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ETA 12 (3) pp.

241–255 Intellect Limited 2016

International Journal of Education through Art


Volume 12 Number 3
© 2016 Intellect Ltd Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/eta.12.3.241_1

MARIA LETSIOU
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Art as research: Defending


the significance of art
practice in high school

ABSTRACT KEYWORDS
Recent reconsideration of education policies in Greece to include experiential learn- experiential learning
ing in the high school curriculum signals a positive transformation of education. It is art-as-research
obvious that art as a school subject can benefit from this reconsideration. I hypoth- high school
esize that experiential learning can be a proper context in which to teach art through contemporary art
the concept of art as research. To support this thesis, I draw on my involvement
as art teacher in two experiential research courses during the 2014–2015 academic
year. The first course is being taught in two eighth-grade, junior-high classes and
the second in a tenth-grade, senior-high class. Given that the two courses are not
yet completed, I will herein describe some of my decisions so far in constructing
students’ research journeys.
Η πρόσφατη αναθεώρηση της εκπαιδευτικής πολιτικής στην Ελλάδα Εμπειρική μάθηση
σχετικά με την διεύρυνση του διδακτικού προγράμματος με μαθήματα Η τέχνη ως έρευνα
εμπειρικής ερευνητικής μάθησης στο Γυμνάσιο και στο Γενικό Λύκειο Δευτεροβάθμιο
σηματοδοτεί την θετική αλλαγή της εκπαίδευσης. Είναι φανερό ότι  σχολείο
η σημασία της θέσης του μαθήματος της τέχνης στα σχολεία μπορεί Σύγχρονη τέχνη
να βελτιωθεί από αυτή την αναθεώρηση. Τοποθετώ μια υπόθεση
ότι η ερευνητική μάθηση μπορεί να είναι το κατάλληλο πλαίσιο για
την πραγματοποίηση μιας διδασκαλίας με επίκεντρο την έννοια
της τέχνης ως έρευνα. Βασίζομαι στην εμπειρία μου διδάσκοντας

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Maria Letsiou

δύο προγράμματα ερευνητικής μάθησης κατά την διάρκεια του


ακαδημαϊκού έτους 2014–2015. Παίρνοντας υπόψη ότι τα δύο
προγράμματα δεν έχουν τελειώσει ακόμα, θα περιγράψω κάποιες από
τις αποφάσεις μου στην διαμόρφωση του ερευνητικού ταξιδιού των
μαθητών. Το πρώτο πρόγραμμα απευθύνεται σε δύο τάξεις μαθητών
Γυμνασίου και το δεύτερο σε μία τάξη μαθητών Γενικού Λυκείου.
Σε αυτό το άρθρο περιγράφω κάποιες από τις δυνατότητες που μας
παρέχει στην διδασκαλία η έννοια της τέχνης ως έρευνα.

INTRODUCTION
The concept of art practice as research holds the promise of comprehen-
sion and construction of knowledge through discrete but related processes
and methods, as happens when research skills coexist with creativity and
imagination. This concept assumes that the nature of art practice is inher-
ently educative, leading to the question: how does the role of an art teacher
catalyse learning outcomes of students involved in formal education? Art
education has been widely accepted as playing a crucial role in children’s
growth because of its affective as well as cognitive nature (Efland 2002;
Freedman 2003). The concept of art practice as research is a recent actualiza-
tion of this tenet. Curriculum implementation of art practice as research aligns
with contemporary art processes, and, concurrently, it leaves behind outdated
modernist teaching approaches. It has been argued that the art practice as
research teaching approach embodies a new and very powerful paradigm in
art education (Marshall and D’Adamo 2011; Rolling 2010). As Marshall argues,
learning permeates all aspects of students’ lives and makes them realize that
the nature of knowledge is constructed through their participation (2011).
Moreover, art practice as research has been proposed as a powerful tool for
advocating the inclusion of art practice in curricula (Marshall 2007). Because
of the significance of visuality in this practice, it is important to understand
how knowledge and reality are constructed and interpreted through the
creation and critique of images. Therefore, the research data/creative products
incorporate the emergence of creative ideas.
Since 2011, a new curriculum has been instituted in Greek public high
schools, one that includes new lessons based on experiential research learn-
ing. This educational reform in Greece signifies a positive transformation of
schools founded under the teaching philosophy of active learning. Students
are becoming the centre of the learning process via use of their personal expe-
riences and their increased involvement in decision-making. Thus, students
have increased responsibilities with regard to their learning. Due to these new
educational reforms, teachers from several disciplines, including art, music,
theatre, language and technology, have taught these courses. The new lessons
are called ‘projects’, and research learning includes a wide variety of topics.
The objective is for students to investigate a topic via active participation and
gradually increase their initiative. Students usually work in small groups, and
thus, the learning experience is based on collective research work. Therefore,
collaboration, creativity and research learning coexist in this new school
curriculum.
Based on my experience as an art teacher of two courses using experien-
tial research learning during the 2014–2015 academic year, I will discuss how
my role interacts with and influences this type of learning. I use three tools

