Tag Archives: colouring books

Spring update 2017: recent research activities

Is this thing still on?

Sweeping the dust off and trying to get back into blogging my research and teaching life. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

This year I have got involved in a few projects that have led to there being six papers ‘on my desk’ at the moment – metaphorically on my desk, as some of them are still only concepts. So managing my time is a priority at the moment, or even managing my expectations about what I can successfully complete. Getting back into my teaching after maternity leave (updating units to improve them, thinking about long term changes, remembering everything after an academic year off) has taken a lot of my energies this year but as designing and delivering teaching is a never ending task, there comes a time when it must no longer get in the way of my research activities.

My attention is on three main projects:

Social Justice in PETE

Following the creation of over 70 interviews with PETE and PESP faculty across the English speaking world, I have three papers to contribute to:

The knowledge base for social justice and socio-cultural issues in PETE…how do PETE and PESP faculty know what they know or believe to be social justice and socio-cultural issues? What professional development could be offered for teacher educators?

International perspectives on social justice in PETE…what is called social justice in different areas? How does local context affect what we see as social injustices and how to educate for social justice?

Whiteness in the PETE curriculum… prompted by the question generated by a student movement ‘why is my curriculum white?’, we examine the construction of curriculum on two PETE courses.

PE textbooks and children’s colouring books

Data collection and analysis is all complete for both elements (one on PE textbooks, one on colouring books) of this project so it is just (‘just’!) about editing and refining the text of both papers and ensuring sufficient theoretical basis and educational implications. I presented this work at BERA in September 2016 and more in depth in a research seminar at York St John in December 2016.

Student journeys: narratives in student experience

Over two academic years we are collecting interviews with Level 4 and 5 students on their journeys (geographical and metaphorical) to and through university to understand more about their dreams and intentions in coming to university and succeeding. We have carried out some interviews and observations and will be inviting participants to engage collaboratively in developing teaching and learning changes.

Blogging my research: deciding how to analyse colouring book images

I recently was able to take some time to start the qualitative analysis on the colouring books project. If creative materials like colouring books differentiate how boys and girls are presented  in active situations, it might affect their imaginations and trajectories through sport, leisure and education. The Let Books Be Books campaign asserts that gender differentiated and stereotyped materials restrict the story lines available to children and can make them feel outcast if they make choices that don’t belong to ‘their gender’.

The quantitative analysis was completed in late 2014 but soon being on maternity leave I was not able to get the second part, where I attempt more of a discourse analysis of some of the images in six colouring books. The focus is on images of human bodies and physical activity, and I am trying to get a sense of how masculinity and femininity are represented in colouring books for children. Are men presented as active and powerful? Are women represented as passive / engaged in domestic activities, and are their poses submissive? The quantitative research (Martínez-Bello and Hill, under review) found that gendered colouring books (books for boys and books for girls) present predominantly characters of the gender the book is aimed at, and found something of a trend towards boys being shown out of doors  and girls indoors more often. This used a quantitative content analysis to describe the images based on certain categories (gender, age of character; space; activity type – e.g. leisure time physical activity, sedentary, active transport). Gillian Rose (2013) in Visual Methodologies identifies that content analysis can provide a thorough representation of the field, but struggles to contribute to a critical visual methodology.

I’m interested in whether there is a double whammy so that girls don’t merely learn what activities are appropriate for girls, but also how to act, dress and behave in a feminine way and in relation to boys (and vice versa with boys, masculinity). This prompts qualitative research because of the need to consider the sense or meaning that can be read in an image and accompanying text that a quantitative content analysis cannot record. Rose notes that a quantitative content analysis finds it difficult to analyse the strength of connections, for instance prompting us to think that a more frequent occurrence is more important than something that is only seen as few times.

However, there are multiple forms of qualitative analysis that can help make sense of the meanings of images, so I will turn to my go-to visual methods guides to help choose an analysis method (Gilliam Rose first!).


Conference abstract: Gendered physical activity representation in physical education textbooks and children’s colouring books

This is the abstract for a forthcoming presentation: Gendered physical activity representation in physical education textbooks and children’s colouring books to be presented at British Educational Research Association annual conference, September 2016. It is from the Colouring Books project.

