimagining educational research, this paper considers Eisner’s broader definition of language, where meaning-making is not restricted to words to tell stories and provoke responses.  Educational research can use the unique arts languages to communicate important messages and push back against the dominance of word-based text. Perscussions are Performed Discussions which extend the visualisation of data into the audio-visual realm of film clips and transcribed data into performative audio segments. In Photostories, participants provide unscaffolded responses to self-selected photos that resonate with their experiences and perspectives, thereby revealing more nuanced data. Arts-based languages can convey more than word-based text, extending their reach and impact by enhancing audience engagement. This more inclusive approach challenges the capacity of educational researchers to construe and infer meaning in memorable ways that can be presented face-to-face or online. These arts-based strategies draw on new ways of knowing that synthesise creative and critical thinking to bring a new freshness to educational research. The findings and contexts of research projects, expressed through arts-based languages, bring a new dimension to the theoretical lens of practice architectures, especially in the semantic space of ‘sayings’ when language is extended beyond word-based text.  These strategies were used to collect data as well as communicate findings and context from a Critical Participatory Action Research case study in which a specialist arts teacher undertook the role of researcher by working alongside a generalist Year 6 teacher in their classroom for three days per week over a nine-month period. The purpose of the research was to explore how an Arts Immersion approach would influence teaching and learning in the Year 6 class setting. Arts Immersion is defined as: the process of using the Arts as the purposeful medium through which enhanced learning occurs across disciplines to inform mutual understandings. Arts subjects were taught as domains of learning and as vehicles to access other learning. While the arts specialist teacher modelled teaching strategies using an Arts Immersion approach, the Year 6 teacher designed the initial unit planning which was then collaboratively adapted by both teachers through arts-based learning. Findings showed benefits for the class of 29 students (15 boys and 14 girls) and highlighted challenges and benefits for both the specialist arts teacher and the generalist Year 6 teacher. Not only were the arts languages accessed in the classroom, but they were accessed as languages in research by synthesising multimodal data which represented multiple perspectives.