Visual arts pedagogy in early childhood contexts: The baggage of self-efficacy beliefs, pedagogical knowledge and limited pre-service training

Publication Name

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood


Visual arts provisions are central to children’s holistic, play-based learning, yet the visual arts self-efficacy beliefs and subject content knowledge of early childhood educators influence pedagogical choices. When early childhood educators lack the visual arts confidence, skills, and knowledge required to effectively support children’s visual arts learning and engagement, children’s learning in the visual arts domain may be restricted; resulting in a negative cycle of influence whereby the next generation are denied their right to access visual languages. Qualitative case study research explored the visual arts beliefs and pedagogy of 12 degree qualified and vocationally trained early childhood educators. The conceptual framework, designed to to interpret and analyse the research data, aligns Dewey’s philosophies of democracy, education and art with the philosophy and visual arts praxis of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. The research findings suggest educator’s low visual arts self-efficacy beliefs develop during childhood and are not improved by pre-service training, resulting in limited visual arts skills and knowledge. The research participants’ visual arts pedagogy appeared to be strongly influenced by the experiential ‘baggage’ they carried into their pre-service training and practice contexts, by the participants’ theoretical beliefs about children’s development and by a range of divergent beliefs about the purposes of visual art in the early childhood context. Although training has the potential to broadly inform knowledge and practice, this study suggests that unless limiting visual arts self-efficacy beliefs are disrupted by constructivist theoretical knowledge and combined with practical skills and knowledge, the visual arts curriculum offered to children may be significantly compromised.

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