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Reflections of working with a graphic artist to disseminate my research

As a trainee EP on the Manchester doctorate course, we’re encouraged from the outset to grapple with the practice implications of our research.

One of our thesis papers specifically focuses on dissemination – how we plan to spread the message of our research. At the beginning of my project, my best hopes were to present at a UK conference, share my research findings with my team or perhaps try for a journal publication.

Take a look at the illustration of Rebekah’s findings.

Impact through art

This line of thinking soon dissipated after carrying out my research interviews and realising that the data uncovered was not likely to be heard by those most able to affect change. I felt drawn to investigate creative ways to share the young peoples’ views. My concern was that these young people’s voices mattered but might not reach my target audience through journal publications and conference slides alone. My challenge was therefore to find ways of making psychological research relevant to those with or without a background in psychology.

At this years annual conference in Brighton, the DECP commissioned an artist to live-illustrate the keynote talks. Social media buzz around the event led to me spotting the work and performance of graphic illustrator Beci Ward. The approach reminded me of the process of creating a ‘rich picture’ and Beci’s style also reminded me of Turner-prize winning artist, Grayson Perry. Grayson regularly gains audience participation, then visually synthesises his social commentary onto different mediums, using metaphor (and a heavy dose of irony). His ultimate aim is to democratise ‘art.’ Similarly, I wanted to make my research open and accessible to all and Beci’s modern medium (drawing on an iPad) seemed the perfect platform to give an instant impact.

Research accessible to all

The collaborative process of working with Beci on the graphic took around six weeks. Being a person with little or no artistic skill, providing Beci with a rough sketch for the graphic was quite a challenge. It did however force me to think about distilling the core messages of my research and how this could be best encapsulated in a snapshot.

Now complete and at the stage of sharing the graphic, I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm received on social media. Feedback from EPs and corporate parents has also been overwhelmingly positive. Most importantly of all, the young people involved in my project really appreciated and liked the graphic.

Hopefully, choosing to represent my interview findings this way has allowed me to reach a wider audience than I might otherwise have done. I have been able to share the graphic on social media platforms, including Twitter. The graphic has also made it onto a virtual school website, widening dissemination further.

All in all, working collaboratively with a graphic illustrator has made me think that, perhaps as a profession, we shouldn’t be restricted to prevailing dissemination mediums and methods. The potential that psychological research could as easily end up on Twitter threads, or blogs – accessible to all; as opposed to on conference slides is to me really exciting!

3 Comments so far:

  1. […] have been shared across social media and with children and young people. Rebekah has written a blog post for us reflecting on this process and wondering about the range of other ways that trainee EP research might make an […]

  2. This is great stuff Rebekah and captures the zeitgeist perfectly. Like you say dissemination is about getting the word out to the people on the ground. I bet your journey was a lot more interesting and rewarding than writing a paper for some journal only a select few professionals will read. Good luck for the future – I look forward to seeing that creativity flourish!

  3. […] This involved a number of different stages, many of which were new to me as an educational psychologist! […]

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