07 SES 17 A, Reading Images of Educational Fields: Representations of Inclusive Education, Refugee Education and Family Literacy.
This paper examines the images that represent family literacy in relation to a meta-ethnography conducted by the author. While images are visual representations of ideas that reflect shared meanings, meta-ethnography attends to the metaphors used, reused, revised, and rejected, in academic texts. The metaphors are used inform and influence scholars and practitioners working in and being served by family literacy initiatives. Drawing on the work of Noblit and Hare (1988), Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden (1997, p.369) describe the aim of meta-ethnography as accounting ‘for all important similarities and differences in language, concepts, images and other ideas around a target experience…enlarging the interpretive possibilities of findings and constructing larger narratives or general theories’ (Sandelowski, Docherty, and Emden, 1997, p.369). This is done through the identification and tracking of metaphors used in academic papers within a particular field. We explored the metaphors used in seven highly cited academic papers in the field of family literacy (in review). As Noblit and Hare explain, meta-ethnography is best regarded as ‘interpretations of interpretations of interpretations’ (p. 35) allowing researchers to focus on broad cultural phenomena operating in and across the target studies. Metaphors identified in our study included literacy learning as natural, literacy as a fund of knowledge, home and school as antithetical spaces, and family literacy as silent relative to racism and structural inequity. In this current analysis, we will explore available images accessed through a Google search of the term ‘family literacy’. First, we examine and compare photographs, drawn pictures, and materials related to family literacy programs (i.e., informational pages, fliers). We then examine each of these image sets in terms of the metaphors/ideas represented (i.e., literacy as fun, literacy as shared, literacy as opportunity, literacy as relational). Finally, we will examine these meanings in relation to scholarly themes and silences revealed by the earlier completed meta-ethnography now in review at a major journal. This analysis reveals critical assumptions about the role of literacy in people’s lives, the effects literacy will have on families, and the ways literacy can act as a cure for social ills. For example, images associated with family literacy often involve people - in both drawings and photographs - holding hands, gathered around books, and smiling. Thus, literacy and being literate are tightly connected to being a close and joyful family. While these images may or may not be problematic, they certainly address the assumed potential and privileging of literacy.
Noblit, G. W. & Hare, R. D. (1988). Meta-ethnography: Synthesizing qualitative studies.Newbury Park, NJ: Sage Publications. Sandelowski, M., Docherty, S., & Emden, C. (1997). Focus on qualitative methods: Qualitative metasynthesis: Issues and techniques. Research in Nursing and Health, 20, 365-371.
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