Joanne Hill and Vladimir Martinez-Bello

Curricular materials, including textbooks and children’s picture or colouring books, are vehicles of ideas and values that may contain sexist messages. Colouring books are of especial interest as children are prompted to engage creatively, while textbooks for physical education communicate accepted ideas about physically active bodies to students of the subject. Colouring books often depict gender-stereotypical activities: women and girls in static positions, and boys and men in physical activities (Fitzpatrick & McPherson, 2010). In textbooks, male characters may predominate and be represented in a wider range of outdoor competitive sports, whereas girls are either invisible or presented in selected indoor sports (Tàboas-Pais and Rey-Cao, 2012; Ullah and Skelton, 2014).

This research analyses representations of female and male bodies in materials available in the UK: specifically, physical education textbooks and children’s colouring/doodling books (the latter were books created for girls and books created for boys).

The first phase of this research utilised quantitative content analysis to examine the similarities and differences of the characters in three UK colouring/doodling books for girls and three for boys across the categories of gender, age, space, and physical activity domains. There was a trend for more male characters to be represented in physical activity. Subsequent qualitative analysis asked, in pictures portraying physical activity, what messages are conveyed concerning masculine and feminine bodies, activities and relationships?

Over 200 images from six gendered colouring books and six physical education textbooks were collated and coded by two researchers, using discourse analysis, for the shape, clothing, and posture of bodies in physical activity; the types of activities they were engaged in; and positioning in the picture.

Qualitative analysis found that representations of physical activities were often gender-stereotyped, for instance boys were represented in bodybuilding with a muscular, macho physique while girls were represented in dancing or fitness, with slender bodies and submissive poses. Female characters were often depicted being helped by others or entertained, suggesting more passive roles; where female characters did display agency, representations often infantilised the characters. Male characters were more likely to have adventures, make discoveries and be leaders.

Not only greater visibility, but the form and context for gendered physically active bodies can be a marker of greater legitimacy in sport (Birrell and Theberge, 1994). This has implications for maintaining gender-sensitive physical education, suggesting a need for creating and using diverse images across all curricular materials.

Selecting a journal for a publication in a new-to-you field

One of my current projects has taken me outside of my typical academic fields into new territory (early childhood and colouring books). I love reading in this area and really delving into the topic. I don’t have to worry about getting bogged down into reams of literature, or misrepresenting something I read years ago, or getting bored due to over-familiarity. In a way, my lack of knowledge (or my ignorance!) is good for both my motivation and for the writing I will do: I think that I won’t be trying to show off my depth of knowledge and end up with a 20 page literature review, I’ll be happy with focusing on the specifics. Of course, I may end up trying to reinvent the wheel because I’ve missed something vital, or risk upsetting editors and reviewers who are much more grounded in the field than I am. I’ll try to remain aware of that.

Once the research and the resultant paper(s) are ready to make their way to these editors and reviewers, I need to select the journal(s) where I’ll send them. When I first had this thought, I had to stop and think. What on earth would be a good journal? In my own field, I have a fairly good awareness of the range of journals available. I peer review for many of them, and I have a long term publication strategy that is aiming to send my papers to the journals that are right for each paper and that will establish my name in my field. My working knowledge of each journal, and my relationships with editorial staff, mean that choosing a journal in a field I know is not really too difficult. But now I’m encountering a new field (for the meantime anyway – I’m hoping this project will grow and will be guided back into my own fields), a new set of editors, and really just lots of unknowns.

I had to return to the drawing board to think about journals for this new project.

Which journal has the best metrics?

