Voicing curriculum: Exploring embodied entanglements of arts-based inquiry and refrain

Keywords: arts-based inquiry, curriculum inquiry, pedagogical refrain, post qualitative inquiry, science education


In this article, we share our understanding of a “more than” (Ulmer 2017, 10) critical curriculum inquiry and how this type of inquiry can help us collapse the subject‒object binary by attentively responding to embodied experiences in curriculum studies. Our focus is specifically on the affective dimension of curriculum inquiry as we work with what St. Pierre (2018, 604) refers to as the “history of the present”. We use education memory to tap into the nuanced intra-actions between post-humanism, curriculum studies and how these are extended into the post-schooling context. We understand education memory as the sensory, affective and embodied experiences of education that emerge as we pause in awareness of our present moment of becoming. We draw on Pinar’s currere as folding memory into the present to continuously give voice to multidimensional layers of imagined futures. We draw on the concept of refrain (Deleuze and Guattari 1988, 300), which we understand as complex lived experiences informative in our becoming as educators. In using arts-based methods such as poetry, object inquiry, drawing and drumming, we explore lived experiences to tangibly integrate memory and imagination on pedagogical refrains that shape our becoming. Arts-based methods and materials afford tactile engagement with materiality and attentive responsiveness. Thus, we ask: How might the concept of refrain, as manifest in an arts-based research approach, allow us to give voice to curriculum entanglements as a “more-than-critical” curriculum? Through this question, we pay attention to relational occurrences as refrains, for memory and improvisation becoming integrated to inform curriculum entanglements between humans and the more-than-human.


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Author Biographies

Z. Venter, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein

Zettie Venter is a Research Fellow at the Office for International Affairs, University of the Free State. For decades, prior to pursuing research of education, as a secondary educator, she was involved in teaching of Agricultural Sciences, Natural Sciences as well as Physical Sciences, as Physics and Chemistry. Zettie was drawn into higher education as a facilitator of Chemistry to pre-graduate students and in turn was appointed as curriculum developer and designer at the UFSs South Campus, later Centre of Teaching and Learning (CTL). Zettie relates to being a science educator who is continuously learning what it might mean to engage with a direct perception of complexity. Such neurodiversity, for her, encompasses a life-long vulnerability trying to share embodied knowledge. In unexpected ways, she turned towards researching education from a post qualitative perspective and uses arts-based materials inquiring on congruence/incongruence between science educators’ ontological beliefs and enculturated (western) epistemology. In her doctoral thesis: A collaborative exploration of pedagogical refrain within science education, forthcoming December 2023, Zettie argues that the use of arts-based materials can enable (science) educators to explore transversal connections amongst information during ordinary lived experiences enabling an integration of memory and imagination, to slowly, continuously and in minor ways inform becoming of responsive pedagogical lives. As such, Zettie’s research interests include online networking towards global exploration on the use of arts-based materials as embodied/non-western ways of knowing, specifically in science education.

M. Müller, Kings College London & University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Marguerite Müller is a lecturer in Education and Society and leads the MA Education Management programme at Kings College London. She holds a BA in Fine Arts, a PGCE, a Master's of Education, and a PhD in Higher Education studies. Marguerite has taught in various educational contexts from South Korea to South Africa. In her research, she employs post-qualitative, narrative, participatory and arts-based inquiry to explore issues of educator identity and subjectivity in the higher education space. Her goals are to engage in innovative and accessible scholarship of education that contribute to a fair and just society for all.


Office for International Affairs, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.


F. Kruger, University of Nottingham & University of the Free State Bloemfontein, South Africa

Dr Frans Kruger is an Assistant Professor in Education at the University of Nottingham.  Frans is an associate editor for Education as Change and an editorial board member for Qualitative Research and In Factis Pax: Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice

Frans explores three related but different research foci. Firstly, he engages with pedagogical practice and social and ecological transformation. The central question that drives this focus is to what extent and what forms of social and ecological transformation pedagogical practices make possible? Using this question as a springboard, Frans explores how philosophical concepts could inform pedagogical practice that enables the emergence of more inclusive and affirmative socio-ecological collectivities. Secondly, he interrogates to which extent educational research and practice informed by critical posthumanism and new materialism enable one to respond to the prevailing socio-political and ecological conditions associated with the Anthropocene. In this regard, Frans is particularly interested in exploring the possibilities and forms of social and ecological justice that such research and practice make possible. Thirdly, Frans's research is concerned with the affective and material turn in education research and the questions these raise around what constitutes educational research and how research inquiry could be engaged in and reported on. Frans's research is inter- and transdisciplinary in considering the relationship between education and ecological justice concerns, as well as between education, social transformation, and decoloniality.


Office for International Affairs, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.


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How to Cite
Venter, Z., M. Müller, and F. Kruger. 2023. “Voicing Curriculum: Exploring Embodied Entanglements of Arts-Based Inquiry and Refrain”. South African Journal of Higher Education 37 (5), 27-42. https://doi.org/10.20853/37-5-5978.