29 SES 13, Displacements in arts education research
This paper reflects on ‘Contemporary Art and Sole’, which sought to co-develop targeted, contemporary arts-based pedagogy, to enhance learner autonomy. Autonomy was conceptualised as metacognition, creativity and ‘voice’ and as a means of working ‘against the state’ (Atkinson) ontologically and ultimately, politically. The pedagogy was a hybrid of arts-based approaches, SOLEs (self-organised learning environments) and the introduction of language related to ‘thinking skills’. There was an explicit focus on exploring personal thinking and learning through art experiences. In addition to reflecting on the project outcomes, this paper adopts a meta-perspective on creating specific art-based pedagogies towards nurturing autonomy, using Atkinson’s concept of pedagogy ‘without criteria’ (2017) and Osberg and Biesta’s (ECER 2018) concept of an ‘aesthetic theory of education’ to review our approach.
Contemporary Art and SOLE involved work with 3 contemporary galleries. With gallery educators and an artist, we co-designed a programme for teachers accompanied by Participatory Action Research for one class from one school in each gallery. PAR sessions took place in rural (The Pier Arts Centre, Orkney), urban (Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead) and university-gallery (the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle) contexts, in collaboration with 2 primary schools and one secondary school. We originally envisaged a ‘handbook’ as a key output but the nature of this resource shifted through ethical considerations of developing approaches towards autonomy and the need to avoid prescription.
Research was infused with pragmatic, democratic values as defined by Dewey, in which people have a ‘…responsible share according to capacity… [demanding] the liberation of the potentialities of members of a group in harmony with the interests and goods which are common.’ (Dewey, 1927, p.147). Accordingly, we explored the integration of contemporary arts-based pedagogies with an explicit focus on thinking skills and SOLE pedagogical structures in order to support autonomy. SOLE pedagogy ‘…encourages the “edge of chaos” effect, since it is neither strictly ordered not totally chaotic’ (Mitra, 2014). Potential for transforming learning via contemporary art lies in its interpretable nature and the typical lack of imposed narrative, permitting the referencing of personal life-worlds which we apply in using works of art as ‘keys to understanding’ (Efland 2002). Dealing with metaphor, art necessitates ‘cognitive breakthroughs’, going ‘beyond the given and compelling our own thinking to go beyond the given.’ (Lipman, 2003). Considering this, does individual learning benefit from manipulating and creating art metaphors to understand and describe learning? This would constitute metacognition (Flavell 1979). The potential to change our beliefs can extend to those we hold about learning, providing potential for transforming learning (Dweck 2008). ‘The force of art…can be conceived as a process with a potential for the individuation of new worlds or to see what other worlds might be possible’ (Atkinson, 2017, p.141). Ideas can be shared visually, overcoming barriers imposed by prose and supporting the ‘voice’ (Rudduck 2006) of children. Is a pedagogy which draws on art, SOLEs and thinking skills potent in supporting the development of metacognition, creativity, voice and therefore autonomy?
Reflecting on the emergent pedagogy and its development process, to what extent did this research project constitute an ‘adventure of pedagogy’ (Atkinson, 2017)?. How might we proceed more effectively in ensuring an ethical approach in which we ‘relax the transcendence of tradition and transcendental ideological framing in order to catch…the local coherence of events of learning and their potential for novelty.’ (Atkinson, 2017, p.146). To what extent might this approach contribute to a more ‘aesthetic theory of education’ (Osberg and Biesta, ECER 2018), in which education is perceived as ‘emergent’ (Ibid) as opposed to a mechanism for the production of prescribed outputs within neoliberal agendas?
Participatory Action Research will soon result in the production of a mixed methods, evaluative case study related to each gallery setting. Findings from the 3 cases is now being cohered through a thematic analysis and a statistical analysis of data arising from visual tools used with the children (turning qualitative data into quantitative results). Teachers, gallery educators and researchers built up a collective, reflective journal via email conversation and in person meetings. This was used to generate the pedagogic content of subsequent research cycles, along with children’s responses captured within visual research tools. The research incorporated visual research methods, embedded within the pedagogy and used in keeping with the artistic focus of the settings, along with the collective journal, practitioner diaries, researcher observation and photographic and video documentation of the action research cycles. Research tools were often ‘catalytic’ and pedagogical, engaging learners in self-reflective processes which aimed to help them to develop their understanding of their own learning while simultaneously providing data. They included ‘pupil views templates’ (Wall and Higgins, 2006), to capture children’s reflection of their speech and thought throughout the activities they take part in. The templates provide insight into children’s metacognition and allow us to track the development of their understanding of their own thinking and learning in relation to particular aspects of and activities within the pedagogy. We intended that, working in this way, with these ‘catalytic tools’ (Baumfield et al. 2009) and using the pedagogies described, would blur the edges of where the research begins and ends and the distinctions between researcher and the ‘researched’, in a pedagogic setting which attempts to remove the hierarchical role of teachers as ‘experts’ and encourages the democratic and collaborative pursuit of emergent learning.
We anticipate that, in accordance with the notion of autonomy as we define it, many or most children will have developed autonomy to some degree. Early indications are that there were variations in the success of the developing pedagogy across settings due to contextual factors and also to variations in the pedagogy itself as it was tried out in different forms. We hope to be able to isolate aspects of the pedagogy which were effective in developing autonomy across all three settings. This paper will discuss the findings in relation to the developing pedagogy before discussing deeper learning from the perspective of researchers, around notions of what pedagogy for autonomy could be like. As a result of this, we hope to develop new approaches to pedagogic development which align more closely to the ideas of ‘without criteria’ and ‘pedagogy as adventure’ (Atkinson) as part of an ‘emergent’ approach to education (Osberg and Biesta).
Atkinson, D. (2017) Without Criteria: Art and learning and the Adventure of Pedagogy Baumfiled, V., Hall, K., Higgins, S., Wall, K., (2009) Catalytic tools: understanding the interaction of enquiry and feedback in teachers’ learning. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32:4 Dewey, J. (1934) Art as Experience. Perigee Dweck, C. (2008) Mindset: the new psychology of success. Ballantine Books. Efland, A., (2002) Art in Education. Teachers college Press Flavell, J.H. (1979) Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: a new area of cognitive developmental inquiry. Cognitive Development. 34: 906-911 Lipman, M. (2003) Thinking in Education. Cambridge University Press Mitra, S. (2014) The future of schooling: Children and learning at the edge of chaos. Prospects. 44:547-558 Rudduck, J. (2006) The past, the papers and the project. Educational Review. 58:2, 131-143 Wall, K., and Higgins, S., (2006) Facilitating Metacognitive Talk: a research and learning tool. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 29(1), 39-53
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