teaching with the arts
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Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
Studies in higher education seem to have given limited attention to the emotional aspect of the teaching-learning experience. Emotion has, nearly for the greatest part, been isolated from cognition. Underlining this distrust of emotion in academia, How Higher Education Feels, explores the less charted trails of emotional dimensions of teaching and learning. Holding to the hypothesis that emotions cannot be separated from rational engagements, the book attempts to demonstrate how emotion is deeply intertwined with thinking and reasoning in higher education. This book is thus about journeying with, and reflecting upon, the emotional landscapes of courses we teach and students we impact.
The first two chapters set the stage and agenda of the book by outlining the need for study of emotions in higher learning, the methodology with which to explore emotional experiences, the significance of poetry in relation to emotions, and the conceptual tools used to examine the role of emotions. A teacher’s regulation of his or her own emotions in the context of student-centered teaching is a key element in the discussion.
The next nine chapters each include ten to fifteen poems that address specific themes of experience in university education. Some of the key themes include: transition to higher education, taking care of students and ourselves (teachers), love of people and culture, love of arts and or science, success and failure, and introspection and retrospection. The poems were compiled to serve as case studies expressing and illustrating various feelings in relation to significant aspects of learning, teaching, and development. They are rich in content and language, duly accompanied by brief commentaries as well as a well-researched expert commentary that places the poems in their specific contexts. They are simple and complex, metered and irregular compositions just like the life and moods of many academics. Poems are personal and touching, deep and sensitive, and quite successfully serve the purpose of the book.
While the poetry is meant to serve as case studies in emotion and feelings, the book seems to become a compilation of poems rather than a pedagogical discourse. Thankfully the commentaries, especially the expert commentaries, rescue the reader from being lost in the anthology of poems. The theoretical framework is also well conceptualized and the final chapter recaptures the mission of the monograph. It successfully shows the importance of emotion in experiences of higher learning from enrollment to graduation and beyond. It further shows the centrality of emotion and feelings of a student in relationship with subject, with teachers, with peers, and with self – all summed up, in this study, in poetic expressions.
As the compiler of this groundbreaking work, Kathleen Quinlan of Oxford Learning Institute, deserves appreciation for pointing attention to an important direction in higher education – the centrality of emotion and its powerful expression in poetry. She has liberated emotion in education from being the sole property of psychology and opened it up, with the help of poetry, for reflection on its socio-cultural contexts. How higher education feels? It feels terrifically poetic!
Date Reviewed: September 18, 2017
A conservatory of music in my hometown annually brings to campus a famous singer who leads a master class for its voice students. This is a ticketed event open to the public and regularly draws a large audience. It’s simply fascinating to watch the singer teach. One by one, students come on stage, they perform pieces they have practiced for the occasion, and she offers her critique. Occasionally she offers a mini-lecture on some aspect of singing but mostly she makes students work certain sections of their pieces over and over, all the while offering correction, advice, and support. The audience hears how their music – which sounded pretty good, to begin with – improves with her coaching.
While a master class is not the same thing as a studio, the two pedagogies share certain features. In my experience, teachers of religion and theology rarely make use of studio pedagogies; this book made me realize that we should.
Studio pedagogy is typically defined by the following elements: lengthy design sessions conducted in large spaces where materials are readily available and works-in-progress can be publicly and permanently displayed. Instructors roam the space, stopping at individual desks to offer feedback that gets intentionally overheard by nearby students. Lectures and discussions are rare; studio pedagogy relies instead on coaching, modeling, correcting, responding, affirming or questioning choices, and occasionally offering on-demand content instruction. It combines authentic learning theory, constructivism, socialization into a profession, and the theories behind flipped classrooms and communities of practice. It shares features of other student-centered pedagogical approaches such as problem-based learning and service learning, although it focuses more on the process of students taking iterative steps toward a final, deliverable product of their own choice and making.
This book is an edited volume presenting fifteen narratives by design instructors describing the studio courses they teach in fields like architecture, interior design, and instructional design. Contributors describe the joys, challenges, concerns, and vulnerabilities they have experienced through this sort of teaching. Overhearing their honest confessions and reactions is one pleasure of reading this book, and it gives the reader a taste of what being in a studio is like. This volume is also designed like a studio in that its editors explicitly eschew analysis and summary, preferring instead to “curate” the narratives and let readers draw their own conclusions.
Indeed, religion and theology teachers might have to work hard to relate this book to their contexts. It will be most directly applicable to those in field education and those teaching certain kinds of performance or design – preaching, worship, ritual, or religious architecture. Yet its implications are valuable to all who are intrigued by non-native pedagogies. As I read, I kept asking myself, “Why do we keep our critique of student work private?” As one contributor points out, it is often when budding academics begin to share our work publicly that we take it more seriously, find it more gratifying, and believe it has value. Why shouldn’t our students experience the same?
Date Reviewed: June 27, 2017
Author Jorge Lucero uses the term collage as a descriptor of a particular art form and also as a metaphor for juxtaposed ideas and themes in his edited collection of articles. Assessing collage compositions in general as stale and conventional, Lucero asks what would make collage a challenging and invigorating form for pedagogy and scholarship and attempts to model one way in his collection of essays.
