This study focuses on the effects of artistic teaching methods for academic subjects on primary and secondary students. Special interest is given to the construction of practices and discourses that regulate study habits and patterns of knowledge production among students.
A related interest is the examination of both the potential of and resistance to the use of artistic teaching methods and perspectives.
The methodological strategies are micro-ethnography and discourse analysis. The empirical basis is restricted to two schools, which are studied during 1 1/2 year. Data consists of field study observations, interviews with teachers and pupils, video documentation of the settings of artistic pedagogical methods in action, and teacher evaluations of pupils achievement and work. Being a qualitative study, knowledge and development is not measured through test results, but rather via observed changes in interactions with for example tasks and material.
The results show that there are some major obstacles to integrating creative activities and artistic methods into ordinary schoolwork.
The practice of schools is dominated by a training logic, where reproduction and categorising takes precedence over imagination and variation. In this way, the training logic frames most activities and excludes alternative interactions and modes of rationality.
A second result is the formulation of an epistemological theory about art and learning. In short the theory consists of four aspects that signify artistic learning. The first aspect is the use of dramaturgy and processes of play, for example the construction of symbolic play-worlds and the freedom achieved from a more flexible understanding of social conventions and the categories of the status quo.
A second artistic aspect is to give meaning, intensity and presence to an activity. This is what we in everyday speech relate to as the emotional aspect of art, but in an educational context it is given a direction and a social dimension. Thirdly, art put demands on the individual to make aesthetic choices. This is a rational process, but with other tools than those offered by a solely verbal/logical rationality.
By focusing on artistic learning strategies, students are given the opportunity to evaluate and handle artistic material in a more skilful and complex manner. Finally, learning in relation to art is the opposite of the training logic. Creative work is open-ended and often aims at seeing a given phenomenon from different perspectives. The fourth aspect thus includes activities that support variation and thematic strategies.
Finally, the report discusses how interplay between what is identified as weak and strong forms of aesthetics can integrate factual learning with creative and artistic activities.
The conclusion is that the use of artistic methods puts a strain on cultural practice within schools both in terms of organising time and space and general approaches to knowledge itself. In spite of this, many teachers and school administrators favour a pedagogy that increases the possibilities of creative activities and challenges hierarchic structures in the classroom. One way of strengthening the democratic milieu and to give the pupils more influence over their learning is to develop and implement methods that support a stronger form of aesthetic knowledge.