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National Art Education Association

Guest Editorial: Arts-Based Educational Research Then, Now, and Later Author(s): Tom Barone Source: Studies in Art Education, Vol. 48, No. 1, Arts-Based Research in Art Education (Fall, 2006), pp. 4-8 Published by: National Art Education Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/03/2014 04:42
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2006 by the Copyright Association NationalArtEducation

Studiesin Art Education A Journal of Issues andResearch 2006, 48(1), 4-8

Arts-Based and Later
Tom Barone



Then, Now,

Arizona State University

Correspondence concerning thisguest editorialmay be sent to the author at

As a doctoral student at Stanford in the 1970s, Iwas fortunate to be able to observe up close the beginnings of a radically new approach to the study of matters educational. This was the period in the career of my advisor and mentor, Professor Elliot Eisner, during which he was imagining a place for the artswithin the fields of educational research
and evaluation.

Of course, within these olden, if not golden, days of educational research orthodoxy, any questioning of social science as the exclusive was widely as heretical. Never regarded methodological wellspring theless, no doubt encouraged by certain developments in the larger intellectual counterculture, Eisner managed to disrupt the prevailing monolithic mindset, successfully challenging the taken-for-granted notion that the scientificmethod provided the only useful avenue for enhancing educational policy and practice. Over time,Eisner has been joined inhis effortsby increasing numbers Of course, the legiti of converts and disciples, including yours truly.
macy of non-scientific

contested, with the nostalgic notion of a "gold standard" having been at recently resurrected in the United States through policy initiatives the level of the federal government. Nevertheless, it is primarily due to the groundbreaking work of Eisner that today s traditional methodolo more difficult to dismiss those of us who gists in the academy find it look to the arts for both a process of researching educational phenom ena and a means for disclosing what we find. A presence within the educational research community has indeed conference sessions, journal articles and been established?through
books, tutes, theses special and dissertations, groups, interest university electronic courses, listservs, workshops websites, issues and insti encyclope






dia and handbook

suggests rationales

entries, newsletters, and so on. The

for, and addresses pertinent

literature that
related to, arts

based research has burgeoned. An untold number of examples of arts based research have found theirway into print, and others have been at scholarlymeetings and conferences. Entire read/displayed/performed to the topic. And its thoughtful and been devoted issues have journal

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and Later

provocative contents make this issue of Studies inArt Education among themost notable of them. Enclosed are essays by several important scholars who are currently working within (what isby now) the tradition of arts-based educational research.The firstof these isEisner himself, offering a brief, up-to-date
commentary Five other on the status move essayists and possible to describe, future endorse, of arts-based reinscribe, research. challenge,

and extend some of the premises and practices that have come to be associated with this approach. Indeed, these articles suggest a rich harvest from a methodologi cal field first claimed, cultivated, and planted by Eisner so many decades ago. They reveal nothing less than a bumper crop of theoreti cal notions regarding arts-based inquiry and of actualizations of the approach in specific projects. While acknowledging Eisner's early spadework, these authors suggest expansions of the original boundaries
of arts-based research, and even alterations?some

its identity. Indeed, a motif of sorts can be found in pronounced?of the (sometimes tacit) homage paid by one author after another to the
legacy nate of Eisnerian-style arts-based research, even as they suggest alter research, labels?aesthetically-based as research?for arts what practice a/r/tography, seem to be, arts-inspired in most cases,




newly designated species within an established genus. Indeed, each of the approaches described and exemplified here as an important addition to the earlier contribu distinguishes itself tions of Eisner and other arts-based research pioneers. The ideaswithin the essay by Liora Bresler are perhaps most strongly reminiscent of that earlier literature.Entitled "Toward Connectedness: Aesthetically Based
Research," her contribution is a reinforcement of connections (or a


recognition of the "softness" of the boundaries) between the artistic experience and the long-established traditions of qualitative research in
the human While studies. early arts-based researchers were often eager to distinguish

their methodological turffrom that of the social scientists, they also, in an era of genre blurring, occasionally explored the links between, and the border crossings within, the work of social scientists and artists. Mining in this vein, Bresler suggests what qualitative researchers can learn from an engagement with the arts?a set of habits of mind that includes an aesthetically based capacity for empathic understanding. In a new spin on venerable ideas first Bresler so, puts doing explored by the likes of Wilhelm Dilthey and Max Weber. While Bresler is herself a music educator, her avid interest in the nature and history of qualitative research reflects that of her mentor, Elliot Eisner. Recall that Eisner himself (if not Bresler) was and is as


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much a curricularist as an arts educator. So were many of his doctoral students in curriculum studieswhose theses and subsequent work in the last quarter of the 20th century evidenced a kind of survival instinct. Deeply convinced of the potential of arts-based inquiry as a form of non scientificqualitative research for reducing the distance between school based activity and genuine education, but also desiring viable academic careers, some of us hankered for acceptance of our work within the prevailing educational research establishment. Our twofold strategyfor gaining legitimacy for arts-based research also bore the stamp of Eisner. we younger scholars aimed to argue and explain our Following his lead, way into the research citadel, while occasionally offering examples of
what itwas we were

an incremental an examination of our efforts reveals ways; approach as observers to the have of a revolutionary idea. For example, selling were research in those decades of arts-based noted, proponents early