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Art as research

peculiar to art education: (1) the production of images and objects, (2) the
use of images as sources of information and knowledge, (3) an approach to
research that uses the metaphor of research process as art. I will analyse
the potential of this teaching approach by examining my initial experiences
in constructing students’ research journeys and lessons. In addition, I will
analyse some issues in my decision-making about involving students in a
unique art and learning experience.

A REVIEW OF ART PRACTICE AS RESEARCH


The concept of art practice as research includes practices embodied in several
modes of experience, object production and end conclusions (Gray and
Malins 2004; Macleod and Holdridge 2005; Sullivan 2005, 2006). Art practice
is defined as knowledge construction and research process. As Sullivan
argues, these practices can improve human understanding of various matters
(2005, 2006). These endeavours have been actualized in the art world since
1960, using diverse processes and methods. The objectives usually reflect the
concerns and challenges to the fundamental concept of art practice, such as
the roles of the artist, the production and the audience. Of course, art has
been considered a mode of research in several previous periods, including
modernism. In particular, the modernistic concept of art as research focuses
on formal elements and how proper arrangement of them supports self-
expression and the spiritual substance inherent in the art form. In this context,
artists have usually worked without disputing the basic characteristics of art
practice, such as media and genre. As a consequence, the ordinary classifica-
tion of genres, such as painting, sculpture and engraving, prevail. In contrast,
the shift of attention to the nature of art objects and their potential appear-
ance, the so-called ‘ready-mades’, challenges the limits of what comprises
art practice and the previous classification of art media. The ‘ready-mades’
are assimilated, everyday practices and industrialized objects that have been
introduced in the art museum context. With them, the research focus is the
philosophical consideration of art practice. For instance, Duchamp’s Fountain
and Warhol’s Brillo Boxes pose questions about what art is when no visual
elements are used to describe it as such (Danto [1981] 2000, 1992). The end
product of art infuses the practical and theoretical aspects of work. When
a fusion of practice and theory occurs, a particular view of art practice as
research emerges. According to Macleod and Holdridge (2005), this funda-
mental process challenges the old division between theory and practice.
A series of practices and initiatives have been implemented that have
benefitted from the conceptual possibilities opened up by the art-as-research
tenet. These have challenged issues related with the contextual conditions
of art practices, such as spaces (e.g. galleries and museums) and the public’s
involvement. The research has thus been actualized through transforming the
conditions under which works of art are presented and conceived. For instance,
Daniel Pflum’s relational art practices, in which society is used as a catalogue
of forms, have scrutinized the aesthetic life of certain multinational logos
(Bourriaud 2002). In other examples, such as Paul Ramirez-Jonas’s work ‘Key
to the City’ (2010), a simple gesture is used to engage the public in a unique
urban exploration (Helguera 2011). The artists’ identities have been incorpo-
rated into the roles of participants and observers in communities (Desai 2002).
By extension, more hybrid art practices currently demonstrate the power
of art to discover and uncover an unknown view of material culture and life

