Re-Framing Traditional Arts: Creative Process and Culturally Responsive Learning
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In many ways, traditional arts in schools bear the bruises of the early years of multicultural education, and the failed practices that created what has been termed a tourist curriculum, comprised of the superficial study of folktales, festivals, foods, and facts. Consequently, the use of art forms of cultures is often approached with caution by teachers, or avoided altogether. This thesis re-frames the use of traditional arts in the classroom through current research and knowledge, defining their efficacy and role in today’s classroom. Traditional arts are examined through the lenses of arts integration, culturally responsive pedagogical practice and creative processes. A qualitative, research portraiture methodology was employed, and executed through the lens of four case studies in order to more coherently incorporate the arts-based nature of this research. The research sites include classes studying Maori visual arts, waiata (song), and haka (dance) in Christchurch, New Zealand, chant, hula, and plant weaving at an Hawaiian charter school, and social dance and song of the Oneida tribe in the US. Research results indicated that when teachers facilitate experiences in traditional arts in such a way that students are exposed to entry points for their own interaction with the forms, students respond with self reflection, engagement, and a tendency to elevate the status of affiliation with the culture undertaken. While students and teachers do not become conversant in the culture as a result of such study, working with traditional arts in this way may serve to break down culturally bound ways of seeing the world. When traditional arts are employed in classrooms, they may engage students in a creative process that takes the form of embodied or physicalized, interpretive, or improvisational interactions with the forms. When traditional arts are employed in this way, relying on creative process, they also meet goals for culturally responsive learning, legitimizing how students experience and make sense of the world. Traditional arts provide a critical, under-utilized, strategy for embedding culture in the educational setting. In order to best meet the goals of the learning setting, traditional arts must incorporate creative processes. Hybridization of the forms, while increasing accessibility for teachers and students, must be carefully undertaken. Traditional arts utilized in this way hold potential for addressing broader curricular content.