"…if people had maybe a little bit more training in the creative arts, you’d probably see it a bit more."
- Research participant during our interview
When I look at this final chapter now, I am stunned at how short it is and how under developed it is. I can only presume that when I began the proof-reading and editing process that I was unable to find sufficient sections of text to remove in the previous chapters that would allow me to add significantly to the Conclusion to make it worthwhile losing that prior text. I was, quite fairly , given constructive feedback around that specific point. This is clearly the weakest chapter in my mind because I touch on a few areas but do not sufficiently unpack and discuss them and their ramifications within the context of a conclusion chapter.
If you have managed to read through the three preceding chapters in full, you will find this one, comparatively, over in the blink of an eye.
"I wanted to stay away from body-image, I hated body-image, it was so cliché, it was overkill and I wanted to do something completely different and the idea that I came up with, they said it was too shallow, like it wasn’t in depth enough and they made me do body-image, and it really made me unhappy."
- Research Participant during our interview.
On reflection, I feel like this chapter is the second weakest. There were some avenues that I did not fully explore (largely due to word limit), but largely, I was frustrated as in working through this chapter, I found myself wishing that I had asked a particular follow up question to draw further insight from my research participants, to get to the heart of what they were saying. Both of these issues were noted within the examiners feedback, as was the fact that I missed, apparently, some significant articles in my research which would have made for strong additions to my writing. I found this a frustrating piece of feedback, not because I disagreed with it but because the articles and researchers that had been suggested had not come up at all in my literature review.
This means that either their importance is over-stated (unlikely) or that I did not hit on the right combination of keywords to find those particular researchers. As well, it was noted that I did not address some issues at all, such as the impact of perceptions within schools observed during practicum and the impact that had on relationships with the arts. In some instances, I had not the clarity of mind at the time, nor the experience to follow up responses with exploratory questions. In others, it simply did not seem like something that I needed to follow up until I started to write this chapter.
If you missed either of the previous chapters, you can find them here.
As always, thank you for reading, and I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
"To me the arts, was just like a, a filler. Something just for the kids to do that is fun for them, that wouldn’t really tie into anything else cause [pause] my experience with the arts never tied into anything else."
-Research participant during our interview
The examiners found some problems within this chapter and when I read back through this chapter after reading their feedback, they were rather obvious problems as well. There were also a few rather silly typographical errors which somehow neither I nor Mrs C21 managed to pickup in our proof-reading.
If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.
Chapter II – Methodology
The underlying purpose of this research project is to examine and understand the discourses that constitute the taken-up positions of pre-service teachers at the end of their ITE programs in relation to art education, and to then identify and understand the perceived barriers limiting the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice. Focusing on the subject positions of three final (fourth) year pre-service teachers who had all completed their ITE program coursework, and had only to undertake their final ten-week long practicum prior to completing their ITE program, this research was conducted utilising a post-structuralist lens to deconstruct and understand the discourses underlying the positions taken-up by the participants in relation to art education, and the resulting barriers as perceived by the participants, impacting on their implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for engagement with the multi-layered lived experiences of the pre-service teachers’ ITE in order to clarify the experiences and the participant’s understandings (Polkinghorne, 2005). A post-structuralist perspective assisted in ascertaining the underlying discourses of the participants subject positioning about art education and deconstructing the barriers limiting the implementation of art education.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for fluidity of direction in the data collection process, as participants’ responses may yield unexpected data that can drive new or different research directions, whilst also providing the opportunity to scrutinise the subject understandings of those discourses experienced by participants throughout the ITE program, and the specific contexts involved (Miles & Huberman 1984 as cited in Ramey-Gassert, Shroyer, & Staver, 1996). Participants were sourced through purposive sampling and engaged in semi-structured interviews, with the resulting data analysed through discourse analysis, assisted by positioning theory.
The research focus was on a particular set of relationships; the relationship between ITE programs and pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education, and the pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education and the implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice. For this reason, research participants were recruited through purposive sampling of the 2014 fourth year Bachelor of Education (Primary) / Bachelor of Arts cohort form the University of Newcastle’s Central Coast campus. This cohort was selected due to ease of access by the student researcher.
Purposive sampling allowed for the selection of information rich cases on the basis of their possessing a particular characteristic typical of the population being studied (Punch, 2009), namely those pre-service teachers who have completed their coursework but have not joined the ranks of graduate teachers. The purpose of this study is not, however, to generalise the findings across the current cohort of final year pre-service teachers, but to ascertain and understand the subject positions of the participants and the barriers they perceive around implementing art education in order to gain a clearer understanding for the potential reasons for the divergence between understanding of the benefits of art education and the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice.
