Using Multimodal Narratives in Science and Technology Education Research

Using Multimodal Narratives in Science and Technology Education Research

José Paulo Cravino (Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal & Centro de Investigação em Didática e Tecnologia na Formação de Formadores, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8570-1.ch012

Abstract

This chapter begins by presenting how multimodal narratives were developed and how they have evolved in time as a research tool. Their characteristics are explained, as well as their potential for use in research studies. One important aspect discussed in this chapter is the versatility of this tool, which allows for many possible investigative approaches. In particular, it addresses how multimodal narratives can be used to carry out studies in science and technology education research. Several examples are provided of such studies that were developed within a research community which has been working with multimodal narratives for over a decade.
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Background

This section describes the development and evolution of multimodal narratives as research tools.

Multimodal narratives (MNs) were developed within a research group based at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro in Vila Real, Portugal, dedicated at the time to a research project on the teaching of physical sciences in the classroom. This project was about the teacher mediation of student learning in physical sciences lessons (project ‘Guiding principles and tools for fostering teacher mediation in physical sciences’ classes’, funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under grant number PTDC/CED/66699/2006). One of the goals of the project was to contribute to improve both teachers’ mediation and the quality of students’ learning. Relevant empirical data were therefore necessary, in particular empirical evidence from the classroom. This approach focused on the classroom posed a particular problem in collecting, organizing, and processing data on classroom-based teaching. The intention was to collect data about teaching and learning taking place in the classroom that were reliable and useful for research, but with minimum disruption to the actors in the classroom, and preserving the holistic character of the classroom in all its complexity.

The obvious solution—and widely described in numerous studies and research methods handbooks—is to video or audio record lessons. Then the recordings should be transcribed for analysis. It should be noted that at the time some computer programs were already available to assist in qualitative data analysis, and in particular in the content analysis of texts. For example, NVivo 7 was at that time a recent evolution of the NUD*IST software (Numerical Unstructured Data Indexing Searching and Theorizing). There were also other software programs, such as ATLAS.ti, MAXQDA, and QDA MINER. Later, a web-based software was created by Portuguese researchers from the University of Aveiro (webQDA). All these programs allowed the analysis of content based on text files, although it was already possible to work directly on audio or video files with some of them.

However, the main problem that the research group faced was the need to capture the lesson in its integrity and not just the dialogues between teacher and students, which would be easy to capture with audio recordings. The video recording makes it possible to better capture the lesson globally, using multiple camcorders, but this strategy poses some problems: it is quite intrusive and there are many obstacles to recording images in the classroom due to the need for multiple authorizations and privacy issues. Schools and students’ parents are very sensitive to these problems. On the other hand, to capture the lesson in a more holistic way, it is usually necessary to use multiple cameras in order to capture both global views and the level of groups or individuals, whether in terms of sound or of image.

Excluding the possibility of collecting data through video recordings, the remaining option was therefore to use only audio recordings. However, these record only the most audible interactions in the classroom—typically the teacher's speech and the interactions between the teacher and his or her students. Of course, it is possible to use several audio recorders strategically placed around the classroom to maximize the capture of what is said, but it is complex to synchronize all interactions and it increases intrusion, potentially compromising the spontaneity of the interactions.

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