- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From the PublisherReview in Arts and Learning Research Vol 23:1
The International Handbook of Research in Arts Education Bresler, L. (Ed.). (2007)
Dordrecht, NL: Springer. 1627 pp.
$549 Hardcover Reviewed by Jessica Hoffmann Davis Independent Scholar If you’ve ever observed a two-year old child drawing with colorful markers on an endless stretch of paper (the blank side of wrapping or wallpaper will do), you may decide that it’s very dif.cult to pinpoint exactly what she is doing. For sure she is making marks (exploring the boundaries of media) like a visual artist, but when the rhythm of the tapping of the mark-making on paper inspires her to jump a little as she sits or now to hop/crawl across the paper, she seems more like a dancer exploring some haiku-like choreography; and when the words tumble like musical notes in chant-like accompaniment to the motion—"Bbbbbbb,
up!"— you are not sure if what you are witnessing is drawing,
modern dance or music, spoken word poetry, performance or even ritual art. The International Handbook of Research in Arts Education is a lot like that. But don’t worry, it sets out to be.
From the start, editor Liora Bresler points to the soft edges of disciplines and the boundary crossing that invites, setting the stage for a research tome that spans the artistic disciplines of music, dance,
visual arts, and writing, including voices from different academic and geographical locations that travel on their own or intertwined within and across a variety of themes. But don’t be misled by the playful tone of my opening metaphor. The International Handbook of Research in Arts Education marks a substantive contribution to the literature on the arts in education and it is chock full of thoughtful,
well documented reviews and discussions of past and current research—research that spans scholarship in aesthetics and arts in education as well as anthropology, cultural psychology, and curriculum theory. Beyond its reach in terms of artistic disciplines and scholarly realms, however, the Handbook is in itself a boundary breaker defying expectation in both content and form.
In comparison with the Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education, edited by Elliot Eisner and Michael Day in 2004, a milestone in advancing the .eld of visual art education as informed by serious research and re.ection, Bresler’s International Handbook expands the landscape by: 1) taking a multi-arts perspective, and counting creative writing in the mix; 2) inviting contributors to engage openly in dialogue; 3) including contributions of unexpected format; and 4) attempting if not overtly then at least implicitly to function in itself as a work of art. While Eisner and Day play by the rules producing an impressive compendium of scholarship for a .eld that may have been thought unscholarly, Bresler breaks the rules by challenging the standard constraints of such a volume.
While Eisner and Day conscientiously frame the .eld of visual art education with the expected fences of history, policy, learning,
teaching, assessment, and a view of a future in the making, Bresler and her team of 15 section editors honor these hurdles even as they cross them and brave the unexpected beyond.
The thirteen sections of the book, comprised of contributions from 116 authors, are organized within and across the porous territorial boundaries of context (history; technology; museums and cultural centers; informal learning; child culture; social and cultural issues) and content (curriculum; evaluation; composition;
appreciation; the body; creativity; and spirituality). Section editors begin their segments with a prelude that explicates the topic and the themes that emerge from the writings of individual or pairs of authors who focus on particular art disciplines. International Handbook Advisory Board members add commentaries related to these individual contributions from the perspectives of the 35
countries they represent. Unexpected in a compendium of this kind are the "expressive" interludes that punctuate the pace with artful personal re.ection, provocative ruminations, poetry, and/
or individual authors’ responses to other authors’ contributions.
Visual renderings of what appear to be montages of stone add metaphoric cadence to the section breaks, challenging their deliberately porous division.
The contributors are an exciting group of scholars and practitioners, representing a range of disciplines and destinations.
As examples from the international cast, there’s Peter Abbs from the United Kingdom (writing); Rita L. Irwin and F. Graeme Chalmers from British Columbia (visual arts); Shifra Schonmann from Israel (drama); Regina Murphy from Ireland (music); and Minette Mans from Namibia (performing arts). On the North American front there are the "giants" in the .eld such as Elliot Eisner and Arthur Elfand (visual arts), Bennett Reimer (music), and Elizabeth Vallance (museums); veteran arts education scholars who challenge traditions including Elizabeth Garber; newer voices forging the future such as Kim Powell and Lissa Soep; and well-known scholars across academic disciplines including Ellen Dissanayake and Nel Noddings. Editor Liora Bresler was so intent on .lling out her star-studded troupe (what she calls her "dream team" for the Handbook) that she even included (at his suggestion) personally recorded arts encounter snippets from her e-mail correspondence with Professor Jerome S. Bruner, who was otherwise unavailable to make a contribution.
As a thread woven through all sorts and many of the pieces of the whole of this work, the resonant voice of philosopher Maxine Greene serves as inspiration and ballast to author contributions whether she is speaking to issues of the arts as agents to awakening imagination or to exciting social justice. Just as Tom Barone dedicates his curriculum essay to his second and third grade teacher: "In the beginning there was Light and she was named Mrs. Eddy"(p. 239).
