Today we welcome current Mosaic Fellow, Jeremy Price, to the blog. He is Assistant Professor of Technology, Innovation and Pedagogy in Urban Education at the Indiana University School of Education-Indianapolis at IUPUI whose research and teaching focuses on orienting the use of technology in education for purposes of equity, inclusion, and justice.
In his blog, Jeremy shares how he uncovers student experiences and perceptions of their Mosaic classroom through their drawings. If you’ve ever wondered if your classroom space influences your students’ learning, Jeremy discusses how you could learn the answer to this question.
When we conduct research in our classrooms to understand all of the dynamic interactions that provide the conditions for teaching and learning to take place, it is important to investigate the meanings that actors bring to and negotiate around the classroom experience. When doing this kind of inquiry, I look to the anthropologist James Spradley. He wrote that to find out what something means to a research participant, the researcher should ask what it looks like (Spradley, 1979). Although Spradley was writing about ways to conduct interviews, another method for collecting this kind of rich and meaning-laden information about meaning is through visual data: drawings by students. Learners can communicate a great deal of meaning and power through drawings that would have been more difficult to convey otherwise, promoting student voice in educational change efforts (Haney, Russell, & Bebell, 2004).
In order to understand how my undergraduate students experienced my class and to see the meanings that they make of the dynamics and interplay between learning, teaching, and classroom environment, I asked my students on the last day of the semester to imagine a “typical” day in class, and then to draw a picture of what this looks like. This research and evaluation process builds off previous work I have done with both K12 students (Price, 2017; Price & Barber, 2014) and undergraduate students (Price & Hewitt, 2015).
My class at IUPUI is EDUC-W200, a course for current undergraduate students and future K12 teachers to lay the foundations for integrating technology into their emerging teaching practices. I teach my class in a Mosaic classroom, a room specifically designed to facilitate active learning when matched with the appropriate pedagogical practices.
In terms of analyzing the drawings, I use a form of recursive and comparative qualitative content analysis (QCA; Mayring, 2000). QCA provides a holistic approach for understanding the meanings expressed in participant-generated illustrations. A holistic approach involves going back and forth between taking notice of the details and the “whole picture” to understand the dynamics involved in the illustration (Haney et al., 2004). I look at low- to mid-inference features (Freeman & Mathison, 2008), only those elements that are clearly exhibited in the drawings themselves, to make sense of what the drawings say about the classroom dynamics. It is the patterns of similarities and difference in these features that provide the contours of the reported meanings and experience in the classroom.
So, what kind of information, when coupled with a methodological analysis, can these illustrations provide? I will demonstrate some of the themes that emerged from examining the drawings of my students through four illustrations.
The first drawing, shown here, was fairly typical of those provided by my students. You can see that the setup of the room (ES 1117) is represented pretty faithfully, with 3/4 oval tables set against the wall arrayed around the perimeter of the room. Students (the smaller stick people) are seated around these tables, while the professor (me) is standing—and represented as slightly larger, holding some sort of pointing stick or a marker—at the front of the room. Each table has a white board with writing on it; these were taken off the wall adjacent to each table, one of the features of this particular Mosaic room. Over the course of the semester, I engaged students in collaborative activities using their tables’ whiteboards. Some examples included collaborative brainstorming, concept mapping, and developing shared definitions of concepts and terms.
The next illustration delved a little more deeply into the pedagogical structure of the class itself. I worked to develop a set of class routines over the course of the semester to promote an environment conducive to learning and to model these routines so they may incorporate them when they become teachers themselves. This student represented some of these routines in the drawing. We started each class with a “warm up” as a way to make the transition or to bridge the threshold between class and wherever they came from, and this is depicted in the first frame of the illustration. (“The eye” is the classroom camera used to video record class sessions through Kaltura for both research purposes and as a resource for students so they can go back and revisit class time.) The middle frame of the drawing represents a class discussion which included online research. A second routine was represented here, the use of three paper signs: “Working,” “Need Help,” and “Done.” This routine was introduced to me in one of the Mosaic Fellowship sessions as a way to allow students to engage in group work and request assistance as necessary without the instructor “hovering” over the student groups. Lastly, this student illustrated the instructor (me) directly in the last frame. In addition to the room setup itself, I also work to mindfully position myself over the course of class time. Sometimes I do lecture in the front of the room, and sometimes I step out and act more as a facilitator. I work to model both the “sage on the stage” and the “guide on the side” depending on what the particular situation calls for.
