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International Handbook of Research in Arts Education


  • Comprehensive treatment of the field of arts education, covering music, virtual arts, dance, drama and poetry/literature

  • A truly international Handbook, with contributions from academics from around the world

  • All levels of education from preschool to tertiary and lifelong learning are addressed in the Handbook

Part of the book series: Springer International Handbooks of Education (SIHE, volume 16)

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Table of contents (103 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages I-XXVI
  2. Curriculum

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 141-142
    2. Currents of Change in the Music Curriculum

      • Janet R. Barrett
      Pages 147-177
    3. Experiencing the Visual and Visualizing Experiences

      • Rita L. Irwin, F. Graeme Chalmers
      Pages 179-196
    4. Narrative as Artful Curriculum Making

      • Lynn Butler-Kisber, Yi Li, D. Jean Clandinin, Pamela Markus
      Pages 219-237
    5. Dance Curriculum Research

      • Donald Blumenfeld-Jones, Sheaun-Yann Liang
      Pages 245-264

About this book

Providing a distillation of knowledge in the various disciplines of arts education (dance, drama, music, literature and poetry and visual arts), the Handbook synthesizes existing research literature, helps define the past, and contributes to shaping the substantive and methodological future of the respective and integrated disciplines of arts education. While research can at times seem distant from practice, the Handbook aims to maintain connection with the lived practice of art and of education, capturing the vibrancy and best thinking in the field of theory and practice.

The Handbook is organized into 13 sections, each centering on a major area or issue in arts education research. These areas include: History of arts education, curriculum, evaluation, cultural centers, appreciation, composition, informal learning, child culture, creativity, the body, spirituality, and technology. The individual chapters address cross-cultural research related to the central theme of the section from the perspectives of the particular arts discipline. Interludes provide reflective thoughts on the theme.


  • Museum
  • arts education
  • visual arts


Review in Arts and Learning Research Vol 23:1

The International Handbook of Research in

Arts Education

Bresler, L. (Ed.). (2007)

Dordrecht, NL: Springer. 1627 pp.

ISBN 978-1-4020-2998-1

$549 Hardcover

Reviewed by Jessica Hoffmann Davis

Independent Scholar

If you’ve ever observed a two-year old child drawing with

colorful markers on an endless stretch of paper (the blank side

of wrapping or wallpaper will do), you may decide that it’s very

dif.cult to pinpoint exactly what she is doing. For sure she is

making marks (exploring the boundaries of media) like a visual

artist, but when the rhythm of the tapping of the mark-making on

paper inspires her to jump a little as she sits or now to hop/crawl

across the paper, she seems more like a dancer exploring some

haiku-like choreography; and when the words tumble like musical

notes in chant-like accompaniment to the motion—"Bbbbbbb,

up!"— you are not sure if what you are witnessing is drawing,

modern dance or music, spoken word poetry, performance or even

ritual art. The International Handbook of Research in Arts Education is

a lot like that. But don’t worry, it sets out to be.

From the start, editor Liora Bresler points to the soft edges of

disciplines and the boundary crossing that invites, setting the stage

for a research tome that spans the artistic disciplines of music, dance,

visual arts, and writing, including voices from different academic

and geographical locations that travel on their own or intertwined

within and across a variety of themes. But don’t be misled by the

playful tone of my opening metaphor. The International Handbook of

Research in Arts Education marks a substantive contribution to the

literature on the arts in education and it is chock full of thoughtful,

well documented reviews and discussions of past and current

research—research that spans scholarship in aesthetics and arts

in education as well as anthropology, cultural psychology, and

curriculum theory. Beyond its reach in terms of artistic disciplines

and scholarly realms, however, the Handbook is in itself a boundary

breaker defying expectation in both content and form.

In comparison with the Handbook of Research and Policy in

Art Education, edited by Elliot Eisner and Michael Day in 2004, a

milestone in advancing the .eld of visual art education as informed

by serious research and re.ection, Bresler’s International Handbook

expands the landscape by: 1) taking a multi-arts perspective, and

counting creative writing in the mix; 2) inviting contributors to

engage openly in dialogue; 3) including contributions of unexpected

format; and 4) attempting if not overtly then at least implicitly to

function in itself as a work of art. While Eisner and Day play by

the rules producing an impressive compendium of scholarship for

a .eld that may have been thought unscholarly, Bresler breaks the

rules by challenging the standard constraints of such a volume.

