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c. Arts-Based Education Research


Aims. Arts-based educational research (ABER) aims to improve educational policy and practice through the use of premises, principles, and practices associated with various forms of art. Arts-based educational research is defined by the presence of aesthetic qualities (or design elements) within both the inquiry process and the research text. Many arts-based researchers have engaged in the use of literary forms of art, but the visual, plastic, digital, and performance arts have also been employed. Arts-based researchers attempt to use the expressive qualities of a medium to convey meanings about educational phenomena that are otherwise unavailable. They do this by enabling an audience to vicariously (re)experience, with both cognitive and emotional components, a set of educational phenomena through a research text that combines aesthetic form and substance. The result may be the generation of doubts or questions about the finality of commonplace, orthodox, or stereotypical perspectives. ABER does not aim to enhance certainty or assert knowledge claims about these topics. Rather, quality is judged by the capacity of the text to fulfill the interrogatory purpose that is also the hallmark of good art.

Content. Arts-based research is often misunderstood as focusing only on content associated with arts education or on artistic productions. To the contrary, the methods of arts-based educational research methods are equipped to study all matters educational, and, in fact, have been already used to explore elements and problematize orthodoxies within a variety of educational domains and disciplines. A few examples include: the work of the school principal; the meaning of student "at-riskness;" definitions of "good" teaching; the nature of "attention;" the experiences of homeless youth; the hidden curriculum within an arts classroom; the quality of social studies textbooks; the place of intercorporeality in the educational process; oversimplified conceptions of science education practice.

Methods. The methods employed by arts-based educational researchers are similar in many ways to those used by artists and by other qualitative researchers. Empirical details may be acquired through interviewing, participant observation, document analysis, etc.; data may also arise out of rigorous reflections on the previous experiences of the researcher with educational phenomena. The research may occur prior to the composition of the research text; more often research and composition will occur simultaneously. Within the research process a selection and recasting of the details into an aesthetic form is accomplished. Several phases may be identified in what has been called a “qualitative problem solving process” employed by many artists as well as arts-based researchers. The first phase involves the confrontation of seemingly random qualities in the people and settings under scrutiny. In the second tentative relationships between these qualities are apprehended. Within the third stage a single pervasive quality, central metaphor, or theme emerges. In the fourth phase this patterning principle is used as a qualitative control for choosing among and arranging qualities into an aesthetic form. Finally, after each component part of the document has been tested for its “fit” in the overall schema the work is judged complete.


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