"Shifts in Thinking" in Arts Teachers' Narratives: Documentation as Inquiry and Artifact

Open Access
Meier, Mary Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 08, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Karen Treat Keifer Boyd, Dissertation Advisor
  • Karen Treat Keifer Boyd, Committee Chair
  • Wanda B Knight, Committee Member
  • Kimberly Anne Powell, Committee Member
  • Stephanie Cayot Serriere, Committee Member
  • narrative inquiry
  • art education
  • professional learning
  • teachers
  • collaborative inquiry group
  • arts
  • digital technology
In this narrative inquiry, I analyzed art and music teachers’ stories of professional learning as they engaged in the study of their teaching practice in a collaborative inquiry group (CIG). During two years of data collection, I examined stories that arts teachers told when describing classroom photographs, images of student work, video recordings of teaching, written reflections, course descriptions, lesson plans, and other forms of documentation that they generated for the purpose of conveying their experiences to members of our CIG. My narrative analysis was focused on teachers’ indications of shifts in thinking about teaching and learning. Participants were 10 art and music teachers who met in a collaborative inquiry group that was organized by a continuing education program and funded by a federal grant. I was both the facilitator of the CIG and narrative researcher. Our group met monthly from 2009–2011 to form a network of support, share experiences, learn to use new digital technology, inquire about teaching and learning as specific to art and music education, and to design and customize professional learning for continuing education course credit. Participants elected to focus their collaborative inquiry on investigations related to student-led learning, choice-based student learning, and inquiry as a framework for learning in the arts. Chapters 4 through 7 are groupings of narrative data and analytic discussion that explore teachers’ narratives as indications of shifting, moving, and becoming in spaces of inquiry as professional learning. My interpretive discussion as narrative inquiry is represented in various narrative, literary, and visual forms throughout this dissertation. These arts-based forms include descriptive prose, found poetry, researcher memos, images, interim texts, and dramatic scenes/play scripts. The multiplicity of people, objects, time, and spaces of interaction are represented by narrative fragments interwoven to create complex narrative intertextures that retain the nuances of each teacher’s individual experiences but share a common narrative thread, topic, or theme. I developed a methodological and theoretical toolset for crafting multivocal narrative intertextures after studying and adapting the methods of several qualitative inquirers who have constructed intricate narrative research texts as constellations, juxtapositions, and assemblages of narratives that explore polyphonic perspectives (Conle, 1996; Craig, 2007; Glesne, 1997; Hasebe-Ludt, Leggo, & Chambers 2009; Heydon, 2010; Prendergast, 2006; Reilly, 2011). Three theoretical perspectives informed my data analysis and interpretation: actor-network theory (Fenwick & Edwards, 2010, 2012), smooth and striated space (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), and knowledge in the making (Ellsworth, 2005). I used these theories as conceptual tools to build on what Clandinin and Connelly (2000) referred to as the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space (described in Chapter 2). These three theories aided my analysis and interpretations of the interactions among (a) participants, ideas, narratives, digital objects, and material artifacts, (b) physical and virtual places and the processes where teaching and learning take place, and (c) ambiguous spaces of sensation, thinking, and reflection that can be conveyed through sharing of artifacts and other visual and textual chronicles of experience. The nuanced meanings of the conceptual vocabulary drawn from each theory specifically supported my analysis of participants’ shifts. These shifts were not limited to shifts in thinking but also included shifts in practice, shifts in the arrangement of classroom spaces, and the notion of shifting as part of an ongoing process of professional learning as inquiry in the context of a CIG. This research describes how shifts in thinking and practice can be seen and understood by teachers in a CIG through visual and written documentation with accompanying storied reflections that chronicle experiences in relation to specific teaching contexts. Pre-service and in-service arts teachers are likely to locate implications within these narratives for tailoring professional learning in community by documenting experiences and sharing reflections as specific to unique teaching contexts. In the final chapter, I synthesize three key implications in relation to theoretical discussion: (a) documentation as inquiry and artifact when objects are linked to stories, (b) teachers reflect on shifts in pedagogy in relation to a digital object, and (c) self-directed/group-supported inquiry in flexible spaces of interaction supports shifts in thinking.