After the “Connecting with Community” assignment, I was ready to take some action and engage with some data to continue my exploration in Action Research. I was a bit worried at first by my inexperience in both data collection and analysis, but my group helped me catch up with the knowledge and skills needed to carry out our research. It has been quite successful from my perspective, but we certainly came across a number of stumbling blocks, and emerged with a set of valuable lessons.
I was unfortunately not present in class for the early, formative stage of our arts-based research (ABR). After we broke into two ABR groups to test out different directions, our Digital Storytelling group developed a more concrete plan to collect data both on the online platform and in class. This was where I entered to contribute my thoughts to the existing research design and to our plan going forward. I tried my best to balance voicing suggestions to drive the project in the direction I find fruitful for addressing the research question and reserving the imposition of ideas, given my limited academic and technical knowledge in ABR and digital storytelling. I could sense that my team members were doing the same, so our discussions were always open, respectful, and constructive.
I found the in-class data collection quite revealing in terms of recognizing the gaps in our prior thinking and assumptions. Furthermore, it forced us to reconsider our approach to data analysis, as we came out of the exercise with a wide range of data: the images, the text submissions, the new categories, and our own observations of in-class discussions. We struggled to find a way to tie all our data together and derive from it an adequate answer to the research question we had set out to answer. I also realized at this point how our initial categories (prompts) for the image submissions did not restrict the scope of interpretation to Faculty of Education classes. Instead, what we collected were much more general representations of “community”. It was a disjunction with our original research question, but I saw this just as valuable of a question in itself: “What are some creative, non-traditional interpretations of a community?”
As our team reflected on the new categories created by our classmates, we felt a strong urge to reinterpret and reframe these new categories and their rationale, which says a lot about the tendency of researchers to negotiate with data and make conclusions based on their own reading. Becoming aware of these perceptual biases is crucial (Pedretti, 1996; Wakefield, 2019). The time constraint for both our in-class data collection and analysis left us with many unresolved thoughts and untouched links among the images, text, and observations. I recognized the challenge of having an open-ended data collection process and not determining our analysis methods beforehand, but at the end of the day, constantly reconfiguring our methods as the data comes in presents us with more flexibility and the cognizance of our own assumptions.
Pedretti, E. (1996). Facilitating action research in science, technology and society (STS) education: An experience in reflective practice. Educational Action Research, 4(3), 307-327. https://doi.org/10.1080/0965079960040303
Wakefield, S. (2019). A collaborative Action Research project within a data-driven culture. Action Research for Inclusive Education: Participation and Democracy in Teaching and Learning, 113. http://doi.org/10.4324/9781351048361-11