What my PhD project is about 

My ongoing doctoral study focusses on the pedagogical utility of art with respect to existential questions. Against the background of contemporary developments in the Dutch society in the area of the ageing phenomenon I have noticed there is a field of knowledge still to be explored: art and ageing in social work education in conjunction with questions about human existence.

The main question of the project is: How can students in social work be sufficiently prepared to utilise visual arts in working with older people around existential questions concerning ageing? In order to address this question, I have [1] reconstructed and analysed contemporary discussions about ageing, social work, social pedagogy and the arts, in policy literature, research literature, in conversations and in focus group discussions; [2] explored and analysed theories concerning ageing, visual arts and social pedagogy in order to develop a theoretical framework for the project; [3] developed, implemented and evaluated a course for students in social work that sought to prepare them to engage with existential questions and utilised visual arts in doing so; [4] explored the significance of some of the insights gained through a residential stay in a housing and care centre; and finally, I have [5] explored and articulated the implications for the future education of students in social work.

During the project, I have tried to unfold ideas by explaining how art could be used in social work education. I have also tried to understand the use of art in social work education, besides instrumental and expressive purposes, as an existential matter. Besides questioning the place and role of art in social work education courses, this research project describes the educational task in social work for discovering its pedagogical task.

Doctoral supervision is by prof. Gert Biesta and prof. Sharon Todd – Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy at Maynooth University, Ireland and by dr. Erik Jansen – HAN Research Center for Social Support and Community Care at HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

My research project is financially supported by the HAN University of Applied Sciences, Academie Mens & Maatschappij.