A Structured Reflection Framework To Implement Visual Research As Practise-Based Arts
Research Design Illustrated Within An Applied Photographic Educational Context
Although various South African universities engage with art practice research methodologies, the research designs employed have not been clearly articulated or interrogated as of yet, leaving some work to be done towards answering Loxley and Prosser’s (2005) call for a refinement of arts-based research methods.
This paper presents a framework for structured reflection as research methodology within practice-based arts research - employing a synthetic research approach between the textual component and creative artefact production, with the creation of the artefact as integral component of the research design and research output, as opposed to analysis of the creative artefact. In this, an arts practice research design should be both explicit yet appropriate to the type of research questions encountered in practise and still to the outputs expected within an arts context (Biggs 2004:10).
The role of the creative artefact is described as the research output, presenting not
only new knowledge but also new forms of knowledge that tend to be transformative (Halford & Knowles 2005) and geared towards understanding rather than explication (Sullivan 2005), with a fundamental underpinning in phenomenological discourse as qualitative research strategy (Sokolowski 2000:85). Concepts such as phenomenological intentionality and the understanding of embodied experience and the lived world (Sobchack 1999) provides an ontological context for reflection to grapple with and validate the potentially tacit and subjective knowledge (Moustakas 1994:99) of the creative artefact.
The textual component thus engages, through the proposed structured reflection
framework, with the visual artefact component in four contexts, nominally defined as the conceptual context, the critical context, the methodological context and the process context.
The textual component thereby functions as a framing device that has to be read in relation to the artefact component. In this application, a strategically adapted 4-stage model informed by Johns (2002) on structured reflection, Sullivan (2005) on arts practise research, Dewey and Kolb (in Neil 2004) on experiential learning models, is considered most appropriate, making use of the research journal (Newbury 2001) as core to guiding reflective practice.
The proposed framework is illustrated in an applied photographic educational context, where again phenomenology functions as underpinning philosophy and learning is facilitated and guided by means of reflective practice. Educating through guided reflection for arts-practice research from an undergraduate level onward is proposed as a way forward to improving practice and expanding practice-based arts research, especially at the still ill defined yet historically centred-on-practise, Universities of Technology, and in so doing contributing to
the possibility of differentiating a unique identity in the South African Higher Educational arena and expanding its potential contribution to the nature and scope of knowledge creation.