KU Quarterly April 2019 - Page 3

ABOUT DR GAI LINDSAY Dr. Gai Lindsay lectures in the Early Years Degree at the University of Wollongong. She recently completed a PhD that explored the visual arts beliefs and pedagogy of early childhood educators. Before entering academia, Gai worked as a preschool teacher, director and early childhood consultant for 23 years. Her desire is to be a “pracademic” and to link research and practice in ways that will support early childhood teachers and educators to confidently speak the language of art with children. To visit Gai’s blog regarding early childhood visual arts pedagogy go to www.ecartoz.com To read Gai’s academic articles go to https://scholars.uow.edu.au/display/gai_lindsay benefits of messy arts experiences, yet ironically avoided mess-making activities in practice. Other participants noted the tensions created between staff and parents about mess-making, concurrently explaining the need to advocate for children’s right to free expression through messy play, while admitting the demands of child supervision sometimes restricted the types of experiences offered in order to avoid the need to clean up messes. Additionally, educators who romanticised messy arts play as a therapeutic experience tended to be those who defined a child-focused curriculum as one where all choices made by children are accepted, regardless of whether the choices were wasteful or destructive with materials or had questionable educative value. This confusion about how to define quality in relation to artistic and creative experiences suggests that there is a great deal of confusion regarding the types of pedagogical approaches that best support visual arts related learning and development. Perhaps you experience such contradictions in your own workplace? To support theoretical reflection about the issue of messy art-play, it is interesting that well-respected scholars suggest the belief that messy visual arts activities build creativity is a long held early childhood myth (Eisner, 1973-74; Jalongo, 1999). Eisner (1973-1974) clarified that while visual arts engagement can foster pre-dispositions for creativity, it should not be positioned as the therapeutic key that exclusively unlocks the child’s innate creativity. My own research suggests that educators hold very tightly to a range of visual arts myths when then they lack confidence and knowledge with visual arts processes (Lindsay, 2016). APRIL 2019 John Dewey challenged the romantic belief that children’s choices should always determine the curriculum, suggesting such beliefs potentially substitute chaos for education and restrict children’s access to meaningful learning experiences and subject content knowledge (Weiss et al., 2005). Dewey (1938, p.13) challenges us, stating: “The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative. Experience and education cannot be directly equated to each other. For some experiences are mis-educative. Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience.” This idea, that the experiences presented to children may not always be valuable in educational terms, reminds me of Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996, p. 28) assertion that genuine creativity (defined as “any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one”) is only possible when a person has gained mastery within a domain. I therefore wonder, whether instead of automatically describing children’s early play and exploration with arts materials as creative, we might instead describe them as being inventive, experimental, focussed and curious – all characteristics that potentially foster a sense of wonder and a joyful attitude to learning? Choosing to position creativity in these terms removes it from the realm of prodigy and giftedness and places it firmly in the everyday practices we employ in early childhood settings. www.ku.com.au Page 3