Blurred Lines

I have read both Orr (2011) and Marcalo (2009), and considered both the blurred lines Orr identifies between assessment and past/present identity and the functionality of (in Marcalo’s case choreographic) practice as research without the need for written exegesis, and I want to find resonance within the domain of my own research, but am still struggling to do so.

I am fully aware of the power of my ‘habitus’ as a part-benign/part-malignant force in my research, and have explored this in a previous post. Whilst I am not sure I agree that, for me, this habitus necessarily ‘leads us to “reproduce” the social conditions of our own production’ (Bourdieu, 1990), it certainly holds powerful sway, and I am reflexive enough to remember this. Maybe the problem is twofold: in exploring my research field, I need to disentangle me as teacher now and me as student then from me as researcher now. One could argue that my own habitus could render mine an additional testimony, but I fear that is simply too cloudy, and I must somehow have greater detachment than that would permit.

Perhaps, also, I struggle to see myself as a ‘creative practitioner’. For example, I am neither animator nor artist, neither choreographer nor documentarian, and so, whilst all effective educators are, as Orr would agree, learner-makers themselves, this is a creativity less explicit than that explored in the two papers above. Perhaps, therefore, I feel either fraudulent or awkward wearing borrowed robes, much as it is exciting to do so.

It was exciting, for example, when I watched Rufus Stone (2015) and listened to Jones’ verbal exegesis, and I was struck by the potency of film as research. But I am no filmmaker, and nor do I have the funding or support necessary to collate, digest and transfer testimony to screen in this way. Similarly, I was hugely affected by seeing Blank and Jensen’s The Exonerated (2006) at the Riverside Studios, and, in theory, their approach to practice as research is simpler than Jones’, but still I fear I would be overreaching myself.

I want to explore children’s attitudes to their schooling, and whether these can be rendered more positive, and their experience more actualised, through incremental steps down the democratic continuum. I aim to gather data in the form both of Gautamic testimony and also of attitudinal survey results. Therefore, in theory, of course, I could, as part of my research proper, gather all student interviews as video footage, and endeavour to edit such that they obviate the need for written exegesis. However, not only would the self-consciousness of youth before lens risk complicating the data, but I would still want to transcribe each interview, in order to scrutinise and analyse the text itself. Similarly, whilst it would be fascinating to digest and process all transcribed interviews in order to present as Exonerated-style drama, I am no playwright or dramaturge, and without the ability to transfer to the stage, any script may only be distinguishable from transcript by the sort of artifice that might cloud meaning.

It was suggested to me recently that, perhaps, my fabric or footwork is number, especially if the quantitative dimension to my research becomes significant. If so, I am fascinated by the extent to which number can become a creative product – be that through data visualisation or story narration. Perhaps, therefore, a laboured, written exegesis can be rendered unnecessary through means other than traditional arts. But even a creative rendition of number would still dampen the individual voices of Gautamic testimony, and so I will need to find a way to communicate both.

In short, I admit to being bored even at the prospect of an entirely written exegesis of my research findings, but, at this stage, I have not yet fully identified what ‘practice’ I could offer as ‘research’. Whether this is because I am far less creative practitioner than my doctoral peers, or whether it is because my methodology is, as yet, unsufficiently well-formed, the next module of the course will, I hope, determine.

Blank, J. and Jensen, E. (2006) The Exonerated. London: Faber & Faber Plays.

Bourdieu, P. (1990) Sociology in Question. Cambridge: Polity Press

Marcalo, R. (2009) ‘Failing to do without: Writing as classical documentation of post-classical choreographic documentation.’ Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 2 (1), 105–116.

Orr, S. (2011) ‘Being an artist you kind of, I mean, you get used to excellence’: Identity, values and fine Art Assessment practices. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 30 (1), 37–44

(2015) RUFUS STONE the movie. Available from: [Accessed 7 February 2016].

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