Lessons learnt from the history of primary visual arts education

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Association for Research in Education


School of Education




Morris, J., Lummis, G., & Lock, G. (2016). Lessons learnt from the history of primary visual arts education. In the proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education conference. Melbourne, Australia.

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Visual arts education in Australia has undergone significant changes since the 1950s, particularly in the primary school years. An interest in the history of visual arts education, and how it has shaped visual arts pedagogy and curriculum, motivated a narrative inquiry research project to document the experiences of 21 visual arts educators in Western Australia. The participants’ stories were primarily documented through open-ended interviews; however, some participants also wrote letters to the researchers and shared documents from their lived experience in visual arts education. All of the participants had studied visual arts as school students, and gone on to become visual arts teachers, artist-teachers, senior visual arts advisors, researchers, policy and curriculum writers, and advocates for visual arts education. Sharing narratives of visual arts education from the past 66 years has illuminated the history of policy and teaching practice in primary school visual arts, including stereotypes and public perceptions, pedagogical models employed in curricula, and international influences that shaped visual arts education. Reflecting on these narratives has given rise to four ‘lessons’ that can be learnt from history and applied to contemporary visual arts education.

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