A Paradigm Analysis of Arts-Based Research and Implications for Education

Article excerpt

This article represents a paradigm analysis of the characteristics of arts-based research (ABR) in an effort to reconceptualize the potential of arts-based practices in generating new curriculum approaches for general education practice and the development of the learner. Arts-based theoretical models-or art for scholarship's sake-are characteristically poststructural, prestructural, performative, pluralistic, proliferative, and postparadigmatic, offering the promise of divergent pedagogical pathways worthy of new exploration.

Even in the most current scholarly publications attempting to explore arts-based educational research, the consensus of researchers Is that "educational researchers are still trying precisely to define what we call arts-based educational research" (Taylor, Wilder, & Helms, 2007, p. 8). I suggest that a bent for precision does not yield an effective characterization of a growing delta of research methodologies that are "always in the process of creation" and which together demand "an understanding of incompleteness and uncertainty"(Springgay, 2002, p. 20). A more productive starting point is suggested In Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor's (2008) caution that arts-based researchers have done little to legitimize their methods and approaches to inquiry by defining them "as an elther-or proposition to more traditional, scientific research paradigms" (p. 4). Consequently, this article is intended to recognize and Identify the opportunities afforded within an artsbased research paradigm to address questions differently than scientific research will allow (Leavy, 2009).

The greater the array of approaches in addressing a given set of problems, the more successful a community of research practitioners will be in surrounding that set of problems and generating a number of viable solutions. A quick tally of competing research paradigms recognizes that there are a number of paradigms for addressing the very same questions, and that certain practices are natively situated within knowledge-building paradigms that lend themselves to better addressing certain kinds of questions. Central to the practice of art education for over 100 years has been the question of how works of art and the work of artmaking develops the learner, accompanied by the problem of making curriculum that best facilitates such learning (Wilson, 1997).

In order to understand what an arts-based research paradigm yields In the address of such concerns, this article constitutes a "paradigm analysis" (Carroll, 1997, p. 171). A paradigm is defined as "a body of beliefs and values, laws, and practices which govern a community of practitioners;" an analysis of an arts-based paradigm for research in the field of art education allows it to be weighed effectively against other paradigms for art education problem-solving (Carroll, 1997, p. 171). Scientific historian Thomas S. Kuhn (1962/1996) postulated that paradigms develop because of their success in representing the prevailing understandings, shared beliefs, and research solutions of a community of practitioners. However, when "new information cannot be integrated Into the existing paradigm or when problems persist which cannot be resolved," a new paradigm is likely to arise to replace it (Carroll, 1997, p. 174).

This definition Implies that although the question of what art education practices work best in the development of the learner continues to elude any conclusive answer, new paradigms will continue to arise, each worthy of fresh analysis. Hence, artsbased research methodologies are not analyzed here as an alternative to social science or historical methods simply to be contrary; they are reviewed out of the recognition that we negotiate bodies of knowledge in a complex world where human beings learn and acquire life practices enacted along a spectrum between both scientific and artistic ways of comprehending the human experience and doing productive cultural work.

This article lays out tenets for understanding the potential for the emerging paradigm of arts-based research to generate new curriculum ideas for general education practices. …