This sprang to mind as the best way to find the “best” journal, initially. I visited the Scientific Journal Ranking (SJR) site and ran a search on journals containing a keyword related to the area my paper is in, “childhood”. For each of the journals this search returned, I made a note of the SJR number (a measure of how many cites the journal receives in a year against how many articles it published in the last three years), the h index (the journal has h papers that have h citations). Then I visited Google Scholar Metrics and ran a similar search; Scholar keeps slightly different metrics including h5-index (the h-index for articles published in the last 5 complete years; it is the largest number h such that h articles published in 2009-2013 have at least h citations each) and h5-median (the median number of citations for the articles that make up its h5-index). I did this to get as full as picture as possible. As well as enabling me to put some sort of ranking on the journals, I was able to see that some journals appear in SJR but not in Scholar. This raised a few questions for me as I wondered whether this would affect how a reference to this journal would be dealt with on my own Scholar page. Would Scholar struggle to find citations to my paper in the future? Would it not include these citations in my own h-index?

For my search, there was a clear “best” journal that had a h index twice as high as the next journal. However, I couldn’t just take that journal as best for my paper. Firstly, I had noticed that a lot of the journals I had found through the SJR searches were only founded in the last 10 years. They had significantly lower metric scores than the more established journals, suggesting to me that metrics (inadvertently or not) favour long-established journals. That makes sense, but doesn’t give us a full picture of the newer journals – what if they are becoming highly regarded? What if they are being highly cited this year (SJR’s most recent data as of 2015 is for 2013)?

So I turned to other ways to find the best journal.

Which journals have I cited in the paper?

This should also be a key factor in choosing the journal, and in my particular search, led to me dismissing some of the higher ranking journals from my SJR and Scholar searches. If you’re trying to publish in a journal whose work you have not engaged with, this will raise questions around why you thought this was a suitable journal. I once heard a journal editor say that one of the first things they do when they receive a submission is look for their journal in your reference list. You need to be engaging in the previous material in the journal in order to show you’re making a contribution to its debates.

On a related point,

Which journal takes topics like yours?

Murray (2005) states that what is acceptable for a journal is, in a way, what’s already been published there – you should be able to meet their conventions but offer something sufficiently new, a clear contribution. The questions you will need to ask yourself include, what do these conventions and new contributions look like for my target journal(s)? What will the audience know about your subject, and if your paper challenges accepted knowledge, what will the audience assume does not need to be questioned?

The clearest place to look is the journal’s aims. There it will outline the remit of the journal and the sort of topics they are interested in. In my case of “childhood” journals, I was looking for key words such as curriculum, representation, social … and steering away from journals that focused on teacher education, policy, cognitive development.

You could then skim recent topics in the journal to see whether your material suits the subject, methodological or theoretical frameworks commonly or recently used (Murray, 2005). This will give more specifics or context to how those journal aims are actually met in practice.

Who are they published by?

Is the journal published by a big publishing house? Does that put you off or encourage you? Have you published through that publisher before and was it a good experience? Do you know whether they promote their new publications, what their website is like for searching and accessing papers? Is the submission site user-friendly? You might personally be encouraged or put off by smaller, or open access, publishers, or online-only journals.

Where do highly regarded people in the field publish?

Check the websites of top-rated departments, or individuals academics you admire, to see where they publish (Murray, 2005). Of course in a new-to-you field you might not know which are the top-rated departments, but if you put any merit on university league tables that filter by department you can find some sort of rankings there.

Who is on the editorial boards?

Among other tips, Becker and Dencolo (2012) suggest looking at the editorial boards for the journals you’re considering – who is there and do you cite any of them? Do you want to work with any of them in the future? You could also drop a line to the editor introducing your paper and ask them whether they think it would be suitable and would welcome your submission.

Get advice from a knowledgeable friend

Talk to a friend or colleague who does work in the chosen field, who could advise on journal prestige (Becker and Denicolo, 2012). They might know more about recently founded journals, those to whom metrics give low scores simply because they are new and haven’t built up years of citations and impact. They might also know which editorial boards and publishers are easy to work with!

Ultimately, I have used a combination of these to help me find the best journal. The decision is not final yet, as there are three journals I’ve short listed. A little more consideration of the journals’ aims, their recent papers, and the take home message from my paper should help. This exercise in examining the journals in this new field has certainly made the way clearer.

I would love to hear your advice for selecting a journal, in comments!

Becker, L. and Denicolo, P. (2012). Publishing journal articles. London: Sage.

