Early childhood art education in Hong Kong: A phenomenographic study

Kit Mei Betty WONG

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This study was a phenomenographic inquiry into arts education in early childhood. Through the use of this interpretative approach, the study was an inquiry into the internal relationship between human experience and the world environment, based on the core assumption that there is variation in the ways in which people experience the same phenomenon. Drawing on the work of Pramling and other phenomenographers, the study identified and compared the conceptions of art in young children and their teachers.

Twenty-seven young children, aged 5 to 6, studying in the same class in a Hong Kong preschool participated in this study with their two class teachers. Semi-structured interviews were used and the children were asked to describe art experiences in their preschool learning environment. The two teachers working with this group of children were interviewed separately, for their views on their art teaching practices. Through a process of comparing and contrasting themes emergent in the transcriptions, children's conceptions of their art experiences fell into five categories: (1) Art is Human Nature, (2) Art is a Task, (3) Art is a Process, (4) Art is a Product, and (5) Art is Mystery. Teachers' responses fell into two categories: (1) Art is Human Nature, and (2) Art is a Task. A conclusion of the study was that the conceptions of art in children formed at an early age are broad and complex.

Comparison of the conceptions between the young children and their teachers indicated that there were some similarities but also mismatches. The children had a broader perspective than their teachers and they were sensitive to the teachers' conceptions. The teachers and the children shared the conceptions of art as being part of human nature and art as a task, although their variations differed. In addition, the children demonstrated that they had further conceptions of art -- that it was a social process, and that the product was important and valued. Finally, analysis of the data also showed that the children had a conception of art as a mystery, holding contradictory elements together in a tension, where art was important but also a chore.

Research studies into how young children understand and conceive their early experiences with art learning, and how their teachers perceive preschool art education and its practice, are limited. In documenting the views of both the teachers and the children, this study contributes to an understanding of arts education in a preschool context, by exposing the young children's perspectives. Possibilities for improving arts pedagogy are considered, and new questions are emerged. The study also illustrated how a phenomenographic approach could be used in the field of art education and early childhood education.

Recommendations for further research arising from the study include: using phenomenography to study young children's conceptions of other arts experiences (e.g. music, dance, drama); replication of the study with young children of different age groups and cultural backgrounds; longitudinal studies of children's conceptions of art throughout their schooling programme; and detailed examination of the conceptions of art in early childhood student teachers before, during and after their training. Copyright © 2007 Kit Mei Wong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007


Wong, K. M. (2007). Early childhood art education in Hong Kong: A phenomenographic study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.


  • Phenomenography
  • Conceptions
  • Child
  • Teacher
  • Art
  • Pedagogy
  • Art education
  • Hong Kong
  • Early childhood


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