29 SES 02, Collaborative Research Practices in Arts Education
This paper reports on Y-Connect, a three-year school-university research project, funded by the Queensland government’s “Collaboration Innovation Fund”. With a school cohort of 739 students with 75% international immigrants, and a significant proportion of these from refugee backgrounds, the school leadership team was keen to explore the value of alternate pedagogical approaches to enhance engagement within the school community. In this school context, the choice was made to focus on enhancement and inclusion through creative and arts-based pedagogies and partnerships with artists and arts organisations. The project drew on national and international research reports from Australia (Donelan & O’Brien, 2008; Ewing, 2010; Mansour, 2017), the UK (Hall, Jones & Thomson, 2009, Cultural Learning Alliance, 2017), and the USA (Catterall et al, 2012; Deasy, 2002; Fiske, 1999) which identified that quality engagement with the arts can connect young people to themselves, to each other, to the community and to curriculum.
Enhancing connectedness and belonging within the school community was seen as critical by the school leadership. This aligns with Jose, Ryan and Pryor (2012) who indicate consensus among researchers that a sense of connectedness is a basic psychological need, and that there are positive outcomes when this need is fulfilled. In addition, Antonsich (2010) argues that belonging relates to a feeling of being at home (place-belongingness) and identifies five factors (auto-biographical, relational, cultural, legal, and economic) that contribute to place-belongingness and to self-formation.
Inspired by John Carey’s (2005) claim that “redemptive self-respect” (Carey, 2005, 255) can be engendered through active participation in artwork we, the research team, all teaching artists, worked with the school to provide arts-rich environments and arts-informed pedagogies in the Years 7-9 (ages 12–15) student body from mid 2015-mid-2018. Alongside regular curriculum-based classes in English and Mathematics, teaching artists worked in arts curriculum classes (dance, drama, music, visual arts) and co-curricular offerings (Circus, Drama club). Professional artists planned and taught alongside the regular school teachers, and students went on excursions to cultural institutions (previously impossible due to the economic circumstances of many families).
Funding provided opportunities for students to engage directly with a range of arts learning experiences, including partnerships with artists and arts-based organisations across multiple arts disciplines including both visual and performing arts. Six case studies were established, designed to determine the impact of this initiative on a range of key factors including the young people’s sense of connection/connectedness, attendance, self-efficacy, literacy, oral language, engagement, motivation, and career pathway perceptions.
In this paper we focus on the emerging findings related to the Artists in Arts Classrooms Case Study. As an indication of what happens in Y-Connect, across 2016 and 2017 an average of ten Y-Connect sessions took place each week, up to a total of 250 each year. Five academics, 16 artists and 17 teachers have been involved. A typical week might involve artist Anna Yen working with students as ‘happiness clowns’; actor Zac Boulton working (in English class) on creating monologues; choreographer Liesl Zinc using embodied pedagogy to solve algebraic equations, and much more. The emphasis is on the transformative power of participation in the arts, rather than considering the arts a “treat and a pick-me-up”, an approach critiqued by Hall and Thomson (2007) in relation to the Creative Partnerships initiative in the UK. We consider whether the pedagogies (Hall, Thomson & Russell, 2007) focus on the learner and what the learner has achieved, or place emphasis on the specific output of the learner, including specialised texts and skills. Student and teacher reports of their experiences of the pedagogical repertoire are central to the study.
Y-Connect is a 3-year government-funded school-university research partnership. The study is situated in one inner-city, government high school with a high proportion of new arrival students. Many of the 739 students have migrated (or sought asylum) from 52 countries, with 75% of the population having an ESAL background. As such, the school is a fruitful site for research that seeks to "uncover the manifest interaction of significant factors" (Berg, 2009, p. 318) in this context. The questions guiding Y-Connect are: How has participation in Y-Connect impacted on the young people involved? What factors have enabled and constrained the success of the project? And, what further impacts are evident within and beyond the school community? The overall study comprises six collective (Stake, 1995), explanatory (Yin 2003, Merriam 1988, Freebody 2003) case studies. Informing data is drawn from interviews (students, teachers, artists, administrators), school records (participation, attendance, behavior), school and national test results, artefacts (photos, videos, samples of student work) and annotated plans. Case 1 considers the overarching impact of Y-Connect within the school community; Case 2 investigates the impact of artists working in arts classrooms, Case 3 investigates the impact of drama teaching-artist in English classes, Case 4 uses drama-based approaches in the teaching of English to new arrivals; Case 5 investigates the contributions to learning made when dancers and choreographers work alongside mathematics teachers; and Case 6 involves a group of senior student working regularly with teaching-artists as part of co-curricular activities. Data collection concludes in mid-2018, though analysis has been ongoing throughout the project. We do not seek to make generalizations from this study but rather draw on Stake's (1995, 2005) naturalistic generalization to impose a "structure, a pattern on meaning" (Ruddin, 2006, p. 800). We consider that each of these cases may be considered as "critical" (Ruddin, 2006, p. 805); cases where we hope the uniqueness and specificity will allow us to identify individual (or combinations of) significant and/or critical factors that contribute to understanding the personal experiences of students, artists, and teachers involved in the project. As Flyvbjerg suggests, we aim for "a nuanced view", considering the "interaction between the case and its context" (Yin, 2014, p, 321) rather than suggesting that behavior can be meaningfully understood as "rule-governed acts" (Flyvbjerg, 2006, p. 223), and propose that readers will be able to identify, within the particularity, resonances and connections for themselves.