While Eisner and Day conscientiously frame the .eld of visual art

education with the expected fences of history, policy, learning,

teaching, assessment, and a view of a future in the making, Bresler

and her team of 15 section editors honor these hurdles even as they

cross them and brave the unexpected beyond.

The thirteen sections of the book, comprised of contributions

from 116 authors, are organized within and across the porous

territorial boundaries of context (history; technology; museums

and cultural centers; informal learning; child culture; social and

cultural issues) and content (curriculum; evaluation; composition;

appreciation; the body; creativity; and spirituality). Section editors

begin their segments with a prelude that explicates the topic and

the themes that emerge from the writings of individual or pairs

of authors who focus on particular art disciplines. International

Handbook Advisory Board members add commentaries related

to these individual contributions from the perspectives of the 35

countries they represent. Unexpected in a compendium of this

kind are the "expressive" interludes that punctuate the pace with

artful personal re.ection, provocative ruminations, poetry, and/

or individual authors’ responses to other authors’ contributions.

Visual renderings of what appear to be montages of stone add

metaphoric cadence to the section breaks, challenging their

deliberately porous division.

The contributors are an exciting group of scholars and

practitioners, representing a range of disciplines and destinations.

As examples from the international cast, there’s Peter Abbs from the

United Kingdom (writing); Rita L. Irwin and F. Graeme Chalmers

from British Columbia (visual arts); Shifra Schonmann from

Israel (drama); Regina Murphy from Ireland (music); and Minette

Mans from Namibia (performing arts). On the North American

front there are the "giants" in the .eld such as Elliot Eisner and

Arthur Elfand (visual arts), Bennett Reimer (music), and Elizabeth

Vallance (museums); veteran arts education scholars who challenge

traditions including Elizabeth Garber; newer voices forging

the future such as Kim Powell and Lissa Soep; and well-known

scholars across academic disciplines including Ellen Dissanayake

and Nel Noddings. Editor Liora Bresler was so intent on .lling

out her star-studded troupe (what she calls her "dream team" for

the Handbook) that she even included (at his suggestion) personally

recorded arts encounter snippets from her e-mail correspondence

with Professor Jerome S. Bruner, who was otherwise unavailable

to make a contribution.

As a thread woven through all sorts and many of the pieces of

the whole of this work, the resonant voice of philosopher Maxine

Greene serves as inspiration and ballast to author contributions

whether she is speaking to issues of the arts as agents to awakening

imagination or to exciting social justice. Just as Tom Barone dedicates

his curriculum essay to his second and third grade teacher: "In the

beginning there was Light and she was named Mrs. Eddy"(p. 239).

Robert Stake constructs his interlude as an admiring response to

Greene’s powerful Handbook re.ection on appreciation (p.665).

Evoking Harry Broudy’s notions of "enlightened cherishing," Stake

considers the challenge of translating into classroom practice the

transcendence of the "taken for granted" that Greene sees as an

"end-in-view for aesthetic education"(p. 665).

In experiencing the cross-referencing that persists through

the Handbook, we are aware, as we are with a work of art, of the

process that went into the creation of this product. Stake takes

fellow contributor Greene as inspiration; Arthur E.and defends

".ne art" from the limitations of political neutrality placed upon it

by fellow contributor Paul Duncum. Interludes speak across voices;

preludes speak across themes. The International Advisory Board

members use as touchstones for their descriptions of arts education

in their respective countries the domain speci.c research presented

mainly, but with notable exceptions, by scholars from North

American universities. This lively discourse across contributor and

contribution lends coherence to the broad range of treatises and

perspectives included in the work, even as a lack of clear boundaries

among topics challenges the internal cohesiveness of some of the

different sections.

Artistic symbols are distinguished by the ambiguity that opens

them to multiple interpretations. The ambiguity of the edges of its

various sections may be another way in which the Handbook is like a

work of art, but it adds considerable challenge to the work of section

editors and contributors. Section editor Susan Stinson in her prelude

to the section on curriculum explains: "… determining boundaries

has been a challenge for all authors of the Handbook…[as] re.ected

in many of the questions that circulated through the cyber-process

of this project: ‘What counts as research?’ ‘What educational

research is not about curriculum?’ ‘How can one adequately

contextualize this research without describing its history, which is a

separate section of the Handbook?’"(p. 143). In part as a consequence

of this "boundary bleeding" (and of course because many of the

contributors to this text are artists themselves) we .nd the authors,

like artists, braving hard fundamental questions: "What is the real

question?" "What gets included and what gets left out?" "How

do I create an aesthetic whole that usefully embraces but does not

pretend to de.nitively contain the topic at hand?" The behindthe-

scene view of authors in conversation, sharing challenges in

the framing of their individual contributions or being inspired in

their writing by each other’s work increases the immediacy of this

dynamic presentation of scholarship.

