Learning in and learning through art. Mike Fleming 20/04/10. Commissioned chapter for Routledge: International Handbook of Creative Learning cf ‘Creativity, Culture and Education’. AIMS. To explore the broad conceptual distinction between learning in and learning through the arts
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Commissioned chapter for Routledge: International Handbook of Creative Learning
Not empirical research but theoretical paper seeking conceptual clarification
Categories not straightforward and easily distinguished – there is overlap
‘…to appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its ideas and affairs, no familiarity with its emotions. Art transports us from the world of man’s activity to a world of aesthetic exaltation. For a moment we are shut off from human interests; our anticipations and memories are arrested; we are lifted above the stream of life.’
Applied to literature – teaching focuses on formal features such as rhyme, rhythm and structure more than thematic content or moral message
Dewey in Arts and Experience (1934) referred to the ‘museum conception of art’ or ‘compartmental conception of fine art’ that sets art on a remote pedestal.
Learning through approach
If the learning in approach is in danger of promoting a separatist, elitist, a-cultural and a-historical view of the arts, it can be argued that learning through represents a more inclusive, democratic and contemporary approach more suited to recognising the place of arts in education.
“‘Disinterestedness’ does not mean being magically absolved from interests, but recognising that some of your interests are doing you no good, or that it is in the interest of doing an effective job to set certain of them apart for the moment. It demands imagination, sympathy and self-discipline. You do not need to rise majestically above the fray to decide that in a specific situation, somebody else’s interests should be promoted over yours.”
What the concepts of learning in and learning through offer is a valuable reminder of the need for balance when employing the arts to support creative learning and a tool for making judgements in this context.