Research Ethics Proposal for Experiential Learning

(Renewal 2017)

Starting in 2016, I won a spot in the SoTL seed program where I was partnered with Paulina Semenec, a PhD candidate at UBC. We renewed a BREB to pursue further research with intention to disseminate, in conference presentations and potentially publishing.  The following is the 2nd iteration of the BREB application proposal.  This has led to 5 more individual interview with students, totaling 11 interview, of which has resulted in conference paper presentations, of which the shortest presentation is in the next section.

Students as Emerging Artists in Society
Research Study
Faculty of Art, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory
Christine D’Onofrio, Instructor 1
with Paulina Semenec, PhD Candidate
October 2017

Research Summary

The following research proposal aims to study experiential learning pedagogical models and their methods of execution in a Visual Arts Community Engaged Learning class, VISA 375 Artists in Society.  Informed by personal teaching reflection and rigorously determined curriculum models undertaken in three iterations of the course, Christine D’Onofrio is interested in researching three specifically identified threads of questioning.  In point form, they are:

  1. The use of reflection for learning outcomes particular to experiential learning methods which are known to develop habits of life-long learning.
  2. Activating experiential pedagogical models into Visual Arts curriculum that mirror the specifically disciplinary research methods of praxis (doing), towards poeisis.
  3. The use of experiential learning in a local community and its academic contextualization in the classroom towards informing students of professional ideologies in the Visual Arts, in order to visualize, self-define and customize their own future professional role.

Research Questions

What is revealed about student learning when conventional teaching boundaries are expanded and informed by the disciplinary perspective of the Visual Arts of practice as research, from theory to praxis, and from classroom to community?

The following three themes guide this research study:

First, students responded to critical reflection questions at the start of the class, and will be self-assessing their changed understanding at the end of the class.  Post-reflection writing will be researched to identify the use of reflection in experiential learning models towards gaining life-long learning habits, and abilities to see and conquer all situations as learning moments, and examine changes in student self-image and maturity to handle nuanced understanding.  The work of Graeme Sullivan (2010) as well Tom Barone and Elliot Eisner (2012) assist in situating reflexive inquiry in arts-based research, as well as Leavy’s (2009) contribution on authoethnographic narratives.

Next, studying the final “creative response” assignment addresses the objective of poiesis in visual art, the transfer of intuition to intellect. The creative response assignment helped students to “make meaning of experience” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995), self-assess their engagement with praxis—unifying theory and action—, and identify how the disciplinary perspective of studio Visual Arts inform their methodologies and approaches to experiences.  Garoian (2013) writes that “within the context of art education, prosthetic pedagogy is characterized as performances of subjectivity that intersect, critique, and extend beyond academic, institutional, and corporate assumptions and sediments to enable the creation of new and diverse understandings through art practice” (p. 19). It is critical that a consideration of the students work and experience in the course and through their work with the Community Partners attend to their integration of learning and practice.

Third and finally, long-term research in the form of a personal interview, that re-approaches the experiences of the class after the class towards informing students on their own vision of their professional role and self-identification in relation to a community.  More broadly speaking, to reflect on the ways that experiential learning contributes to Booth’s (2011) vision of “a re-imagined higher education that is multi-dimensional, outward facing and grounded in the complexity and plurality of meanings that characterize contemporary life”.  Rudge and Chiappin (2016) note that “students reported that being an intern not only gave them experience, but it also enabled them to make better decisions about their careers” (p. 59), it will be important to engage the participants in a consideration of the value of their learning with community partners, and how these experiences will contribute to the goals as emerging artists. In addition, the above authors (2016), note that “it is important to acknowledge that often students gain knowledge and skills that educators could never fully anticipate, quantify – or assess. Yet it is these gains which may, in the years to come, be some of the most memorable and enduring learning of their entire study experience” (p. 61).  This opportunity to attend to these possibilities, the liminal moments of learning through experience – will assist in the ongoing curricular and pedagogical improvements in the delivery of course.


  1. Paulina Semenec will be recruiting potential participants in the class VISA 375 Artists in Society class, without Christine D’Onofrio present to avoid undue pressure. Only after the class is completed and grades submitted by the instructor (Christine D’Onofrio) will she have access to the list of participants and will compile course resources from that point. As described in 5.4, Christine D’Onofrio informed students on the first day of class of her research interest, but did not recruit students at that time. She explained that invitations to participate in the research study would be distributed near class completion and she would not be present, Paulina Semenec who would be presenting the research study and invitation to participate near the end of the class. Students will be informed that Christine D’Onofrio will not be notified of which students have volunteered to participate, or form of participation, until grades are submitted and the course is closed. They will be reminded often that participation is entirely voluntary.
  2. As a reflective practice and data source for capturing daily thoughts, Christine D’Onofrio continues to record her thoughts and creative responses in an ongoing journal for personal reflection on her own pedagogy and art-making – thus it is described as a researcher (visual) journal. No identifying information of students is recorded, and any observations collected that may relate to a student’s individual contribution in class will not be shared or studied without permission. In the interviews, Christine will not be referencing the work or statements of students who do not consent.
  3. After the course ends and final marks are submitted, Christine and Paulina will contact/recruit students to participate in further study (focus groups, etc.) via email. Those who agree to participate will then be contacted via email and/or phone to finalize dates and locations for 1 possible round of individual interviews. In the interviews, Christine will not be referencing the work or statements of students who do not consent. These interviews will be conducted then transcribed and analyzed. With permission, data will be audio recorded then transcribed and analyzed for thematic threads. Each individual interview will be approximately one hour long but no more than 2 hours long, including breaks. A phone survey could also be offered to students who may not be able to participate in an interview in person.

It is possible that no one agrees to participate in long-term focus groups and in that case, they will be cancelled. As part of the interviews, the researcher (Christine D’Onofrio) will study and analyze participating students’ artworks, artifacts, and writing (such as journal entries and imagery, artist statements, course assignments including final projects, pre and post personal reflections, and creative responses).

Study Procedures

To stay consistent with the text in the study, the information below will be provided to study participants, directly from the Letter of Recruitment: Email Invitation.  Participants will volunteer between 1-5 hours, depending on the part of the study procedures in which they chose to participate. 

  1. Share your experiences and new understandings from the course (VISA 375), as they apply to your own artistic practices and/or learning experiences.

  2. Share and discuss some or all of the following artifacts from the course (VISA 375): course assignments including post-reflection and final creative response projects, and/or new artwork and pedagogical ideas produced during and/or after the course.
  3. Permit me (Christine D’Onofrio) to document and analyze some or all of the above items listed in the second bullet above in italics. I will request to photograph, scan, and/or creatively document selections of your work which, with your permission, may be included in my research study and future publications.

Potential Future Contributions

This research will be of interest to students, artists, art educators, curators and the greater art community, specifically those who attend to the work in artist run centers.  In addition, it contributes to the discourse on the pedagogical perspectives that seek to combine class instruction and community based engaged learning.  Sullivan (2010) states that “meanings are not found but made through encounters with artwork that generates art talk that is grounded in the sociocultural conventions of language” (p. 137), this work seeks to offer a translation of the lived experience in the classroom alongside the experience of community based learning among the art community.  In doing so it is possible to offer a tracing of students emerging as artists in society.




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