Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The Curious Child: Engaging very young audiences in the arts
    Stevens-Ballenger, Jennifer ( 2020)
    While artists and producers are showing increasing interest in developing artistic works for very young children, there is much uncertainty about how to write and perform for this audience. Policy and research in this field remain overwhelmingly focused on school-aged children and youth, and accessible examples of practice are all but non-existent. Focusing on participant-observations of integrated arts performances for children aged birth to eighteen months, this research aims to contributes to a better understanding of the ways in which artists can support very young children’s engagement in these works. To achieve this aim, I have designed and undertaken a study that explores the field both broadly and intimately (Stake, 1981), and which balances the “gazing in” at my own experience with iterant “gazing out” towards literature and data (Tedlock, 2005). A progressive focusing research strategy (Patton, 2002; Stake, 1981) was followed, through which varying levels of breadth and intimacy were deemed appropriate at different times. This involved undertaking a field mapping study; reviewing theory and research from the fields of engagement, sociology of childhood, early childhood education, arts education, art and aesthetics, and child development; engaging in self-study; and identifying and more closely examining exemplary teaching-artist practices. Through a combination of reflective narrative and analytic discussion, I demonstrate how teaching-artists can best support very young children’s engagement by focusing their practices on interactions, environment, learning and development, the image of the child, and art and aesthetics.