Kathryn Coleman

When the going gets tough artists & arts educators get going with innovative ways of connecting and learning

As 2020 lurches through multiple uncertainties the Australian arts community, already feeling the effects from budget cuts and a stripped back Australia Council funding round, discovered many members do not have  access to the Government’s stimulus measures. Australian artists and arts workers united early in April for a day of action under the hashtag #CreateAustraliasFuture to remind us all how much the arts matter in our lives, especially during a time of social isolation.

There is no doubt the arts community is in a tough place at the moment.  But despite the gloomy outlook, we are seeing artists and arts educators, survive, adapt and some ways even thrive in this time of change. Arts educators in universities and schools are working in different ways with students, rethinking practice, and redesigning how the studio works in an online COVID-19 world.  

How the arts community is helping us as we isolate

In this time of social distancing and self-isolation, the arts are helping us connect. For example the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other performing artists are working online to  #KeepTheMusicGoing, the Australian Ballet launched the ‘At home with ballet tv’  and numerous Australian musicians raised money for a non-profit organisation by playing free in the Isol-aid  online festival. Visual Arts organisations such as the National Gallery of Victoria has launched online drawing classes so you can get quaran-crafty. UNESCO organizations such as the International Society for Education Through Art  (InSEA) have initiated ways to keep us connected when we are forced apart physically through drawing via #inseadrawcloser

These are just some of the ways the arts community in Australia are still connecting with us.

The benefits of arts education in schools 

We probably don’t need to remind you of the abundance of evidence that exists about the impact and benefits (both instrumental and intrinsic) of the arts and arts-rich learning environments both inside school sites and more broadly in and amongst broader communities.  

In schools the benefits of the arts  include increasing young people’s self-esteem and engagement in learning at school, improving learning outcomes in other areas of the curriculum, and through assisting young people with social behaviour and their connection with others.  In the broader community the arts have been harnessed  to enhance notions of wellbeing including personal health, personal development, social support, social inclusion, social capital, urban renewal or neighbourhood regeneration, tolerance, as well cross cultural connections, creativity and economic development. 

With greater emphasis placed on the instrumental benefits of the arts, others have argued that vital components and two essential aspects related to the intrinsic worth of the arts are being overlooked.  First, individuals participate in the arts for pleasure, stimulation, and meaning, not necessarily for the purpose of better test scores or to stimulate the economy; intrinsic benefits are the starting point for all other types of benefit.  Second, intrinsic benefits are not strictly private and can contribute to the public domain. 

In creating these successful rich learning ‘in’, ‘with’ and ‘through’ the arts experiences in many instances artists or arts educators take on key roles to enable these public and private benefits to occur.   Arts educators in higher education settings are applying the dynamic skills and dispositions they have developed over time to innovatively respond, step up and lead in a range of ways.  

Stepping up to lead

Our educator colleagues are leading change in a number of social media spaces such as on Facebook pages, with Twitter handles and creating Instagram posts These sites are being used to share a range of collaborative resources for arts educators across the country and globe.  

Many members of the Australian Association for Research In Education Arts special interest  group, the  AARE Art Education Research Practice (AEPR) SIG, are engaged in leading, supporting and shaping the communities in which they are involved.  

Some examples of the work we are doing

Margaret Baguley from the University of Southern Queensland, Kathryn Coleman from the University of Melbourne, and Abbey McDonald from the University of Tasmania have developed a digital learning and teaching space to support collaboration and help with resourcing schools and Visual Arts educators across the country. This evolving Google doc has over 40 curated resources and growing. 

Also Narelle Lemon from Swinburne University has used her arts educator background to develop the series of podcasts, Welcome to ‘Teachers supporting teachers’, which provide insights into being and becoming a teacher at this current strange time.  Sue Davis from Central Queensland University, has also stepped up and produced a living digital resource Arts Education Challenges for schools to use.  

The work of Helen Cahill, from the University of Melbourne, and colleagues from the Youth Research Centre earlier this year developed Research-informed approaches to supporting student wellbeing post-disaster, a valuable resource for educators, when the focus was on bushfire recovery.  This generous resource includes a range of arts –based strategies that are also germane to the COVID-19 world we are living in.  

Our multi-modal response

We know from this small sample of digital work and leadership in arts education and from our connections, that sophisticated and conceptual teaching and learning is abundant in Australian arts education.

Over the years our AARE Special Interest Group colleagues have shared their leadership, innovation and entrepreneurial strategies for advocating and activating arts education in their institutions. Many have been online in some way for a decade or so.

What we have witnessed during this time of social isolation is that the attributes and capabilities we know underpin arts education, our arts educators hold and lead with in their sites of learning. We have witnessed this over the few months through bushfire recovery and now with the online teaching that is happening – the ability to be open minded, empathetic, innovative, problem solve and articulate complex reasoning skills in multi-modal sites and spaces are the cross cutting, transferable capabilities of the arts.  The online space is just another site to conquer – an attitude that Lexi Lasczik and Peter Cook, from Southern Cross University, have shared over the years.   

In this post we wanted to showcase how, when the going gets tough, arts educators get going.  We know that the generative and collaborative spirit of arts educators sharing their resources will continue. We hope you see this as a call to action to share your own shifts in practice and to lead in times of change

Please visit our AEPR SIG Facebook page to check out other resources we are sharing.

