International Journal of Art & Design Education

Visual Arts Declarative Knowledge: Tensions in Theory, Resolutions in Practice

Volume 27.3   2008



This article focuses on the contribution literacy, linguistic, curriculum and pedagogic theories make to realising declarative knowledge outcomes for middle years visual arts students in one multi-age Australian classroom. Understandings of literacy as visual arts content and process, as articulated in the Queensland School Curriculum Council Years 1 to 10 Syllabus, are analysed in terms of the above-mentioned theories. This analysis reveals four significant tensions: an absence of linguistic knowledge for the construction of declarative knowledge written texts; the assumption that the subject English provides the skills base for the production of visual arts declarative knowledge written texts; slippage between the proposed curriculum orientation and teaching position for achieving high quality declarative knowledge outcomes; and a lack of specificity for the form of metaphor to be used in visual arts education. The article presents classroom data from one middle year’s teacher who takes up multiple curriculum orientations and teaching positions to facilitate high quality declarative knowledge outcomes. He commences the lesson by drawing on the students' life worlds, and then moves into the role of expert so as to provide arts-specific content and linguistic instruction before the students complete their written descriptions. The findings contribute to the worldwide debates surrounding teaching and learning practices for developing visual arts declarative knowledge outcomes by reissuing the call for syllabus planners to make the links between a content area and its literacy demands explicit and for teachers to reclaim spaces for subject-specific literacy instruction.