An arts-based inquiry as method of reflection at Australian Catholic University

Mary Therese McInerney
Doctoral Dissertation,

This thesis examines the experience and implementation of arts-based procedures and processes as a method of student reflection. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the process in which use of the arts can act as a catalyst for reflection. My aims in introducing this method of inquiry are to facilitate an understanding of these procedures and processes and to show how they can be utilised for student learning within the context of the community engagement and intern practicum established at the Australian Catholic University. In this study, students’ engagement with the arts served as one way to access understanding of their community engagement and intern placements. I was also searching for a deeper understanding and appreciation of all that such a process involves, of how the art of intersubjectivity supports collaborative learning.

My broader aim was to contribute to the overall quality of university community life. It was also an opportunity to explore how the arts can be a powerful method for participants to learn more about themselves and an understanding of spirituality.

The arts-based procedures used to support student learning have been adapted from an epistemology developed at the Melbourne Institute for Experiential and Creative Arts erapy [MIECAT] that emphasises participatory, experiential, and embodied multi-arts approaches.

The relational qualities developed through an engagement in this inquiry process were central in achieving the aims of the research. roughout, I endeavoured to make the inquiry as participatory as possible and the data presented were developed as research participants and I engaged in a co-construction of meanings derived from an intersection between the curriculum, personal history and events, and the community engagement projects.

The cultivation of reflective practice has become common in higher education. However educators must face the challenge of teaching this and of companioning students in their re ective procedures. I regard the student voice as primary throughout this whole process, particularly in the representation of the data. is is in recognition of the primacy of their lived experience. e study elicits students’ views concerning arts-based procedures as a method of re ection. e data were analysed to identify the broad themes which were expressed through students’ visual journals. e ndings show that students in this study valued the opportunity to work multi-modally and that collaborative and structured re ection with arts-based procedures enhances students’ learning. e ndings highlight how an arts-based approach can enrich individual spirituality as an aspect of lived experience.

Whilst the study is situated within the higher education sector, the findings strongly suggest that arts-based inquiry is relevant to other situations. A recommendation for practice arising from the findings is that this arts-based re ection be implemented in primary and secondary schools as a means of spiritual development.


An arts-based inquiry as method of reflection at Australian Catholic University
Doctoral dissertation, Mary Therese McInerney


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