Art in early childhood : a qualitative study.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This study investigated the art process in early childhood education in two early childhood centres in Christchurch, New Zealand. The purpose of the study was to examine the provisions teachers made for children in the early childhood art area, to observe how they guided children through the art process and to find out what eventually happened when an art product was completed. The study employed a qualitative design. It involved unstructured interviews with six qualified early childhood teachers. Settings for participant observations included, a childcare centre, a kindergarten, and the Early Childhood Support service. Relevant documentation was also collected. Three themes eventually emerged for consideration. The themes were, planning for art experiences, verbal and non-verbal expression of art and the product. The first section of results dealt with teachers' involvement in programme planning, setting up the art area and providing materials and activities. The contribution of Te Whaariki (1996) in the planning process used by the teachers was also discussed. The second section concerned the participation, of both the teachers and the children, in art expression. It examined the dialogue the teachers used when talking to children about art, how the teachers worked with the children in the art area, and the skills the children demonstrated when involved in the art process. The third section of results concerned the final product, and the value and meaning placed on the children's work of art by the teachers, the parents, and the children themselves. The results of this research suggested that the teachers predominantly used developmental theory in their work with children in the art area. Teachers attempted to imitate some of the elements found in the Reggio Emilia preschools, but did not appear to have complete knowledge of the theoretical underpinnings of the Discipline Based Art Education approach used by these schools. Teachers were aware of the importance 1 of including Te Whaariki in their planning of art experiences, in centres, and used the document as a guide, to facilitate their work. Implications were for increased in-service training for teachers in the area of art education theory and practice. The early childhood teachers in this study expressed a variety of views, both implicit and explicit, about artistic expression and children's learning. Their practice in the art area, generally confirmed connections with the theories they articulated and revealed gaps in art education in early childhood. The implementation of Te Whaariki has impacted early childhood teaching throughout New Zealand and has been instrumental in shaping teachers' practical work in the art area. Specific training in the area of art education may serve to enhance teachers abilities to teach art to young children at a developmentally appropriate level, and may give them the confidence necessary to provide art programmes which contribute to the richness of children's experiences.