Course: ‘Data’ Construction in Qualitative Research
This video (and accompanying references) expand the notion of perhaps data that was explored in this course. I hoped to illuminate first-year international students’ understandings and experiences of academic success through modified, non-normative versions of photo-elicitation in a focus group setting. The focus groups helped to explore the potentiality of data which may only be partially or hesitantly available in any research context. By making room for the unknown, the unseen, the unmentioned, the deep, the hidden, we can explore notions of where data is and how we can open ourselves up to that which we cannot and may never perceive.
Acquiring Degree from a Research University: Shared Perspectives of 1st year international students on Academic Success
Research Question and Theoretical Perspective
- What are first year international students’ perspectives regarding academic success in degree-granting programs at Research Universities?
This study is situated in Deleuzian notions of the assemblage. Legg (2011) paraphrases from the book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia when he wrote that, “The concept of assemblage forces us to consider this balance, strain and tension simultaneously: of something that is consistent but has fuzzy borders; of the urge to deterritorialize…” (p. 129). St. Pierre (2004) writes of the assemblage as a way of bringing new thoughts to new contexts, both changing and evolving making a situation unique. She wrote “…always starting up again in the middle of a different temporality, in new assemblages, never fully constituted, fluid, a flow meeting other flows” (p. 291). The boundaries that exist and are constantly changing may practically be considered in this case to encompass the situation, participants and the data. The deterritorialization of the assemblage involved the unwrapping of those boundaries, and opening up to that which is ‘yet to come’, an extension of the perhaps elevated by Nordstrom (2015) and mentioned above.
DATA, data and Construction/Collection
This project was completely focused on the where, what and how of data. The perhaps-dimension of data was probed through these focus groups using modified, non-normative versions of photo-elicitation. For future exploration, the photo-elicitation will be supplemented by printed word cards elicitation and mapping exercises. However, these photo-focused focus groups helped to explore the potentiality of data which may only be partially or hesitantly available.
The group was to explore the underlying question of “What is your experience of academic success?” There are a multitude of ways to establish perspectives and experiences of a phenomenon, but the goal here is to elicit data that might otherwise remain hidden. Rather than give the focus groups questions to discuss, they were provided with the first ten most-popular, non-repeating, non-textual images from a web search on the each of the following complete interview questions. The participants never saw or heard these questions.
- What elements are involved in making a college student successful?
- What is your definition of academic success?
- What can students do to be academically successful?
- How can universities help students be academically successful?
- Tell me about something you realized that you needed to do in order to be academically successful and describe it in as much detail as possible.
- What are some things universities could do better in order to help students be academically successful?
- Other than _______________________, what things influence academic success of a student?
Each participant took turns selecting images to create a personal story. They lined up the pictures, and explained the selection of each photo. Often with their own personal anecdotes to explain the choice. Once each participant had created his/her own story with pictures, the whole group gathered around the images, and negotiated another story using the photos, scissors and glue affixing them together or to a large paper.
Where was the perhaps data? They were in the tellings and avenues of knowing that would have remained hidden in another design of research, really any other design of research. These perhaps elements would continue to reveal themselves, adding to the general insight of the study if the focus group was repeated ad infinitum.
Production of Data for Video
The physical data was collected in 1) the recorded focus groups/transcripts, 2) the photo-collage(s), 3) the pictures generated from the questions. This data was expanded into that used in the project video using the following criteria. The photos and text used in the video were selected by a deep-listening and reading of the physical data collected. The images that were selected were those that were used in more than one photo-collage, and had an accompanied story that helped to explain the selection. For example, the first picture (the sleeping woman) had two conflicting accounts for its selection. One student indicated that this represented the importance to getting enough sleep in order to be successful, while another student indicated that there was not time for women, and if you woke up next to one, you’d only be distracted and not be successful.
|sleeping woman picture||sleeping, decompressing,
no time for women, distraction
|digging dog||digging for nothing like this dog
moving down in, struggling,
|Man on steps||Classification and
are the key
|Money handing over||in the future I won’t be here,
you’ll be by yourself
|Graduate caps montage||Knowing the enhancing challenge
from ESL, to Undergraduate, to beyond
that feeling of completion,from
|Friend/Social montage||Friends help with the path to success
social aspect – my beautiful path
the wall that you have,
that you will face you can break it
|Final Montage||studying searching
seeking for the truth
for any information
that there is to have
Lessons Learned on Data and Collection
This project has opened my eyes to the making space for hidden or perhaps data. There is room in every project, or proposal, for an opening up to the changing boundaries and localities of data. Exposing ourselves to the unknown, the unseen, the unmentioned, the deep, the hidden will only make our research stronger as we explore the frontiers of data imaginations.