"I also came to appreciate deeper how art is a way for children to make sense of the world around them. They have lots to say about their works, and the experiences that are embedded in their representations."
Kehk Bee Lian
Interview with Artist
Kehk Bee Lian, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Q: Your research interests focus on art teacher education, art teacher knowledge and art teachers’ reflective practice. Please could you summarise the focus of your latest academic research?
A: My recent research is still related to art education in local classroom, specifically
looking at how inquiry learning takes place in art lessons. I examine how art teachers perceive and understand their own teaching as promoting inquiry and the challenges they encounter in trying to enable their pupils to be curious and independent learners.
Q: Please could you tell us something about the work that you are exhibiting/contributing/presenting in the exhibition “The Art of Creative Research” at the NIE in Singapore?
A: I am inspired mainly by the way children make art. Their lack of inhibition, almost always spontaneous, is a big contrast to how older students and adults approach their own art. During Covid and working from home, I had much more opportunities to observe how my own daughter, at that time 6 year old when Covid first hit all of us, created works daily. Even now, she was still drawing and doodling like any 8 year-olds. I also came to appreciate deeper how art is a way for children to make sense of the world around them. They have lots to say about their works, and the experiences that are embedded in their representations. So my concept for this exhibition is to create work using works done by my daughter, to create new meanings from her many interesting doodles and scribbles.
Q: As an artist teacher what inspired you to pursue your doctorate and your career as a lecturer and academic researcher?
A: There is a lot to offer through art. However, for the longest time, art education was neglected. I was motivated to learn more about art education at the beginning of 2000 as a beginning teacher; I saw some exciting changes happening in Singapore’s education landscape and wanted to learn more to contribute to local art syllabuses and art teacher education. Along the way, I have also met many passionate local art teachers who are committed to making art education meaningful for their own pupils.
Q: Is your research designed to influence any curriculum, programme, course or art education policy developments? (Either at NIE or beyond)
A: Yes. Through my research and teaching, I am constantly thinking about what art can offer now and in the future. I work very closely with colleagues from the Ministry of Education and together, we look for ways to ensure that the school art syllabuses are current but also meet the future needs of our students.
Q: How does your research impact on your own learning and teaching strategies and in what ways does it enhance or enrich the students’ education or experience?
A: For instance, my recent research reveals that art teachers tend design guided and structured inquiry lessons, with predetermined end results/productions anticipated. This has led me to consider how I could help art teachers to widen their perception of inquiry and be confident in providing more space for their own pupils to explore their own artmaking.
Q: Do you have any other reflections on the art of creative research?
A: I would like to see more research being done on the relationships between art-making and students’ critical self-awareness.