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Educational settings where arts subjects or aesthetic forms of expression (such as visual arts, music, dance, film, drama, fiction or poetry) play an important role are considered rather complex. Consequently, communicative and artistic aspects that constitute the arts educational phenomena can be difficult to understand, analyse, document and share, without the risk of losing important nuances. A growing research movement that aims to address these challenges is arts based research (ABR). We claim that ABR – with its variety of methodologies and onto-epistemologies – offers substantial support in grasping even more of the mentioned complexities. The question is, does it also lead us closer to a multi-modal turn?
Over the last few decades, ABR has become a common concept and research approach – one that also encompasses various phenomena related to arts education. When this special issue was first initiated (in 2018), Ferm Almqvist emphasised that the field of arts educational research has experienced several scientific turns, which have influenced what has been considered valid research, the methods that has been used, and the results that can be delivered. These turns have also influenced the researcher’s role and the relations between the perspectives and people that have been studied. She underlined that the interpretative turn, the language turn, the bodily turn, the ontological turn, the action turn, etc. have changed what can be achieved and in what ways within the field of arts education research. Nonetheless, these turns do not fully capture the complexities of arts educational phenomena.