The utilisation of in-depth semi-structured interviews allowed the participants to express their narratives about their subject positions (Punch, 2009; Tanggaard, 2009). The interviews were constructed through a pre-determined open-ended interview schedule to allow for a basic framework of the understanding of the experiences which shape the positions held by the participant to emerge. Those experiences were reinforced and the understandings deepened through the use of follow-up questions, which allowed for the pursuit of those experiences and narrative truths and understandings which appeared outside the scope of the original pre-devised schedule, or prompt questions (Punch, 2009). The use of open-ended questions is preferable to closed questions as it affords the participants the choice of how they answer (Marton, 1986 as cited in Huntly, 2008). The use of ‘’what’ as a question opener was utilised as this has been cited as facilitating a rich description by the participant of the core subject being studied Marton (1986 as cited by Huntly, 2008). The recorded interviews were transcribed solely by the student researcher, and transcriptions were sent to the participants, to provide an opportunity to conduct a member check.
This research examines the positions taken-up by the pre-service teacher participants about the arts in education. Through discourse analysis of the interview transcripts, I attempt to identify discourses which construct the subjectivities of pre-service teachers’ vis-à-vis art education and future use of the arts in their pedagogical practice. The reasons behind the participants’ subjectivities are examined through a post-structuralist lens.
Discourse analysis has been used within this research study as it is a research method understood to be multimodal, combining an array of analysis techniques including, in this context, theoretical, interpretive and critical (Krug & Cohen-Evron, 2000). I take the view that discourses are a productive force created through the amalgamation of ideology, linguistic practices and social relationships which constitute the taken-up position, and the means by which we make sense of the world around us (Davies, 2004; Ma, 2013). There are a multitude of discourses encountered daily, and it is not possible to take up all available discourses (Davies, 1990). Understanding that there are multiple discourses which are not all able to be taken-up allows for an understanding of our existence at the nexus of multiple discursive practices, which can be conceptualised as subject positioning (Davies, 2004). Our subject positioning is constituted through internally owned, or taken-up, discourses (Atkinson, 2004), which are, and do, change over time (Atkinson, 2004; Davies, 2004). This post-structuralist conceptualisation of subject positioning then allows for an ongoing cycle of making sense of, and continually updating, the competing and often contradictory discourses to which we are exposed (Atkinson, 2004; Beijaard et al., 2004; Davies, 1990, 1997).
My understanding of a post-structuralist lens is that it will facilitate and encourage the questioning of those understandings and beliefs which are treated as ‘taken-for-granted’ as it is understood that knowledge is understood subjectively, produced culturally and constructed contextually (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2010). A post-structuralist framework posits that there is no single truth or meaning, and thus will allow me to examine the different narratives (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Posner, 2011), about how positions held, about the arts in education came to be taken-up, as expressed subjectively by the research participants.
Validity, in the context of a qualitative research project such as this one, is as has been broadly stated as being “…the isomorphism of findings with reality” (Denzin and Lincoln (Eds), 1994, p. 114 as cited in Punch, 2009, p. 315). In essence, qualitative validity is looking to ensure that the findings are commensurate with the data from which they were derived. To this end, a feature of qualitative research is the use of a technique known as ‘member checking’, which refers to the practice of checking with the subjects from whence the data came that they are in agreeance that; the initial data (in this research study the interview transcripts) are an accurate representation of the reality (in this research study, the interview), and that the final representation of themselves within the analysis and findings is consistent in relation to their subjective understanding of themselves (Punch, 2009).
Due to the qualitative, and human-based nature of this research project, that is the nature of the participants’ personal beliefs and experiences being examined, due consideration was given to the ethical factors that arose, including consent and confidentiality. Participants were informed in writing about the nature of the study, and participation was on a voluntary basis, with written, informed consent being sought prior to inclusion. Participants were advised, in writing on the consent form, and verbally prior to the commencement of their interview, that they were free to refuse to answer any question, or to terminate the interview at any time, without any reason and without fear of repercussion. To protect their privacy, research participants were asked to select pseudonyms for use during the interviews, with any identifying data being either omitted or altered. Audio recorded interviews and the transcripts thereof have, and will continue to be, held securely in accordance with the University of Newcastle’s Research Data and Materials Management Policy (University of Newcastle, 2008).
Participants were provided with an opportunity to conduct a member check, and accordingly were provided with a copy of the transcription of their interview for this purpose. This was done to afford participants an initial opportunity to review the interview and ensure that they are satisfied with how they and their views have been represented through the interview process (Punch, 2009). This process also provides an initial opportunity for participants to indicate that they wish for data from their interview, either in part or in whole, not to be used for the research project. Participants were also afforded an opportunity to conduct a final member check prior to the submission of this thesis, and were provided with a copy of the final dissertation for this purpose. This was done in order to provide a final chance for participants to ensure they were satisfied with how they have been represented and interpreted as part of the analysis process, and that they have been represented authentically.