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Maria Letsiou

itself. Art practice has become capable of constructing novel knowledge and
simultaneously criticizing how science functions in society. For instance, the
work of Ballengée is the product of a research procedure on frogs malformed
as a result of environmental pollution (Wilson 2012). Such methods are
beginning to be legalized, and an increasing number of practitioners are
interested in these processes. In addition, a more interdisciplinary research
approach is actualized when practitioners of other scientific fields use art
methods in their enquiry. For instance, art practice has been used in disci-
plines such as sociology and education. For example, in education, art forms
have been used as the basis of educational research (Sullivan 2006) called art-
based research and based on the tenet that our understanding of schooling
is improved by insights derived from art practice (Sullivan 2006: 21). Thus,
qualitative research has widened the scope and possibilities of art as research.
In sociology, an example is Leavy’s work (2008), in which it is proposed that
art-based research practices reveal information and represent experiences that
traditional methods cannot.
The above review of art practice as research illustrates how art practice
as self-expression gradually is being replaced by the concept of art practice
as research, which reveals the relationship between intellect and art through
integrating them.

ART PRACTICE IN EDUCATION


Currently, art as a school subject is considered problematic worldwide,
especially in countries such as Greece, where the economic crisis threatens
the future inclusion of art in the school curriculum. Throughout the twen-
tieth century, art education research offered theoretical tools to support the
benefits of art learning to children’s growth. However, concerns regarding
the function of school as a conformist system have prevented total realization
of art practice as a valid subject in the curriculum (Bourdieu and Passeron
1990). Furthermore, because schools offer fragmentary knowledge, the posi-
tive affection of art learning in young people is low. It is obvious that the
position of art in the curriculum long has suffered from marginalization.
Marginalization is the topic of many philosophical arguments in western
civilization. Many scholars have studied the division between the senses and
logic and how this division has determined the position of art in education
(Addison 2003; Arnheim 1969; Efland 2002; Freedman 2003). Although this
division is responsible for many inadequacies in contemporary society, visual
perception still is considered inferior to cognition.
Several recently developed art-teaching approaches aim to bolster the
tenuous position that art holds in curricula. One of these approaches is the
visual culture educational paradigm, which supports the thesis that images
have an equal or even superior position in learning in contemporary society
(Freedman 2003). It argues that images are texts, specifically, visual texts.
Thus, images from a wide area of culture, and not only high culture, have
been introduced in the art classroom. Critical consideration is based more on
pop culture because that is more familiar to students from everyday social
interaction. This is a perfect response to the recent identity crisis of art in
schools, which results from contemporary social conditions. Another teach-
ing approach, intercultural education, aims to include art content from diverse
social, ethnic and racial groups. Both visual culture education and multicul-
tural art education are interdisciplinary because they investigate how the fine

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Art as research

arts overlap with other school subjects (Freedman 2003). Moreover, the curric-
ula proposed by these two approaches assimilate a heuristic mode of learning,
because what students experience in contemporary social life is considered
important.
This interdisciplinary nature of learning also is apparent in the art as
research teaching paradigm (Marshall 2007). Interdisciplinary nature is
expressed through focusing on issues and topics that involve ideas with
potential for conceptual connections both inside and outside of art practice.
As a consequence, Marshall argues (2007) that art as research in art education
requires an enquiry-based teaching approach, which emphasizes experiential
research learning. Addison and Burgess (2010) discuss the construct theory,
according to which experiential learning is an activity wherein action and
reflection coexist and are interdependent and interactive. They explain that
common activities used in art lessons do not involve active learning. This
means that ready-to-use formulae are not suitable for experiential research
learning. On the contrary, students must gradually assume decision-making
capabilities about their learning. In this context, the roles of participants,
both teachers and students, must shift in accordance with Freire’s idea of
the ideal relationship between them needed for students to build critical
consciousness (1972).
Under art practice as research learning tenets, images play a significant
role not only in reconsidering students’ identity formation and attitudes
through image-making, but also in constructing knowledge through image
formation as research products. Dewey’s pragmatist aesthetic emerged
from his arguments about reconstructing the traditional opposition between
science and art. He argues that science is art because an inherent aesthetic
quality exists in science and that art is science because art helps people
counter their experiences (1934). The strict division of artistic and scientific
thought restricts creativity and fragments individuals’ experiences and social
lives (Shusterman 2000).
Unfortunately, the teaching practices applied in Greek high schools do not
follow the significant tenets of art practice in education. Reasons include not
only teachers’ unwillingness to improve their curricular decisions and content,
but also the current conditions in Greek schools, which afford only one hour
per week for art. In addition, classes have too many students, making activity-
based teaching seem the only feasible approach. At first it was thought
that the new guidelines on experiential research learning in schools would
allow realization of the principles of art practice as research. The experien-
tial research mode of learning aligns with the conditions necessary to learn
through art practice as research. The art teacher has become empowered to
contribute to students’ knowledge construction through imaginative, crea-
tive projects in research learning. This signals a gradual transformation in the
role of art in schools, the result of which will be a change in attitude towards
experiential research learning opportunities.

