Images and Identity: Educating Citizenship through Visual Arts

Images and Identity: Educating Citizenship through Visual Arts


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Highlighting the ways that digital media can be used in interdisciplinary curriculum, Images and Identity brings together ideas from art and citizenship teachers in the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and the United Kingdom on producing online curriculum materials. This book offers a practical strategy for ways these different, but related, subjects can be taught. The first part of the book explores issues of art and citizenship education within a European context while the second contains case studies of curriculum experiments that can be applied to global classrooms. It will be of great interest to students and teachers of art and citizenship education.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781841507422
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 11/15/2013
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Rachel Mason is emeritus professor of art education research at the University of Roehampton, UK. Carl-Peter Buschkuehle is professor of art education in the Institute of Art Education at Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany.

Read an Excerpt

Images and Identity

Educating Citizenship through Visual Arts

By Rachel Mason, Carl Peter Buschküle

Intellect Ltd.

Copyright © 2013 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84150-742-2


Learning to Speak as a Listener: Teaching European Citizen Identity through Art

Gary Granville and Mary Richardson National College of Art and Design, Dublin and University of Roehampton, London


This chapter is concerned with the relationship of art education to citizenship education in the context of the Images and Identity project. Some dominant themes in contemporary literature on citizenship education are introduced and issues pertaining to teaching and learning about European citizenship addressed. Then the tensions and potentials inherent in collaboration between art and citizenship education are examined with particular reference to artwork produced by children in participating schools across Europe. The experience of the Images and Identity project is investigated in this context, in terms of both citizenship and art education. Using examples drawn from the participating countries, the chapter concludes with reflections on the implications of the Images and Identity project for future educational policy and practice.

Keywords: art education, citizenship, european identity

The idea of a social Europe, a community of solidarity and support linking diverse peoples and traditions, first emerged from the crisis of warfare in the early twentieth century; and as Anderson (2006) argues, building communities is an invaluable means of underpinning our need for fraternity. Arguably, social Europe is receiving its greatest test in the current economic crisis, which is causing trauma across the world and notably within the European Union. The collaborative research and curriculum development project Images and Identity, was initiated before Europe stumbled into the current economic recession but its significance is further emphasised by this crisis. The very future of the European Community appears to be in doubt and as individual member states seem to place national self-interest above communal responsibilities, a schools project aimed at fostering mutual respect and understanding across Europe is all the more important.

The Council of Europe's (2010) promotion of citizenship has challenged educators and educational policy makers across Europe to develop models of citizenship education that not only teach pupils about being a citizen, but also facilitate ways of being an active citizen within a community of countries. This chapter addresses some implications of this challenge from the dual perspectives of citizenship and visual arts education. Based on the experience of the Images and Identity project, it examines the potential of art education to engage young people in active exploration of their citizen identities, with special reference to European citizenship.

Kymlicka (2002), amongst others, argues that modern democracies are reliant upon virtues such as tolerance and social cohesion for their citizens to thrive not simply as individuals within the nation state, but as part of a global community. It is this shared understanding of a broader sense of community that is vital both to building and the maintenance of bonds between nations. Within Europe, the significant increase in EU member states has kept education for citizenship high on the political agenda, because, as the Eurydice survey stated, it takes place in schooling in the interests of 'social cohesion in Europe' (Eurydice 2005: 7).

Although citizen identity is a central focus within citizenship curricula across Europe, educators are well aware of the problematic nature of understanding citizenship identities. Ross (2003: 129) points out that the relationship between identity and citizenship is problematic where the former is acknowledged as a personal concept and the latter is immersed in a 'discourse of "belonging"' – typically to a nation-state. 'Education for democratic citizenship' (with an emphasis upon the nation) and promoting a shared European identity have been Council of Europe priorities since the mid-1990s and were preceded by a proliferation of writing from political policy domains that examined the difficult relationship between citizenship and personal identity (see, for example, Meehan 1993). Although citizenship education is well-established as a curriculum theme across Europe, its prominence within national school curricula has varied and its status as a 'real' subject is problematic (Edye 2003, Pike 2008). Longitudinal studies such as the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study in Europe (Kerr et al. 2010) which revealed a lack of common understanding amongst teachers about European citizen identity and other research (e.g. Savvides 2008) suggest there has long been a lack of enthusiasm for evolving a 'European dimension' within the education systems of member states. It is rather disheartening therefore to find that whilst the Council of Europe (Council of Ministers of Education 1988) recommended they should be encouraging deeper engagement with all aspects of European identity some 23 years ago, there has been little positive change in this regard.

This chapter considers issues of European citizenship identity formation from the perspective of the Images and Identity project approach to combining citizenship and art education practice. The project explored ways in which dialogue about and the production of visual images pertaining to identity might contribute to Education for Democratic Citizenship. This chapter starts with a discussion of citizenship education in Europe and the complex issue of creating particularised citizen identities. It also considers some of the problems that arise when the practices of specialist teachers in art and citizenship are combined. It concludes with an evaluation of the interdisciplinary approach in the context of the Images and Identity project.