It was not expected that research participants would experience stress, mental or emotional discomfort during the interview. Participants were be reminded at the commencement of the interview that they had the right to refuse to answer any question, or terminate the interview, at any time, without reason or negative consequences for their relationship with the researchers or the University of Newcastle.
Chapter Two outlined the methodology used within this research project, and the literature that supports the methodology’s use in relation to the research question. Chapter Three will communicate the subjectively understood answers to the research questions described within Chapters One and Two.
“I’m not going to be an art teacher that teaches art”
- Research Participant, during our interview for my Dissertation
When I was in the process of completing my initial teacher education (ITE), I considered whether or not it would be worth undertaking the Honours process as part of that. There were a lot of factors that fed into the eventual decision to apply for a place, and ultimately, though it helped not one whit with acquiring a full-time position as a teacher, I am glad that I went through the process. It was long, mentally and intellectually challenging, and it pushed me to think more critically, to be more aware of research processes and biases as well of various research methodologies. I actually enjoyed the process of researching, and writing and it has had a significant influence on my writing style.
I had considered working towards having it published, however, have neither the time nor the mindset at this point to sit down and re-edit it sufficiently so that it fits within the word limits of a journal article. More importantly, I have no disconnected with the data and with that piece of research and would need to invest significant time and effort into reconnecting. I do wish to pursue a Research Higher Degree at some point (after Youngling has started school at the earliest is what I have been told) and so offer up over the next few articles, my Honours dissertation for feedback.
I have not made any edits whatsoever to this version. It is a straight copy and paste from my original 2014 file. I am rather proud of it, despite its now (to me) glaring flaws. If you wish to dive straight into the whole dissertation, you can find it here as a PDF. I have also made available the examiners reports and rubrics (after redacting their identifiable information). I found it interesting that one examiner marked it as an eighty-eight whilst the other marked it as an eighty-two. A fairly significant variation in marks, however, the average of eighty-five was sufficient to earn a High Distinction and thus, with the other requirements met regarding my Grade Point Average etc., the award of Honours Class I.
I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
"We need to ensure that students see their ideas as valid so that they connect with school."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
The buzz amongst delegates at the conclusion of the opening plenary session was palpable. The buzz on Twitter was observable with a large number of tweets commenting about how much they enjoyed the presentations from Milton Chen, Jan Owen, and Prakash Nair, with tidbits of quotes, ideas, realisation and musings filtering through the twittersphere during the morning tea break. One of the first things I noticed during the morning tea break was that to access the tea and coffee and the morning tea, you had to be a delegate or a speaker.
The gentleman manning the access to the morning tea catering area indicated that his instructions were only those people were to be allowed through. I find this rather surprising, that exhibitors, who spend a considerable amount of money to be there, are not allowed food, nor media. Given that extortionate prices of the food vendors on the expo floor (lunch later in the day of a basic wrap (ham, cheese, tomato) and a 600ml bottle of soft drink cost me $13.50!) one has to question whether a percentage of the profits go back to the organisers. What was particularly annoying was that the only bathroom in the expo hall was accessed through the catering area, so one had to leave the expo area for those needs. Poor planning.
The other thing that I observed was that there did not appear to be anywhere near as many people on the expo floor as in previous years, both in terms of exhibitor numbers and delegates. That said, the space was a lot more contained insofar as it didn't have to be spread out across a cavernous concrete floor with steel beams and fenced off areas in the way as was the case at Australian Technology Park, the venue of the previous few years. Perhaps I am wrong, but given that three of the conferences were in small sectioned off areas of the Expo hall, that the catering area was significantly larger in floor space than previous years and also in the same area, and that at no point did I feel that I needed to squeeze through people talking in groups, I do not think I am.
After the morning tea break, I headed to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to heard Deborah Nicholson speak about the impact of arts and music programs on the equity gap. It was a very small group, perhaps fifty delegates in the space, however, it was an interesting presentation. The create and performing arts are something of a passion of mine, writing my Honours Thesis on the topic of Teachers' Self-Efficacy in Teaching the Arts, and I do believe that arts, as a key learning areas just like mathematics, English, and Science, gets comparatively shafted. Not true in all cases, I know, but by and large, I think that I would be fairly accurate with that assessment.
Deborah spoke about the impact of the arts on Indigenous education. She noted that the positive experience of creating and performing helps students to feel more connected and confident. This flows on to positively impact on their academic results at school. Deborah pointed delegates to the Arts:Live website, a free resource that contains an array of professional learning and teaching resources specifically dedicated to the arts and their impact in schools.
As I was listening to Deborah present, I found myself continually distracted by the hubbub on the expo floor and the faint sounds of speakers from the other two conference streams that were being hosted in the expo hall (ClassTech and Young Learners). It was not enough to drown out Deborah, as the conference stream did have its own microphone and PA system, however, it was distracting nonetheless.