Data collection is continuing throughout the first half of 2018, however there are emerging findings from the "Artists in arts classrooms" case study. These will be refined as further analysis takes place but, for now, participating students have reported that participation in arts-rich learning has impacted on: " Pathways beyond schooling - students are seeing possibilities they had not previously considered; " Sense of connectedness and belonging within the school community; " Enjoyment, fun and 'lifting of spirits' when arts-informed pedagogies are enacted; " Oracy as a pathway to literacy - through more active and dialogic classrooms " Efficacy; " Ownership of learning; " Confidence and motivation; and " The capacity to question. Interviews with both learners and teachers in this study to date, support Franks, Thomson, Hall & Jones (2014) findings which suggest that there is a shift towards more active and experiential teaching and learning, together with a shift in teacher-student relations, reciprocity and co-learning. Academic results have shown an upward trend, with some student making strong gains in results. Attendance has improved and, for some, behavioural incidents have declined. We note that teachers are including more opportunities for creativity, playfulness and active learning. One Deputy Principal suggested that teachers are more willing to "take on new challenges and think about what they do in new ways … our teachers are being more excited about their pedagogies." Artists have sometimes been challenged by working in this context but many have broadened and deepened their own work, through collaborating with learners and teachers throughout the program. We hope that this project, with its 3-year timeframe, and six in-depth case studies will contribute to ongoing discussion relating to how we can include all young people, as active and full participants in the cultural conversation, regardless of their country of origin, life-journeying, or socio-economic circumstances.
Antonsich, M. (2010). Searching for belonging - an analytical framework. Geography Compass. 4(6), 644-659. Doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2009.00317.x Berg, B. L. (2009). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Boston, MA, Allyn & Bacon. Carey, J. (2005). What good are The Arts? London: Faber Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S.A., & Hampden-Thompson, G. (2012). The Arts and Achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies. Washington, DC, National Endowment for the Arts. Research Report #55 Cultural Learning Alliance. (2017) Key Research Findings: The value of cultural learning. www.culturelearningalliance.org.uk Deasy, R. J. (2002) Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development. Washington, Arts Education Partnership. Donelan, K. & O'Brien, A. (2008). Creative interventions for marginalised youth: The Risky Business project. Brisbane, Australia, Drama Australia. Ewing, Robyn (2010) The Arts and Australian education: Realising potential. Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER): Melbourne, Vic. Fiske, E. (1999). Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED435581. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study research. Qualitative Inquiry 12(2), 219-245. Doi: 10.1177/1077800405284363 Franks, A., Thomson, P., Hall, C. & Jones, K. (2014) Teachers, Arts Practice and Pedagogy, Changing English 21(2), pp. 171-181.DOI: 10.1080/1358684X.2014.897042 Freebody, P. (2003). Qualitative research in education: Interaction and practice. London, Sage Publications. Hall, C., Thomson, P.& Russell, L. (2007). Teaching like an artist: the pedagogic identities and practices of artists in schools. British Journal of Sociology in Education. 28(5), 605- 619 Hall, C., Jones, K. & Thomson, P. (2009) Creative School Change Project: Final Report, October 2009. www.creativetallis.com/upoads/2/2/8/7/2287089/ Mansour, M., Martin, A., Anderson, M., Gibson, R. (2017). Getting into flow in the arts classroom: Research findings and implications for practice. Educational Practice and Theory, 39(2), 5-15. Merriam, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education. San Francisco, Jossey Bass. Ruddin, L. P. (2006). You can generalize Stupid! Social scientists, Bent Flyvbjerg, and Case Study methodology. Qualitative Inquiry 12(4), 797-812. Doi: 10. 1177/1077800406288622 Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage. Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative Case Studies. In N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. London, Sage. Pp. 443-466. Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods. Beverly Hills, Sage Publications. Yin, R. K. (2016) Validity and generalizations in future case study evaluations. Evaluation 19(3), 321-332. Doi: 10.1177/1356389013497081
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