Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Post Modern Image-Based Research: An Innovative Data Collection Method for Illuminating Preservice Teachers' Developing Perceptions in Field-Based Courses (1)

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Post Modern Image-Based Research: An Innovative Data Collection Method for Illuminating Preservice Teachers' Developing Perceptions in Field-Based Courses (1)

Article excerpt

As part of course requirements twenty-eight preservice teachers in a field-based content reading course created a series of self-portraits that illustrated their concerns and perceptions about teaching content reading. They accompanied their drawings with dialogue. Analysis of the portraits indicates that arts-based techniques have the potential to provide insights about preservice teachers' perceived realities and understandings that narrative data alone might not reveal. The preservice teachers experienced high levels of stress as they prepared to teach their first lesson and their anxieties continued past mid-semester. By the end of the course the majority developed confidence in their teaching abilities and they were able to list a wide-range of content reading strategies however, they overlooked the visual and communicative arts.

Key Words: Arts-based Techniques, Content Reading, Preservice Teachers' Self-Portraits, and Visual Representations


"Making a picture is a form of thinking" (Ernst da Silva, 2001, p. 4)

"Self portraits have been a method of self-exploration since humans first gazed at their own reflection in a pool of water" (Kelly, 2005, p. 6)

"By using activities from the arts like drawings ... individuals may discover new ways of thinking" (Janesick, 2003, p. 157)

In a world dominated by multi media, it is not surprising that scholars increasingly recognize visual representations as valid data. Following post positivist, post-feminist, and postmodernist traditions (2), social scientists often connect photographs, videos, drawings, paintings, and film with narrative description to help illuminate a society's culture and behaviors (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Some educational researchers (e.g., Richards, 1996, 1998), and a number of contemporary authors of qualitative methods texts also show an expanded interest in adopting visual approaches as foundations for inquiries (e.g., Banks, 2001; Emmison & Smith, 2000; Janesick, 2003; Pink, 2001; Prosser, 1997; Rose, 2003; van Leeuwen & Jewitt, 2001). As a theory, and as a method, image interpretation offers an alternative to researchers who wish to study phenomena in new and alternative ways (Pink).

In this qualitative inquiry, I utilized visual representations as primary data. I asked 28 preservice teachers in a field-based, content literacy course to draw a series of self-portraits six times throughout a semester. I also requested that the preservice teachers include dialogue to accompany their portraits. By analyzing the preservice teachers' drawings and the accompanying narratives, I hoped to capture changes over time in their instructional concerns, conceptions, and understandings about teaching content reading instruction that narrative data alone might not reveal. A review of the literature shows that while a few studies have analyzed preservice teachers' experiences teaching content reading lessons in high schools, similar studies in middle schools are lacking. Therefore, I wanted to add to the body of literature. Ultimately, I hoped to improve my own practices by adjusting course content to meet the preservice teachers' individual and group needs.

Turning to the Artistic

Inspired by Judith Green's (1983) statement that "additional work needs to be undertaken to explore ways in which teachers can use strategies for obtaining students' perspectives as instructional resources" (p. 225), I turned to artistic representations as a legitimate and central source of data for a number of reasons.

Visual materials are now often incorporated into "qualitative researchers' array of techniques" (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996, p. 131). Although the use of visual images as a research tool was considered somewhat controversial from the 1960s to the early 1980s, many contemporary qualitative researchers believe that visual data offer a valid way of understanding an individual's thinking and experiences (Clifford & Marcus, 1986; Flick, 2002; Pink, 2001). …

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