Kathryn Coleman is a senior lecturer in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. She is an artist, researcher and former teacher. She is the Australasian representative on the Board of Directors of Association of Authentic, Experiential and Evidence Based Learning (AAEEBL) and World Council Representative for the South-East Asia Pacific Region for the International Society for Education though Art (InSEA). Kathryn is on Twitter @kateycoleman

Mark Selkrig is an Associate Professor in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. He works in the fields of teacher education and creativities and the arts. His research and scholarly work focus on the changing nature of educators’ work, their identities, lived experiences and how they navigate the ecologies of their respective learning environments. Mark is on Twitter @markselkrig

Video-based educational research: Remembering David Clarke

Video has been used as a method for researching teaching and learning for decades. It offers significant and creative ways of seeing, hearing, capturing, collecting and curating the processes of teaching and learning in classrooms. As digital technologies and data production have evolved so has the way this mode of research is used by educational researchers and teachers. 

An international leader in video-based research methodology was Professor David Clarke from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. His innovative approaches have benefited and influenced many researchers and teachers from around the world. 

The education community is particularly saddened by the recent passing of Professor Clarke. This post is dedicated to honouring David and his remarkable work with video-based research and its continuing and expanding importance in classroom education in Australia and around the world. 

Using video-based research with evidence-based practice methodologies is common in teaching methods courses today. These methods provide opportunities for educational researchers to capture the human, non-human and more-than-human relations in multiple sites and spaces and to use the data collected to understand and improve what happens in our classrooms. It captures the goings-on in a classroom during teaching and learning activities, including, but not limited to, what the teacher and students are doing, how they interact and respond, what they say and how effectively they carry out their tasks. The methodology of video-based research continually shifts as collection of high-end data intensifies in our digital world.  

To help collect, store and analyse data (particularly video data) relating to the study of learning and teaching in classrooms the International Centre for Classroom Research was established in affiliation with the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) at the University of Melbourne in 2003. Professor Clarke took a leading role in establishing this centre. Its flagship project, The Learner’s Perspective Study (LPS), examined teaching and learning classroom practices of competent mathematics teachers from sixteen countries. By 2019, the ICCR was coordinating the research activities of over 50 researchers internationally and had formed partnerships with researchers in 20 countries. Today the ICCR houses one of the largest collections of classroom data ever accumulated.  

Locally, research projects have involved academic staff from both the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) and other Australian universities (Monash, Deakin, Edith Cowan, the Australian Catholic University, and the University of Queensland) and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). The ICCR has also been the site of significant technical innovation including the adaptation of video analysis tool, Studiocode, for use in social science research. This software was in widespread international use and represented the benchmark for video analysis for many years. 

Led by Professor Clarke, the ICCR team designed and now manage an internationally unique, state-of-the-art digital research facility. This digital research platform is unique in its design and collaborative production and analysis of complex digital classroom data.  
 
The ICCR research platform is a member of The Science of Learning Research Centre and partner of The Social & Cultural Informatics Platform (SCIP) and includes a research control room that serves as a digital hub in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, connecting to the UNESCO Observatory of Arts Education, studioFive through 16 channels of video and 32 channels of audio.

David and the ICCR have been at the centre of several extensive international research communities. The longevity of these research communities has been remarkable; the LPS has been an active research community across 16 countries for over a period of more than 20 years. More recent research communities, such as the one associated with the International Classroom Lexicon Project, are similarly internationally diverse, bringing major international researchers to the University of Melbourne to collaborate and interact with the local community.  

A research volume, Teachers talking about their classrooms: Learning from the professional lexicons of mathematics teachers around the world, is in preparation. It documents the professional vocabulary of teachers in ten communities worldwide when talking about the phenomena of the middle school mathematics classroom.  

David leaves a legacy in multiple forms: a remarkable body of research, wide and multi-disciplinary international networks, innovative digital research programs and methodological and technological expertise in video-based educational research. It includes a team of researchers that continue with his work in multi and cross-disciplinary teams including participatory video, use of pre-existing digital video, video elicitation, video observation and video-based field work that has provided educational researchers with share-able, multi-modal, workable and real time digital data.  

Professor David Clarke was much loved and admired and was particularly fond of the Australian educational research community. His passing is a sad moment for all, but we are richer for having known David and his work. 

Kathryn Coleman PhD  is a  senior lecturer in Visual Arts and Design Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Kathryn is Co-Director at the UNESCO Observatory of Arts Education, Melbourne Graduate School of Education HASS Digital Champion and is Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratory World Councillor for InSEA. Her work focuses on the integration of digital pedagogies and digital portfolios for sustained creative practice and assessment. 

Carmel Mesiti is Centre Coordinator of the International Centre for Classroom Research (ICCR) at the University of Melbourne. She has been involved in Education for over 20 years. Carmel is project manager of the International Classroom Lexicon Project and a research member of the Australian team. Her research interests have included lesson structure, lesson beginnings, mathematical tasks and more recently, as part of her doctoral work, the nature of differences in the pedagogical lexicons of education communities internationally. Carmel began her career in government schools as a secondary school mathematics teacher and held leadership positions including year level coordinator and mathematics faculty coordinator. 

A memorial service for David Clarke will be held Friday February 21st at the Basement Theatre, Melbourne School of Design (Glyn Davis Building), The University of Melbourne, Parkville. 

The image on this post is Professor David Clarke in the Science of Learning Research Classroom. Image is by Marcel Aucar.