Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

After a Decade: What Remains of a Kindergarten Developmental Arts Education Project?

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

After a Decade: What Remains of a Kindergarten Developmental Arts Education Project?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Developmental projects raise many kinds of mental images. Are they really important for developing work and quality or do they just take resources and attention away from the basic work without producing any additional value? In this article, we explore the longlasting impacts of an art education project that began in Helsinki in 2000. We tried to determine if the developmental work that began ten years ago is still evident in the everyday activities of participant kindergartens today.

Originally, there were 1,500 children and their parents, 400 educational personnel from the southeast Helsinki district schools and kindergartens, and 20 artists involved with the project. The children were from three to nine years of age. Shared local targets in the project aimed to improve the life management of families with children, while also accelerating communal collaboration among the inhabitants of the area. At the kindergarten level, the focus in the project was on increasing the children's attendance and participation, as well as improving the personnel's professional skills. The content, ideas and elements of the activities were taken from local history and culture and were carried out through artistic working methods. Another important goal was offering high quality arts education in kindergartens and schools. The project was divided into small subprojects, and their developmental themes included circus, dance, architecture, literary art, drama, and visual and environmental art. The achievement was executed as a collaboration between artists and educational professionals from kindergarten and school. Table 1 shows a description of the contents of the sub projects and the collaboration from different points of view.

The sub projects lasted intensively between 1 and 2.5 years each. The artists were hired to work in kindergartens and schools together with the teachers. External funding from the city of Helsinki administration was used for the costs. After the funded project, the schools and kindergartens continued the developmental work on a smaller scale and in collaboration with fewer artists.

During the project evaluation and research, data was collected using the principles of multidimensional evaluation (Ojala & Vartiainen, 2008). The evaluation data consisted of interviews with teachers and artists, the final report of the project, and the follow-up reports of the project. Table 2 shows the contents of the evaluation data.

Multidimensional evaluation explores the evaluation target entity in tight connection to its context. It is also very important to give a voice to different interest groups and points of view in dialogue with each other. Multidimensional evaluation is constructivist and comparative. It takes advantage of different data, evaluation materials and methods. The idea is to get as versatile a picture of the evaluation target as possible and to avoid simplification. Pragmatism is also important; evaluation concentrates on the collection of data where the most important points of view can be found using the resources that are available. Advantages of this method are versatility, pragmatism and polyphony. Complete objectivity and value freedom multidimensional evaluation method does not reach but polyphony ensures that the evaluation is not based on values of one group.

Four scientific articles have been written based on the material concerning the project presented in this article (Nevanen, Juvonen & Ruismäki, 2012a, 2012b, 2014a, 2014b).

Detailed results of the project are reported in these publications. The earlier articles focused on the development work of the project from different starting points, which were: multi-professional collaboration, development of children's learning skills, school and kindergarten as learning environments, and qualitative evaluation of an arts education project.

In 2012, the permanency and sustainability of the impacts of the project were explored through kindergarten leaders' interviews. …

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