Rebecca Heaton on Art and Design Education

Investigating cognition in the creative arts.

By

@Tate Modern

How did experiencing Phillippe Parreno’s Turbine Hall exhibit @Tate Modern develop artist teacher cognition? 

Third year artist teachers and I engaged with the Turbine Hall exhibit at the Tate Modern yesterday. We focused on how the work on show was accessible for vulnerable learners of art (Aged 5-11). We know that active art experiences, such as engaging with exhibitions first hand, enable learners, in this case university based artist teachers, to learn, solve problems and map cognitive meaning (Cuncliffe, 1999; Smilan et al 2006). But how did this exhibit specifically aid this learning to occur? The clip below provides an insight into Parrano’s ‘Anywhen’ exhibit the artist teachers and I experienced.

As you can see from the images below Parreno’s work uses the audience as part of the exhibit, the viewer, or in this case inter-actor, is experiencing the art but is also contributing to others experience of it. The artist teachers theorised a number of ways to engage young and vulnerable children with this concept. A couple of examples included 1) allowing children to experience the exhibit in different ways, such as with blind folds on, 2) drawing from different positions, recording sounds and 3) following different pathways through the work. The work is influenced by the concept of perception, the artist teachers made the connection that we all perceive in different ways, children would too.img_0018

One of the strengths of this exhibit is that due to the range of multimedia components used, evolving nature of the work and value of audience presence or lack of it, it naturally suggests accessibility to at least one sensory component. However, the university based artist teachers felt that the work may be far removed from what some children may perceive as art, this is of course dependent on their prior experiences and knowledge, so to make the piece accessible they identified a need to make links to the everyday world of specific children. The artist teachers trialled a number of strategies to achieve this, they included 1) Getting the children to draw their expectations of the piece before experiencing it so that relationships could be created between the two works  2) using a familiar object, such as a toy, household item etc. for the children to add into the exhibit as if they were the artist and 3) exploring the work with a focus on a particular sense, e.g. touch to feel the vibrations, and texture of the materials. By theorising these strategies the artist teachers were able to think about how to break down accessibility barriers for different groups of vulnerable learners such as those with Social, Emotional, Needs or Disabilities (SEND) or those with English as an additional Language (EAL), Traveller Children or children from different socio-economic groups or those with vulnerabilities such as feeling ill on the day of a visit or experiencing a bereavement. 

A personal reflection:

To document a more personal response to Parreno’s exhibit and gallery experience I shared with the university based artist teachers a poetic reflection I created:

img_0019

Each capitalised word represents a response to my experience, whilst the word string on each line intends to create visual imagery. I used the digital app Visual Poetry, to provide another metaphorical representation of my response and experience, suggesting that it is the connections involved in the experience, collaboration and reflection that have led to my creation of knowledge. By writing this blog post, generating poetry and creating the image below I have been able to identify how myself and learners are building their cognitive knowledge due to finding space to reflect. Through experience and reflection we built an understanding of self and other (Henry and Verica, 2015). We questioned contemporary culture through art experience, engaged with identities and generated knowledge in a collaborative capacity  to develop our cognition. 

img_0020

References:

Cuncliffe, L. (1999) Learning how to learn, art education and the ‘background’. Journal of Art and Design Education, 18.1, 115-121.

Smilan, C. Kakourou-Chroni, G. and Ricardo, R. (2006). Art Education at the intersection of creativity: Integrating art to develop multiple perspectives for identifying and solving social dilemmas in the 21st century. Worlds Arts Alliance. http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/artseducation/pdf/presentation104cathysmilan.pdf

Henry, S.E. and Verica, J. M. (2015) (Re)visioning the Self Through ArtEducational Studies, 51.2, 153-167.

By

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.

IMG_3670

By

Specificity in doctoral writing

Transcognition and miscognition exist when art educators curate thought

The headline above intends to be specific about the focus of my doctoral study. Capturing the essence of a 5 year study in one headline is not an easy endeavour. Yet to be specific in your doctoral writing is essential to keep the reader focused, to show your own academic confidence and to add specificity to your writing. These were key messages that hit home after attending Karen Littleton’s and Pam Burnard’s session on writing tools and practices at Cambridge University on 2nd June 2016.

Why is academic confidence important in doctoral writing?

When writing a doctorate you are narrating a story, you have experienced this piece of research whole heartedly so it needs to be told in this manner. You choose elements of the story to share so it is necessary to be confident when retelling this, obviously stories can be told in multiple ways, so adding justification to your choice can help to articulate why you told this particular story. Retelling it through different lenses, for example the theoretical, cultural or personal, can also help to identify your confidence showing how you understand multiple perspectives on your own research.

Other ways you can show confidence include providing specific signposts in your work, writing with authority, explaining choices, being specific about which concepts to foreground and background and expressing confidence in your own knowledge exchange. With all of these components to think about it is no wonder writing can seem like a daunting process. However this particular writing session led me to realise that we all narrate in our own way, that ‘writing’ or ‘narrating’ research comes in many forms and what is most important is confident expression of voice, particularly important in autoethnography, my own form of research.

