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Using the Arts in other Disciplines to foster Transformative Learning in Higher Education. Associate Professor Digby Warren London Metropolitan University presentation to Lady Irwin College, 16 January 2014. Arts-based Learning.

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using the arts in other disciplines to foster transformative learning in higher education

Using the Arts in other Disciplines to foster Transformative Learning in Higher Education

Associate Professor Digby Warren

London Metropolitan University

presentation to

Lady Irwin College, 16 January 2014

arts based learning
Arts-based Learning

This approach has been called “Arts-based inquiry” – a term adopted from research literature by Louise Younie

Definition:

“student practical engagement with any art form – poetry, photography, painting, narrative, sculpture, dance, music etc. - as they reflect on their experiences” (Younie 2013, p.25)

Art forms can stimulate “inquiry” in the sense of seeking to understand in a new and deeper way

arts based learning across disciplines
Arts-based Learning across Disciplines

Examples

  • art / image-making – Medical education, Healthcare, Marketing, Child Care
  • video / photography – teacher education
  • film (cinema) – Economics
  • music-making – Leadership & Management
  • drama – Applied Ethics
  • poetry – Business, Healthcare
  • story-telling – Social Work, Healthcare
  • labyrinth – various disciplines (Dentistry, Law, MBA etc)

See McIntosh & Warren (eds) (2013) Creativity in the Classroom: Case Studies in Using the Arts in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

power of creative methods
Power of Creative Methods

Arts-based methods use symbolic objects = multi-sensory, multi-faceted forms of expression, which can:

  • generate rich insights by unlocking unconscious ideas, feelings or memories
  • employ the power of metaphorical thinking at both theoretic (reasoning) and poetic (imagination) levels
  • foster student reflection, self-knowledge, creative thinking and metacognition (awareness of one’s thinking and learning processes)
  • enable “transformative learning” approaches concerned with whole person development
transformative learning tl
Transformative Learning (TL)
  • Mezirow’s(1991) notion of “perspective transformation” = shift towards “more inclusive” perspectives (ways of seeing) as a result of critical reflection on our existing beliefs and assumptions; a rationalist model of TL
  • holistic notions of TL - “use of all the functions we have available for knowing, including our cognitive, affective, somatic, intuitive, and spiritual dimensions” (cited in Taylor 1997 p.49) = mind, heart, body and spirit all involved in coming to know/make sense of things
  • Barnett (2007) – urges that Higher Education should take seriously the student as a human beingand learning as journey of engagement, passion, being andbecoming
arts based inquiry
Arts-based Inquiry
  • creative methods used as vehicles for exploration of and reflection on prior experience, e.g.
    • using a poem to think about patient care (doctors and nurses in training) and develop empathy
  • activities as direct forms of experiential learning,e.g.
    • learning about teamwork via collective music-making = metaphor for leadership (as “improvisation”) and teamwork (as “performance”)
    • reflecting on one’s life path or ‘script’ through telling stories based on professional experiences (e.g. child care workers)
    • walking a labyrinth = meditative space for reflection and creativity
arts based inquiry1
Arts-based Inquiry

Challenges

  • metaphors can constrain ways of seeing – consider limitations of particular metaphors (where appropriate)
  • stories can be oppressive, if used to preach or control – ensure ethical, anti-discriminatory practice
  • students feeling blocked by lack of artistic skills or ‘internal critic’ - point of the exercise is engagement
  • initial anxiety or some potential resistance – clarify the purpose of tasks & allow students time to settle into them
  • uncovering of unconscious emotions, attitudes or beliefs can be cathartic but also mixed reactions – acknowledge the emotional, be available to talk privately to individuals
arts based inquiry2
Arts-based Inquiry

Role of the lecturer

  • set clear boundaries and ground rules – safe space, rapport and trust
  • ‘leader and facilitator’, also ‘questioner, challenger, supporter, clarifier and explainer’
  • authenticity – being open and honest inspires students to be the same
  • choose assessment methods appropriate to the nature of the learning in subject/course
  • clear guidance about assessment expectations and potential learning benefits of creative approaches
outcomes from real case studies
Outcomes (from real case studies)

deeper learning:

  • increased motivation, participation and enjoyment by students
  • “more democratic” interaction and more co-learningbetween students and teachers
  • enhanced confidence, resilienceand self-belief
  • deeper reflection and creativity stimulated

transformative learning:

  • deeper awareness of own values, aspirations, emotions and inert prejudices, and how to deal with them better in professional situations
  • more openness towards others and to alternative perspectives
arts based inquiry3
Arts-based Inquiry

Assessment example: portfolio of “patch work” texts

1. Formative elements (“patches”) relevant to the subject matter/course and chosen by the student, e.g.

  • a short story or poem (written by the student)
  • an article or book review
  • visual reflection on a personal experience (drawing, collage, photograph)
  • application of a theory to professional practice
  • notes from a field trip or museum visit

patches discussed with peers

2. Summative element: critical commentary

“stitches” together the patches and draws on further (theoretical) reading to produce a synthesis which addresses the main aims of the module/course

references
References

Barnett, Ronald (2007) A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty. Berkshire: Open University Press

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Taylor, Edward W. (1997) Building on the theoretical debate: A critical review of the empirical studies of Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 48 (1), pp. 34-59

Younie, Louise (2013) Introducing Arts-based Inquiry into Medical Education: ‘Exploring the Creative Arts in Health and Illness’, in Paul McIntosh & Digby Warren (editors), Creativity in the Classroom: Case Studies in Using the Arts in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Bristol: Intellect, chapter 2