The Communicative Potential of Young Children's Drawings
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study builds on the work of researchers such as Anning and Ring (2004) and Brooks (2002, 2004, 2005a, 2005b), who have used socio-cultural theory to investigate the influence of context on young children’s drawing, meaning making, and representation at home and in school. My thesis explores the communicative potential of young children’s drawings through case studies of 14 reception and year one children at a rural school in South West England. The three main research questions concerned what and how the children communicated through drawing, as well as drawing influences. Data were collected over one school year, in three seven-week research phases. Spontaneous drawings from home and school were collected in scrapbooks and discussed with the children. The class teacher and the children’s parents were interviewed and observations of the children drawing in class were also conducted. These methods were repeated for each phase. Nearly 800 drawings were analysed through a data-driven, iterative process where intersubjective understandings were emphasised. The communicative potential of the children’s drawings was considerably broad, but one main theme (Identity) and two sub-themes (Power and Purpose) were visible in relation to the data. Importantly, the drawings offered spaces for intellectual play and identity construction, where the children positioned themselves as competent and creative individuals. The drawings were also shaped by a variety of shifting socio-cultural factors stemming from home, school, and elsewhere. The implications of the study highlight the value of recognising drawing as a complex visual language that should be shared through verbal discussion. Additionally, a large-scale survey was conducted in order to gain a broad base of understanding about early years teachers’ beliefs, practices, and knowledge in relation to drawing. The findings appeared to reflect the impact of the ‘‘mixed messages’’ in current educational policy, particularly in regard to the year group that teachers were teaching.
PhD in Education