Drawing from Discourse: Autoethnographic Reflections of Race, Gender, and the Practice of Teaching Art

Open Access
Kirker, Jessica Lynne
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 07, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Karen Treat Keifer Boyd, Dissertation Advisor
  • Booker Stephen Carpenter Ii, Committee Chair
  • Kimberly Anne Powell, Committee Member
  • Jeanine M Staples, Special Member
  • art education
  • race
  • gender
  • discourse
  • teacher discourse
  • autoethnography
In this autoethnographic study, I consider how I, as a White woman teaching art, participate in, maneuver, and manipulate spoken and unspoken racialized and gendered discourses within the context of a high school with a diverse population of students. The study was performed in an urban public school in Southeastern Pennsylvania where I have served as an art teacher for 10 years. Through the data collection process of journaling over a 10-month period, I recorded reflections on conversations, speeches, and written communication with, between, and regarding teachers, students, parents, and school administrators. I employed critical discourse analysis on these texts and draw upon Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Whiteness Studies to examine the discourses that govern the school and inform its social conventions as manifested in my professional identity and practices in the classroom, collegial spaces, and school community. I also consider my own position as a White, female teacher in relation to White normativity and gender and racial stratification in U.S. educational systems, the discourses that maintain them, and how these discourses influence individuals’ teaching and learning stories which, in turn, influence future teachers and learners. This study reflects on the contradictions, disappointments, triumphs, concerns, moral dilemmas, and the realizations of my own limitations in understandings as a White, female teacher and demonstrates challenges that come with doing the difficult work of self-reflection. I also show the value in performing an autoethnography as a way to evolve as a social justice educator and scholar as well as a means to give voice to teachers’ stories so that we can render visible the way gendered and racialized discourses shape the daily practice of teaching art.