Brief outline of project: This project explored the ways in which final year undergraduate student teachers participating in an elective module in Performance Studies performed their multiple and emergent identities as student teachers, as Irish, as men, as women, etc. In the module, the students told, wrote and performed their own identity narratives in collaboration with each other, their lecturer, a theatre artist and a choreographer.
When the project took place: Spring Semester, Academic Year 2015/16.
Participants: 18 students, 13 female and 5 male.
Context: The context for the project was a Performance Studies module located in the final year of the first iteration of a 4-year BEd (primary teaching) programme in a College of Education and the Liberal Arts. The module was offered as part of a number of routes through the BEd programme: a specialist route in drama education (12 students), a joint-specialist route in drama education and another curricular area (one student) and a multi-disciplinary route (5 students).
Duration of module: 3 hours per week for 12 weeks (one two-hour class and one one-hour class).
Rationale: The rationale for the Performance Studies module is grounded in the belief that teachers are important agents of social change. It was underpinned by performance studies theory (Schechner, 2013; Spry, 2011) and by post-structural readings on identity (Butler, 2007/1999; 2005). Schechner (2013) contends that one learns, from an early age, to perform or behave in particular ways. Butler (2007/1999; 2005) maintains that behaviours become embedded through repetition and regulation (implicit and explicit) not just in individuals but in the identity categories and systems of power that precede and exceed them. In this way, they occur as natural and are taken-for-granted. Greene (1995) asserts that it is only by questioning the taken-for-granted that ‘we may have an opportunity to posit alternative ways of living and valuing’ (p.23). In the Performance Studies module, the students told, wrote (in the form of play scripts) and performed their own identity narratives. It was envisaged that this pedagogical approach (derived from Greene’s narrative approach) would enable the students to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which their lives intersect with others’ and with larger sociocultural categories and systems of power. It was also envisaged that the collaborative exploration of taken-for-granted categories would open spaces for the students to posit alternatives that might influence their work as future teachers.
Research methodology: The research methodology (like the pedagogical approach) was guided by the notion that we make sense of our experiences and shape our identities by making and sharing stories. The project was thus designed as a narrative inquiry, described by Clandinin and Connolly (2000) as 'a way of understanding experience. It is a collaboration between researcher and participants, over time, in a place or series of places, and in social interaction with milieus. An inquirer enters this matrix in the midst and progresses in the same spirit, concluding the inquiry still in the midst of living and telling, reliving and retelling the stories of the experiences that make up people’s lives, both individual and social' (p.20). Clandinin and Connolly understand language as central to both the meaning making and representation processes of narrative inquiry. However, Leavy (2009) and Barone and Eisner (2012) argue for the inclusion of arts-based research methods as well so as to facilitate access to those aspects of experience communicated through images, gesture, movement and sound as well as language. And, in this research project narrative and arts-based approaches were used as both research methods and pedagogical tools.
Research/data collection techniques: Oral storytelling, script writing and theatrical performance (arts-based methods) were used to make meaning, to represent meaning and to generate data (after Norris 2009). Initially, data was collected through dialogue and stories of the students’ and tutors’ own experiences. The students analysed this data to generate their own autobiographical narratives, written play scripts and solo theatrical performances. The principal researcher maintained a journal throughout the project in which she recorded notes on the classes and on her conversations with the theatre artist and the choreographer. The students’ written reflections, video recordings of three of the classes, video recordings of three interviews with three of the students, photographs and course documents were also used to generate field texts throughout the research process. The whole process was not a linear one, but a spiral in which the stages of data collection and analysis overlapped with and influenced each other. The principal investigator and the theatre artist also used the video recordings of the classes and student interviews to make a film about the project: A lens on our lives (available in this collection).
Ethical clearance: Ethical clearance for the project was provided by Mary Immaculate College, Research Ethics Committee (MIREC). The research project was explained, verbally and in writing to all of the students who were given the opportunity to volunteer (or not) to be part of the project. They were also informed that they could withdraw, without consequence, from the research component of the project at any time. The students were assured that their anonymity would be maintained in the production of any research texts (with the exception of the film). Consequently, in 2019, the principal researcher contacted as many of the participating students as possible via email to request permission for their individual videos and play scripts to be made available in this collection. Eight students granted permission via email. Only scripts and videos from those eight students are included in the collection.
This project is explored more fully in the following publication:
Morrissey, D. (2018) Metaphor and narrative as teaching, learning and research strategies in teacher education. In Hanne, A. and Kaal, A. (Eds) Narrative and metaphor in education: look both ways. London: Routledge, pp. 193-207.
Barone, T. & Eisner, E. W. (2012) Arts Based Research. London: Sage. References
Butler, J. (2007/1999) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge.
Butler, J. (2005) Giving an Account of Oneself. New York: Fordham University Press.
Clandinin, J. & Connelly, M. (2000) Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in Qualitative Research. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts and Social Change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Leavy, P. (2009) Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice. New York/London: The Guilford Press.
Norris, J. (2009) Playbuilding as Qualitative Research: A Participatory Arts-Based Approach. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Schechner, R. (2013) Performance Studies: An Introduction. (3rd ed.) New York, NY.
Spry, T. (2011) Body, Paper, Stage: Writing and Performing Autoethnography. California: West Coast Press.