Wednesday 7 January 2015

A new year's moment of 'breathing in'

I think one of the risks with practice as research in applied arts is that you can end up spending much of your time doing stuff (facilitating, storytelling, leading workshops - and all the related preparation and reflection) and less time learning from how others do stuff.  Your own practice can take on a primacy that might be dangerous. 

Thus at this point, after a very busy 2014, I feel the need to regroup, backtrack, and contextualise my practice in various ways. 

For example, although I am working in secondary education, I have hardly ever witnessed a 'normal lesson'.  I don't really know what pedagogies are habitually employed by teachers - I make deductions and assumptions based on staffroom chat and official National Curriculum policy.  How can I know then in what ways pupils experience the sessions I lead as different?  And most particularly, how do I know what modes of communication dominate between teachers and pupils, and whether storytelling is one of them?  So over the next few weeks I am going to spend some time in the English Department, just observing teachers' practice, helping out a bit where feasible.  And to get a bigger picture, I am going to meet with one of the programme leaders of initial teacher education at the University of York. 

I hope to gradually get a better sense of:
* whether and how storytelling (in the widest sense, as a mode of communication) is already employed in secondary teaching;
* whether it is counter-cultural or supportive of currently dominant pedagogies.
(Behind the second question is a shadow question: is 'pedagogy' even a salient concept for teachers in these days in which they are increasingly trained 'on the job'?  And thus, by what roads could storytelling be further explored and introduced?)

The same 'breathing in' and contextualisation needs to happen on other fronts too.  So in the mental health setting I work in, for almost the first time I will be joining in some sessions led by the professionals who work there, as a participant, rather than leading sessions myself.  And in my research for a performance around the idea of gender in adolescence, I will be visiting a group of 16-18-year-old youth theatre students to plumb their expertise on the subject - through drama of course. 

Practice as research is a demanding discipline - you're a pendulum ever swinging. 

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