Statement of Research and Goals


Research Interests

Over the past four years, my research interests have focused on children’s interactions with interest-driven learning environments. My research aims to examine the intersection of digital media and the development of personal power and interest in nonformal learning environments and its implications for art education, curriculum development, teacher education programs, and interest-driven learning environments. I am particularly interested in the development of personal power and interest among elementary children as mediated by adults and digital media and technology. My research is theoretically informed by experiential education and shared power. In this regard, I use qualitative research methodologies in my research. Below, I describe my past, current and future research initiatives in the areas of interest stated above. 

Current research

Some argue when children delve into their interests using digital media, they expand upon personal experiences that connect to content learned in formal settings, which is often referred to as interest-driven learning.  My research examines “interest-driven” from a slightly different lens, which starts with the child, it is self-initiated, and personally meaningful – and may or may not directly connect to the formal learning standards. Currently, my studies have taken place in a nonformal-learning environment called Saturday Studio where children meet to make digital artifacts related to their interests.

My prior research started with examining how children interact within a nonformal, interest-driven environment. A significant finding of this initial research was that children self-managed their interest-driven projects (Shively, 2014). Over the course of the study, children made decisions to manage their projects as evident when they engaged in playing, editing, talking, sharing, observing, and moving about the room. Their decisions created a unique dichotomy in Saturday Studio because children employed playing, working, and learning simultaneously to move their projects forward, which often times were questioned by facilitators and/or parents regarding the children’s processes.

Central to my dissertation is the importance of a contextual understanding of the role of adult and peer relationships and the development of children’s personal power and interest when engaged with digital media. Specifically, I ask:

1)    What is the nature of the relationships formed in Saturday Studio? And

2)    To what extent does the Saturday Studio environment (physical, human, digital) support or confound children’s development of personal interest and personal power?

The goals of this project are to build collaborative relationships between children and adults and to engage elementary pre-service educators and children in interest-driven digital learning environments. A secondary goal of the project is to provide access to digitally progressive elementary curriculum that aim to improve the development of personal power and interests.

Future Research and Goals

Over the next three to five years, I plan to continue my efforts to contribute to research and scholarship on the development of personal power and interests. In particular, I will expand the work of my dissertation in two interrelated ways: 1) by examining the ways in which young children identify and develop their interests with digital media and 2) how adults and children interact when provided access to digitally progressive curriculum. An important goal of this research is to contribute to the development of personal power of children who are interested in making and playing with digital media and technology.

In order to continue my efforts, I will need to establish a new studio space to explore digital media and technology similar to Saturday Studio I developed at Indiana University. This research site would be child-centered and include laptops, iOS devices, cameras, printers, art and crafting materials, access to various media, opportunities to attend studio more than once a week, and plenty of space for children and adults to move freely while creating and/or sharing their artifacts with the larger community. Prior funding obtained to create the current site was granted through internal and external avenues:

  • Shively, K. ($4000; November 2012). Saturday Studio: Digital Design and Creative Explorations. Funds from the Daisy Jones Grant.
  • Shively, K. ($3800; January 2013). Individual Development Account. Funds matched by Federal and State grants.
  • Shively, K. ($1200; June 2011 – August 2011). Project Piaget: Children as Epistemologists. Grant from the Curriculum & Instruction Department.
  • Shively, K. ($700; July 2011). The Influence of Photography on my Future Scholarship. Michael McMullen Photography Fellowship.

I plan to continue my research by pursuing funding opportunities with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). In moving forward, I plan to demonstrate the potential to further clarify the complex factors that are the underpinnings of developing personal power and interests of children, specifically related to digital progressive learning environments (Shively, 2014). Finally, my research will enhance the field of education in four main areas: 1) teacher education, 2) curriculum; 3) arts education; and 4) interest-driven learning environments.