THE REVISED GREEK HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM


A revision of the Greek high school curriculum was begun for senior high
schools in 2011 and in 2013 for junior high schools (Tables 1 and 2). This
curriculum has slight differences from the previous one. Careful analysis of
the curriculum indicates that it both supports and marginalizes the benefits
of art education. In particular, the new junior high school curriculum includes

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Maria Letsiou

Teaching/ School subject 1st-year 2nd-year 3rd-year


Learning class hours class hours class hours
field

Greek Contemporary Greek Language 2 2 2


Language Language and Literature Literature 2 2 2
and Literature Ancient Greek Language Language 3 3 3
Literature 2 2 2
Mathematics Mathematics 4 4 4
Natural Physics 1 2 2
Science Chemistry 0 1 1
Biology 2 1 1
Geography 2 2 0
Humanities History 2 2 2
Civics 0 0 2
Religious Education 2 2 2
Foreign English 2 2 2
languages 2nd foreign language (French or German) 2 2 2
Technology Technology 1 1 1
and Information Technology 1 1 1
Computer
Science
Culture and Music 1 1 1
activities Visual art 1 1 1
Athletic life Gymnastics 2 2 2
Home Home economy 2 1 0
economy
Experiential Local history 1 1 2
actions Sustainable development education
creative works University studies and career opportunities
project
Nature and gymnastics
Culture and art activities
Social life in school
Total hours 35 35 35

Table 1: Junior high school curriculum.

a new subject called ‘Culture and Activities’, which includes visual art, music
and theatre education. The subject is included in the learning field called
‘Experiential Actions Creative Works Projects’. Other subjects in this learn-
ing field include local history, sustainable development education, nature and
gymnastics and social life in school.
Although the definition of Aesthetic Education is outmoded, Culture
and Activities does not seem to be a better definition. It is widely accepted
that Aesthetic Education mainly was used in art education discourse
during the 1960s (Salla 2008). More recently, the term has been replaced

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School subjects 1st years hours

Greek Language Ancient Greek and 5 9


Literature
Modern Greek 2
Language
Literature 2
Mathematics Algebra 3 5
Geometry 2
Natural Sciences Physics 2 6
Chemistry 2
Biology 2
History 2
Politics Education (Economics, 3
Politics and Law, Sociology)
Religion 2
Research work (no exams 2
required)
Foreign language (English, 2
French or German)
Gymnastics (no exams required) 2
Chosen lesson Computer Science 2
Geology and Natural
Resources
Greek and European
Culture
Art Education
Total hours 35

Table 2: Senior high school curriculum, first year.

by the concept of Discipline-based Arts Education (DBAE). On one hand,


the presence of the term ‘culture’ in the new subject’s title emphasizes the
cultural dimension of art learning. On the other hand, it does not indicate
practice-based, creative learning, nor does it emphasize the pedagogical
dimension of art learning. On the contrary, it implies that art lessons are
amusement.
In the revised senior high school curriculum, there is a new art course in
the first-year class, but the second year omits any art course, meaning two
hours a week are allotted for visual art in the first year, but none in the second.
Both the first and second years of high school offer research learning courses,
called ‘research projects’. This experiential research learning in high schools is
based on the following four tenets: (1) enquiry-based learning; (2) interdisci-
plinary cooperation among subjects and teachers; (3) individuation of content,
process and context of learning; and (4) group learning (Matsagouras 2011).
In junior high school, the emphasis is on experiential learning and the shift of
teaching modes from didactic to heuristic. The core of the learning experience
is students’ relationships and interactions through group work. In addition,
social topics related to students’ lives, such as bullying, intercultural education

