Clearing the Clouds: Finding Motivation and Clarity in a Non-Traditional Dissertation Using Arts Based Educational Research (ABER)
Keywords:ABER, dissertation in practice (DiP), teacher as researcher, adolescent literacy, reading intervention, high school, Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate-informed EdD program (CPED)
By crafting a dramatic script about struggling high school readers that I then shared with real students in my Reading classes, I applied Arts-based education research (ABER) methods. Through the writing, presentation, collection, and reflection on student feedback, as well as during the script rewriting process, I was allowed to engage in a unique and motivating research experience. This approach allowed me to attend to three challenges with my Dissertation in Practice (DiP). First, instead of being part of this big, scary, abstract world called ‘research’, it allowed me to demonstrate inquiry though a means that I was more familiar and confident with—writing and theatre. My confidence working in these areas allowed me to initiate and remain engaged throughout the dissertation work. Second, it allowed me to take on a problem in my practice—the skepticism of many high school students in Reading classes about being in those classes. This helped me better understand my students, and thus inform and guide in the identification of best practices. Third, it positioned me to work with colleagues and administrators in my building and across our school district to rethink how we offer reading support to the heterogeneous cross-section of students who currently are being identified as needing such support. This account summarizes my DiP and, I hope, positions other classroom teachers who double as EdD students to imagine new and effective ways forward as they engage with problems of practice.
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