Arts Based Education: A Pedagogic Reconstruction
Here is a thoughtful article that pleads for arts based education, and shows how it can release human creativity, involve local communities and create a better society.
Dr. Madhulika Sagaram, Director of Ajahn Center for Pedagogy, Adhya Educational Society, Hyderabad, Telangana.
Any learning experience should be molded and shaped to fit each individual learner’s life. As learners grow and their lives change, interpretations of learning and the process of education will change based on how individuals are experiencing the world during that specific period and space. More so in current times, with fast paced changes and advancement in technology, there is a requirement for processes and pedagogy that can augment learning in various emotional and social contexts. Arts based education is surely one such pedagogy that has relevance for the current times and its dynamic nature.
Arts based education engages learners to move beyond initial learning experiences in search of meaning to explore more. Any new experience that individuals gain from such a learning process becomes a part of their being. It is imperative that individuals must throw themselves outward towards the world while reflecting on themselves and arts based education facilitates such knowledge construction. As a conscious and an individual learner, one must reflect on themselves in relation to the world and determine their ability to mold with that environment (Greene, 2003). Arts based education facilitates personal as well as impersonal expressions in learning experiences.
Impersonal expression of art has been very prominent in traditional Indian art forms and ways of learning. In tradition, community and communal process played a central role in the developmental aspects of a child’s growth and education. Art and impersonal expression of it were central features. Eg. Puppeteers would use poetry as effective means of documentation to describe oral history of the puppets, patrons and the show before a show started. An art form embedded with another providing and documenting details and histories of places, people and communities! Thus, everyday life was actively integrated with the learning associated with art form and the impact it had via pedagogy.
Arts based education supports and nurtures the development of a learner who is open to the world. A traditional, established curriculum with rote learning is not adequate for the changing world, especially for those who are trying to orient themselves with a dynamic world or experiences. As educators, we must also understand that the experiences of those learning are always incomplete and we need to be willing to re-contextualize content because of sudden change in our experiences and perspectives. We may initially think that learning is permanent, but in actuality, it is transient. Arts based education accommodates re-conceptualization of curriculum and instruction to suit the changing needs of learners and schools.
Arts based educational programs are currently an educational route being used by many schools, museums, and community centers around the world. In recent years, creative and expressive arts therapy has gained significant attention among many postmodernists within the areas of both general education and educational psychology. The arts are no longer understood to be at the periphery of the curriculum; rather, the arts are the heart and soul of teaching, pedagogy, and human growth (Slattery, 2006).
An increased interest in the arts is based on the belief that many people express themselves in nonverbal rather than solely verbal ways and that through a creative process, students can gain increased awareness, reveal internal conflicts, resolve inconsistencies and dichotomies, and work through defenses (Zinker, 1978). Gestalt theorists believe that a therapeutic focus on “holism” or wholeness of body, mind and contact, encourage body movements through dance, drama, and expression of dreams through narratives.
Arts based education, as a strength-based program, does not ignore the difficulty of strong emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and/or sadness. Rather it invites it in as expression of them, and youth do not need outbursts to externalize those feelings that are causing them great pain; they don’t need to vent their anger, for example, on anyone else to be relieved because they are channeling into artistic expression (Fowler, 1994). Learners take real life issues and artistically interpret it in autobiographical manner. Arts based education allows for shared lived experiences to occur by incorporating pragmatism, consciousness, cultural awareness. Multiple modes of address occur through complicated conversations in the community because of arts based education. It allows for increased self-reflexivity and consciousness to enable gestalt to occur through lived experiences.
Arts based education facilitates experiential learning through continuity of experience and interaction. It brings together gestalt theory and constructivist approaches to create instructional environments that provide a sanctuary in an ever-chaotic world.
Dewey (2009) described education as a continuous reconstruction of experience with emphasis on the social life of the child rather than individual subjects. The emphasis on hands on, real world learning experiences via the medium of arts based education increases academic achievement, synergy, builds stronger interrelationships in the community, leadership and heightened commitment to service and contributing citizenship. Because of the synergy created, students and teachers are both involved in solving real world problems, teaching and learning as knowledge creators instead of being consumers.
Arts based education enables establishment of interrelationships through educational activities and creation of quality educational methods, teaching and learning models for schools. When schools focus only on educating individuals to make a mark in the society, they leave behind communities to be struggle in despair and poverty; instead arts based education to bring together communities to restructure and reengage their schools to become engines for social development. Arts based education enables advantaged to take ownership of social development and the disadvantaged to find agency through education. The interactions between school and the community and among schools will create synergy among economically disadvantaged communities. Thus, leading to development of individuals, communities and leaders for social, economic, and environmentally responsible development in every sphere of work and life.
Arts-based education provides room for individual personal interpretation and a growing body of literature documents the power and influence of the creative arts in engaging and redirecting harmful and detrimental behavior of youth (Wallace-DiGarbo & Hall, 2006). While arts-based education is valuable for any demographic, it is especially valuable for at-risk children that grow up in disadvantaged socio-economic environments. At-risk children have an increased risk of struggle with compromised mental health, performance at school, family disruption, abuse in various forms including psychoactive substance use, and law-breaking tendency (Wallace-DiGarbo & Hall, 2006). Arts release creativity, imagination and a passion for education, which serves as the doorway for citizenship, common good, serves as the platform for educational reconstruction and reform (Greene, 2000).
Dewey,J. (2009). My pedagogic creed. In D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), The curriculum studies reader (3rd ed.). 34-41. New York: Routledge.
Greene, M. (2000). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fowler, C.B. (1994). Strong arts, strong schools. Educational Leadership 52, 4-9.
Slattery, P. (1995). Curriculum Development in a Postmodern Era (2nd ed.). New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Wallace-DiGarbo, A. & Hill, D. (2006). Art as agency: Exploring empowerment of at-risk youth. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 23(3), 119-125.
Zinker, J. (1977). Creative process in gestalt therapy. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel.
This article is published in The New Leam, FEBRUARY 2017 Issue( Vol .3 No.20) and available in print version. To buy contact us or write at firstname.lastname@example.org
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