29 SES 08, Researching and teaching drawing in Higher Arts Education
Introduction and background
I have worked as a drawing teacher in higher arts education since 1998. It is my experience of working with drawing that has driven this research. During these years, I have been occupied with the significances of drawing as a part of growing up as an artist or designer. This is why the focus of my doctoral research project is exploring the teaching of drawing in two art universities, one in Finland and the other in Sweden. These universities are the major institutions for educating professional artists, designers, art educators, and architects in these two countries. The main research question is: What kind of meanings, experiences and understandings are involved in the teaching of drawing from the perspective of the teachers, artists and designers who teach and/or work professionally with drawing? Even if drawing is understood as an important and integral component of an artist’s education, the significance and value of drawing have not been articulated properly. This research will address the unspoken values and beliefs underpinning the long tradition of teaching drawing in higher arts education.
The research touches upon two areas: higher arts education research and drawing. First, I will deal with research about the teaching of drawing in higher arts education. That is the main theme of the dissertation. Drawing research and higher arts education research are young and growing fields, and the field of teaching drawing in higher arts education belongs to both of them. Previous research has been performed by Riley (2002, 2008), Petherbridge (2005), Kalin (2009), Lecanides-Arnott (2014) and Heikkinen (2017).
Previous research on higher arts education has tackled art education, especially painting education, in three Swedish Art Universities between 1960 and 1995, artistic development during five-year studies in one Swedish Art Academy, and relationship between materiality and learning in design education. This was performed by Edling (2010), Edström (2008a), and Mäkelä and Löytönen (2015), respectively. Drawing research is a young but lively field of study. In my work, I lean mostly on research that focuses on describing what drawing research is and what it is not, artistic research that reflects researcher’s own drawing practice, and interdisciplinary studies in which architecture and drawing is understood as a research tool. Specifically, I draw on the work of Garner (2008); Talbot (2008); Dobler (2014); and Mäkelä, Nimkulrat, and Heikkinen (2014). Higher arts education research provides new ways of seeing arts education, rather than seeing it solely from the view of the practitioner.
In this section I will introduce the theoretical framework I am using in this doctoral study. In this thesis, I use Keijo Räsänen’s notion of academic work as practical activity. Therefore, I approach teaching drawing as practical activity.
Räsänen describes his theoretical notion of work as practical activity by introducing four questions; each question reflects an underlying stance: “how can I do this work (tactical stance), what can I accomplish and achieve in it (political), why are my means and goals justified (moral and who am I becoming when engaging in this work (personal)?)” (2009, p. 185)
When trying to understand Räsänen’s notion of work as a practical activity I think of the questions and they remind me of the basic didactical questions in curriculum planning, i.e. in teaching what is paired with content, how is paired with a teaching method and why is paired with aim or object.
In this doctoral research project, I follow a methodological approach called at-home ethnography, which was developed by Mats Alvesson (2009). As he states, it is a method especially suited to studying universities and higher educational institutions in which you yourself work (p.162). The difference between this situation and an ethnographer who travels somewhere to observe is that a researcher performing at-home ethnography is not a participating observer but an observing participant (p.159). The researcher is not there to observe lumberjacks, but she is there because she needs to work as a lumberjack; that is why she wants to know what the lumberjacks are doing. (2003, p.175). Alvesson (2009), however, describes some problems related to at-home ethnography: it can be politically complex (p.166), and there are many ethical issues to consider, for example, how to involve those who are (2009, p.167) studied. One principle of at-home ethnography is to perform research in “one’s own cultural context, what goes on around oneself” (2009, p.160). The best practices for such research, Alvesson (2009, p.158-160) points out, are triangulation, careful documentation, and interpretation. He also emphasized cultural analysis rather than introspection (p.160). The data consist of twelve interviews with six artists/designers and university teachers from Sweden and six others from Finland. The themes of the interviews were the significance of drawing for the working life of the interviewees, the drawing education they had had, the drawing education they provide, important drawings, advantages and disadvantages, the future, and key persons. The interviews were semi-structured, consisting of open-ended questions. These questions concerned what the professionals think about while they are working on drawing or teaching drawing and what theories their teaching is grounded upon. We also discussed whether they had had any teachers whose ideas they wanted to mediate. One important topic was whether they considered drawing to be an important part of their professional identities. The data collection method I have chosen is expert interviews with artifacts. During these interviews, the interviewees had the chance to bring one to three drawings or documentations of drawings and we also discussed the drawings. Mayring (2000) has developed two central approaches to qualitative content analysis: inductive category development and deductive category application (p.3). I have used deductive category development because I have coded my data using Keijo Räsänen’s theoretical framework. I have coded all the interviews in atlas.ti -program.
This research supports those who are responsible for content and curricula for higher arts and design education. The analysis will produce a description of the values and beliefs about drawing in higher art education. With the help of these results, it is possible to understand and develop higher arts education and teaching drawing as an important part of art and design education.
Alvesson, M. (2009). At-home ethnography: Struggling with closeness and closure. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, & F. Kamsteeg (Eds.), Organizational ethnography. Studying the complexity of everyday life (pp. 156-173). London: Sage Publication. Alvesson, M. (2003). Methodology for close up Studies – struggling with closeness and closure. Higher Education, 46, 167-193. Berger, J. (1987/1992/2008). Drawing on paper (pp. 43 – 51). In Berger on Drawing (2008). Aghabullogue: Occasional Press. Dobler, J. (2014). Reflect | React | Redraw. Studies in Material Thinking. Volume 10. Auckland: AUT University. Edström, A-M. (2008a). To rest assured: A study of artistic development. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 9(3), http://www.ijea.org/v9n3/ Edling, M. (2010) Fri konst? Bildkonstnärlig utbildning vid Konsthögskolan Valand, Konstafackskolan och Kungl. Konsthögskolan 1960 – 1995 [ A Free Art? Higher Education in the Fine Arts in Sweden at the Valand School of Fine Arts, the University College of Arts Craft and Design and the Royal University College of Fine Arts 1960-1995]. Halmstad: Makadam förlag. Garner, S. (2008) Towards a critical discourse in drawing research. In Garner, S. (Ed.), Writing on drawing: Essays on drawing practice and research (pp. 109-124). Bristol: Intellect Books. Heikkinen, T. (2017) Drawing Exercises. RUUKKU Studies in Artistic Research, 7. https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/273302/273303 Retrieved in 4th of February, 2018 Kalin, N. (2009). Drawn Toward Transformation: Conversations on Teaching and Learning Drawing. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers Lecanides-Arnott, M. (2014). Drawing as “learning to see” a strategy to locate the “white/open space” that encourages intuitive thinking in designers. Studies in Material Thinking. Volume 10. Auckland: AUT University. Mayring, P. (2000). Qualitative content analysis [28 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2), Art. 20. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0002204 Mäkelä, M. & Löytönen, T. (2015). Enhancing material experimentation in design education. In Vande Zande, R., Bohemia, E. & Digranes, I. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers. (pp. 168 – 183). Helsinki: Aalto University Mäkelä, M., Nimkulrat N. & Heikkinen, T. (2014). Editorial/drawing as a research tool: Making and understanding in art and design practice. Studies in Material Thinking. Volume 10. Auckland: AUT University. Räsänen, K. (2009). Understanding Academic Work as Practical Activity – and Preparing (Business-school) Academics for Praxis?, International Journal for Academic development 14:3, 185–195. Talbot, R. (2008). Drawing connections. In Garner, S. (Ed.), Writing on drawing: Essays on drawing practice and research (pp. 43-57). Bristol: Intellect Books
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