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AERA 2016

Author: Katherine Wimpenny   18th April 2016


I have just returned from AERA (American Education Research Conference), Washington DC, 7 – 12th April, 2016 with Jacqui Speculand feeling inspired and invigorated!

I presented two papers in the Arts Based Education SIG. The first paper, presented alongside Peter Gouzouasis from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, was an autoethnographic study with the use of poetry and photographs to share the experiences of an occupational therapy graduate from Coventry University, who after having taken out several years to raise her family, decided to reenter her profession.  Our poems and photographs were used as powerful sources of data for several reasons, not least due to the power of juxtaposing poetic images, and visual images, to convey conflicting and dialectical emotions that often characterize complex experiences and relationships. This approach can be particularly useful for studying subjects that have been neglected in the literature, with methods focusing on authenticity and empathy and a willingness to be open and vulnerable.

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The second paper was presented with Anthony Meadows from Shenandoah University Conservatory, US, in this paper we presented meaning-making processes in music therapy clinical improvisation through an arts-informed qualitative research synthesis, or put another way, a story told by two researchers trying to understand, and then represent, the myriad ways in which clients and therapists undertake, and make meaning of, improvising; ‘Getting lost, and then finding a way…. (sort of) in Three Movements’. In this presentation we were able to work with graduate music therapy students from Shenandoah who worked with us to create an i-movie bringing together music, images, poetry and excerpts from the studies to represent the complexity inherent in relationships between subjects, thoughts, art forms and contexts.

Using aesthetic means to re-present our research process and findings was a great experience for me, and I think is aptly summed up in this poem (adapted) by Brescia (2005);

A faith in doing creative (research) with another person,
To play, and
To take needed risks …
A curiosity about the world,
A delight in being surprised,
An emotional sturdiness for coping with unexplainable events;
A willingness to go beyond what is known or comfortable, and
To share our [research] practices and engage wider audiences in different educational, social and cultural communities,


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