Arts-based research (ABR) employs the arts to explore the “experiences of researchers and the people they involve in their studies” (McNiff, 2008, p. 29). Acknowledgement of ABRs’ potential for enhancing social science inquiry has gained momentum along with the development of new ABR methods courses. However, there is a lack of published studies that investigate what goes on in ABR classes (Cahnmann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008; Leavy, 2015; Personal communication, The Qualitative Report 2018 Conference). In this inquiry we (Janet, course designer and instructor, and Steve, student and class assistant), employed ethnographic techniques to explore unexpected critical events that occurred in our inaugural ABR class. We wanted to discover why these problematic situations happened. We also hoped to learn how we might have anticipated and resolved these events before they became challenging. Similar to a bricolage process in which researchers cobble different modes of inquiry together, we interfaced ethnographic mapping with poetry-enriched narrative sketches to record and make sense of the data. We discovered some critical events resulted from circumstances outside of the classroom and other incidents were exacerbated because we did not attend to problems when they first developed.


Arts-Based Research (ABR) Methods Class, Critical Events, Ethnographic Perspectives, Mapping, Poetry-Enriched Narrative Sketches

Author Bio(s)

Janet Richards is a Professor of Literacy and Qualitative Methods at the University of South Florida/Tampa. Her forthcoming book with Wolff-Michael Roth as second Editor is entitled, Empowering Students as Self-Directed Learners of Qualitative Research Methods: Transformational Practices for Instructors and Students (Brill/Sense Publishers, The Netherlands). Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jrichards@usf.edu.

Steve Haberlin is a doctoral candidate in the elementary education program at the University of South Florida. His research agenda focuses on teacher education, instructional supervision, and the teaching and enactment of qualitative research methods, including arts-based research. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: stevehaberlin@yahoo.com.


The authors thank Jennifer Hart, Doctoral Candidate and Assistant Director of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida, for assistance in constructing the Ethnographic Map documenting critical incidents in our ABR class.

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