Education for European citizenship

The EU's continued commitment to citizenship education as a conduit for promoting stronger identifications with Europe is encapsulated in the European Commission ( Despite this there has been, and continues to be, difficulty defining 'Europe' in this context. Convery (1997) urges caution lest we unthinkingly evolve a fortified view of Europe or similarly insular notion of what it means to be European. Images and Identity responded in part to the Council of Europe's project Education for Democratic Citizenship, established in 1997. This project called for a new focus in citizenship education on the development of the kind of knowledge, skills and understanding that would empower learners to be active citizens in learning contexts within and across Europe. Thus, the research teams participating in Images and Identity sought to explore ways to promote citizenship understanding through art and digital media. Central to this goal was the need to find novel ways to generate exploration of European citizen identities.

The content, delivery and development of citizenship programmes in Europe have been evaluated in several longitudinal studies. The largest was the Civic Education Study conducted by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). When Torney-Purta et al. (2001) compared citizenship education provision in 24 countries, they found a broad variety of approaches. More recently, a British-led study revealed differing conceptions of citizenship education across Europe and concluded that comparison is problematic due to varying national contexts, traditions and cultural perspectives (Kerr et al. 2010: 14). However, Kerr et al. suggested there is continued scope for reinforcing a perception of citizenship that focuses upon tackling specific issues – one of which is the exploration of a European identity. Central to the Council of Europe's hopes for citizenship education was the requirement to include a 'European dimension' in curricula across the Union. Although this was contentious (McCann & Finn 2006), it was heralded as a means of inculcating discussion about differing cultures and societies, as a conduit to examining relationships between countries and as a means of promoting civic engagement per se. However, regardless of all of these proposals, there appears to be a citizenship deficit in terms of actually teaching a European dimension. Osler found that engaging in a meaningful way with Europe and the EU presents a significant 'pedagogical challenge' (2011: 21). Her research in England rooted the problem in a concern about how best to teach about the EU; as other studies of citizenship education demonstrate (see, for example, Savvides 2006, Kerr et al. 2010) teachers often admit they lack confidence in teaching about Europe.

The Images and Identity project challenged the research teams in the six participating countries to develop a shared understanding of citizenship education. The meaning of citizenship education has been contentious for many years (see, for example, Osler & Starkey 2006, Kiwan 2008), but whatever form it may take it seeks to involve learners in discussion of topics of civic relevance. The six participating countries provided different curriculum contexts for the experiments. In England, citizenship is a national curriculum subject – albeit statutory only in secondary education in state-maintained schools. In Ireland, citizenship education is offered as a cross-curricular experience at primary school level and is a mandatory discrete subject within lower secondary (Junior Certificate) level. In Germany, Malta, Portugal and the Czech Republic it is usually taught in an interdisciplinary way, often through subjects such as history and geography. In all the participating countries it is unusual to find teaching that combines citizenship with art and so the researchers and teachers who participated were faced with the challenge of exploring ways to align the two subjects.

Combining art education and citizenship education

The qualities of an art education are contested and notoriously difficult to define (Efland 1990, Eisner 2002). However they are defined, their alignment with the values of citizenship education is even more fraught. The relationship between art education in schools and art practice is uneven and in some cases fractured. The view that art and the artist cannot be the servant of other values or agendas, however noble they might be, was well captured by the critic Susan Sontag when she expressed the integrity of artwork and its refusal to be co-opted into any project of civil society:

A work of art encountered is an experience, not a statement or an answer to a question. Art is not only about something: it is something. A work of art is a thing in the world, not just a text or commentary on the world. A work of art, so far as it is a work of art, cannot – whatever the artist's personal intention – advocate anything at all. (Sontag 1966: 15)

There is another, longer tradition, however, which locates the process of art making in a social context and emphasises the centrality of relationships to that process. Thus Bourriaud (2009) coined the term 'relational aesthetics' and identified the precarious nature of cultural identities as being at the heart of contemporary culture.

While the values of an education in citizenship can be generated from different premises, it is fair to suggest that much of the rhetoric is informed by a transmission mode of delivery (Kerr et al. 2010, McGettrick 2002). This is especially true of a certain form of advocacy of European citizenship in which the ideal of a European identity grew as a counterforce to the historical experience of war and conflict. However, recent decades have seen the development of a more transformative model of education in general (Fleming 2010, Brookfield 2005, Mezirow 1999), and citizenship education in particular. Citing a comparative analysis of citizenship education textbooks in Australia, Canada and the UK (Davies & Issitt 2005), Bryan (2011) notes the slippage from an official rhetoric, which seems to support a transformative conception, to the reality of curriculum resources that provide mere surface treatment of these issues. There is a tendency within school curriculum materials 'to privilege national rather than global issues, to devote limited attention to issues of diversity and to favour cognitive thinking or reflection about personal issues over active involvement in political issues' (Bryan 2011: 2).

