A Dynamic Model for Understanding Children’s Drawings

This paper explores how a model inspired by Rose’s (1996) Method of Visual Analysis can be utilised to deepen the understanding of children’s learner self-identity using drawings produced by children and advise teachers of their learning perception in a foreign language. It reports on the investigation of findings when a class of 6-7 year-old children are invited to reflect on their own learning of Spanish through drawings and subsequent conversations with a primary school teacher-researcher and gives new insights into the way children view their own learning and informs teaching practice by advocating close listening, reading and observation of the production of children’s’ drawings.

The research is a phenomenological inquiry and draws upon the work of Vygotsky (2004) and Cox (2005).  The method used a Year 2 class (6-7 year olds) to draw themselves learning Spanish.  Each drawing is analysed using the model developed for this research.  The model has three foci: Text, Audience, and Producer.  Each of the drawings is explored by considering the Text (e.g. was it fantasy or non-fiction?), the Audience (was it for teacher, peer or family?) and the Producer (how was the drawing produced?).  The foci are further analysed using each of the three lenses in the model: Social (e.g. what can be said about the social situation of the drawing?), Aesthetic (e.g. what can be said about the aesthetics of the picture?) and Technological (e.g. what aspects of technology are depicted?).  Together with conversations with the children and the use of teacher-researcher field notes each drawing was thus analysed using the 11 different aspects present in the model.  Children exhibit huge variety, creativity and sociability even when all are given the same task. Given the findings, it is clear that we should never under-estimate the power of children’s drawings.  I hope that using my model will aid a deeper understanding of children and their fascinating inner lives.

The key findings reported are that children use drawings to communicate with their peers, their teacher and their family, which enhances their own learning, and also acts as a social emollient.  Entering into conversation with children about their drawings allows us to understand further, how children learn and interact in the classroom, and their drawings are crucial to this. By encouraging children’s use of imagination through drawing activities greatly increases participation and understanding of children, teaching and learning in complex and useful ways.  This model can be effectively utilised in the classroom to deepen our understanding of children and their learning.