The third illustration is very similar to the second one, in that this student chose to draw examples of the pedagogical structures of the course. The first frame, again, demonstrates a warmup. Whereas the previous student depicted a discussion, this student drew a lecture-type scenario in the second frame. Again, as mentioned above, I made decisions about how to structure these full-class interactions based on what seemed to be necessary given the goals of the particular class time. This student made mention of several of the important concepts that were revisited several times over the course of the semester, such as Universal Design for Learning, scaffolding, and backwards design. In the last frame, this student depicts project group work. In each frame, I, as the professor, am drawn in the front of the room, facing the students and the back of the room.
Lastly, the fourth illustration takes a similar, yet slightly different tact and introduces a new aspect of the course. The first frame depicts the familiar layout of the classroom and the warm-up activity. The second frame demonstrates a class discussion with students engaged in dialogue, responding to each other and the professor prodding the students to discuss the topic more deeply. The student illustrates a new aspect of the course by drawing the screen of a laptop, with some of the online tools we used in class on the screen in separate browser tabs. Canvas is pulled up on the screen with “Reading 7” displayed. Helping students understand the relationships between what we do in class and the readings that I assign outside of class has been a challenge for me. I was heartened to see this connection made here in this drawing, and I am focusing on this challenge in the coming semester.
From these drawings, it can be seen that the arrangement of the room, held in a Mosaic classroom, was indeed a significant feature of a “typical” day in class. The students were also able to demonstrate some of the pedagogical routines and practices that I brought to the class, bringing me hope that they will bring some of these ideas with them as they themselves become teachers. Their drawings provide rich and meaningful feedback for evaluating the class as experienced through the eyes of students in a way that a course evaluation survey could never do. In addition these drawings provide a solid data source for understanding the salient features, pedagogical practices, and core concepts that students are more likely to carry with them beyond this particular class.
The dynamic relationships between classroom, instructor, students, pedagogical practices, curricular activities, and subject matter are all clearly on display in my students’ drawings. The students indicated, however, that as the actual work of collaborative and active learning went into full swing, the features of the room itself faded into the background, and they focused more on the relationships and dialogue between people. In a sense, this is the whole point of an “active learning classroom.” I like to think about the classroom as a medium for teaching, learning and relationship-building. The reason the room exists is to provide a foundation for active teaching and learning to occur, but not to so overly structure it so that the room itself—with its layout, furniture, and technologies—becomes an end in itself. My students, when drawing a “typical” day in class, agreed.
References and Resources
- Freeman, M., & Mathison, S. (2008). Researching Children’s Experiences. New York: Guilford.
- Haney, W., Russell, M., & Bebell, D. (2004). Drawing on Education: Using Drawings to Document Schooling and Support Change. Harvard Educational Review, 74(3), 241–272.
- Mayring, P. (2000). Qualitative Content Analysis. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2). Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1089
- Price, J. F. (2017). Understandings the Meanings Secondary Biology Students Construct Around Science Through Drawings. In P. Katz (Ed.), Drawing for Science Education: An International Perspective (pp. 205–215). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.
- Price, J. F., & Barber, J. (2014). What Students See: Understanding The Impact Of One-To-One Tablets Through Student Drawings. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia.
- Price, J. F., & Hewitt, A. M. (2015). What Teaching with Technology Looks Like for Undergraduate Teacher Candidates: Understanding Imagined Practices of Teaching. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago.
- Spradley, J. (1979). The Ethnographic Interview. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
What would your students draw if you asked them to? Would it be the classroom experience you were hoping to build for them?And if you teach in an active learning classroom, do you think that would affect which parts of the class your students focus on? Jeremy’s experiences give us many points of reflection for our own teaching.
If you are interested in learning more about our Mosaic classrooms, Mosaic Fellows, or are interested in becoming a Mosaic Fellow, please visit us at https://mosaic.iu.edu. To stay up to date with all things Mosaic, including faculty, staff, student, and classroom perspectives, subscribe to the blog and get it sent directly to your email inbox. You can also follow us on Twitter @MosaicIU and Instagram @Mosaic_IU.