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Using data as poetry and text in case study research – poetic representations of adult learner experiences in neighbourhood houses

Tracey Ollis (School of Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ursula Harrison (Brotherhood of St Lawrence, Melbourne, Australia)
Cheryl Ryan (School of Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 26 March 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

We argue this method of inquiry better represents the participants' learning, lives and experiences in the formal neoliberal education system prioritising performativity, categorising and ranking students.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper explores using poetry as a research method to reveal the learning experiences of adult learners, who have often had disruptive experiences of the formal schooling system and return to study in community-based education spaces. Inspired by Laurel Richardson’s transgressive technique of presenting sociological data through poetry as method, we use poetic representations of these learners' lives alongside case study research methodology. The research was conducted in conjunction with Neighbourhood Houses in Victoria, Australia. Qualitative data were generated through conducting multiple case studies of learners across various adult community education (ACE) sites. In this research, some case studies were presented in the traditional method of writing biography, others were written in the form of found poetry, which we refer to as data as poetry and text. The paper uses found poetry through participant-voiced poems written from interview transcripts. We argue this method of inquiry better represents the participants' learning, lives and experiences in the formal neoliberal education system prioritising performativity, categorising and ranking students. Our findings highlight the benefits of using poetry to communicate data in case study research as it effectively represents the experiences of adult learners' lives in a creative and concise form, transgressing normative practices of writing education research. These poetic representations of data reveal learner experiences in an embodied and agentic way while providing readers with a deep and rich understanding of these crucial adult learning spaces.

Findings

Our findings highlight the benefits of using poetry to communicate data in case study research as it effectively represents the experiences of adult learners' lives in a creative and concise form, transgressing normative practices of writing education research.

Originality/value

This research paper is empirical research and has not been submitted elsewhere for publication.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Australian Federal Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

Citation

Ollis, T., Harrison, U. and Ryan, C. (2024), "Using data as poetry and text in case study research – poetic representations of adult learner experiences in neighbourhood houses", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-12-2023-0184

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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