RE-VISUALIZING CARE: the digital assemblage

about the study

In 2013-14, the first year of “Advance,” a New York-statewide assessment policy (linking teacher evaluations to student test scores among other measures), I worked with a group of New York City public school teachers to chart their reflections on practice both inside and outside the contours of Advance. Together, we analyzed and critiqued popular media, remixed images on a digital platform, and created new images including a participatory Tumblr site, Those Who Can, which asks a broader public of teachers, “what do you do that can’t be measured?” and invites them to answer back with videos, images, or texts.
My study positions visual and digital methodologies as critical and under-explored forms of educational research. I argue that images of teacher evaluation, represented through scores and plotted on charts, graphs and rubrics, have had a profound impact on shaping what matters in education and how society views teachers’ contributions and capacities. Such images inform the way that school stakeholders and the public at large think about schools and in turn influence school policies and practices. My use of visual methodologies—both with research participants and as my own form of arts-based analysis—makes space to consider and challenge dominant visual discourses, and to alter, remix, and create new representations—countervisualities (Mirzoeff 2011) of teacher work and worth.
The participants were a group of ten progressive public school teachers who I recruited through the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE), a social justice teacher group. The teacher participants were eight women and two men; six white people and four people of color; nine high school teachers and one middle school; and nine urban teachers and one suburban. Additionally, the teachers ranged in age from 25-43, and their experience in the classroom varied from one teacher who was midway through her first year to another in his sixteenth (half were in their first three years, and the other half had taught for five or more). I targeted progressive educators for my project because I was interested in their verbal and visual critiques of contemporary school evaluation policies and discourses.

My study generated five kinds of data: 1) drawings, photographs, and found digital images that came out of face-to-face and online work with teacher participants; 2) audio recorded and transcribed “teacher talk” generated from weekly group workshops; 3) fieldnotes completed after face-to-face workshops and interviews; 4) audio-recorded individual image-elicitation interviews conducted with each teacher outside of the workshop sessions; and 5) digital images and videos collected from educators who contributed to the Those Who Can site. In addition to traditional modes of qualitative analysis including, coding, discourse analysis, and memoing, I created a number of arts-based works including audio pieces, videos, life-sized rubbings, and digital drawings as works of analysis and scholarship.