In his interlude in the section on evaluation, Chris Higgins

takes issue with the assertion that "Research is objective; art is

subjective. Research discovers; imagination invents" (p. 393).

Alternatively, drawing on Dewey’s claim that the arts teach us

to see more, Higgins proposes that, "like the best artists, the best

researchers use their imagination to move past the cardboard

versions of things. The question for educational evaluation is not

which method to choose or how to employ it, but how to notice…the

dimensions of classrooms that are hiding in plain view" (p. 393).

Like other contributions in the Handbook there is no apology here

for the arts not being up to the clear edge-cutting of scienti.c

research; no attempt to limit the knowledge of the .eld to the crisp

compartments that arguably serve other areas well. The focus

here is on seeing more clearly, as artists do, "beyond the taken for

granted" to what the arts in education in particular provide, those

invaluable variables that may be "hiding in plain view."

While the authors I’ve mentioned point to the dif.culty of

adhering to established boundaries even in the most straight forward

section topics (history, curriculum, evaluation, appreciation,

technology, museums and cultural centers) those topics more

overtly open to idiosyncratic interpretation (informal learning,

child culture, social and cultural issues, creativity, the body, and

spirituality) invite even broader brush strokes. Minette Mans

attempts to clarify the spectrum of learning experiences that can

be included in the category of informal learning: "The spectrum

of learning experiences can range from accidental, unintentional,

or reluctant forms of learning to active, intentional, involved and

highly valued forms of learning" (p. 779). Introducing their section

on social and cultural perspectives in arts education, Douglas

Risner and Tracie Costantino speak to the breadth of their topic:

"the enormity of social issues in arts education spans tremendous

global research terrain" and to its overlap with other sections in

the Handbook, "social issues permeate the educational fabric of

curriculum, history, evaluation, the body, and technology" (p. 941).

This section, which addresses fascinating recent research studies,

.nds a measure of uni.cation, Risner and Costantino tell us, in a

focus on justice and freedom (here again after Maxine Greene).

But within the bristles of broad brush strokes lie issues that easily

could each have had their own sections: gender, identity, diversity,

social justice, critical pedagogy.

Adopting the two-year-old’s haiku choreography, let me piece

together a collage of points of interest. The section on composition

most interestingly addresses both the issues of how artists compose

in different domains and how we teach students to compose. The

theme of metaphor features large in that section and is gracefully

addressed in interludes by Keith Swanwick and Michael Parsons.

The section on museums and cultural centers rightly includes an

interlude by David Carr on the role of libraries. The section on

child culture attends to the voice, vision, and values that children

bring into class and that can be recognized, honored, ignored, or

even exploited. The section on body is heavy on mind, replete

with philosophical overtone and reference, addressing learning

and art making through the senses, the extent to which the body

is represented in art, and the challenge of resolving the mind body

problem with concepts like "embodied minds."

The last section of the Handbook is on spirituality and it is

perhaps the bravest section of all. Conversations of how we educate

our soul are conspicuously absent in mainstream educational

discourse and they feel rare and strange in a .nal chapter that

would have been expected to hold no new surprise. Section editor

Rita L. Irwin speaks of "a longing for the spiritual" that holds steady

amidst moving educational trends. She describes the education of

soul: "An education of the soul is an education .lled with feeling

completely alive, being at one with the universe while experiencing

joy, compassion, mindfulness, and a sense of awe for the mystery

that abounds" (p. 1401). But discussions of "feeling completely

alive" like the idea of a curriculum that "moves beyond rational

and analytic ways of understanding to intuitive and emotional

ways of knowing" (p. 1401) do not lend themselves to standard

academic discourse. The problem one is convinced at this juncture is

not with the scope of the topic, but with the limitations of academic

discourse. Broader vocabularies and multiple modes of expression

(like the story telling and poetry these authors employ) are needed

to facilitate conversations about what matters most. Regretting

that there is painfully little if any research literature around an

art education that is grounded in spirituality, in this grand .nale

contributors declare its importance and launch a call for attention.

