Rebecca Heaton on Art and Design Education

Investigating cognition in the creative arts.

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To curate

What does it mean to curate? Can art, thought, cognition, concepts, learning and lived experiences all be curated? Is it the curation of these facets, in ones experience as an artist teacher, that leads to knowledge generation? I ask myself these questions after a day exploring the concept of curation with Katie Boyce from the Alfred East Gallery and artist teachers from Northampton University. img_0026

From a theoretical perspective curating means to organise concepts and actively take on the role of curator (Macdonald, 2009), I contextualise this as an artist teacher to mean the designer of your own thoughts and outputs. The role of the curator involves researching, exhibition design, selection and a responsibility to communicate thought (Haas, 2003). The curator makes links between thoughts, concepts, art and cultural contexts (Acord, 2010). So as I see it, we are all curators and creators of our own cognition, as a creator we generate thought and knowledge . As a curator we design and own the paths we formulate. I offer insight into how I managed the role of curator and creator today. 

Curating: I formulated thought today through the exposure to new and unexpected experiences whilst making connections to prior experiences I had encountered. Whilst listening to Katie and the artist teachers discussing how exhibitions were organised at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering, I began to connect threads of thought from a number of recent experiences I have had myself as an artist teacher. These threads interconnected to help me build knowledge.

For example, Katie shared how the recent exhibition, hosted by the Alfred East Gallery, Collection Connections (see images below) used links between the range of artists on show to map out relationships, histories and personal stories. The links were portrayed visually using colours to generate maps, in a similar way to the London tube map, it was this notion of mapping that connected with me. I reflected that I had recently posted on this blog about cognitive links and theoretical webs and theorised through my doctoral writing that experiencing and reflecting on intercultural, interdisciplinary (Bresler, 2016) and multi-directional (Stanley, 2015) pathways was one strategy which led artist teachers to generate knowledge. The value of interdisciplinary and intercultural arts based research was also reinforced in a seminar by Professor Pam Burnard @Pam Burnard I attended at Homerton College Cambridge University on Tuesday 22nd November 2016. This experience again connected with the metaphorical web of cognitive curation I was generating in my own mind to connect, consolidate and curate my own learning to ultimately build knowledge. Through the  process of connecting I had been actively curating cognition because I had been making links, as Acord (2010) stated between thoughts, concepts, art experiences and cultural contexts. 

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Creating: As creators artist teachers can take responsibility for generating thought and knowledge. In todays experience I did this in a number of ways, I was open to the art experience I encountered influencing my own and students learning, I took a risk to invite another to assist in the pedagogical structure of the course I had designed and was willing to reflect on the experience and apply reflexivity (Grushka, 2005) to this reflection, through this blog, to identify how the learning pathways I generated led to the creation of thought. As a result todays experience impacted my own development as an artist, teacher and researcher because I learnt more about the process of curation, questioned my own pedagogy and have identified how as a researcher I curate cognition within the lived artist teacher experience I encountered today. After all “The arts move us to see what is hidden or tacit to ourselves” (Burnard et al, 2014, p.101). 

References:

Acord, S. (2010). Beyond the head: The practical work of curating contemporary art. Journal of Qualitative Sociology, 33, 447-467.

Bresler, L. (2016). Interdisciplinary, intercultural travels: mapping a spectrum of research(er) experiences. In Burnard, P. Mackinlay, E. and Powell, K. (eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research. Chapter 29. Abingdon: Routledge.

Burnard, P. Holliday, C. Jasilek, S. Nikolova, A. (2014). Artists and higher education partnerships: A living enquiry. Education Journal, 4.3, 98-105. 

Grushka, K. (2005). Artists as reflective self‐learners and cultural communicators: an exploration of the qualitative aesthetic dimension of knowing self through reflective practice in art‐making. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6.3, 353-366. doi: 10.1080/14623940500220111

Haas, J. (2003). The changing role of the curator. Anthropology, New Series, No. 36, Curators, Collections, and Contexts: Anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002, 237-242. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29782683?seq=1&sid=21105716830753&uid=2134&uid=5910784&uid=2&uid=2129&uid=31173&uid=377736371&uid=3738032&uid=70&uid=3&uid=67#page_scan_tab_contents

MacDonald. C. (2009). Issues in curating contemporary art and performance. Contemporary Theatre Review, 19.2, 242-243. Retrieved from: http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.northampton.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/10486800902809651#.VLfiXFp4-RI

Stanley, P. (2015). Writing the PhD Journey(s): An Autoethnography of Zine-Writing, Angst, Embodiment, and Backpacker travels. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 44.2, 143-168.

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Cognition in a digital artefact

In response to the workshop discussed in the recent post How does art speak to enable cognition? in which a group of trainee teachers discussed the meaning of aesthetic discourse in art education, I have created a Sway to respond to it. The Sway, which is a digital artefact, draws together fundamental thoughts from my own, students and academics perspectives on the term. In this post I will attempt to discuss how creating this digital artefact has engendered thinking around cognition. Aesthetic Discourse Sway

Digital artefacts as art forms:

As an art teacher what constitutes an art form can be a controversial issue, What is art? is an age old question which many educators have deliberated (Duncum and Bracey, 2001; Hickman, 2005; Fleming, 2012; Edwards 2014). In short the academics referred to here summarise art as a concept generated in the minds of people, that adapts over time and communicates meaning or expresses creative skill. If I relate this to the Sway created here one could suggest it is a creative form of expression in which I have shared the opinions of others, it is generated through the compilation of others ideas critically addressed in relation to my own. It is a tool of the present time, capturing multi-media content and expresses creative licence through the presentation of visual and textual forms. However, is it really art?