Which voice will narrate your story?

Along with lenses the expression of different voices can also help demonstrate confidence, it can show your ability as a researcher to address your research from different perspectives, make connections between your findings and increase accessibility. Again though, you need to be specific about why these particular voices were chosen to articulate your understanding. When you establish a writing position readers are more able to reflect on personal experiences in relation to yours (Sparkes, 1996).

I see the role of art educators as multifaceted, I could therefore have a voice as an artist, teacher and researcher and could articulate my research journey from each of these standpoints. Voicing autoethnographic research from these perspectives enables my experiences to be related to the cultural context of the art educator (Richardson, 2000), other ways I attempt to achieve this is by telling my story in relation to that of other art educators using participatory research and by using art as a medium to articulate. The gallery below demonstrates some examples of how I have been using visuals and journalling to express a research voice, to act as an artist and to identify myself as a learner.

Another way of considering voice is to think about at which point in time you are articulating your research, are you responding to scenario’s and experiences that occur? or are you are looking back? One could suggest you are being reflexive if adopting these practices creating cause and effect scenarios (Scott and Morrison, 2006). Reflexivity is powerful because it can also engender action (Suillivan, 2005) changing the direction of research.

The role of specificity: 

With research outputs judged on originality, significance and rigour, being specific is essential to make claims and valuable contributions. It is easy as a doctoral researcher to go off tangent, there are always interesting avenues to explore. But writing in relation to your own focus and defending this is key to tightening research stories and demonstrating confidence, Karen Littleton explained. In my own research I attempt to achieve this by mobilising theory around cognition in an art educators practice. For example if I reflect on this post I have mentioned the notion of reflexivity in my artwork helping the articulation of my own learning and thinking, I could be exemplifying here how I am utilising the symptoms and sinthomes of miscognition (Tavin, 2010) because the artwork and blog narration I have created has unconsciously enabled me to create new knowledge about my own research experiences in an unconscious way. I could also suggest this post is enabling me to think about my own writing practices as a doctoral researcher by exemplifying how I am using the transcognitive processes of thinking through a medium, language and context (Suillivan, 2005) because the multi-media blog is enabling me to share the mediums of my practice to model thinking. I am using written and visual languages to articulate and the blog itself is a cultural context for other art educators to interact with. I exemplify here the importance of specificity to make research relevant, focused and rigourous. This leads me back to my opening headline for this post, I have attempted to exemplify here some small ways that transcognition and miscognition exist when I, the art educator, curate thought.

References:

Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of Inquiry. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research. (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Scott, D. and Morrison, M. (2006). Key ideas in educational research. London: Continuum.

Sparkes, A. (1996). The fatal flaw: A narrative of the fragile body-self. Qualitative Inquiry, 2.4, 463-494.

Sullivan, G. (2005). Art practice as research. (1st and 2nd eds.). London: SAGE

Tavin, K. (2010). Six acts of mis-cognition: Implications for art education. Studies in Art Education, 52.1, 55-68.

By

A theoretical web

The metaphor of a web has been used by many artists. Roman Ondak used it to document those involved in performance art; each name offering a new story, Tomas Saraceno’s elastic rope installation, Galaxies Forming, intends to model how environmental, social and mental spaces collide and Jim Campbell created a web of lights at the Hayward Light Show to document exploding views of moving images (See examples below). What interests me here is the use of the same metaphor to interpret diverse artistic disciplines. When attending an EdD session at Cambridge University, hosted by Karen Littleton, yesterday evening concerning the use of theory in academic writing visualising a web enabled me to make connections in my own thinking. I felt like this was the moment I accessed my own cognition, if I related this to Suillivan’s (2005) notion of connectionism I was using the metaphor of a web to make links in my thinking. Whilst engaging in the session I also quickly began sketching ideas for installation based artwork portraying a web like structure, on reflection what I believe I was doing here was using Suillivan’s (2005) transcognitive notion of thinking in a medium to embed my own thoughts around theory in my doctoral study within my own cognition.

27_saraceno

Galaxies Forming along Filaments, like Droplads along the Strands of a Spider’s Web. 2009 Installation, elastic ropes Tomas Saraceno

_fullscreen__Campbell

Jim Campbell Exploded View (Commuters), 2011 (detail); © the artist. Image courtesy Sarah Christianson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what was it about the session that led me to this epiphany? Karen Littleton discussed how when writing research we need to think about how we mobilise theory, what comes to the foreground and what sits in the background? This resonated, with my thoughts around art, what does the artist choose to showcase? Why? With academic writing judged on ones contribution to knowledge it is important to identify where your theory is addressed and how this links throughout your writing, is this the same in arts based research? In writing, ways to achieve this could be through the exemplification of ideas, or by creating a golden thread of theory throughout.

