29 SES 13, Music Education and Change
Children have become an increasingly important audience for art museums around the world. Whilst many institutions offer programmes for young audiences, pedagogical approaches differ significantly across the sector. Debates of how, as opposed to simply why curatorial practices with and for children are being produced are now a significant issue for learning curators, artists and art museum teams. This paper reports on an action research project that asked, ‘how could pedagogical documentation be used as a mode of curatorial inquiry when producing learning experiences with and for children in art museums?’
Pedagogical documentation is a critically reflective process used to produce emergent curriculum in early childhood education settings. Made well-known by the educators of Reggio Emilia, pedagogical documentation can be considered a complex and open-ended process that supports educators in continuously reconsidering their assumptions, beliefs and practices towards children (Cagliari et al., 2016; Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1993; Rinaldi, 2001). This inquiry-led process opens possibilities for people to debate, reconsider and complexify practices through constructing contingent and alternate pedagogies that emerge from within a specific practice context. Pedagogical documentation therefore has the capacity to supporting the development of thinking that shift from a singular, universal paradigm of ‘best practice’ towards the emergence of practices and discourses premised on uncertainty, contextuality, subjectivity and difference. Lenz Taguchi (2008) describes this as an ‘ethics of resistance.’ Whilst artists, curators and conservators are often accustomed to documenting explorations of creative ideas, techniques and processes, pedagogical documentation differentiates from this in its ability to act as a tool for learning, change and inquiry.
This research discusses the results of a doctoral research project run in partnership with the learning departments at The Whitworth Art Gallery and Tate in the United Kingdom. The inquiry employed an action-research methodology comprising of two continuous cycles of inquiry. Pedagogical documentation formed the ‘action’ of the action research in these. The first stage of research explored pedagogical documentation as a mode of curatorial inquiry in relation to social constructivist learning theory (Mallory & New, 1994; Rogoff, 1990; Rogoff, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978). This was then expanded upon in the second stage of research to consider an agential realist approach to pedagogical documentation as curatorial inquiry in art museums (Barad, 2003, 2007; Braidotti, 1994). This presentation will use documentation produced as part of the action research to illustrate the argument and share how the art museum team’s thinking and practices was supported, challenged and extended upon through the inquiry-led documenting process.
In this paper, results from the action research cycles are used to evidence that argument that the affective possibilities of both social constructivism and agential realism allowed for the production of pedagogies that were emergent in their construction. These allowed for the art museum leaning teams to debate and re-consider the ethical, political, entomological and epistemological assumptions that shape curatorial practices in the art
The research draws on extensive observations generated over a 12-month timeframe including photographic records, video footage, artist interviews and meeting transcripts with artists, curators, children and their families. Critical participatory action research (Kemmis, McTaggart, & Nixon, 2014) was used to guide the inquiry through its iterative cycles of planning, acting, reflecting and change. Each action research cycle aimed to extend, challenge and complexify how pedagogical documentation could be used as a mode of curatorial inquiry. This methodology allowed me, the researcher, to work as part of a community of practice that was committed to the investigation of the research objective. Through this, a strong relationship to form between theory and practice within a specific context. Continuous observations and changes could then be made to the curatorial process in response to the emergent outcomes of the inquiry whilst it was occurring. Pedagogical documentation was simultaneously modified throughout each stage of action cycle whilst also being used to analyse the components of the gallery activities. Through this, shared analysis and discussion before, during and after each children’s learning activity was used to generate results and investigate the research objectives.
Key results suggest that pedagogical documentation can be used as a mode of curatorial inquiry and used to record a wide array of children’s and family’s experiences in art museums. These observations can then be used to generate collaborative critical reflection to inform future trajectories for curatorial decision-making involving children. This can also be used to support the emergence of alternate pedagogies that are produced from within a specific social, political, cultural and temporal context. The exploration of social constructivism and agential realism in relation to pedagogical documenting as a curatorial inquiry allowed for an expanded unit of analysis from human-mediated activity towards the affective capacities of human and non-humanous intra-action in galleries. This then allows for practices to become more complex, for that complexity to be made visible and therefore open to interpretation from others. Results also suggest that an agential realist framing to thinking pedagogically through the process of documenting allowed the action-research team to consider the emergence of learning, knowledge and culture from multiple foci and events in art museums. This encouraged critical thinking that continuously challenged fixed standpoints, encouraging more ethical and socially just practices. Pedagogical documentation can therefore be used as a mode of curatorial inquiry that support a shift towards more inclusive practices that consider and debate the assumptions, structures, ethics, contradictions, discourses and practices relating to children’s right to participate in the formation of the activities, beliefs and spaces that shape their lives (UNCRC, 1989).
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