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Maria Letsiou

and identity issues, are a focus of enquiry. Tools that create intense learning
experiences are preferred.
In contrast, in senior high school, experiential research is a mandatory
subject for students who are 16 and 17 years old. The learning objectives are
more expansive, and a wide variety of topics, from history to contemporary
realities and threats such as drug use, is covered. Although here too coopera-
tive learning is the core of the learning experience, basic research methods are
combined with students’ activities. These changes in the Greek high school
curriculum provide an opportunity for potential transformation of educational
policy but obviously involve higher cost for administration.
By instruction of the Ministry of Education, teachers of various subjects,
including art, technology, music, language and theatre, can be involved in
experiential research learning. Art teachers can implement various learning
tools. As an art teacher in junior and senior high school, I was involved in this
new teaching model during the 2014–2015 academic year. Later in this article,
I will identify some instances of art practice as research in those courses.

RESEARCH LEARNING COURSES IN THE SECOND OREOKASTRO


HIGH SCHOOL
My research involves two projects taking place in the second public high
school in Oreokastro, a middle-class suburb of Thessaloniki, Greece. Each
project uses a discrete approach appropriate to its purpose. The first course,
Hexagon, is taught to two classes of junior high eighth-graders. Hexagon is
a global art action organized by Beth Burkhauser (hexagonproject.org). The
second course, Youth Practices in YouTube, is taught to high school tenth-
graders. In Hexagon, the concept of art practice as research is reflected in
production processes and focus on materials used in creative investigation
and the meanings attached to them. In Youth Practices in YouTube, visualiza-
tion strategies are used to benefit the research process.

THE HEXAGON PROJECT


The Hexagon project involved two classes of 13-year-old students. The project
is organized by Beth Burkhauser (hexagonproject.org). The course focuses on
improving comprehension of global themes and concerns though art practice.
Students enhance critical thinking and research skills, transforming their atti-
tudes. The main objectives are students’ personal growth and creation of self
in a learning environment fertile for social critique and social action. The topic
chosen by the organizer for 2015 is ‘solutions’. This particular learning context
is intensely stimulating for my students because their artwork will be shown
at an international exhibition next September. Although Beth Burkhauser
proposes Hexagon as a two-week course in which students meet every day for
two hours, I decided to introduce it as part of experiential research learning.
These lessons take place once a week for one hour, so students are involved
throughout the academic year.
In Hexagon, students formed small groups in which to perform collabo-
rative investigations. I introduced them to the project and asked each group
to choose a social concern as their topic of creative investigation. Students
chose topics that matter to their lives and have social impact. Topics include
poverty, sexual abuse, recycling methods, drug use, home energy sources,
and cyber bullying. Learning has been organized so that students investigate
the topic by both gathering information and investigating creative strategies

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Figure 1: Hexagon project, a collective work.

for visualizing their opinions. The end products are artworks in hexago-
nal templates. Students explore images and other materials as vehicles of
meaning. For instance, topics – such as poverty in Greece or the meaning of
solidarity – are explored through the juxtaposition of symbols of flags with
signs of hands.
In addition to learning by collaborative work, students enhance their
research skills. My main concern is to organize the experiential learning
around a creative process that includes art production. Art production is
derived from a creative research process that includes gathering informa-
tion, critically considering and experimenting with materials and the concep-
tual connections among images, materials and concepts. A focal point of the
learning is producing creative ideas. One of my students has realized the
significance of producing creative ideas; she created a cradle from a carton.
Through this construction, she illustrated the metaphor of the realization of
an idea as a newborn child.
Students are asked to use basic methods to collect data, and this data
collection is combined with analysing images to extract their meaning to
learn about the issues under investigation. For instance, art practices such as
mind maps and concept maps can be used as part of the research and mate-
rial investigation, with realization of a creative idea being the end product of
the research. This process will lead to the production of objects that visual-
ize students’ social critiques and concept connections. Hexagon’s two main
focuses are enquiry into a significant global concern and the production of a
creative idea. Thus, the creation of an art product is one of the main sources
of knowledge.