Robert Stake constructs his interlude as an admiring response to Greene’s powerful Handbook re.ection on appreciation (p.665).
Evoking Harry Broudy’s notions of "enlightened cherishing," Stake considers the challenge of translating into classroom practice the transcendence of the "taken for granted" that Greene sees as an
"end-in-view for aesthetic education"(p. 665).
In experiencing the cross-referencing that persists through the Handbook, we are aware, as we are with a work of art, of the process that went into the creation of this product. Stake takes fellow contributor Greene as inspiration; Arthur E.and defends
".ne art" from the limitations of political neutrality placed upon it by fellow contributor Paul Duncum. Interludes speak across voices;
preludes speak across themes. The International Advisory Board members use as touchstones for their descriptions of arts education in their respective countries the domain speci.c research presented mainly, but with notable exceptions, by scholars from North American universities. This lively discourse across contributor and contribution lends coherence to the broad range of treatises and perspectives included in the work, even as a lack of clear boundaries among topics challenges the internal cohesiveness of some of the different sections.
Artistic symbols are distinguished by the ambiguity that opens them to multiple interpretations. The ambiguity of the edges of its various sections may be another way in which the Handbook is like a work of art, but it adds considerable challenge to the work of section editors and contributors. Section editor Susan Stinson in her prelude to the section on curriculum explains: "… determining boundaries has been a challenge for all authors of the Handbook…[as] re.ected in many of the questions that circulated through the cyber-process of this project: ‘What counts as research?’ ‘What educational research is not about curriculum?’ ‘How can one adequately contextualize this research without describing its history, which is a separate section of the Handbook?’"(p. 143). In part as a consequence of this "boundary bleeding" (and of course because many of the contributors to this text are artists themselves) we .nd the authors,
like artists, braving hard fundamental questions: "What is the real question?" "What gets included and what gets left out?" "How do I create an aesthetic whole that usefully embraces but does not pretend to de.nitively contain the topic at hand?" The behindthe-
scene view of authors in conversation, sharing challenges in the framing of their individual contributions or being inspired in their writing by each other’s work increases the immediacy of this dynamic presentation of scholarship.
In his interlude in the section on evaluation, Chris Higgins takes issue with the assertion that "Research is objective; art is subjective. Research discovers; imagination invents" (p. 393).
Alternatively, drawing on Dewey’s claim that the arts teach us to see more, Higgins proposes that, "like the best artists, the best researchers use their imagination to move past the cardboard versions of things. The question for educational evaluation is not which method to choose or how to employ it, but how to notice…the dimensions of classrooms that are hiding in plain view" (p. 393).
Like other contributions in the Handbook there is no apology here for the arts not being up to the clear edge-cutting of scienti.c research; no attempt to limit the knowledge of the .eld to the crisp compartments that arguably serve other areas well. The focus here is on seeing more clearly, as artists do, "beyond the taken for granted" to what the arts in education in particular provide, those invaluable variables that may be "hiding in plain view."
While the authors I’ve mentioned point to the dif.culty of adhering to established boundaries even in the most straight forward section topics (history, curriculum, evaluation, appreciation,
technology, museums and cultural centers) those topics more overtly open to idiosyncratic interpretation (informal learning,
child culture, social and cultural issues, creativity, the body, and spirituality) invite even broader brush strokes. Minette Mans attempts to clarify the spectrum of learning experiences that can be included in the category of informal learning: "The spectrum of learning experiences can range from accidental, unintentional,
or reluctant forms of learning to active, intentional, involved and highly valued forms of learning" (p. 779). Introducing their section on social and cultural perspectives in arts education, Douglas Risner and Tracie Costantino speak to the breadth of their topic:
"the enormity of social issues in arts education spans tremendous global research terrain" and to its overlap with other sections in the Handbook, "social issues permeate the educational fabric of curriculum, history, evaluation, the body, and technology" (p. 941).
This section, which addresses fascinating recent research studies,
.nds a measure of uni.cation, Risner and Costantino tell us, in a focus on justice and freedom (here again after Maxine Greene).
But within the bristles of broad brush strokes lie issues that easily could each have had their own sections: gender, identity, diversity,
social justice, critical pedagogy.
Adopting the two-year-old’s haiku choreography, let me piece together a collage of points of interest. The section on composition most interestingly addresses both the issues of how artists compose in different domains and how we teach students to compose. The theme of metaphor features large in that section and is gracefully addressed in interludes by Keith Swanwick and Michael Parsons.
The section on museums and cultural centers rightly includes an interlude by David Carr on the role of libraries. The section on child culture attends to the voice, vision, and values that children bring into class and that can be recognized, honored, ignored, or even exploited. The section on body is heavy on mind, replete with philosophical overtone and reference, addressing learning and art making through the senses, the extent to which the body is represented in art, and the challenge of resolving the mind body problem with concepts like "embodied minds."
