3. Applying Art-Based Self-Study Techniques within Qualitative Research Teaching (2/4) – Best Practices for Education Professionals

32 Best Practices for Education Professionals
The rst theme, social orientation to research, was reected in students’ descrip-
tions of their general desire to work with people and focus on participants’ lived ex-
periences in future research projects. For example, students illustrated the importance
of social interaction through statements such as, One of my many goals is to create
new relationships with people and relate to them in as many ways as I can (student
excerpt), I also rmly believe that it is really important to get to know your partici-
pants to the point where they are comfortable being around you, and they can trust you
(student excerpt), and I am the kind of person who wants to reach out and help others
and provide them with a sense of comfort (student excerpt). To supplement their narra-
tives, students employed imagery in their collages to convey the desire to interact with
others. This social (people) orientation is depicted in collages of large crowds, hands
reaching, and labels to symbolize social interaction, depicted in Figs. 3.1 and 3.2.
Figure 3.1. Social (people) orientation collage imagery.
Figure 3.2. Magnifying glass collage imagery.
Students identied various ways of engaging with others, such as, collecting sto-
ries from which they could infer the meaning people ascribed to individual and shared
experiences. Students’ interest in stories of lived experience and human histories was
demonstrated through repeated references to stories and documenting individuals’
journeys. As stated by one participant, I believe the best way to study a person is by
the stories they tell which shape their experiences (student excerpt). As depicted in
Figs. 3.3 and 3.4, this was also reected in collage imagery such as books and discus-
sion circles.
Figure 3.3. Books collage imagery.
Figure 3.4. Stories collage imagery.
Applying Art-Based Self-Study Techniques 33
34 Best Practices for Education Professionals
Students also noted their desire to explore individuals’ experiences in relation to
others by investigating how people are attracted to each other and how various rela-
tionships develop. Some students also sought greater understandings of people’s be-
havioral determinants and cognitive processes that inuence decision-making, which
is indicated by student references to what goes on in people’s minds and references to
analyzing people’s attitudes, behaviors, perceptions, and emotions. Expanding knowl-
edge of other cultures was also an integral feature of some students’ approaches, which
was visually represented by including maps and different colors in their collages. Stu-
dents also asserted that ensuring diversity and differing backgrounds was an effective
strategy to gather rich, descriptive information about different ways of life, the values,
beliefs, language, and distinctive traditions practiced by other cultures. This prominent
theme revealed students’ interest in focusing on others in their research.
The second major theme, researcher attributes, captured student tendencies to look
inward and consider personal attributes and abilities that they believed they possessed
or should possess in order to successfully design and implement research studies. Stu-
dents often chose to describe their approaches to social research by highlighting spe-
cic researcher attributes or skills that they believed should be inherent or developed.
This suggests that the ingredients for “quality” research involve the abilities, talents,
and characteristics of the researcher coupled with adherence to a rigorous methodol-
ogy. In terms of specic attributes, open-mindedness was frequently cited as the most
valuable trait a researcher could possess; students advocated that researchers readily
welcome new ideas, insights, diverse participants, and opportunities to learn that arise
throughout the research process. As noted by one student,
As a social researcher my philosophy or approach is to always keep an open mind
and look at things from different angles. I want to make sure I am open to every pos-
sibility and never narrow minded, for almost everything in terms of right and wrong
in people can be subjective, and nothing and no one should ever be discriminated
against. (student excerpt)
Many students asserted that the researchers view should not stie participants’
voices. Instead, students regarded the willingness to consider multiple perspectives as
a necessary attribute, which was evident in statements that conveyed their intentions
to change their lenses, look at things from different angles, and regard each person’s
perspectives as interesting and important. Similarly, some students objected to the
possibility of the researchers perspective pervading the research process and asserted
that they planned to be unbiased, maintain neutrality, and “attempt” to be constantly
objective. Students also indicated that organizational skills better prepared them for
each stage of the research process. This was made apparent by a student who charac-
terized him or herself as a list maker (student excerpt) and by another who made sure
to devise a clear game plan (student excerpt) prior to commencing a research project,
and yet another who preferred to undertake an issue of interest in a very proper and
organized way (student excerpt). These attributes were discernable in their collages
through images such as binoculars, photographers, and an open sky to convey multiple
perspectives and researchers’ openness.
Ethical values and empathy were also highlighted as key researcher attributes. For
some students, planning a research project necessitated taking into account ethical
concerns and the researchers commitment to conduct investigations fairly and honest-
ly. Several students illustrated this notion through statements such as valuing honesty
rst, never bending the truth, and always telling the truth. According to several nar-
ratives, researchers should also be empathetic. As noted by one student, “I believe it
is important to be compassionate and empathetic as a researcher, because participants
will be able to relate to me, identify with me and hopefully feel comfortable sharing in
depth information” (student excerpt). Students represented ethical values and empathy
in their collages with images of labels like “honesty,” “ethical choices,” and images of
connected hands and hearts, as illustrated in Figs. 3.5 and 3.6.
Figure 3.5. Ethical choices collage imagery.
Figure 3.6. Hands and heart collage imagery.
Applying Art-Based Self-Study Techniques 35
36 Best Practices for Education Professionals
The third theme, research strategies and techniques, reected in multiple col-
lages and narratives consisted of various strategies and techniques within research
topic selection, data collection, data analysis, and presentation phases of the re-
search process. Although students differed in terms of their preferred research
design (i.e., phenomenology, ethnography, narrative inquiry, participatory action
research, and grounded theory), they also articulated understanding of key re-
search procedures connected to core qualitative research processes. One research
strategy noted by students concerned research topic selection and the choosing of
interesting topics that are personally appealing or fascinating to researchers. This
was echoed in multiple student references in personal narratives. As noted by one
student:
When researching, I try to start with topics that I am interested in, breaking it down
into main points that I want to learn more about. Using topics that are interesting
make research enjoyable because I know that I am growing and learning as well.
(student excerpt)
This was also found in collage images which represent specic research interests
noted by students in their narratives (i.e., lm, sports, and television).
One particularly interesting set of reections revealed by students concerned
the alignment of research strategies (design selection, data collection, analysis,
etc.) with the research topic of interest. Multiple students discussed how to design
their studies and determine what approach would be most appropriate to use for
exploring their topic. Several students indicated that they would use this opportu-
nity for going through many research options and methods and to also try differ-
ent research techniques. Some students also referred to consulting several differ-
ent sources, including primary and secondary research, in order to examine what
has been researched on this topic in the past and determine how best to proceed
with their current projects. It is noteworthy that the majority of students preferred
working with people and that data collection was often perceived as a process of
gaining rsthand knowledge in which the researcher was situated as an active and
involved participant. Some students indicated that engaging in conversation, talk-
ing directly to people, establishing rapport to ensure participants feel comfortable
sharing in-depth information, and interacting through interviews were preferred
strategies for collecting data. Some students also maintained that the researchers
direct participation in the study was necessary, asserting that submerging one’s self
into a research scenario, carefully submerging oneself into the experience, and re-
maining completely engaged in the research study would enrich the data gathered.
In contrast, some students recommended observation as the ideal data collection
strategy through references to observing with a keen and critical eye. They also
incorporated images of magnifying glasses and telescopes in their art collages to
emphasize the importance of keen observation when collecting data as illustrated
in Figs. 3.7 and 3.8.