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Maria Letsiou

Figure 2: Hexagon project, a cradle of creative ideas.

YOUTH PRACTICE IN YOUTUBE


This is a research learning course for a class of 16-year-old students. This
course takes place for two hours each week during the 2014–2015 academic
year. During the lesson, students mostly research the given topic, which
in my class is Youth Practices in YouTube. This particular project focuses
on the digital visual culture with which students interact daily. I chose the
topic because including students’ daily experience in the classroom enhances
their involvement in learning. Moreover, a significant learning objective can
be realized: realization of everyday practice as a creative, critical action. As
Duncum (2014) argues, an informal way of learning has been proposed as an
opportunity for art teachers to use it them as a creative setting.
In Youth Practices in YouTube, students share some tasks to complete
parts of the enquiry. Students have formed five groups, each of which
undertakes part of the research. Research topics include concepts such
production, consumption, produsage, culture and civilization. Research
activities include investigating video-art production, the history of YouTube
and youth usage of YouTube. My intention is to diminish my involvement
in their actions gradually. In this project, my challenge as an art teacher is
to introduce art practices to the research process. Therefore, basic research
methods are accompanied by art practices such as video-art production,
painting and constructing art objects. Considering the fact that one of the
research topics is video production, the students’ previous involvement in
an earlier project provides a convenient introduction to this mode of art
practice. These same students were involved in the Mobilemovie project
during junior high, so they already are familiar with video-art produc-
tion. The Mobilemovie project is a collaborative art-education research
project that has been running since 2013, conducted by two international

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Art as research

Figure 3: Youth Practice in YouTube project, 3D visual mapping of research concepts.

colleagues and me (Katagiri et al. 2014a, 2014b). In this project, students


from three high schools in Greece, Germany and Japan create video art and
share their learning experiences.
During Youth Practices in YouTube, I have realized how significant art
practice and object production are to the students’ investigations. What
initially prompted them to realize the potential of art practice was my use of
a visualizing strategy. The strategy consisted of using a box as a visual map
of concepts and their connections. The students attach to one side of the box
words-concepts about their individual research processes.
To begin with, the box was covered with pages from a printed encyclo-
paedia from the 1980s. This box is a metaphor for the various representa-
tional modes of knowledge and information used in previous eras: printed
encyclopaedias and books, the Internet, videos, YouTube, etc. In addition, it
makes a comment about the significance of data-gathering in the research
process. Each group wrote down words significant to their investigation.
Later, they attached the words to the surface of the box. Punching holes in
each word and using laces, students investigated random connections among
words and concepts. This process prompted them to speculate on conceptual
connections, such as those between YouTube and culture, between video and
research, etc.
Traditional forms of art practice, such as drawing and painting, have been
used in research. Two types of imaging used in the natural sciences are concep-
tual and representational images. Marshall proposed these types of images as
tools for introducing students to the concept of art practice as research (2011).
For instance, in the Youth Practices in YouTube project, a drawing was created
to represent the metaphor of video production as a mode of both production
and consumption. In addition, a mind map of a tree was created to represent
the connections among several components of the concept of culture.
A significant part of the research process in Youth Practices on YouTube
is video-art production as a mode of enquiry. Students create video art to
help them understand the shared similarities between artists’ practices and
somebody contributing to participatory culture and, in particular, YouTube
(Figure 4).

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Maria Letsiou

Figure 4: Youth Practice in YouTube project, still images from video-art production.

In addition, students are exploring the possibilities of using a time-based


medium as a creative tool. Students have been familiarized with professional
video-art practice through investigating the works of two video artists, Bill
Viola and Candice Breitz.
The overall objective of Youth Practices in YouTube is that students real-
ize that their lives are a field of enquiry and realize the role of creativity in the
research process. For students to understand that they can contribute actively
to knowledge construction, they must feel empowered and their enquiry must
be presented to the wider community. This can be done by sharing results
of their research with communities and other practitioners. Thus, the opin-
ions and concerns of youth can be voiced. Moreover, students begin to realize
that common, everyday practices are potential realms of research. As a conse-
quence, students enhance their critical reflection skills with regard to their life
situations.