The last section of the Handbook is on spirituality and it is perhaps the bravest section of all. Conversations of how we educate our soul are conspicuously absent in mainstream educational discourse and they feel rare and strange in a .nal chapter that would have been expected to hold no new surprise. Section editor Rita L. Irwin speaks of "a longing for the spiritual" that holds steady amidst moving educational trends. She describes the education of soul: "An education of the soul is an education .lled with feeling completely alive, being at one with the universe while experiencing joy, compassion, mindfulness, and a sense of awe for the mystery that abounds" (p. 1401). But discussions of "feeling completely alive" like the idea of a curriculum that "moves beyond rational and analytic ways of understanding to intuitive and emotional ways of knowing" (p. 1401) do not lend themselves to standard academic discourse. The problem one is convinced at this juncture is not with the scope of the topic, but with the limitations of academic discourse. Broader vocabularies and multiple modes of expression
(like the story telling and poetry these authors employ) are needed to facilitate conversations about what matters most. Regretting that there is painfully little if any research literature around an art education that is grounded in spirituality, in this grand .nale contributors declare its importance and launch a call for attention.
As London puts it, "Then, be it resolved, something ought to be done about this. Soon" (p. 1492).
I was privileged to work for years in my teaching with a diverse group of students—non-arts classroom teachers, arts teachers,
museum educators, program of.cers, community arts educators and administrators—most of them sharing a predisposition for and/or training in artistic activity and all of them uni.ed by a belief in the importance of the arts in education. Actors, musicians,
painters, sculptors, poets, writers—all together in my classroom,
confronting common themes from their different perspectives.
And it would happen every fall. The drama or dance or visual arts teacher would stand up and say, "Well, I can’t speak for music or writing—I wouldn’t dare—but in my classes, I .nd…." And I would ask, "if you wouldn’t dare to speak across artistic domains to another teacher of the arts, how on earth are you going to dare to speak to a science teacher about what it is you do?"
Discourse across artistic domains is essential to our forging educational conversations across arts and non-arts domains. We must cross boundaries; and we must make sense of the boundary crossing. If I wanted more from the International Handbook of Research in Arts Education, it was in this regard. I wanted more about the similarities and differences in metaphor’s structure in language,
dance, visual arts or music; more about what music education in Indiana can learn from music education in Ireland. I wanted the scholars in this volume to move like spidermen and women and do more web weaving out of the bounty of diverse artistic and international perspectives. But I am impatient and I also realize that like any work of art, the Handbook asks much of the reader by way of interpretation and sense making. Had I had this volume in my classes, I could have asked my students to use it as a source in the spidering they will need to do.
Bresler’s International Handbook of Research in Arts Education is a sprawling and ambitious enterprise, rightly called by Bresler a
"huge mosaic." By bringing together scholars from different artistic disciplines and locations, it initiates a conversation that speaks of and to a burgeoning promising modern and timeless conception of a .eld called the arts in education. That conversation, as I have tried to describe and demonstrate, is made up of voice and inquiry,
struggle and triumph, diversity and direction, scholarship and communication, artistry and rigor, blurred boundaries, overarching themes, and sharp tips of icebergs tweaking complacency and inviting further research and discourse. I congratulate Liora Bresler and her star-studded dream team. The territories to which they take us (even those we thought we knew) are complex and compelling.
Like the two year old’s multifaceted activity, the Handbook is not about visual arts, dance, drama, or music; it is about all of them because those activities, as they do in the vibrant activity of the young child as artist, overlap, inform, enrich and rede.ne each other. And as it is with the two year-old’s drawing,
doubters will look to this multifaceted Handbook and question the integrity of the activity, liken my admiration for the work to the romantic’s cross-disciplinary interpretation of what is only the aimless scribbling of the young child. Doubters will fault Bresler for not pulling in the reigns and making her compilation of arts education scholarship look more like what is done in handbooks for mainstream disciplines. But I applaud this work as precisely the sort of uncompromising high holding of the head that arts education deserves and I will cite the International Handbook of Research in Arts Education as a model of what the arts do of which other disciplines need to do more. I recommend this text to any student of the arts in education and I suggest for their journeying forth they hold on to their hats in readiness for the boundary leaping and exploration of emotion this rigorous treatise daringly pursues.
Reference Eisner, E. & Day. M. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of research and policy in art education. A Project of the National Art Education Association.
New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Jessica Hoffmann Davis is the author of Framing Education as Art:
The Octopus has a Good Day (2005). At Harvard University, Dr. Davis founded and was the .rst director of the Graduate School of Education’s Arts in Education Program and held the university’s .rst chair in the arts in education. Her new book, on advocating for the arts in schools, will be published in 2007 by Teachers College Press.
From the reviews:
“International Handbook of Research in Arts Education, editor Liora Bresler set out to identify research agendas and issues across the arts and to define a new relationship among disciplines that are naturally related outside of the academy. … Bresler and her section editors and authors have given the arts professions and academies an astounding work of high artistic and intellectual merit.” (Marie McCarthy, British Journal of Music Education, Vol. 26 (3), 2009)