UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Kan, Koon Hwee
Dissertation (Ed.D), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Thompson, Christine Marme
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By making use of visual narrative and visual analysis, this dissertation re-presents the story of the Singapore secondary school art style and unravels the social-cultural ramifications that secure the education of this art style in Singapore schools. The study employed several qualitative methodologies (ethnographic, curriculum, narrative, and arts-based inquiry) when investigating four local secondary schools between 1999 and 2001. Sources of data collection included intensive and prolonged observations, photo-documentation in situ, triangulated interviews (semi-structured interviews with teachers involved, open-ended interviews with the students, and photo-elicitation interviews with recent graduates), and documents analysis. Data analysis involved experimentations with digital photocollage-cum-photoessay and representation in two font types. The findings of the study emerge as a trilogy: One, stories of students learning the art style in the school setting address various issues of adolescent artistic growth. Four individual students' stories told at length and two vignettes highlight the taut need for openness and effectiveness in the school art oeuvre to meet with an increasingly multi-dimensional school art milieu. Intense bodily engagement in the learning process was a key motivational factor for the art students, while a chief dissuading reason was the presence of numerous schooling restrictions in comparison to the attractive visual culture in the students' daily surroundings. Two, stories of three separate school art programs in operation illuminate the strength of association between the Singapore school art style and other genres of art, namely regional folk art, western avant-garde art and contemporary applied art. Further discussion elucidates three different levels of coherence between the education of this hybrid art style and Singapore school practice. Using thinking as an analogy for creativity and expression in art, and selecting the box as a metaphor for controlling measures in the school system, the discussion rarefies thinking inside, outside, and without the box. Three, stories of four art teachers at work stipulate how cultural ideologies affect Singapore secondary school art pedagogy whereby teaching efficacy was partially predetermined by the expectation of strictness in teaching. This study offers a cross-site interpretation of the meaning of stringency by examining style of authority display with level of aesthetic prescription.
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