CONCLUSIONS
The revised high school curriculum in Greece has introduced new challenges
for art education and for the role of art teachers in schools. Tools specific to
teaching art, such as enquiry into visuality and making images and objects,
can transform experiential research learning in a space fertile for creative
investigation. Moreover, emphasis on the heuristic mode of learning provides
unique opportunities for student decision-making regarding their learning.
The two projects presented in this article put into practice two discrete
approaches of the concept of art as research. In the Hexagon project, enquiry
into images, signs and denoted and connoted meaning leads to production
of creative ideas and, consequently, art production. In contrast, in the Youth
Practice in YouTube project, research learning is organized with visualiza-
tion strategies and art production as research data. In the first case, intense
art learning experiences are constructed, and in the second case, students’
everyday experiences are crucial to data gathering and critical reflection. The
students’ collective work displaces the concept of self-expression with that of
art practice as research.
The two courses described above demonstrate the significance of the ‘crit-
ical act’ concept, which is defined by Sullivan as one of the substantial ingre-
dients of art as research (2005, 2006). According to Sullivan, in order for artists
to claim a legitimate place in the research process, some research acts are
necessary. These necessary acts are forming acts, interpreting acts and criti-
cal acts. Sullivan claims that a critical act shows that artworks are used as
instruments of social and political action. In the Hexagon course, in which

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Art as research

students are researching current social issues, learning about art is constituted
with art as research because art production acts as a critical reflection on their
life circumstances. It is widely accepted that contemporary society has become
complex and fluid. Many changes related to social conditions, class stratifica-
tion and communication have occurred recently. People must improve their
abilities to cope with these circumstances through flexibility and critical reflec-
tion. To that end, topics in both of the experiential research courses reflect
global, national and local concerns.
My experience to date indicates that there are numerous learning possi-
bilities and extensions of experiential research learning in the field of art
learning. I argue that art makes an irreplaceable contribution to this learn-
ing context. This argument is based on teaching art through the paradigm
of art as research. Doing this will contribute to realizing the significance of
visuality to students’ mental growth. The opportunity for increased mental
growth supports active reconsideration of the status of art as a subject in the
high school curriculum. Furthermore, art teachers are empowered through
their contributions to experiential research learning. Through art produc-
tion, connections among concepts and subjects offer more powerful learning
because they involve active learning. Thus, affective cognition is possible
through the relationship between art and research. Considering the signifi-
cant social topics students investigated through art practice, in this era of
economic crises, it is only reasonable to accept art as learning. Art learning
may occupy a more powerful position in Greek education in the future. Thus,
education reforms such as the recent ones seem to offer a rich opportunity
to improve the position of art learning in schools, while experiential research
learning provides an opportunity to transform all school subjects into mean-
ingful learning for students.

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Art as research

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SUGGESTED CITATION
Letsiou, M. (2016), ‘Art as research: Defending the significance of art prac-
tice in high school’, International Journal of Education through Art, 12: 3,
pp. 241–255, doi: 10.1386/eta.12.3.241_1

CONTRIBUTOR DETAILS
Maria Letsiou (Ph.D.) is an adjunct assistant professor of art education in
the School of Visual and Applied Arts and in the School of Early Childhood
Education at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. As a Fulbright
Visiting Scholar at the School of Art and Design of UIUC, USA (2015), she
conducted research on learning through video production. Her research
focuses on unsolicited creative practices on social media as art content, inter-
disciplinary art, art-based research and a/r/tography.
Contact: School of Early Childhood Education, Aesthetic education, Tower
Building, Campus, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece.
E-mail: marialetsiou@gmail.com
Web address: www.hexagonproject.org

Maria Letsiou has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work in the format that was
submitted to Intellect Ltd.

www.intellectbooks.com   255
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