Do Visual Arts Experiences in Early Childhood Settings Create Spaces for Educative Growth or Stagnation?

The range of visual arts experiences typically delivered in early childhood education settings vary significantly in method, purpose and quality. Additionally, there is little guidance to support early childhood educators to evaluate the visual arts experiences they include in the curriculum or to evaluate their own role in supporting children’s visual arts learning. The research literature proposes that pre-school educators lack confidence to make and teach art and that their visual arts subject knowledge is limited. This presentation offers findings and provocations from research that examined the visual arts beliefs and pedagogy of early childhood educators, and supports conference delegates to reflect upon the educational merit of different types of visual arts and crafts experiences offered to children. Qualitative case study research conducted with twelve Australian early childhood teachers and childcare educators found that low visual arts self-efficacy beliefs, fixed beliefs about children’s visual arts learning and development and limited pedagogical content knowledge directly affect the visual arts experiences offered to children. Additionally, the study revealed that pre-service coursework had done little to instil visuals art pedagogical content knowledge, nor disrupted the low visual art self-efficacy beliefs and fixed mindset of the research participants, resulting in largely ambiguous visual art pedagogy and unclear beliefs about how to engage children in meaningful mark making.  The conceptual framework developed to inform the research synthesised John Dewey’s philosophies of democracy, education and art with the philosophy and pedagogical values of the Reggio Emilia educational approach, commonly regarded as a world leader in early childhood and visual art pedagogy. This philosophical synthesis offers a context for deep reflection about early childhood visual arts choices and potentials. In particular, Dewey’s philosophy of consummatory experience and growth alongside Eisner’s discussions about visual art myths and null curricula provokes reflection about the types of visual art experiences offered in early childhood contexts. A continuum of visual art experiences, ranging from mis-educative to educative, will support conference delegates to consider which early childhood visual arts experiences best foster consummatory  and educative growth and which experiences may be considered potentially stagnant and mis-educative.

Session 3
Location: B306 Date: April 20, 2019 Time: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Gai Lindsay