As London puts it, "Then, be it resolved, something ought to be

done about this. Soon" (p. 1492).

I was privileged to work for years in my teaching with a diverse

group of students—non-arts classroom teachers, arts teachers,

museum educators, program of.cers, community arts educators

and administrators—most of them sharing a predisposition for

and/or training in artistic activity and all of them uni.ed by a

belief in the importance of the arts in education. Actors, musicians,

painters, sculptors, poets, writers—all together in my classroom,

confronting common themes from their different perspectives.

And it would happen every fall. The drama or dance or visual arts

teacher would stand up and say, "Well, I can’t speak for music

or writing—I wouldn’t dare—but in my classes, I .nd…." And I

would ask, "if you wouldn’t dare to speak across artistic domains

to another teacher of the arts, how on earth are you going to dare

to speak to a science teacher about what it is you do?"

Discourse across artistic domains is essential to our forging

educational conversations across arts and non-arts domains. We

must cross boundaries; and we must make sense of the boundary

crossing. If I wanted more from the International Handbook of Research

in Arts Education, it was in this regard. I wanted more about the

similarities and differences in metaphor’s structure in language,

dance, visual arts or music; more about what music education in

Indiana can learn from music education in Ireland. I wanted the

scholars in this volume to move like spidermen and women and

do more web weaving out of the bounty of diverse artistic and

international perspectives. But I am impatient and I also realize

that like any work of art, the Handbook asks much of the reader by

way of interpretation and sense making. Had I had this volume in

my classes, I could have asked my students to use it as a source in

the spidering they will need to do.

Bresler’s International Handbook of Research in Arts Education is

a sprawling and ambitious enterprise, rightly called by Bresler a

"huge mosaic." By bringing together scholars from different artistic

disciplines and locations, it initiates a conversation that speaks of

and to a burgeoning promising modern and timeless conception

of a .eld called the arts in education. That conversation, as I have

tried to describe and demonstrate, is made up of voice and inquiry,

struggle and triumph, diversity and direction, scholarship and

communication, artistry and rigor, blurred boundaries, overarching

themes, and sharp tips of icebergs tweaking complacency and

inviting further research and discourse. I congratulate Liora

Bresler and her star-studded dream team. The territories to which

they take us (even those we thought we knew) are complex and


Like the two year old’s multifaceted activity, the Handbook

is not about visual arts, dance, drama, or music; it is about

all of them because those activities, as they do in the vibrant

activity of the young child as artist, overlap, inform, enrich and each other. And as it is with the two year-old’s drawing,

doubters will look to this multifaceted Handbook and question the

integrity of the activity, liken my admiration for the work to the

romantic’s cross-disciplinary interpretation of what is only the

aimless scribbling of the young child. Doubters will fault Bresler

for not pulling in the reigns and making her compilation of arts

education scholarship look more like what is done in handbooks for

mainstream disciplines. But I applaud this work as precisely the sort

of uncompromising high holding of the head that arts education

deserves and I will cite the International Handbook of Research in Arts

Education as a model of what the arts do of which other disciplines

need to do more. I recommend this text to any student of the arts

in education and I suggest for their journeying forth they hold on

to their hats in readiness for the boundary leaping and exploration

of emotion this rigorous treatise daringly pursues.


Eisner, E. & Day. M. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of research and policy in art

education. A Project of the National Art Education Association.

New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jessica Hoffmann Davis is the author of Framing Education as Art:

The Octopus has a Good Day (2005). At Harvard University, Dr. Davis

founded and was the .rst director of the Graduate School of Education’s

Arts in Education Program and held the university’s .rst chair in the arts

in education. Her new book, on advocating for the arts in schools, will be

published in 2007 by Teachers College Press.

From the reviews:

“International Handbook of Research in Arts Education, editor Liora Bresler set out to identify research agendas and issues across the arts and to define a new relationship among disciplines that are naturally related outside of the academy. … Bresler and her section editors and authors have given the arts professions and academies an astounding work of high artistic and intellectual merit.” (Marie McCarthy, British Journal of Music Education, Vol. 26 (3), 2009)

Editors and Affiliations

  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.

    Liora Bresler

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

eBook USD 869.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-1-4020-3052-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 1,099.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 1,099.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)