We are lecturers who help students studying subjects that use word-based writing, non-word based writing such as Mathematics, and non-text based language such as visual semiotics. To access examples of such language with subject lecturers we have found traditional interviews or focus groups ineffective, and realised that in these, although lecturers could talk about key psychological elements of the language, they had no focus to produce any examples of it. However, we suspected that providing a physical object to describe and discuss would create a context for lecturers to produce the language. Thus, we gave a brightly coloured teapot to Nursing, Psychology, Design, and Engineering lecturers to describe and evaluate in their subjects. This gave us almost instantaneous access to the subject context. For example, Nursing lecturers described and evaluated the teapot for hygiene and patient safety, Engineering lecturers did so for material properties and calculations required. Unexpectedly, many lecturers related how an identity underpinned their language. Thus, the teapot operated as a portal to reveal academic subject identity and thought. We relate how this has helped us in our teaching and suggest ways others can use physical objects in qualitative research to access and research identity and thought.
Identity, Interviews, Language, Physical Objects, Portal, Thought
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Recommended APA Citation
Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2020). Using Physical Objects as a Portal to Reveal Academic Subject Identity and Thought. The Qualitative Report, 25(1), 127-144. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2020.4023