"Some witchcraft you’ve done in the past twelve months!” An exploration of the transformative value of learning through the arts in professional teacher education for the lifelong learning sector

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study is an investigation of the transformative value and impact of learning through the arts in professional teacher education for the lifelong learning sector. It has explored the extent to which meaningful and transformative learning can be stimulated and fostered through arts-based pedagogy. Arts-based practices are recognised as playing a part in the field of transformative learning theory (TLT), but literature on the use of the arts specifically within the context of lifelong teacher education is limited. This research study therefore contributes to a particular need for research in the area.A series of arts-based pedagogic approaches and interventions were designed for the investigation including collage enquiry, visual imagery, poetry, poetic enquiry, film, photographic journalism, drama, sculptural modelling, musical experience, body mapping, art gallery interventions, storytelling and reflective walking in the manner of ‘walking artists’.The research was conducted in a university in the North of England, over a period of three academic years with 59 students of mixed ages, all of whom were pre-service teachers in training. As the research was clearly bounded by context and fixed time frames, a case study approach was used, and connected to facet methodology. The methodology includes a creative aspect, drawing upon a/r/tography, in the form of a visual narrative, which has been created as a series of concertina booklets. This is presented as a form of research ‘capital’. Research methods with participants did not include art-based research methods, to avoid potential for confusing overlap with the arts-based pedagogy under investigation. Access to research participants was not an issue, but the ethical implications of practitioner insider research were carefully considered, particularly with regard to positionality and issues of power which is inherent in conducting practitioner research with students. Data was collected over a period of three academic years and analysed using a reflexive thematic approach. Arts-based pedagogy was found to create an invitation which offered protection, pleasure and play, freedom and liberation and the opportunity for self-expression. The capacity of the arts to ‘puncture’, awaken and enable vivid memory and recall was revealed, together with an immediacy of impact. Arts-based teaching and learning was found to illuminate and be a catalyst for deep and reflective thinking. It promoted learning in the affective domain and the development of critical consciousness, leading to transformative growth and change. As a theoretical framework, transformative learning theory framed and informed the research study. Through the concepts and lens of transformative learning theory, the analysis, interpretation and discussion of data was completed. In particular, the study has found that arts-based learning in alternative pedagogical spaces such as art galleries can be highly effective, increasing awareness and commitment to issues of social injustice and social inequity. The research has found that transformative learning can occur through critical witness and response to art, and does not require students to engage in the making or creating of art. An educator does not need to be a creative arts practitioner to teach through the arts. The study concludes that arts-based teaching and learning can make an enriching, dynamic and significant contribution to professional teacher education for the lifelong sector, and that through arts-based pedagogy, transformative growth, learning and change can be fostered, stimulated, and realised.  
Date of Award11 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHazel Bryan (Main Supervisor) & Pete Sanderson (Co-Supervisor)

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