Karen also identified the importance of using a theoretical lens to articulate ideas, this statement encouraged me to think about the different lenses and voices I would use to tell the research stories I am generating both artistically and in writing. Due to having a range of stories to tell the cognitive web I was visually creating in my mind and on paper began to grow. Not only are there different stories in my research there are different voices in which they can be told, creating another three dimensional component to the theoretical, cognitive and visual web I began formulating. Even within first person narrative and the pronoun (I) there can be emotional or academic responses which would portray thoughts from different lights (Davies, 2012). Within voices, as with theory being shared in research, a reader writer relationship becomes apparent. Just as an artist audience relationship is created when an artwork is interacted with, like with the artist’s works above. The web becomes an emotional, social and theoretical entity, something I would like to depict in my next artistic creation to help articulate further the cognitive connections between voices, stories and theories being shared in my academic practice.

From this theory in research session I take away a number of new thoughts to progress my academic studies:

  1. It is important to step back from your research, look at it from different angles and use different lenses to interpret the theories within it.
  2. To keep your research tight, use theory to connect it together, but keep it focused, remember the golden thread.
  3. That there can be different theoretical systems that may be illuminated as the work evolves.
  4. Most importantly to construct a theoretical dialogue.

In terms of my own cognition, I feel this session has been prolific in aiding the organisation of my own thought both for artistic and articulative purposes. I hope through this reflection I have articulated how I became aware of my own cognitive connections when thinking about theory use in academic research.

References:

Sullivan, G. (2005, 2010). Art practice as research. (1st and 2nd eds.). London: SAGE

Davies, P. (2012). ‘Me’, ‘Me’, ‘Me’: The Use of the First Person in Academic Writing and Some Reflections on Subjective Analyses of Personal Experiences. Sociology 46(4) 744–752. 

 

 

 

By

Collaborative Cognition #NSEAD AD 2016

23rd April 2016 an exciting day, the post arrived and the new NSEAD AD 2016 Issue 16 magazine publication arrived sharing articles by University of Northampton art education students and myself as their lecturer. What was special about this particular publishing opportunity was its outcome as what I believe to be a result of collaborative cognition. To explain collaborative cognition I mean the process by which a group of people fuel each others thought process to achieve over a specific period of time and around a particular theme. The outcomes of which at the start could be seemingly unknown.

In this case the AD magazine shares two articles, ‘Our iJADE Conference’ (2016) by students Steph Morris and Alice Crumpler page 19 and my own article ‘Theory versus practice in art and design education’ pages 26-27. We were also fortunate to have an example of one students artwork on the front cover, well done Ellie Pask. So, how was collaborative cognition generated?

IMG_3355

The two articles have been the end result of a project comprising two avenues, the first a third year art specialism module for the trainee art teachers which involved the students exploring an area of art of their choosing and investigating current concerns in the realm of primary art education. The second avenue an awareness of change maker principles, an ethos which has underpinned the creation of the students art specialism course and which is at the heart of study at Northampton university, in short making positive changes in society to improve our world. When the students and myself embarked on these projects we were not aware of how much we would influence the direction of each others thought, practice and cognition. I was learning from the students as much as they were learning from me. A key example was the publication of the articles, as a fairly new academic and researcher I was guiding students through the publication process, offering advice on editing their work whilst also learning about this process myself. The work the students wanted to share stretched my own thinking, I was learning not only new content about the topics they were exploring but also how to offer critical feedback as a publisher would. Just changing the students audience stretched theirs and my cognition.

IMG_3354IMG_3357

Within my own research I also interviewed students about their understanding of changemaker principles on our course, my intention to share the research at iJADE2015, I did not envisage taking two students with me to present the findings and them being asked to review the conference for the AD Magazine or to extend this even further, writing a collaborative journal article. We are in the throws of producing it. In this example collaborative cognition occurred through social interactions with the students, with individuals at the conference and through the creation of articles. What became apparent was how spontaneous situations led to new directions in thinking, we had to take risks and be open to following new thought paths. The outcomes of which have been fruitful and now our ideas will hopefully inspire other art educators through shared viewing in AD and via this blog. One aim of the change maker ethos is to create positive impact, I hope this will be achieved to an extent by sharing cognition through these outcomes.

 

 

By

Learning outside the classroom!

An inspiring event: creativity and education united.

Working with PGCE students to create art outside the classroom led to truly divergent thinking! Inspired by the natural environment the students engaged with their surroundings, a local park, to link art across the curriculum; demonstrating just how accessible it is to provide truly inspirational and rich learning experiences for children outdoors. Students experimented with diverse ways of looking and engaging with nature using mirrors, viewfinders, iPads, their own bodies and artistic materials to explore the world in a new way. As a result sculptural forms were created and a collaborative installation depicting hanging creations from the day combined with thoughtful reflections on the experience produced. The final piece titled, ‘Perception tree’ demonstrates the creativity and reflexivity of our next generation of teachers while valuing the importance of the process of learning and reflection in art and design education.  Thank you to all participants!

Skip to toolbar