Embedded within my passion for literacy is my love for developmental drama. I do love theatre as well (I as a professional actress for a couple of years), but developmental drama is fundamentally different than theatre. Theatre is about performance. Developmental drama is about developing human potential, and that is my heart song.
I was recently asked to present a Literacy Workshop for the Royal Conservstory’s new Smart Start Programme . This Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme uses a multiple arts approach to develop four specific cognitive skills: attention, memory, perception, cognitive flexibility. It was my role to model and lead a group of ECE leaders through creative drama experiences so they could experience first-hand how developmental drama can and does develop cognitive skills. We explored many drama strategies in the workshop: storytelling; role play; group drama; teacher-in-role; voice over narration; hot seat; tableaux, and; story drama. My favourite of the eight listed is story drama which uses the events and characters in a story to stimulate the drama experiences, plus, I got to use my storytelling skills. We became the characters; good and bad. We learned about a culture from the other side of the world. We asked questions. We problem solved. We also had fun. The participants left with many practical ideas and felt they were inspired to explore this world with the children they are responsible for. But, in all honesty, I think I was the one who left with the most insight.
I used to present this kind of workshop regularly, but have not done one in a few years. Due to my dissertation work in multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), I discovered I was seeing the experiences through new eyes. I was identifying modes instead of arts disciplines and using critical discernment instead of point of view. The experience was a literacy event that we constructed within a social paradigm and the participants contributed their own knowledge and expertise in an environment that supported situated practice. It wasn’t just a new set of vocabulary; it was a much more informed and theoretical perspective of the work. Vygotsky, Luke, Peabody, Vasquez, Kress, Cope and Kalantzis occupied every corner of the room. I was well supported. I recognized a noticeable difference between my role as intuitive drama leader and informed theoretical guide. It was progress and it felt good.
Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.) (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. New York: Routlage
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film The Stanford Prison Experiment at the APA (American Psychological Association) conference. The screening of the film was followed by a Q&A session with the led researcher and distinguished psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo. The film was adapted from Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. I first learned about the Stanford prison experiment during my undergraduate studies in psychology. The ethical implications of this landmark study are still discussed in undergraduate and graduate psychology classes. It was interesting to now revisit the study as a researcher who has designed and carried out various research studies.
The Stanford prison experiment, a study conducted in 1971, examined the psychological effects of prison life. The male college students who volunteered to be part of the study were randomly assigned to be either prison guards or prisoners. The study was originally planned to run for a two-week period, but it was ended after six days because of what the situation was doing to the participants. Within the first couple of days the guards exhibited sadistic tendencies and the prisons showed signs of extreme stress. Watching the film was distressing (as it should be), as the study itself was controversial and the results quite shocking. It was interesting however, to hear Dr. Zimbardo discuss how the Stanford prison study inspired his notable research on shyness and his recent work the Heroic Imagination Project.
A recent CBC news article caught my eye because it highlighted how researchers, in fields such as psychology and computer science, are increasingly mining social media (e.g. Tweets; Facebook profiles) to gain insight into people’s physical and mental health. The article questioned if this method of data mining represents a means to conduct “personality research, without talking to any actual people.” Computer scientist Michal Kosinski, from Stanford University, points out that “by looking at your Facebook profile or your Twitter feed, we can very accurately predict very intimate traits that you may not be aware you’re revealing.” How do you feel about this type of research – does it represent an innovative approach to health research or an invasive monitoring of our online space?
I (Yiola) have used the method of interviews for data gathering for over a decade. I love it;the entire process is fascinating. From designing research questions, to finding suitable participants, to setting up interview dates, to meeting with participants, to reading the transcript and to sharing the transcript with the participants.
There is something special about qualitative interviews. Perhaps what is special is the human connection, perhaps the interaction, perhaps the commitment demonstrated by the participants . I think perhaps all of the aforementioned make the interview process special. In my many years of interviewing participants, what inspires me the most is the passion the participants demonstrate as they explain with detail and careful description their thoughts and experiences about education. I can (and do) listen for hours. The participants I have worked with show appreciation for their involvement in the research and often express how much learning they receive from the experience. The latter is particularly true of participants in longitudinal studies.
The role of the researcher: what an honour and privilege to spend time with willing participants; to be privy to their time and thoughts. A special relationship develops between research and participant that is built on trust, respect and commitment. This relationship takes time to foster and requires thoughtfulness. The interview data is often the foundation of the research. This data is built upon a deep understand of research literature, thoughtful research questions, carefully crafted interview questions, and committed research participants. Relationship building is key when using interviews in the research process.
I (Lydia) feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the symposium last week as many of the issues raised resonated with my current research examining student teachers’ experiences with contemporary literacy teaching and learning. The issues highlighted during the individual presentations and accompanying discussions offered rich insights into the status of teacher educational internationally.
I’d like to share a few of the questions raised during the symposium that remained with me and will continue to inform my research in literacy teacher education: What should a curriculum of contemporary teacher education include? In what ways can a curriculum of teacher education provide the space and quality time necessary for student teachers to truly engage as learners? How does power continue to operate in the curriculum? How do digital tools and social media spaces construct reading and writing? What do these digital spaces permit and what do they restrict? How is knowledge constructed, represented, and distributed within digital spaces? What are the pedagogical consequences as students engage with different modes within digital spaces? These are just a few of the questions I continue to consider upon my return from the symposium. Having the opportunity to consider the complexities and issues relevant to teacher education with international scholars was truly inspiring. I look forward to continuing our rich conversations.
Today the research group will be presenting work from the project Literacy Teacher Educators: Their Backgrounds, Visions and Practices, at the Ministry of Education/Faculties of Education Forum – Research Practice:Nurturing relationships for teaching, learning and well-being. It will be an interesting and exciting day.
Those of us in higher education know there is steadily increasing pressure to secure research grants. Ironically, at the same time access to funding is decreasing. In my own context, Canada, receiving a grant from our central funding agency, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), is getting more difficult. It is not just the increased competition but also, the pool of money seems to be shrinking. I (Clare) read with interest and some sadness about the challenges my colleagues in Australia are facing. The University World News reported:
·In his speech, Hockey [Australian Federal Treasurer] shocked the nation’s scientists by announcing that the key independent research granting body, the Australian Research Council or ARC, would lose A$61 million from its “discovery programme” and A$42 million from its “linkage programme”. ·Dr Ross Smith, president of Science and Technology Australia, which represents 68,000 scientists, said cutting A$103 million from the ARC’s budget would further limit its capacity to fund fundamental and applied research – at a time when the success rates for applications for world-class grants are already below 25%. ·“Australian scientists are afraid this will lead to fewer jobs and training opportunities for our best and brightest. We are also concerned about funding for important humanities and social science research, given the cuts,” Smith said. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20140109095651863
My colleagues in the UK are facing untold difficulties securing research grants. It is ironic that federal governments fail to recognize that conducting quality research requires funding and that it is absolutely necessary. Many researchers are in a Catch 22 – show you are an active researcher but do not expect money to conduct research. The short-term effect of reduced research funding is being felt throughout universities world-wide. The long-term effect is yet to be tabulated but I suspect it will be significant. We need research to investigate issues/phenomena/topics because the findings deepen our knowledge on a vast range of topics (which in turn can guide policy decisions). Conducting research is hard work. (Not to mention the time involved in writing a grant proposal — usually 2-3 months.) Let’s not make it so difficult that our research base erodes. Clare