Murray, R. (2005). Writing for academic journals. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Gender in children’s colouring books

Yesterday’s research seminar (from our almost-every-week PESP seminar series here at the University of Bedfordshire) enabled me to put together a few thoughts on a current project on gender in children’s colouring books which my colleague Dr Vladimir Martinez-Bello and I are building. We are concerned with stereotypical gender representations in books aimed at girls or at boys. That is, where a publisher produces two similar books, one for girls and one for boys, with different pictures inside. We have started with three sets of colouring books (six books in total: three aimed at girls and three, from the same publishers, aimed at boys). As a significant part of the market for children’s books, colouring books encourage some creativity and imagining different worlds that children can contribute to (even if only deciding what colour to make everything).

What gender diversity is shown among the characters in the books?
In a quantitative content analysis of the six books, the coding done by our independent (adult) coders showed that books for girls overwhelmingly contain female (girl or woman) main characters. Books for boys contained 100% male main characters.

What age are the characters represented?
Often, male characters are men and female characters are girls. As a similar project in the USA noted,

‘Boys get to envision their grown up selves, whereas girls may infer that they remain young and childlike’ (Fitzpatrick and Macpherson, 2006: p.135)

Where are they shown?
Male characters were shown outside much more than female characters, who tended to be shown indoors. Male characters were more often in static poses and female characters in

Our current thoughts on the direction of the project is to delve into a more qualitative analysis, using Gillian Rose’s outline of Foucauldian discourse analysis. This concerns images’

production by, and their reiteration of, particular institutions and their practices, and their production of particular human subjects’ (Rose, 2001: p.164)

We anticipate that the social construction of gendered bodies in these colouring books will represent body tyoes and patterns of movement and comportment that reflect dominant ideologies concerning girls and boys, and that the types of and spaces for physical activity will also reflect gendered restrictions on movement that result in marginalisation and disengagement. As the project develops I will blog more results and discussion.

After my presentation it was great to listen to the resulting discussion between MA Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy students and Sport Science and Physical Activity staff from the University of Bedfordshire. Here’s my general reflections on the perspectives from the discussion (not my own words but anonymised words from participants in the discussion).

Our project has been so far constructed around adult-published colouring books and adult researcher coding. How do children define and see gender? Does it come from nurture and the relentless difference that is constructed by adults in their organisation of children’s play and education and the selling of toys? Could children’s interpretations alongside or instead of the adult coders progress the project into new areas? How would they /respond to this? Could we co-create a colouring book with children that represents a diversity of moving bodies?

Gendering of children is ubiquitous; from new baby greetings cards to the “river of pink” in the toy shop. Presents bought for a new baby girl, or for her later birthdays, invariably reflect this. Some said that there is a clearly a market for gendered toys (toys that say “for boys” or “for girls” on them), with consumers liking to choose these products (in the fear that they might get it wrong with a gender-neutral toy?) and children, it was said, go for the toy aimed at them every time. In response: that children are hard pushed to choose otherwise given the extent of this social construction of gender. The punishment for children who do not conform is potentially high. There are very few alternatives to the extreme pinkified version of feminine girlhood. A question was asked, is this a problem? In response, another pointed out that the choice to be girly-girl or hyper-feminine needs to be reflected upon – we might consider how this relates to our feminist perspectives – and recognise this as one option for girls (I’d add, and for boys, and anyone else). The solution is not more conformity but less restriction and more options for expressing and accepting diverse gender identities. It was pointed out that as a continuum, gender is much more than the two boxes of pink and blue.

There are two points then: the construction of difference between boys and girls, and the signs or symbols that are used as a result of this difference. In books for boys it is clear that there is little diversity in terms of the characters represented, but encountering a diversity of people should be seen as highly important. By all means, create a colouring book of princesses, and one of trucks and cars, but they don’t need to be labelled as for girls and for boys, respectively. What possibilities are there instead for “green books” (a nod to the pink and blue of many toys and books) – those that represent both (or rather all) interests? As Let Toys Be Toys would say, books are for all children.

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