Monash University

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Perceptions of visual art: the study of a private college, year 7 students and the visual art classroom

posted on 2017-02-22, 00:37 authored by Green, Mallory Jane
Visual Art has been a part of Australian education for decades; however, in an increasingly globalized visual world where individuals are inundated with media images the need for students to develop the skills to deconstruct and reconstruct images has become vital. And yet the notions that Visual Art is simply a God-given gift, frill or busy-work activity remain prevalent within our society and the skills that are taught become optional for students at the end of their middle school years. Therefore, educators and researchers alike have the added responsibility to determine students’ understanding of the benefits of Visual Art and identify ways in which to encourage continued appreciation and involvement in their Visual Art Education. The purpose of this thesis is to identify possible perceptions Year 7 students at a private college have on Visual Art, the influences that effect student subject selection and the ways their attitudes can inform future planning. The context of the study was an elite independent college in Victoria, Australia. This school currently allows students at the end of Year 7 to discontinue their Visual Art studies in Year 8. This study approached Year 7 students with the intention of determining whether or not they enjoyed and valued Visual Art in addition to seeking insight into their attitudes surrounding their Visual Art classroom learning activities. The study furthermore sought insight into student attitudes concerning the role parents, self-efficacy, peers or dreams for the future played in their decision to continue or discontinue specific subjects. This paper also endeavoured to add to the mounting body of literature on student perceptions by investigating student’s beliefs within a Visual Art classroom context. It similarly aimed to add to current arts educational research through addressing the gaps that exist in Visual Art Educational studies, specifically the lack of student opinions. The study attempted this through collating data on Year 7 perceptions from three different instruments. Forty-one students volunteered to participate in an online questionnaire, during their timetabled art class, and provided their thoughts on their classroom experiences, subject selection influences and dreams for the future. Eleven students, who completed the surveys, then offered to attend one of four focus groups interviews that were conducted. These 30-minute interviews involved the interviewer asking semi-structured questions and prompting discussion with visual stimuli. Four students within the focus group interviews also illustrated how they saw themselves within their Visual Art classroom. Multiple instruments were created to encourage students to answer honestly and be able to offer in-depth insight into their opinions as well as allow the researcher to triangulate data and increase the validity of the information gathered. It became apparent within the questionnaire, focus group interviews and drawing instruments that students enjoyed Visual Art, looked forward to their Visual Art class learning experiences and it was a favourite among many. The key struggle students’ highlighted during their classroom experiences concerned time-management. However the data, while suggesting that students liked Visual Art, also noted that the majority of students had dated notions of the purpose of Visual Art subjects and illustrated that further discussions on the aims of Visual Art Education in accordance to the new ACARA (2011) documents might be beneficial to implementing the national curriculum. The findings also clarified that Visual Art was not perceived as an important class and the minority of student participants saw a future in the creative industries. By identifying through the findings and literature framework the role that goals, self-efficacy and mindsets play within subject selection and motivation, as well as the significance of parent influence, the study was able to highlight the growing need for parental involvement in promoting Visual Art Education, developing a growth mindset and student self-efficacy. The study also implicated the necessity for teachers to promote career pathways in our global and creative economy that are benefited by Visual Art studies. As a whole the study provides insight into potential actions Visual Art teachers at a Private College might explore to improve motivation in the Visual Art classroom and encourage students to elect to continue their studies in Visual Art in the future.


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Principal supervisor

Angela Mornane

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Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education

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