Art in Early Childhood
University of Wollongong

Early Arts Intervention 2019-2024

Thinking about creativity and the domain of visual arts

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Action Research Project (2020 – 2024)

Upon completion of Phase 1 of the Early Arts Initiative an in-depth, targeted Action Research will be undertaken with early childhood teachers, educators and parents.
Action research is embedded in the everyday work of teachers and educators. It has the “potential to add significantly to our knowledge about teaching and learning as well as directly influencing educational practice (Kervin, Vialle, Howard, Herrington & Okely, 2006, p. 63). In addition, the key focus of action research is to “Improve educational practice by identifying educational problems, implementing change and evaluating the outcomes of those changes” (Kervin et al., 2006, p. 66).
The action research phase of the Early Arts initiative will respond to the findings of the evaluation of Phase 1 of the Early Arts intervention to undertake an in-depth teacher / researcher partnership to learn more about effective ways to support the delivery of high-quality, play-based, creative arts pedagogies in the MENA region.

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This targeted action research project responds to the call to:

  • Engage in “teacher-led, research-based practice with time for teachers to work in communities of practice to develop professional practice and judgement through active reflection” (Baker, 2015b, p. 984);
  • Conduct research to examine the pedagogical knowledge and confidence of early childhood teachers (Ismail & Jarrah, 2019);
  • Support the professional development of kindergarten and nursery teachers to “foster and nurture positive play experiences for children” (Baker, 2015a, p. 33).
  • Support early childhood teachers to examine and confront their previously unexamined beliefs in order to develop alternative pedagogical approaches that will benefit children (Baker, 2013);
  • Deliver high-quality early childhood teacher education (Baker, 2015b) and professional development of the early childhood educator workforce in the region (Baker, 2015a).
The research project will utilise the following features and benefits of action research outlined by Kervin et al., (2006):
  • Significant benefits for educators including transformation of practice, practical engagement with research processes in the natural setting of the classroom/educational setting;
  • Educators are directly engaged in planning, acting and evaluating their own practice and are therefore convinced of the value of the research;
  • It is purposeful and relevant to their daily practice and context;
  • The report of research findings is practical and relevant and may support other teachers in the region and internationally to consider implications to their own work through vicarious experience and identification with the context and experience of the research participants;
  • Action research is embedded in good practice;
  • Close collaboration with the researchers means that the research / practice divide is reduced;
  • The research reflects the concerns of participants, not just the researcher’s agenda.

The aims of the action research will be to:

  • Determine research questions relevant to the participating group of teachers and their school/early childhood settings;
  • Support participating teachers to conduct a review of literature regarding research findings and recommendations for quality holistic curricula, early childhood visual arts pedagogies and related professional development for early childhood teachers in the MENA region and internationally;
  • Train participating teachers about Action Research methods and protocols;
  • Collaboratively design an action research intervention to address the issues and questions identified by participating teachers and relevant to their settings;
  • Empower the participating early childhood teachers to engage in self-determined research, self-reflection, professional training and transformative approaches to pedagogy (Kervin et al., 2006).
  • Design professional development initiatives and intervention strategies to address the issues, potentials and barriers raised in the Phase 1 evaluation of the early arts initiative and to support the goals and aims of the Action Research.
  • Gain insights about the specific challenges and barriers experienced by early childhood teachers in delivering high quality visual arts and holistic curricula in their educational setting in the region
  • Evaluate the types of professional development support that effectively equip teachers to confidently deliver high-quality, play-based arts pedagogy and holistic curricula;
  • Raise awareness with schools and parents about the importance and educational benefits for children inherent in play-based, arts-informed creative pedagogies and curriculum approaches.

The research activities may include, but not be limited to, the following potential initiatives:

  • Targeted parent education;
  • In-school Parent / child visual arts workshops facilitated by artists/researchers;
  • Targeted classroom observations and evaluation of pedagogy and curriculum approaches;
  • Intensive collaboration and professional development support with teachers in their early years settings;
  • Supported collaboration with school leadership;
  • Data collection strategies may include questionnaires / focus group interviews / analysis of reflection journals and analysis of documentation of curriculum design/delivery;
  • Publication of at least two research articles (one academic journal and one practitioner publication);
  • Dissemination of research at conferences, including the Annual Bright Start Conference for the MENA region