Virtual Symposium 2021 – Topics

There’s an elephant* in the early childhood visual arts room: A virtual symposium to confront the big issues.

 

21st – 27th Feb 2021

In 2021, our conference is going virtual! Explore below.

About Topics Program Registration Contact

* metaphorical idiom for an important or enormous topic, problem that is obvious but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes some uncomfortable or is personally, socially, or politically embarrassing, controversial, inflammatory, or dangerous.


 

Topics around which the symposium is organised


Artists & Museums

Effective Pedagogies

Theoretical Frameworks

Art in curriculum

Research

Art & Culture


Artists & Museums

The creation of art work, artist’s processes and art museums have an aura of mystery about them. Sometimes art seems to be an exclusive enclave that is almost impenetrable. For many, artist, galleries and art museums are not familiar or something they know much about. Yet there is an incredible richness, joy and delight that interacting with artists, the art process and art museums can add to our life experiences.

Young children, who do not yet read or write, are dependent on art forms as a means of representing their ideas and thinking. However, not only is there little connection between children and artists, we also do not spend much time teaching our early childhood student teachers about the arts. We do not demonstrate the multiple ways we can represent information, ideas and imagination. Consequentially, early childhood teachers are reluctant to engage in the arts with young children and often have little to offer them.

When teachers do not have the essential skills to develop multiple ways of representing ideas, thinking, information and imagination with children then children are left with few ways to express themselves. How can we address this gap in children’s learning? How can we upskill teachers and embed arts in our teacher training?

In this strand we analyse arts experiences, identifying the fundamentals of the arts process, apply the ‘incomplete manifesto’ and look at working with art institutions and artists. We are aiming to support educators to guide participants in meaningful arts activities?

Back to top


Effective Pedagogies

While visual arts materials are regularly used in early childhood settings, it appears that many early childhood educators are unsure about how to define the features of effective visual arts pedagogy and how to effectively plan for children’s visual arts learning and engagement. Pedagogical confusion is evident as early years educators routinely debate questions such as: Is it enough to offer arts materials for exploration and experimentation?; Should adults stand back and allow the child’s natural skills to emerge, or does the role of the educator need to be more intentional?; Is it OK to gather ideas from Pinterest and social media posts?; What about stencils and colouring-in sheets?; Is the process more important than the product?; Should freedom and fun be the central goal?; Is mess making a pathway to development and creativity?; What does quality visual arts pedagogy actually look like?; How can we confidently integrate the visual arts into our curriculum?

The aim of this topic in this symposium is to engage with ideas and high-quality examples of visual arts practice and curriculum design from around the world. Presentations and online resources will provide information and inspirations to provoke and expand our thinking about:

  • utilizing the arts within projects of inquiry,
  • building a whole of team approach,
  • how to set up arts-centred environments,
  • the features of effective visual arts pedagogy.

Symposium participants will be inspired, challenged and equipped to critically evaluate their own pedagogy and practice and to consider new possibilities for their own contexts and to network with each other to extend our thinking and approach to visual arts pedagogies.

Back to top


Theoretical Frameworks

There seems to be a mismatch between the theoretical frameworks guiding practice in the visual arts and the more general framework for early childhood. While early childhood professionals have mostly shifted to teaching practices informed by contemporary social constructionist theories, the arts in early childhood often appear to be ‘stuck’ in outdated theoretical approaches.

Some approaches to visual arts pedagogy, perhaps located in myth and the absence of critical reflection, are not compatible with current sociocultural theories and pedagogical approaches. For example, according to Piaget and Lowenfeld the artistic development of young children unfolds naturally in an individualistic, developmental sequence. They proposed that ability in the arts was an innate gift or capacity that one had little control over. Such beliefs indicate a hands-off approach for teaching art that proposes the teacher should stand back and not interfere with children’s natural development in the arts domain. This response is not compatible with current practices of scaffolding, intentional teaching and active pedagogy; nor with practice exemplars that position children as agentic, capable learners.

Another dominant framework for the arts is the ‘Discipline Based’ perspective from the Modernist era. It involves an elemental viewing and analysis where, for example, paintings are analyzed according to qualities of shape, line and tone. Such traditional perspectives do not address how we might respond to contemporary artforms such as installation, video, ephemeral and performance art. A Discipline Based perspective does not acknowledge the intent of the child; nor does it support the child’s exploration and meaning -making through the arts.

Frameworks and beliefs that fuel a ‘hands-off/non-intervention approach to the arts with young children are not compatible with current socio-cultural practices. More worrying, the result of minimal adult/expert guidance and children’s minimal engagement in high quality visual arts pedagogy, is children’s decline in artistic efficacy around the age of eight; when many children give up the arts believing they do not have the talent for it. When this occurs, a child’s human right to appreciate, explore and make-meaning in and through the arts is denied.

