The Arts in education as a catalyst for Integrative Learning

McCarthy, Marian, Higgs, Bettie and Kilcommins, Shane (2011) The Arts in education as a catalyst for Integrative Learning. [Conference Proceedings]


The Arts provides us with multi- modal, flexible ways of creating and appreciating the world (Veenema, Hetland & Chalfen, 1997). Arts programmes also teach a specific set of skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the curriculum (Bryce- Heath, 1999); these not only relate to the technical and artistic skills of the discipline in question, but also include visual- spatial abilities, reflection, critique and the willingness to experiment and learn from one’s mistakes (Winner, Hetland, Sheridan & Veenema, 2007). In an educational context, the Arts provide fruitful entry points to learning and understanding across the disciplines (Gardner, 1999a & b). Founded on the principle that the arts are cognitive and afford distinct ways of knowing (Tishman & Wise, 1999), much of the work of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has its roots in the Arts, which provide powerful ways of making meaning and connect, therefore, with major theories of teaching and learning (Veenema, Hetland & Chalfen, 1998).This research was conducted as part of the Irish Integrative Learning Project with academic staff who were undertaking the Accredited Programme in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at UCC in 2009 and 2010. The key research questions asked were: How can the arts in education work as a catalyst to facilitate integrative learning? How and what can engaging in the arts teach us about the process of integrative learning? Participants were invited to visit the Glucksman Gallery and work in interdisciplinary groups to discuss a variety of art works and to reflect on this process as an integrative learning experience. In preparation, they were introduced to the Project Muse and the Entry Points QUEST models of approaching art, as defined in the Project Zero Classroom.The current paper presents the findings of the research, using thematic analysis.

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