As Hickman and I address in The Sage Handbook of Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment (2016), in our Chapter on Visual Art (Pages 343-358) the benefits of digital art tools are that creators can experience the cultures of others, generate new knowledge relevant to the time and diversify their practice building interdisciplinary bridges. These comments still resonate with my own practice, the digital tool Sway has enabled me to develop my own learning through engagement with a new tool, the beauty being that the tool is relevant to me as artist, teacher and researcher. I can visually present content with aesthetic control, as a teacher I can use the artefact as an interactive presentation device and as a researcher I have been able to gain feedback from those I share the outcomes of the work with. Of course this can also be achieved through more traditional artistic forms but digital artefacts can be edited multiple times with ease, shared socially in a quick time frame and can capture global commentary from others on the same platform within the same program.

Cognitive development through the creation of a digital artefact:

This particular digital artefact developed my cognition in the following ways, firstly it encouraged risk taking, I was reluctant albeit a little excited to create a piece of art on a digital program I had not encountered before. However, it was not without its small frustrations, although intuitive in terms of colour schemes I initially felt frustrated that I could not move objects around the screen with ease to reposition them in what I deemed to be more aesthetically pleasing way to the artist eye. This dilemma, enabled me to further understand how I think when engaging in art making (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2012). I intuitively expect to be able to maintain control over my own aesthetic output and when restricted build frustration. I became more consciously aware here of my own practice (Eisner, 2002) as an artist and a learner. In terms of cultural meaning (Efland, 2002) my awareness of digital presentation tools grew. I became equipped with a new tool to use in my own teaching, I like how the digital facility can bring in social media of our time, although I did not use the facility to embed tweets I can appreciate how this could be useful when presenting to my own students in future. I could generate discussion and set tasks that are relevant to live discussions taking place on social platforms, a new direction for university based academia, this tool alone will transform the way I teach. The tool also captures the movements of my mind (Sullivan 2005) particularly in relation to the format of the artwork, it utilises a scrolling technique similar to that on a blog page, allowing my thoughts to be organised and edited as they develop using multiple formats of transcognitive expression.

References:

Duncum, P. and Bracey, P. (2001). On Knowing: Art and Visual Culture. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press.

Edwards, J. (2014). Teaching Primary Art. Harlow: Pearson.

Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Efland, A. (2002). Art and cognition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fleming, M. (2012). The Arts in Education. Abington: Routledge.

Hickman, R. (2005). What is art? Bristol: Intellect.

Hickman, R. and Heaton, R. (2016). Visual Art. The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. London: SAGE

Sternberg, R. Sternberg, K. (2012) Cognition. (6th ed.) Canada: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

 

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Roman Textile Art: A partnership between Croughton All Saints Primary School and The University of Northampton

Pupils from Croughton Primary School worked with first year non art specialist BA Primary Trainees to develop their printing skills in a collaborative workshop Northampton University trainees designed. The experience was designed to give first year trainees the opportunity to try out their printing skills with children in a scaffolded environment, whilst enriching school pupils with textile skills they may not otherwise have access to. The dual learning experience was successful in developing pupil, student, teacher and lecturer cognition.

Pupil cognition developed in different ways, the school children were able to make connections with their topic work on Roman life developed in school and apply this knowledge to the print work they were completing, many discussions were heard relating these experiences during the practical workshop. The finished artefact above models the children’s thoughtful making, the collaborative print shares a contribution by each child sharing their learning surrounding Roman design and the printmaking process.

The trainee teachers involved in the workshop also drew connections in their own learning, students had to articulate their awareness of the pedagogy behind print making to the children in order to assist them with creating their own print designs. The trainees had to think through both visual and verbal languages in order to model to the children how to create a successful print.

The class teacher accompanying the children commented that “the stimulating university environment and the one to one teaching was inspiring for the children and engendered their aspirations.” The teacher recognised his own cognition had developed because planning provision of this type was highly beneficial for learners to be able to embed and enhance their understanding of artistic processes and historical developments.

As the lecturer who organised this experience I experienced cognitive development by thinking in a medium, I was tasked with mounting the finished canvas print on a felt background. Whilst using the sewing machine to complete the task I became aware of how I was problem solving through the making process, I was estimating sizes and designing the background whilst making. It was a task that I had to complete quickly and was required to think in action, a continual process of reflection occurred. The making experience was capturing the movements of my mind as an artist and I was transitioning between identities of artist, lecturer and teacher.

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#Drawing August

A trending event on twitter #DrawingAugust brought artists from all over the country together to experiment with the medium of drawing. Artists created a drawing a day for the entire month. Inspired by the challenge I experimented with 5 minute drawing creations each day in a range of different media: The question is- what constitutes drawing?

 

 

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