The aim of this topic in this symposium is to discuss this problem and offer new contemporary theories for the arts inspired by Vygotsky, Dewey and a range of creativity theories.

Back to top


Art in Curriculum

Art, when used as a language of expression and communication, when documented and discussed, can act as a tool of reflection which facilitates the exchange of multiple perspectives of children, of ECEprofessionals, children’s families and the wider community.

When encountering and being in exchange with another’s thinking and through materiality, there is opportunity for contagion, tension, conflict, and possibility where ideas rise up, collide, fall, multiply, amplify and become entangled.

This place of exchange becomes a complex and generative space for creativity and the birth of new ideas that are constructed through seeing/hearing/feeling multiple descriptions and a plurality of perspectives.  Gregory Bateson spoke of how two descriptions are always better than one, helping us to reveal the complexity in any inherent context.

However, despite the complexity, children’s growth and education seems to be increasingly approached in a very reductionist, linear and/or fragmented way.  Being in exchange and by growing through art, new ways of thinking can emerge.

The ECE professional of the future, will need to observe, describe, document, interpret and reflect upon children’s creative thinking and action.  In recognizing the potential of young children’s One Hundred Languages (Loris Malaguzzi) future ECE professionals will require One Hundred Languages too.  These hundred languages can facilitate a socio-cultural awareness about their own personal narrative that is formed by experiences obtained throughout life. This enables future ECE professionals to connect to stories that are different from their own and to become increasingly aware of their own bias.

The aim of this topic, in this symposia, is to explore how art and creativity can be placed in relation to curriculum in ECE that explores the blurred boundaries of what makes I, I, and you, you and us, together where we can build acceptance, appreciation and value, through our diverse points of view?

We ask:

  • How can we build a greater awareness of children’s and adult’sperspectives, through a creative arts-based pedagogy and curriculum?
  • How can we make thinking and narratives of the group visible in contexts of mutual learning through the arts with materials?

How, in the formation of future ECE professionals can art be used to build sensitivity to bias, to increase the understanding of socio-cultural awareness and to generate new ways of seeing/thinking/being in a diverse and complex world?

Back to top


Research

There is an abundance of educational theory and research on the importance of creativity in child development. When children engage in meaningful visual arts experiences they can express their ideas thoughts and feelings.  This interconnectedness of mind, body and heart fosters holistic development.  Emergent brain research claims that high quality visual arts experiences during early childhood are crucial for the development of healthy, happy, capable and competent children. Creative activities and experiences which encourage positive relationships have a direct bearing on strengthening synapses, leading to positive attachments, high self-esteem and better mental health.

Early childhood educational research is an evolving field and one which can positively impact theory, international policy and practice.  Emerging research topics and methodologies bring fresh lenses through which we can see the possibilities for early childhood and  extend our understanding of young children and the visual arts.  There is an increased acknowledgement that high quality, rigorous research assists in informing creative policy and practice across the international early childhood spectrum. It is through the development, evaluation and dissemination of theory, that those working with and on behalf of children are better placed to advocate for the importance of rich meaning-making, through authentic visual arts activity.  The perennial conundrum of how to address the disconnect between theory and practice is the topic of much debate among researchers, academics, policy makers and practitioners.

This symposium offers participants the opportunity to partake in an event which provides first-hand accounts of international research on a variety of topics. Presentations will highlight the socio cultural contexts of visual arts research  and acknowledge the wide range of cultural and social contexts that influence young children’s art making and educators approaches.  Hopefully, the symposium will stimulate novice researchers to add their voices to the ever-evolving discourse.

Back to top


Art & Culture

Many countries in the world are experiencing increasing immigration and resettlement by peoples from around the globe. It is very likely that during the course of their teaching careers early childhood practitioners will work with children and families who come from different ethnic backgrounds to themselves and who bring with them the different experiences, customs and values embedded in their particular cultures. Increasingly, early childhood practitioners are asked to address in their programmes issues that relate to the rights of indigenous and first nation’s peoples as well as multi-cultural issues in education.

Visual art can be an important vehicle for assisting children and their families to interact and engage with these issues. Through visual arts education, children can develop an increased sense of their own cultural identity as well as developing an understanding of other people’s cultures. Increased recognition of the culturally transmitted symbols through the visual arts is an important aspect of learning in this domain. “Cultural voices that may previously have been unheard can navigate their way through the curriculum” via the arts (Fuemana-Foa’I; Pohio & Terreni, 2009, p.31), and traditional art practices can take their rightful place in early childhood education programmes.

This strand provides opportunities for teachers to see examples of how the visual arts have successfully been used to increase cultural awareness and understanding in authentic and meaningful ways.

Back to top