Williams, R. (2017). Being With and Being There: Our Enactment of Wide-Awakeness. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 18(3), 1-27.


The author presents a case study of a college art education course designed to explore teaching as art practice. The student participants were undergraduate art majors, with many planning to student teach art classes. Using the concept of wide-awakeness ― an active learning attitude that encourages critical awareness and deep engagement ― the research questions focus on the students’ exhibition of wide-awakeness, how the teacher facilitated it, and its impact in the course. Using narrative description, the author provides vignettes to demonstrate how participants’ relational and intellectual engagement allowed them to demonstrate wide-awakeness. The author models the participants’ experiences with wide-awakeness in a diagram.

Key Findings:

The resulting model plots several themes and experiences important to the participants’ experience with wide-awakeness. The author identifies four high-level components: a community of care and consciousness, being with, being there and empowered by possibility. These components interact with each other to form the next-level components: cultivating care to inspire being with, crafting encounters to encourage being there, the critical consciousness of being there and the deep engagement of being with. The interaction of all these components results in the next level of experiences: an invitation to awaken, cognition and imagination, a wide-awake response, and perception and awareness. Finally, all these levels of experiences result in the practice of wide-awakeness.

Significance of the Findings:

The author argues the importance of arts educators viewing their pedagogy as art practice. The experiences identified in the model can help art teachers cultivate attentiveness to and careful consideration of their pedagogy. Incorporating these practices can assist with teachers’ wide-awakeness. The practices can also help teachers craft intentional experiences with wide-awakeness for their students.   


The author used an instrumental case study design, which requires the participant researcher to remain aware and analytical at all times and allows the researcher to share the research process with other participants. Data collection included semi-structured interviews with three of the eight student participants, member checks of the transcripts, taking field notes and course artifacts. The author attempts to maintain validity by triangulating between data sources and writing memos in relation to the field notes, transcripts and documents. The author coded data to reveal patterns and narrative threads across and between the participants’ experiences. The researcher used a thematic, narrative approach to communicate the richness of the experience and describe the themes generated from analysis.

Limitations of the Research:

Instrumental case studies typically provide insight into a phenomenon or develop a theory and not statistically-sound generalizations. The model is overly complicated, particularly for such a small sample size. It is unclear how arts educators can utilize the model to improve their teaching pedagogy.

Questions to Guide New Research:

The author does not provide guidance for future research, but argues that arts educators can utilize the model to encourage the enactment of wide-awakeness in their course. Further research could explore similar efforts in other education settings, such as elementary, middle and high school. The need to craft intentional aesthetic experiences, the author states, may prove more important than ever in our current push for standardization of education.