Despite this tendency, a European vision of citizenship education found articulate expression as a potentially transformative experience through UNESCO's four pillars of learning; namely, learning to live together, learning to know, learning to do and learning to be (Delors 1996). This concept of citizenship education not only accommodates but also actually demands the essential qualities of art education and art making. Within such a transformative education model, real possibilities of a constructive relationship between citizenship education and art education can be envisaged.

In recent decades citizenship has emerged as a recurring theme in the discourse of art practice (Kester 2004, Bishop 2006). Community arts, participatory practice and socially engaged arts are a feature of art practice in society and higher education. When art is conceived of as a form of social dialogue and a forum for participatory practice, it provides an interpretation of citizenship that is person-centred rather than system-driven. This concept of the individual as citizen does not always chime with the adopted self-perception of the state, but it is a powerful base from which to develop an understanding of the learner within civil society.

Recent research into the nature of art education provides an emergent profile of those qualities that make it unique, based on evidence rather than advocacy. Hoffman Davis (2007), for example, identifies five features that distinguish an art education experience:

1. The engagement with a tangible product, involving the application of imagination and agency on the part of the learner

2. A focus on emotion, allowing learners to express personal emotions and to develop a capacity for empathy with the feelings of others

3. An ease with ambiguity, allowing for great variations in interpretation, and a respect for the integrity and validity of differing viewpoints and opinions

4. An orientation towards process and experience, with the learning embodied in the process of inquiry and in the reflection on that process

5. The development of the learner's connection with the art making, through which the learner finds a moment of personal engagement with and explicit responsibility for the context and output of the learning

These qualities highlight the concepts of agency, engagement, ambiguity and process that also recur in the practice of transformative education (Fleming 2010).

In a detailed study of what actually occurs in an art classroom over time, Hetland et al. (2007) concluded that the real benefits of art education can be presented as studio habits of mind that are developed in the classroom studio experience. They catalogued these habits as including some discipline-specific attributes such as the development of craft skills and processes and an understanding of the art world. Crucially, in the context of the present discussion of citizenship education, Hetland et al. (2007) also defined some generic learning capacities: the development of the capacities of learners to engage in and to persist with constructive projects; to express, to observe and to reflect on what they have experienced; and to investigate and explore within or beyond the discipline or medium with which they are immediately involved. These qualities, fostered through art lessons, are inherently the same as those sought within a transformative model of citizenship education.

Deakin Crick et al. conducted systematic reviews of research into citizenship education in various countries over the past decade in 2004 and 2005. They found that successful teaching and learning experiences include dialogue and discussion as the norm and a participatory and active pedagogy; and that learners benefit from involvement in processes of mimesis, modelling and imitation and from sequencing and framing the curriculum to stimulate curiosity, creativity and meaning making, all of which are characteristics of, if not unique to, art education. Joldersma and Deakin Crick (2010) cite the quality of learning dialogue fostered in schools as important also, noting that open-ended questions and providing space to explore new ideas and perspectives serve as critical success factors. In describing the teaching and learning environment within which citizenship education flourishes, they coin a phrase that encapsulates the concept of active citizenship – 'encouraging the learner to speak as a listener' (Joldersma and Deakin Crick 2010: 149).


Excerpted from Images and Identity by Rachel Mason, Carl Peter Buschküle. Copyright © 2013 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents



Liam Gearon and Concepción Naval


Images and Identity: Improving Citizenship Education through Digital Art

Rachel Mason

Part 1: Reflective Chapters

1. Learning to Speak as a Listener: Teaching European Citizen Identity through Art

Gary Granville and Mary Richardson

2. Identity and Artistic Education

Carl-Peter Buschkühle

3. Errant Identities in Contemporary Art Education

Raphael Vella

4. Zde Jsem: What Is My Situation? Identity, Community, Art and Social Change

Marie Fulkova and Teresa Tipton

5. The Role of Talk in Image-based Learning

Fiona M. Collins and Susan Ogier

6. Action Research and Interdisciplinary Curriculum Planning

Anabela Moura

7. North-South Exchange: Student Art Teachers’ Visualizations of National Identity

Dervil Jordan and Jackie Lambe

8. Tool, Medium and Content: Digital Media and the Images and Identity Project

Marc Fritzsche

Part 2: Case Studies of Classroom Research

9. Family and Citizenship: Case Study by Portugal

Anabela Moura and Cristiana Sá

10. Greetings from Europe: Case Study by Ireland

Aoife Keogh

11. Identifying with European People and Places: Case Study by England

Susan Ogier

12. Mapping Identity: Case Study by the Czech Republic

Lucie Hajdušková

13. Freedom and Identity: Case Study by Germany

Carl-Peter Buschkühle

14. Personal and Community Identities: Case Study by Malta

Olivianne Farrugia

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