Wheeeee!! It’s here again. No, not holidays. Actually it’s work. This week I get to do research. Only research and nothing else. A complete luxury for a busy academic. Nothing but research.
And it’s not just any research. For the last three years I’ve been going to Tate Summer School – a week-long professional development programme for teachers, artists, gallery educators and curators. And now it’s here again … I’m wondering what’s in store in number four. The Summer School programme brings educators, loosely defined, into conversation with contemporary art and artists. Through a series of encounters and events, participants are offered ‘stuff’ that they might draw on to design experiences for those they educate – in my field, we call this pedagogical content knowledge.
Importantly, Summer School doesn’t tell educators what to do or how to do it. It’s a worksheet-free zone, it has no ready-made lesson plans on offer. Teachers, loosely defined, are seen as professionals. That’s one of the reasons I love it. Research photo Summer School 2013
What happens at Summer School? Well, two artists are commissioned by the Tate Schools and Teachers team to design and run a five-day learning programme. They use one or both of the London galleries, each of which has dedicated learning spaces. The programme always uses the collections and special exhibitions. The commissioned artists also select other artists to be involved in activities – workshops, lectures, performances. Research photo Summer School 2012
I get to hang about and participate. I’m in a long-term research partnership with the Schools and Teachers team and this is very much our research, not mine. I guess you could think of me as an embedded ethnographer, but it’s important to know that I don’t work alone. Alice Walton, Amy McKelvie and Leanne Turvey, Tate learning curators, are equally involved in this research. One of the team participates in the Summer School alongside me and, whoever it is, isn’t responsible for any of the organisation. The team member is also a participant observer/observant participant and we share our experiences and observations every morning of the Summer School, and at the end. Research photo Summer School 2014
And all four of us meet before, during and after Summer School to talk about what’s going on. We are currently writing something together to be published from this cooperative research. It’s the first of a series of publications, and this one will be a downloadable open access text about the key ideas that underpin Summer Schools in particular, but Tate Schools and Teachers programme more generally. We hope to have this first piece of writing completed in October this year. Research photo, Summer School 2012 By the end of this coming week, we will have seen just over 100 participants, seven commissioned Summer School curators, all practicing artists, and some twenty additional artists involved for a day or part of a day. I will have four notebooks of field notes. We will have some eight hundred or so photographs, various artifacts that participants produce, some post-it note answers to questions and evaluations. We also have quite a bit of writing that we’ve done in between Summer Schools. Research photo Summer School 2014
In the light of what we have already thought and written about, we have some specific data to generate from this Summer School We are hoping to get some video data – vox pops and session recordings – and some ambient sound. We don’t want this data generation to intrude on the participants’ experience of the Summer School, so we need to be very careful and flexible about how we do this. I’ve got my kit ready and all charged up – video, audio with big microphone, mini iPad, notebook, several pens, camera, multiple plugs and cords -and my ethical sensibilities …
We are going to set aside two days later this year where we go through this and our other data and see what and how we want to do to/with our emerging text.
Exciting. I’m expecting to learn a lot. I always do.
For the next week I’m going to be posting about this ‘field work’.