Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 17: Leveraging Eclectic Arts as a Rationale for Multiple Modes of Inquiry

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 17: Leveraging Eclectic Arts as a Rationale for Multiple Modes of Inquiry

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: A METHODOLOGICAL DILEMMA

When seeking to make meaning about my classroom teaching experience, I ran into a methodological dilemma. No single methodology or framework seemed to be appropriate to articulate my experiences while teaching and learning in a fifth-grade classroom. I intended to reconstruct my thought processes, provide vivid descriptions, make student voices prominent, and interpret my experiences in the classroom space with students. I longed for a methodological framework that would allow me to do all that I desired while using narrative vignettes and storytelling to not only chronicle, but analyze the classroom's pursuits of theorizing together while we engaged in an authentic, integrated curriculum centering on the students' priority concerns (Schultz, 2008). Although there were vast data ranging from public documentation and classroom artifacts, to student journals, and a daily reflective teacher journal, the means by which to conduct my intended inquiry was not as simple as selecting a single approach and following its parameters or guidelines.

This article is intended to provide a theoretical basis for applying Schwab's (1971) notion of eclectic arts as a rationale and a justification for using a multiplicity of modes for conducting educational inquiry. By describing the nature of my research, detailing the need for a metamethodology, framing modes of inquiry that apply, complement, and interconnect to the research on my classroom, as well as discussing implications for policy and practice, the argument in this article may provide opportunities for reflection, change, and transformation.

THE NATURE OF MY RESEARCH

The nature of my research is qualitative and interpretive. Specifically, I wanted to make meaning about a phenomenon of interest. Qualitative-based research focuses on gaining insight about a particular phenomenon. In the examination of a phenomenon of interest, qualitative and interpretive research aims at providing a detailed account of what is being studied. The goal of this type of research is not to generalize or predict about particular groups in a positivistic sense, but rather to "interpret how the various participants in a social setting construct the world around them" (Glesne, 1999, p. 5). Qualitative and interpretive research inherently details a particular situation, describing how the actors engage in activities in the context of their setting and make meaning.

Bogdan and Biklen (1998) offer five key characteristics of qualitative research in their book Qualitative Research in Education. These five features characterize qualitative research with the following hallmarks: naturalistic, descriptive data, concern with process, inductive, and meaning. The naturalistic component of this research mode has "actual settings as the direct source of data and the researcher is the key instrument" (p. 4). The descriptive data feature focuses on trying "to describe what a particular situation or view of the world is like in narrative form" (p. 5). Rather than describing results in numbers and statistics as in quantitative research, the data that are gathered "take the form of words or pictures ... contain quotations ... in search for understanding" (p. 5). Qualitative research also focuses on process. The qualitative researcher wants to gain understanding of how the data are gathered and the story behind how the subjects make meaning about their world rather than simply striving for preconceived results or products. The investigators allow theory to emerge "from the bottom up" (p. 6) in an effort to inductively analyze the data. They "do not seek out data or evidence to prove or disprove hypotheses," (p. 6) but rather enter a research situation trying to discover meaning. This particular attribute of a qualitative study takes a closer look at "participant perspectives" (Erikson cited in Bogdan & Biklen, 1998, p. 7) essentially focusing on "how different people make sense of their lives" (p. …

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