An investigation into early childhood art education in two Shanghai kindergartens
Huang, W. (2013). An investigation into early childhood art education in two Shanghai kindergartens (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8453
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8453
Historically, art practice in Chinese preschools was dominated by giving children a skill-based sense of achievement which was roundly criticized by Western art educators for stifling children`s personal expression and creativity. Chinese policy makers promoted a renewed early childhood art curriculum which draws heavily on conceptual and practical model of art education from abroad while still valuing aspects of past traditions. The objectives outlined in the revised early childhood art curriculum speak not only to an older Chinese emphasis on children`s early acquisition of art skills and the quality of work of art, but also to an overriding new emphasis on creative self-expression, co-constructing art learning, and art appreciation. Changes in the principles of early childhood art education have taken place since 2001, so what has changed in implementation? Using a qualitative, case study methodology, this study set out to address the following research questions: What are common rituals of practice that are typical of art education praxis in two contemporary Shanghai kindergartens? What do teachers reveal as their rationale for their approach to teaching art? How do children`s actions, artworks and speech represent their art learning? In what ways do teachers and children`s responses reflect the way that art education has been represented in current kindergarten policy guidelines and historical reforms?Examining what teacher and children did and said about art revealed commonly shared experiences. It appeared that a predetermined, teacher-directed style of teaching still dominated many preschool art sessions. Influenced by cultural factors, there was a widely shared commitment to the significance of teacher authority in ‘regulating’ children`s art experience, and the idea of skill progression drives the emergence of creative expression. The teaching of practical skills via modeling dominated even though policy shifts indicated to the value of emotional enjoyment. Teachers tried to adjust their tight control over children`s art-making, as evident in their endeavor to develop alternative rituals of practice to enhance children`s engagement with work of art. Nevertheless, changes in ideas, particularly the corresponding practice presented a challenge to teachers who had never seen these multiple perspectives demonstrated in a pragmatic manner. Teachers perhaps were not equipped with sufficient knowledge to effectively combine these opposing messages into effective practice. Constraints such as tight schedules, large class sizes, parents` expectations for observable outcomes of children`s learning, and more importantly, the lack of effective professional development further contributed to the perpetuation of a teacher-directed art practice. Indicated by this study, there were themes warranting further investigation: the tension between Chinese tradition and contrasting Western views of creativity and expressiveness; the constraints in practice that reinforce teacher-directed pedagogy; and effective interventions that support teachers to make significant changes in their own art pedagogical practice in kindergarten art.
University of Waikato
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