Monthly Mentor

Andrew Watson (April)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Watson is the Fine Arts Instructional Specialist for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Va., where he coordinates the arts education of more than 15,000 students. He is the recipient of the 2015 Art Education Technology Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2019 Southeastern Regional Administration/ Supervision Art Educator of the Year Award from the National Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read his full bio.



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November 01, 2018

Arts-Based Research 101

By Patricia Leavy, PhD

The scholar seeks, the artist finds

—Andre Gide

I’m a sociologist but I spend much of my professional life in the world of art educators and artists. I’m not alone either. Increasingly, scholars across the disciplines are turning the arts. I’ll share a little of my own journey.

Early in my career I became frustrated with the traditional ways of conducting research and the limitations of traditional forms to best share research findings. Academic articles rarely follow the attributes of engaging writing. Academic articles are jargon-filled, difficult to access (they circulate in peer-reviewed journals inaccessible to anyone outside of academia), and have a highly limited audience even within academia. The vast majority of articles published in the social sciences have an audience of 3-8 readers, including their author. It’s pretty bleak for those of us interested in sharing our work with those inside and outside of the academy. This is what led me to a different research paradigm: arts-based research (ABR). This month’s mentor blog will focus on ABR. For those unfamiliar, here’s a basic overview.

In short, ABR is an arts approach to research in which art-making is integral to the research process. ABR exists at the nexus of the arts/humanities and the social sciences/sciences. ABR involves researchers in any discipline adapting the tenets of the creative arts in order to address research questions. An arts practice may be used during project conceptualization, data collection, data analysis, and/or to represent research findings. These approaches to research are useful for producing new insights and learning; description, exploration, discovery, or problem solving; forging macro-micro connections; evocation and provocation; raising critical consciousness or awareness; cultivating empathy; unsettling stereotypes; applied research; asking new questions or getting at old questions in new ways; and, contributing to public scholarship.

- PL

Authors Note: For a comprehensive introduction to ABR please see my book Method Meets Art Second Edition and for a comprehensive review of the field please see the Handbook of Arts-Based Research. Visit Guilford Press for discount details.



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