Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

A Collaged Reflection on My Art Teaching: A Visual Autoethnography

Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

A Collaged Reflection on My Art Teaching: A Visual Autoethnography

Article excerpt

A Collaged Reflection on My Art Teaching: A Visual Autoethnography

In this article I want to unravel some of the complexities of my practice as a visual art educator who teaches in a public elementary school. I want to reveal my personal struggles in order to convey my understanding of my lived reality in this period of time in art education. To do this I have used a form of visual autoethnography (Smith-Shank & Keifer-Boyd, 2007) where I have created a work of art using the medium of collage and then used that collage as a prompt for my reflection. My reflection is woven into the wider culture of art education, and distinctions between the cultural and the personal become blurred as I change focus in looking backward and forward to inward and outward. At the center of my visual autoethnographic study is my own self-awareness and the reporting of my experiences and introspections as a primary data source (Dyson, 2007). To present my self-analysis I used the tools of collage, metaphor, and expanding narrative to re-think and re-conceptualize parts of my professional life as an art educator and defend aspects of my teaching. Personal reflection is about developing a commitment to sound pedagogical practices through a process of unveiling and representing different complex layers of one's practice in order to transform the teaching experience into a learning experience (Duarte, 2007). In this way this visual autoethnography becomes a form of arts-based educational research.

A Definition of Autoethnography

Autoethnography is a form of research that connects the personal to the cultural (Duarte, 2007; Dyson, 2007; Mizzi, 2010; Starr, 2010). It is a qualitative research method that utilizes data about the self and context to gain understanding of the connection between self and others within the same context (Ngujiri, Hernandez & Chang, 2010). Autoethnography allows the researcher to use the nontraditional research practice of telling his or her stories in narrative research as a method to reclaim marginalized and self-reflective space in the research. Narrative research methodology embraces multiple way of representing lived experiences discursively and is a multi-layered form of investigation (Xu & Connelly, 2010; Craig, 2009; Fox, 2008; Clandinin, 2006). Traditional forms of ethnography tend not to value the connected life experiences of the researcher; autoethnography finds a place and presence for the researcher's life experiences (Mizzi, 2010). Attention to this kind of discourse helps us understand how people experience everyday life and explore ways of making sense of life and expressing this knowledge (Mitra, 2010). Interpretation and creation of knowledge is thus rooted in the emic context; an autoethnographer reveals the 'voice of the insider' rather than the voice of the 'seeker of truth' (Dyson, 2007; Mitra, 2010). Autoethnography recognizes that all research is subjective, research is an extension of researchers' lives and realizes that knowledge construction is not so analytical or linear that answers to questions are absolute (Ngunjii, Hernandez & Chang, 2010; Starr, 2010).

Autoethnography is self-focused. The researcher is the center of the investigation. Autoethnographic data provide the researcher with a window through which the outside world is understood. Although the blurring of the researcher-participant relationship has become a source of criticism for the methodology, access to sensitive issues and innermost thoughts makes this research method a powerful and unique tool for understanding (Ngunjiri, Hernandez & Chang, 2010). The credibility of autoethnographic research is established through the 'ringing true' of the story revealed (Dyson, 2007).

For the past twenty years a number of scholars have sought to answer the question of how to name the intersection where art and research overlap (Williams, 2009). Autoethnographers pay varying levels of attention to narration/description and analysis/interpretation of autobiographical materials. …

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