Broadly speaking, my research artfully contends with the historically significant question: What does teaching do to teachers? This question invites me to lean into issues of everyday import to art teachers so that I may open up and reconsider certain understandings, practices, and policies. The research projects I undertake grapple with how dynamic phenomena - joy, routine, renewal - are at play and brought into balance by art teachers in public schools. My creative practices in papermaking, book arts, letterpress printing, writing, and photography inform my approaches to inquiry, compel me to consider how issues in contemporary art might challenge how I articulate my findings and locate my work firmly in arts-based educational research.
To offer an example, my recent work theorizing curating as an analytical inclination moves with the pedagogical turn in contemporary art towards relational ontologies. Further, I put this theorization to work in and through empirical projects concerning teacher education. In a recent publication entitled “The Map of True Places: Moving Onward in Teacher Preparation” I discuss how my attending to curatorial impulses as a means of analysis influenced my methodological approach of rhizomatically mapping a pre-service teacher’s journal. These mappings generated assemblages of true places or lines of resonance and connection that educators create between themselves and their anticipated vocation. Among other findings, my exploration revealed an inconsistency in how I encouraged my students to engage with their visual-verbal journals, and how I engaged with them in my assessment. This insight opened new implications for my teaching practice, and for art teacher preparation more broadly. As such, my research agenda pushes in two distinct yet overlapping trajectories: theorizing new possibilities for arts-based educational research methodologies, and employing these methodological innovations to take up issues of import to teacher preparation, renewal, and professional learning so that we might understand, engage, and practice differently.
With one in 10 teachers leaving the field by the end of their first year, and about half of all teachers leaving within five years, my research agenda amplifies a pressing need to reexamine how educators are prepared and supported. I find this need particularly compelling in regard to artist-teachers who are often denied substantive and content-specific professional learning opportunities. My newly released book, Unfolding Afterglow: Letters and Conversations on Teacher Renewal (Sense Publishers), illuminates how art teachers benefit from collaborative and co-constructive encounters that engage their roles as artists, researchers, and teachers. A newer research project, Duty is Joy, productively engages my findings from Unfolding Afterglow with my teaching practice and service engagements in mentoring teachers. This project establishes a professional learning community between current Appalachian student teachers, Appalachian alumni, and myself. Evoking arts-based methods of correspondence, the purpose of this research project is to consider how preservice art educators navigate the terrain between university certification programs and careers. Our group stays connected through weekly check-ins via Tumblr and weekend brunches several times a year in my home. These gatherings are designed to be nourishing and playful through food, conversation, artmaking, and connection.
A deep engagement with philosophy pushes my thinking about teacher preparation and renewal. I am particularly drawn to experiment with theories and concepts that provoke a reimagining of our assumptions and ways of seeing. For these reasons, my work finds evokes Deleuzian philosophy and new material feminism in hybrid experimentation with poststructural understandings of hermeneutics and phenomenologies. Barad’s diffraction, Bennett’s vibrant matter, Deleuze’s intensities, Merleau-Ponty’s embodiment, Gadamer’s aesethetics — these constructs and others are brought to bear as I visualize new applications for educational research and practice. As a visual artist moved by the aesthetic urgency of the world, I have found myself turning towards post qualitative research trajectories that pull materiality and relationality into the fray. Phenomenologies of the flesh cue our qualitative attentions to what the sensing body in an ever-shifting world makes possible. Further, embracing more-than-human theories invites a softening and blurring of embodiment as solely anthropocentric by inviting researchers to explore how human and non-human entities are at play.
My methodological experimentations invite artmaking processes, sensations, works of art, materials of art, memories, contemporary art discourse, writing, and aesthetic experiences to sway and eddy and entangle. Arts-based and relational forms of representation offer a space where my findings might embody the liveliness of these ceaselessly recomposing entanglements always, already being played out in the midst of our researching, thinking, living, making. Therefore I play in and through aesthetic and poetic forms: epistolary and invitational texts, rhizomatic mappings of visual journals, interviews sketched as letterpress broadsides, and exhibitions co-curated with preservice teachers via Instagram. My hope is to spark imaginative conversations with those who generatively inspire my research - teachers, teacher educators, and those learning to teach – so that we may seek new and different ways of imagining our work of teaching, artmaking, and researching.