Beyond Text (Book)

Learning through Arts-Based Research

Edited by Jeff Adams and Allan Owens

Focuses on learning through arts-based research as a practice of social justice through which we can reimagine, interrupt, insist and resist as we engage collectively to better understand and rethink social, organisational and societal issues. The result of a multi-year and international research project.  3 tables, 31 b/w illus.

Category: Visual Arts


This original new book represents a variety of art forms across different professional contexts. Its focus is on the ways that educational practitioners and leaders from a range of cultures, disciplines, professions and organizations practice arts-based research, and it explores how these can enable innovative means of learning and enhance professional and organizational development.

This vibrant project allowed for long term systematic conversations between a large and unusually diverse group of twenty-nine people from eight organisations in six countries. It was unusually diverse in many senses: for some the word ‘data’ meant little, for others it was central to their daily work; for some artistic practice was core, while for others the arts were a means to an end; while some were social entrepreneurs running their own companies others were researching in universities and a number were doing both; some were working within the STEM disciplines of business, management, engineering, science, technology, sustainability and the built environment, others were in the social sciences of social and health care, education and youth work while others were engaged in rapid or long term social and cultural action as a means of resisting state violence and military occupation; some worked in one of the safest countries on the planet, others in one of the most tear-gassed refugee camps in the world.

Within these professional groups there were also ranges of experience, for example senior researchers, early career researchers, PhD students, seasoned professional artists and newcomers to arts forms. Whilst the main communication of this group was English, six other major languages were spoken, Estonian, Finish, Catalan, Spanish, Arabic and key stakeholders bought Swedish and Japanese into the space. This meant that while the conversations in and about arts-based practice were transnational, interdisciplinary and systematic, they had all the messy, troubled-ness that the intercultural on all of the above levels brings with it.

This unique and exciting collection discusses how creative arts practices can have a significant impact on research across a range of international contexts, drawing on their own field of research and educational experience. For instance, drama, music, dance and visual arts can be used to understand how learners internalise concepts, reflect on how decisions are made in the midst of action in leadership education, or investigate the use of the intuitive alongside the rational and analytical in their educational experience. Non-textual arts-based forms of research can also provide modes of investigation into pedagogical and professional practices when applied to fields that normally lie outside of the arts.

Its greatest strengths are its focus on arts-based research as a way of learning in a variety of contexts, and often in collaboration.  Its consistent theoretical, artistic and professional engagements make it a very readable and engaging read. 

The representation of a variety of art forms across different professional contexts means that this book will have appeal to several readerships in higher education, including the following groups.

Academics and practitioners using arts-based methods in organisation and business settings. Researchers in the arts and researchers generically in the social sciences, humanities and arts. University students of the arts, education and professional studies, especially those interested in the wider international and intercultural diversity of research methodologies.

Those working in international research teams using any form of qualitative research will also find this collection very interesting.  It also has potential interest for groups outside higher education with an interest in arts-based research – for example community groups looking to explore collaborative projects.

Jeff Adams is Professor of Education at the University of Chester, and the Principal Editor of International Journal of Art & Design Education, as well as Programme Leader of the Centre for Research in Education, Creative and Arts through Practice.

Allan Owens is Professor in Drama Education, University of Chester, UK and a National Teaching Fellow; co-director of the centre for Research into Education, Creativity and the Arts through Practice (RECAP). His practice and research are concerned with the professional and social applications of drama and theatre in a wide range of contexts with a particular focus on the use of pretext drama and creative pedagogy.

Foreword: The culture of seriousness and anxiety by Arja Lehto

Beyond text: Introduction

Part I. Experimenting with arts-based research practices in academia

Chapter 1. Insights and outlooks: Experiences from a PhD course in arts-based research methods by Ulrika von Schantz and Eva Österlind

Chapter 2. Dilemmas of alienation in arts-based education research methods by Jeff Adams and Emma Arya-Manesh

Chapter 3. Accelerating movement across the intentional arc: developing the strategic sensographer by Mary Ann Kernan, Clive Holtham and Sara Jones

Part II. Arts explored through arts-based practices

Chapter 4. Travelling to the top of the mountain: Research investigation through found poetry as means of data analysis, presentation and dissemination by Fadel Alsawayfa

Chapter 5. From eco-anxiety to hope through drama by Anna Lehtonen and Panu Pihkala

Chapter 6. Leaving everything behind: The use of video illustration to critically reflect upon the experiences of Palestinian academics living in the UK by Muayyad Elwaheidi

Chapter 7. How music accessibility can be used in art-based research experiences by Lluís Solé Salas and Simon Poole

Part III. Arts-based research adopted in professional fields

Chapter 8. Organising reflection in health-care services: The contribution of research-based theatre by Anne Pässilä, Helinä Melkas, Satu Parjanen, Allan Owens

Chapter 9. The zine method as a form of qualitative analysis by Monica Biagioli, Anne Pässilä and Allan Owens

Chapter 10. Convoking radical imagination: The use of arts-based methods for inquiry in organizational contexts by Suvi-Jonna Martikainen, Anne Pässilä and Allan Owens

Part IV: Social action through arts-based practices

Chapter 11. The Secret of Dayta: learning and evaluating through process drama by Elisabet Aznar, Elisa Ballardin, David Martínez

Chapter 12. Beautiful Resistance: A response to a complicated political context   by Abdelfattah Abusrour and Hala Al-Yamani

Chapter 13. Overflowing the university: Embodied learning, caring relationships by Judit Vidiella, Assumpta Bassas, Eva Marichalar-Freixa and Marta Ricart

While I know of other arts-based research books, this one is unique. It is built upon a multi-year research study across several countries as those involved used the arts to study topics of mutual interest. I am struck by that which connects everyone but also by the differences that are discussed in each chapter. Reading this book made me think we don’t often get a chance to experience such a vibrant project unified in such a strong book.

Rita Irwin, Professor of Art Education at the University of British Columbia and co-editor of Provoking the Field

'Beyond Text is organized in a way that helpfully allows readers to examine a single chapter that may be relevant to their interests or, for a broader perspective on ABR, read the volume from cover to cover. It will be of interest and value to anyone seeking to broaden their use of research methodologies, as well as to educators in all aspects of the arts. As well as Adams and Owens demonstrating their expertise in ABR, particularly in the visual arts and drama respectively, it is exciting to see contributions from emerging scholars and practitioners working in the arts. [...] This book would be an excellent resource for graduate students on courses which utilize participatory arts as methods, as well as being of interest to undergraduate students stepping into ABR for the first time. The range of applications for ABR here demonstrates its relevance to several disciplines, making it of great use to researchers in subjects where the active agency of participants is perhaps less foregrounded.'

James Layton, PARtake: The Journal of Performance as Research

'The editors have curated this volume as an approachable invitation and guide for new ABR researchers. They have also explored a variety of settings in which this research could take place. [...] Beyond Text: Learning through Arts-Based Research is an excellent resource for ABR and action researchers who wish to learn more about how to effectively integrate ABR and action research into their work both in academic and applied settings. By continuing to reflect on how we as researchers can transcend text through arts-based approaches and action research can make our work more accessible and discover a reality that exists beyond the text.'

Jen Hinkkala, Canadian Journal of Action Research
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