VISUAL ARTS EDUCATION: The potential for teacher delight or Visual Education (NRVE) (Davis, 2008), regarding

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  • VISUAL ARTS EDUCATION:

    The potential for teacher delight or despair

    A thesis submitted for the degree of

    MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY

    The Australian National University

    Jane Newton Smyth

    B. Ed (Early Childhood) University of Canberra

    Dip S.K.T.C. Sydney Kindergarten Teachers’ College

    Research School of Social Sciences

    College of Arts and Social Sciences

    The Australian National University

    August 2017

    © Copyright by Jane Newton Smyth 2017

    All Rights Reserved

  • iii

    Statement of Sources

    Declaration

    I declare that this thesis is my own work and has not been submitted in any other

    form for any degree or diploma to any other institution of tertiary education.

    Information derived from the published or unpublished work of others has been

    acknowledged in the text and the list of references given.

    Jane Smyth

    16 August 2017

  • v

    If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to

    improve, not because they are not good enough but because

    they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

    Dylan William

    Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment

    Institute of Education

    University of London

  • vii

    Acknowledgments

    This research is supported by an Australian Government Research Training

    Program (RTP) Scholarship for which I am most grateful.

    I am deeply indebted to Professor Diana Davis for inspirational supervision,

    skilled teaching, valued friendship and wise counsel, generously given. I thank

    her for leading me gently, steadily and with humour, to great enjoyment in

    researching and writing.

    My sincere thanks go to many others without whom this thesis would neither have

    begun nor been completed:

    Chair of the Supervisory Panel, Professor Jacqueline Lo, Associate Dean

    (International) for the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and Executive

    Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies and panel members Dr Barbara

    Piscitelli and Jo Krabman for assistance, encouragement and professional advice.

    The ACT Government Directorate of Education and Training for access to ACT

    preschools and the ACT Primary School Principals who welcomed the research

    project: Jennie Bailey, Tim Grace, Lyndall Read and Kate Smith.

    The Executive and members of the ACT Preschool Teachers’ Professional

    Association.

    ACT preschool teachers who embraced the project, especially ‘Ciara’, ‘Hannah’,

    ‘Sarah’ and ‘Stephanie’, whose professional skills, time and energy were

    essential to the success of the collaboration.

    The National Gallery of Australia, especially Education staff members Frances

    Wild and Margie Kevin.

    My family including Chris, Eli, Anna, Steve, Ted and the late Liz Dawson, friends

    including Dr Suzanne Rickard, Dr Sue Rimmer, Marie Wood, Emma Zen and

    members of the Canberra discussion group, WOTROT.

  • viii

    Lastly, but most importantly, I acknowledge my husband, Rick Smyth, whose

    belief in the project, constant encouragement and loving, practical support are

    beyond all thanks.

  • ix

    Abstract

    This study investigates whether the anxiety evidenced in the National Review of

    Visual Education (NRVE) (Davis, 2008), regarding generalist primary teachers,

    also impacts on preschool teachers’ delivery of Visual Arts. Taking a mixed-

    methods approach the study is organised in three interlocking stages, the first

    two of which seek to explore, at the preschool level, whether the findings of

    previous studies are replicated in preschools. The third and final stage, however,

    is designed to take the issue beyond previous studies to consider what might be

    done to address Arts anxiety at a local level while utilising only existing resources.

    Stage One uses both quantitative and qualitative questions to survey a sample

    of preschool teachers in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in

    relation to their teaching, especially in the learning area of Visual Arts. The

    sample was obtained by the snowball method: 50 requests for participation in a

    confidential survey were dispatched by the researcher and 26 completed surveys

    were returned. Results from the survey showed that this, albeit limited, sample of

    preschool teachers also reported experiencing Art anxiety and a lack of

    confidence in teaching Visual Arts. The final question of the confidential survey

    invited respondents to indicate willingness to participate in Stage Two and, if so,

    to provide contact details. Ten teachers were then selected at random from the

    25 who indicated willingness to proceed to Stage Two. This second stage was a

    30 minute individual interview with questions designed to allow teachers to

    expand upon their survey responses and scope concerns and issues. All ten

    teachers who were interviewed wished to be selected to continue to Stage Three,

    an individualized professional learning experience (after Rogers (1969)), offered

    over three months in their place of work.

    Selection for Stage Three was based on geographical situation as well as level

    of teaching experience and preschool type to maximise the diversity of the group.

    Each preschool teacher worked with the researcher for up to three months on a

    trajectory of her own choice and, consistent with the Rogerian learning framework,

    evaluated her own progress towards self-chosen goals. Using journal

    documentation and audio records of meetings with the researcher a narrative of

  • x

    each teacher’s learning journey was charted. All preschool teachers reported

    increased confidence and enhanced direction in their teaching of Visual Arts. The

    implications of the study for professional learning and further research are

    explored within the context of this small-scale study within a single location in

    Canberra, Australia.

    The study has implications for individualized professional development in

    preschools: The collaborative model developed and trialled with preschool

    teachers has been recognised as having potential for wider and immediate

    application.

  • xi

    Table of Contents

    Statement of Sources ................................................................................................ iii

    Acknowledgments .................................................................................................... vii

    Abstract ........................................................................................................... ix

    Table of Contents ...................................................................................................... xi

    List of Tables ........................................................................................................ xvii

    List of Plates ......................................................................................................... xix

    KEY TERMS ......................................................................................................... xxi

    CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................................................................. 1

    1.1 The Impetus for the study................................................................................ 1

    1.2 The centrality of the visual ............................................................................... 2

    1.3 The concept of visuacy: The need for visual education ................................... 3

    1.4 The current state of the Arts in Australian education ....................................... 5

    1.5 Evidence of teacher despair re Visual Arts teaching........................................ 6

    1.6 Rationale for and aims of the study: Creating/re-creating delight in

    Visual Arts teaching ........................................................................................ 7

    1.7 Organization of the thesis................................................................................ 9

    CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ..................................................................... 13

    2.1 Scope of the chapter ..................................................................................... 13

    2.2 The importance of Visual Arts education in preschool programs ................... 13

    2.3 Perceived impediments to quality Visual Arts teaching .................................. 17

    2.4 Potential professional learning pathways ...................................................... 37

    2.5 Synthesis ...................................................................................................... 41

    CHAPTER 3 DESIGN AND METHODS .................................................................. 45

    3.1 Scope of the chapter ..................................................................................... 45

    3.2 Directions from the literature ......................................................................... 45

    3.3 Loc