UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards a culturally relevant pedagogy in art education Rae, Aparna


“The significance of relevant teachers to education lies in their belief that schools can be vehicles for social change, community building, and access to the mainstream; and that educators can take a leading role in promoting social justice”. Beauboeuf-Lafontant (1999, p. 702) The art classroom today is envisioned as a site for enabling social change by academics, pre-service teachers and a number of practicing teachers (Chalmers, 1996; Stuhr, 1994; Gude, 2007). As a subject in elementary and secondary schooling, art is one of the few areas that is excluded from provincial and federally mandated measures of accountability, such as standardized examinations. Theoretically, this allows an art teacher to mold his/her curriculum to address student need, enable social change and foster an atmosphere that allows for critical inquiry. Despite these perceived freedoms, many art programs are far from engendering ideas of equity (Staikidis, 2006). Art educators (Desai, 2002; Freedman, 2003) have argued that it is the teacher’s responsibility to make efforts for understanding between various (socio-cultural, economic, racial) groups in his/her classroom (Staikidis, 2006; Young, 2007). Through a series of interviews and classroom observations, this research attempts to understand ways in which secondary art teachers arrive at a stance of culturally relevant teaching. In particular, this research explores ways in which three secondary art teachers with parallel educational philosophies, and dissimilar teaching environments enact a curriculum and pedagogy with a stance on cultural relevancy. Consequently, factors contributing to culturally relevant and postcolonial pedagogies can be articulated and defined for future research. This study explores relationships that teachers negotiate with self, students, knowledge and communities to arrive at a curriculum and pedagogy. The relationships, while being interwoven and at times inseparable, represent epistemological and onto-logical foundations that remain grounded in ideas of hybridity, fluidity and self-reflexivity. Finally, this study opens a space for practitioners and researchers in the field of art education to consider the importance of inter/transdisciplinary research to move away from disciplinary limitations, and to develop modes of inquiry that are inclusive. In particular, this study aims to extend the postcolonial dialogue into art education.

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