Connecting within and picturing self: Privileging the frontline through aesthetic inquiry

Year: 2012

Author: Black, Ali

Type of paper: Refereed paper


A focus on productivity and performance has seen uniformity and standardisation pervade educational policy, systems and sectors world-wide. The reality is that most significant innovations and enhancements in quality originate from the frontline. Yet, too few studies seek to understand the meanings educators at the frontline are making. For educational researchers, policymakers, practitioners and society, arts-based narrative inquiry holds much promise. This type of inquiry honours aesthetic perspectives and supports the making of meaning that is personally and professionally significant. During times of transition, disconnection and world-wide educational change, aesthetic inquiry that releases the imagination and opens spaces for meaning and connection-making is all the more important. 

Arts-based narrative research is grounded in the belief that the materials of our lives are essential to our interactions, our identity, and our work and how it is understood. The stories of our lives are the fundamental way in which we know ourselves and are known by others. As we resolve to reflect on our life stories we become critically reflective and able to act more intentionally in the personal, local, regional and global spaces that we live and work.  

To illustrate and explore the value of this type of educational research I offer a personal narrative where identity, life-history, transition and connectedness are examined. In this self-study, the creation of self-portraits acted as catalysts for reflection providing opportunities to feel the experiences of my life in authentic and productive ways. Attending to personal meanings using self-portrait supported my capacity to revisit and learn from my stories. They connected me to memories; they communicated my knowing of and in the present; and they encouraged imagination about how to live life with intention and proceed meaningfully in ways that might deepen and sustain me amidst life's challenges and changes.