That strategyhas indeed led to the presence just mentioned. Arts based research has established roots, spread wide, and grown tall.The initial vision of Elliot Eisner has, inmany ways, indeed come to pass. Still, in those days, our quest for legitimacy also constrained us in several



infatuatedwith the literaryarts.Consider thatEisner's initial focus was, after all, on the possibilities of transporting the notion of word-based art criticism into the field of education. And even his later prominent as a dissertation (especially the famous AERA advocacy for the novel debates with Howard Gardner) involved the literaryarts. But this initial emphasis on linguistically based art serves to camou in a conversation in I flage something important that first confronted
Eisner's own office on one autumn Palo dissertation-in-progress as an arts-based tic nonfiction that on my Reflecting of forms literary journalis explored for disclos and means research process Alto afternoon.

ing findings, I (a vulnerable doctoral student) expressed apprehension about the (for 1978) avant garde nature of the topic. But my worries vision Eisner shone on them: quickly paled in the light of the grander what will be truly revolutionary, he replied,will be the firstdissertation in education that takes the form of a symphony, or an exhibition of
sculptures, But that or a theatrical personal production. communication represents than merely one piece

of evidence of Eisner's

early hopes

for a range of art forms to be

rather sooner?by arts-based

researchers. Eisner was not reticent to speak publicly and to write about this robustly pluralistic conception regarding the spectrum of modalities appropriate for use in arts-based inquiries and disclosures. And glimmers of that inclusiveness are evident in this very issue, in his reiterated endorsement of video, film, and web-mediated forms of arts
based research.


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essays in this issue suggest the possibility that Eisner's bold

have been, over time, realized, and maybe even surpassed.

Read, for example, about Kristin Congdon's intriguing "" as community project that ostensibly involvesdigitalmedia, but that, the

the following technologies and more: film, painting, sculpture, photog

raphy, performance art, creative writing, animation, graphic design.






of the various




And in his ambitious article, "Performing Arts-based Education Research: An Epic Drama of Practice, Precursors, Problems and Possi bilities," James Sanders reviews and discusses (among other things) arts-based research as enacted by late 20th- and early 21st-century academicians in education and related fields. Sanders' cataloguing is extensive indeed, and theminds of readerswho have not been closely to themore recent state of play may boggle at the breadth of attending the field nowadays.
More recent moves to transmute the Sanders of controversially, identity on Eisnerian from that of scholars arts-based researchers standing

shoulders to the "prolific progeny of past performance [artists]" (p. 11). This identity shiftfrom arts-based inquiry as qualitative research toward the practice of artmay indeed represent a future vision for arts-based
researchers, cles," of though, and "possibilities," on and the constraints to academia, even in especially "potentialities," ponders for arts-based desirable openings as well as the broader context of perceptive Sanders sections on "obsta the nature researchers reactionary includ we

in relation governmental The More

policy. latter concern our



of course, from other

to those

of us,

ing Sanders, who are situated geographically within theUnited States.

than arts-based colleagues countries, may

nowadays feel a need to guard against setbacks in our still ongoing quest for full methodological citizenship that arises out of regressive
social policy and academic corporatism. the non-U.S. origins as a form of qualitative of the new social emphasis research and This away may, from arts-based indeed, explain inquiry

of other future

toward its commonalities with art practice and teaching. Is it possible that the Canadian-hatched moves towards a/r/tographyby Rita Irwin and her colleagues inBritish Columbia [see amarvelous example of one such project herein], or the image-based and arts-inspired approaches
Canadian scholars, that plague suggest many a freedom from the worries over restrictions researchers

political climate? In his essay entitled "Research Acts inArt Practice," Graeme Sullivan's plea is, similarly, for an explicit recognition of artmaking as a site for research. Some readers may read his brief for approaches to visual
arts research that are credible "within the academy and within the art






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world" but that are not "enslaved... [by] existing frameworks" (p. 11), as dismissing as constricted those forms of arts-based research (as, for example, narrative storytelling) that are supposedly more "determined by conditions and protocols framed by the social sciences (p. 10)." Sullivan's article may indeed be seen by some as more exclusionary than others in this set. (Ironically, Sullivan suggests analogous exclusion ary tendencies within other unidentified arts-based research advocates and practitioners. These include unnamed folks who are supposedly as "skeptical that non-linguistic forms of artistic engagement such
performance, time-based

and defended as researchmodalities"









[p. 10].) But I prefer to read Sullivan's essay as a persuasive explication of an additional, rather than singularly appropriate, approach to thinking about educational research that employs inquiry and design elements associated with any form of art. I see it as a wise shift in emphasis concerns of academic exclusion, an orientation with (as reflecting Sullivan notes) historical roots in a need to legitimate, in the United
and Kingdom real researchers. elsewhere, university-based artists and art educators as

decades based

this way, it can be viewed as enhancing what has over the

been earned the arduous through in various of various stripes efforts of so many arts places. Then, for me, the


power of Sullivan's contribution matches those of the other authors in this splendid edition of Studies inArt Education, all of whom seem
intent upon a remarkable securing past. a productive future for a research approach with

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