I just have these ideas': Being and becoming at a performing arts school

Year: 2012

Author: Loch, Sarah

Type of paper: Refereed paper


This paper will explore ways a small group of young adolescents talk about their futures within the context of their schooling at a unique, independent, performing arts secondary school. The data gathered for this project stemmed from pictures participants completed which asked them to 'draw themselves in the future' and was enhanced by interviews in which participants spoke about their drawings and other issues they found of interest when thinking about their futures and their schooling. Finding words and images to express ideas about the future self is a slippery task but giving space to listen to the emergence of narratives of the self allows insight into importance of the student engagement in the middle years of schooling.

My research relates to ways narratives come to be constructed within and outside of schools and the role that middle school curriculum and pedagogy plays in enabling choice, decision making and personal agency. The research methods underpinning this paper seek to enable student voice, a familiar theme in middle years education. I have also attempted to position the research interview, the place where thoughts are shared and made real, as a generative space for reflection. Such methods draw from feminist, poststructural methodologies which aim to provoke change through foregrounding voices unheard. The youth performing arts culture in Australia offers an important stage for such an inquiry as the emotional, intellectual and physical labour behind the accomplished performer is too easily glossed over by the compelling biographies of people who become highly successful. This paper pays attention to an earlier stage in the emergent narrative when choices are being made which may define who and how the performer becomes.

Drawing on a feminist approach outlined by Patti Lather in her monologue, Feminist research in education: Within/Against (1991), this paper encourages questions about the ideas the participants have shared with me and the opportunity for multiple readings of data. It also explores Bronwyn Davies' (The Problem with Desire, 1990) poststructural notion of 'becoming a person' through discourse, narratives and storylines. Inverting some of the messy, partially stitched and completely unfinished works of selfhood, and looking at ways these samplers come together, offers a view into the process of becoming. Concerns of both method and methodology are briefly explored as participants connect the threads of their passions with knots of possibilities to create a narrative which they have allowed me to take up for my own purposes.