Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creating productive ambiguity: A visual research narrative
by Shipe, Rebecca L., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2015, 406; 3700162
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this dissertation was to examine how I can facilitate experiences with art that promote "productive ambiguity," or the ability to transform tensions that disrupt our current understandings into opportunities for personal growth. Ambiguity becomes productive when our encounters with difference stimulate curiosity, imagination, and consideration of new possibilities and perspectives. While employing a multi-methods practitioner inquiry that combined elements of action research, autoethnography and arts based research, I addressed the following questions with a voluntary group of fifth grade research participants: How can I facilitate experiences with art that promote productive ambiguity? How do my students interact with the various visual content and instructional strategies that I develop and implement? How might these interactions inform my future teaching practice, and how does my own reflective visual journaling process inform my research? In addition to employing reflective sketching to document and analyze data, I also presented research findings in the form of a visual research narrative.

My analysis of research findings produced the following teaching strategies for facilitating meaningful experiences with art that promote productive ambiguity: (a) Use an inquiry approach to instruction as much as possible in order to position students to actively navigate the space between the known and unknown while seeking fresh understandings rather than passively accepting new information. (b) Explore how new concepts or themes relate to students' lives in order to situate unknowns in relation to their present knowns. (c) Aim to balance structure, flexibility and accountability while developing and implementing curricula. This promotes productive ambiguity as both teachers and students negotiate their pre-conceived ideas or plans and push themselves to respond to challenges encountered within their immediate environment. (d) In order to avoid unnecessary confusion, explicitly state that students should takes risks while generating new ideas rather than identifying a pre-existing solution. (e) Finally, ask students to identify why skills and knowledge generated during these activities are valuable in order to promote meta-cognition of how this ambiguous space can become more productive.

In addition to these practical findings, research participants agreed that sharing their interpretations of visual phenomena with one another enabled them to understand each other better. I also discovered the ways in which productive ambiguity emerged in the spaces in between my teacher/researcher/artist roles when I perceived challenges as prospects for personal transformation. As a whole, this dissertation exhibited how relational aesthetics and arts based research theories translated into my elementary art classroom practice while simultaneously integrating these concepts into the research study design and presentation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Garber, Elizabeth
Commitee: Sharma, Manisha, Shin, Ryan
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Art Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art education
Keywords: Aesthetic experiences, Arts based research, Autoethnography, Practitioner inquiry, Relational aesthetics
Publication Number: 3700162
ISBN: 978-1-321-70013-8
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