The perennial question: “So where will that take you?” An exploratory study of University of Waikato students' judgements of the value of study in the arts.
Fourie, E. (2009). The perennial question: ‘So where will that take you?’ An exploratory study of University of Waikato students’ judgements of the value of study in the arts. (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/3508
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/3508
This thesis explores the value of study in the arts, as perceived by third yearstudents at the University of Waikato. The research consisted of two phases; aninitial survey of 200 students, studying both within and outside of arts disciplines,and the second, in-depth interviewing of eight arts students. The inquiry focussedon the value students perceive study in the arts to have, and also the value theyperceive others to ascribe to such study. In eliciting a unique perspective ofstudents, the study aimed to add commentary to ongoing debates about the valueof the arts, and about the value of studying the arts. Discourses on the value of the arts often focus on the economic utility of the arts,since they espouse creative and innovative qualities which positively add to theeconomy. The value of the arts is also reported in terms of intrinsic benefits likeself-expression, as well as the benefits they can provide communities. However,work in the arts is often reported as being at a deficit when it comes to issues ofemployability. In addition, artists are often likened to outdated stereotypes. Similar debates exist in relation to the arts in education. At school level, it seemsthe arts are valued for intrinsic benefits, like cognition, and self-expression, andfor aiding achievement in all subjects. They are often also promoted for teachingskills which are necessary for success in this day and age, including skills in selfconfidence,creativity, and innovation. At the same time, a neoliberalist viewmandates that education, at tertiary level especially, should produce "skilledworkers" as a commodity for the economy. As such, arts disciplines are moreoften compelled to justify their existence than other disciplines. It was evident that research participants’ perceptions echoed some of thesedebates. Through the emergence of several themes, it was clear that students feltstudy in the arts was not well regarded by others. However, they took heart fromintrinsic, creative, and expressive benefits of their studies. Interest or passionmainly motivated the pursuit to study in the arts. However, the imperative to finda job was still a concern for research participants. Tension seems to exist betweenthe seeming need of an "outcome", which translates to a job, and the impulse tocreate something that is uniquely, and personally, expressive. While the non-tangible values were important to arts students, benefits of moneyand career were perceived to be more important to outsiders. Students posited thisdifference of opinion on misconceptions, and a lack of understanding about whatstudy in the arts entails. While perceiving others to have negative value judgmentsabout study in the arts, the students’ personal convictions, of the usefulness andvalue of their studies, were not diminished. Those interviewed also suggestedthree ways to possibly change negative value judgments: increasingunderstanding, projecting positive stereotypes, and positioning the arts, at schooland at university, in such a way that they become respected, and sought-after,avenues of study. These, and other research findings, constitute a need for further inquiry. Thisresearch has by no means covered all aspects of arts study, but it offers the insightof a small group of students, at a certain place and time; experiences which maywell find echoes in larger settings.
The University of Waikato
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