Collage is a form that uses what one can access in printed images, photographic images, and digital images. One can assemble collages online or by using any of a multiplicity of surfaces and means of attachment. Lucero describes the collage-making process as deceptively easy and seemingly simple. Yet these qualities of “mereness and ease” (6) can enable two seemingly non-related images to create transformative possibilities of a third thing that was hitherto non-existent but is engendered by the creative or cognitive dissonance of a juxtaposition that is non-linear and non-complementary.
This edited volume on collage includes a variety of practical and theoretical papers that become an intentional collage of ideas. Lucero describes his choice and arrangement of disparate paper topics as a way to make this volume “a collage in and of itself” (7). This reviewer found it difficult to resonate or discover meaning in the choice and sequence of articles. Nonetheless, Lucero’s attempt to create a collage of scholarship intended to inspire readers to create a “new sort of some thing” (7) is unique and thrilling.
Among the gems in this book is the chapter by Grauer who conceives of teenagers’ bedrooms as collages illustrating their evolving identity. Describing a bedroom as a canvas on which can be displayed a young person’s “unique artifacts and symbols” (25), Grauer highlights the importance of paying attention to how teens’ rooms offer images to reflect upon, experiment with, explore, and create one’s own identity.
Guyas and Keys relate how an art installation of written scholarly work displayed in a public interactive space can be fertile ground for personal and professional growth. The content and process of the author’s dissertations were displayed in a gallery by hanging individual pages from the ceiling. Art work by the authors was placed on the walls alongside narrative interpretations of the process of art-making. Gallery visitors were asked to record responses or thoughts that occurred as they looked at juxtaposed materials and post their responses on the walls. “The gallery merged from an exhibition/installation into an open studio as visitors added to the evolving collage” (32).
Lucero includes a qualitative study by Stevenson and Duncum of early childhood development. Observing children drawing and then recording the children’s verbal reflections on their collage, the researchers concluded that abstract symbolization through images develops as early as age three. Engaging the children in reflective dialogue is noted as one way to aid three to five year olds in the development of symbolic representations and understanding.
Among the articles included in this compendium are a reflection on Freudian analysis of symbol use in the Little Hans case, an examination of the metaphorical cloning of images, and a verbal collage whose narrative and dialogue overlap but are not clearly related.
Lucero’s collection stretches the reader creatively and uncomfortably to find non-linear and unique connections between disparate articles. Its most useful audience is art educators and art students, although other educators will find several selections to be intriguing and useful in non-art fields.
In two classes that I teach—“Islam” and “The Qur’an”—I often assign the film Wadjda (dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2012) as the first homework assignment. Wadjda tells the tale of a young girl (same name as the film’s title) in Saudi Arabia who longs to own a bicycle, despite ...
Date Reviewed: May 28, 2017
The editors of this book are based in a School of Education at a South African university where they teach and research in the academic specializations of Teacher Development Studies (Daisy and Kathleen) and Educational Leadership and Management (Inbanathan) (2). There are thirteen chapters that identify how each utilizes autoethnography within South African higher education. Each author discusses their personal and/or professional narrative of lived experiences as a doctoral student, researcher, or educator within South African higher education. Even though the book is written from a South African higher education viewpoint, the strength of the book is its usefulness to academics who are interested in learning how to be self-reflective, find their authentic voice, and use creative measures (photos, poems, storyboards, exhibitions, journals, metaphor drawings, and so forth) to share their experiences to a wider community within and outside of academia. The book invites readers to experience autoethnographic research as a challenging, complex, and potentially transformative methodology for facilitating sociocultural understandings of academic selves and of teaching in higher education (14). Within the book, autoethnography is defined in multiple ways by different practitioners. However, one key definition is “autoethnography has potential to deepen and extend our understandings of lived educational experiences through the articulation and acknowledgment of how selves are sociocultural, political, and historical (14).” Each chapter’s author focuses on a lived educational experience for which they use autoethnography as their method of self-reflexive research.
Liz Harrison (chapter 2) sought to write an authoethnography “that is ethnographic in its methodological orientation, cultural in its interpretive orientation, and autobiographical in its content orientation” (Chang 2008, 48). She focuses on how she came to give weight to her voice and the opportunities afforded her to speak for change within higher education. Lasse Reinikainen and Helene Zetterstrom Dahlqvist (chapter 5) focus on how as teachers and researchers there is a challenge to find ways to teach about issues connected to complex and abstract societal structures, especially if teachers want students to understand and make connections to their own individual experiences (70). They used the art of curating an exhibit as a form of self-reflexivity and writing about the ethical issues of the process. They explore the thought-provoking question – “Is there social change in you?” Their emphasis is on the vulnerability of teachers moving from private (personal) to public (shared) experiences with their students.
The remainder of the book is equally valuable for educators implementing autoethnography using visual art (poems, exhibits, storyboards, photography, family history, and so forth). The book accomplishes much in the short space of thirteen well-structured chapters. It is an important resource for those seeking to use autoethnography to improve their teaching.