Adam Staples

Date of Submission



This thesis is located in the areas of arts education, visual arts learning and society formation. The aims of the study were to undertake an analytical, empirical and conceptual study of the relationship between learning in the visual arts and contemporary society formation; to clarify the conceptual, policy, professional and practical issues relevant to the role of learning in the visual arts in stimulating learning and promoting contemporary society formation in a time of societal transition and change; and to generate theory and develop recommendations for theory, research, policy and practice. The study began with an examination of literature pertaining to the social, cultural and educational contexts of the study, with particular reference to Australia’s diversity, government policies relevant to culture and the arts, and to visual arts education and learning. This qualitative research study adopted an evolutionary epistemology and a meta-theoretical perspective based upon interpretivism. A Grounded Theory Method approach to data gathering and theory development was chosen. There were two distinct stages to the study. Data were gathered initially from teachers and secondary school students and then from a range of artists, senior arts administrators and visual arts educators. Two core categories were identified in the findings of the study. The first core category, Visual Arts Transformative Learning: Something Different and Significant, showed how learning in the visual arts can transform young people’s understanding of self, others and society and how learning in the visual arts itself can be transformed as a mode of learning. Such a transformative and transformed mode of learning can provide something different and significant both in stimulating learning and in contributing to society formation in a time of societal transition and change. The second core category, Re-Imagining Contemporary Society: The Distinctiveness of a Visual Arts Practice, based on data gathered from senior arts advocates, confirmed the relationship between visual arts learning and contemporary society formation, in particular the distinctive manner and form in which a visual arts practice might enable contemporary society to be re-imagined. The emergence of the substantive theory generated in this study, and the manner in which it addresses the central question of the nature of the relationship between learning in the visual arts and contemporary society, was assisted by reference to the metaphor of the loom, the warp and the weft, derived from the craft of weaving. From the examination of the findings, the substantive theory and the analysis of the relationship between the theory and the practice (practical wisdom) generated in this thesis, recommendations were put forward for the advancement of theory, research, policy and practice addressing a visual arts transformative learning practice and the aesthetic re-imagining of contemporary society.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


340 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts

Included in

Art Education Commons