Monday, June 30, 2008

The Language of Art

I am continuing in an Eisnerian angle. Monique and I have been talking about the idea of using the language of the artistic process in Arts LINC. Right now we aren't emphasizing this element. Should we? Te students we're working with may be too young to understand how artistic language can be used beyond the art lesson. I think we are afraid of mechanical application without a depth of understanding.
At the same time I have gone back to something we did in the past, have students discuss colors with precision. In Project RAISE we had such emphasis that led to writing about color for example "the tortilla brown smoke". Most color metaphors used by students, however, were not based on actual observation and were used indiscriminately. I think though that this can be a great opportunity to discuss metaphoric language with a concrete referent.
The progression starts with reading and speaking about colors, the art work focusing on observing the color of the object you are painting. In oral rehearsal students describe the work in terms of colors (not exclusively). The teacher models and help students come up with color metaphors that are highly descriptive of the art. In following sessions the focus shifts from description of the art to using the metaphor to create an emotion and disposition in the written pieces. Finally the discussion can turn into observing the use of color in the work of artists and the use of figurative language in text and how both are very intentionally and consistently used to create a cohesive piece.
We must be ready, though, to adjust this process to developmental level. We also must be OK with students applying these concepts at varying degrees of accuracy and proficiency- students must be allowed to be playful here before they become proficient.
Joy in language and art y'all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nancy & I were asked to participate in the Arts Integration Forum at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. So… in early May we presented our model of arts integration for professional development. In preparing, we refined and solidified our views and practice of delivering professional development in arts integration. These have developed over the years using our experiences with previous grants and currently with Arts LINC. In Chattanooga, we were surrounded by many experts in the field of arts integration in all arts disciplines. We were honored to be part of the conversation and collaboration in this work as well as inspired to keep on track with the research… and the writing!

Walking is always a part of travel that I do, it at least gives me an “overview” of the area. I took the photo on one of my morning walks before we gathered each day. The Tennessee River is in the foreground, downtown Chattanooga in the middle and Lookout Mountain in the distance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Art Cognition and Meta Cognition

Monique and I have been thinking about our theoretical foundations as we explore the benefits of arts integration (we are writing a paper really). We came up with two distinct categories linked to learning. The first was cognitive. In this category we included the use of intertwined symbol systems in young children's' writing development as in Anne Dyson's work. The overlap between mental categories are also common to all academic domains e.g. careful observation unites science and visual art. Also the emphasis on motivation, engagement, and emotions as Burger and Winner claim. The work of social constructivists transfers us from the cognitive to higher order thinking and metacognition. Our claim that the process that Vygotsky identified as developmental carries over into mental operations in new domains- that is when we enter a domain we know very little about we have to rely on a semi-developmental progression from concrete to abstract ideas. Here enter Elliot Eisner and his emphasis on the mental operations connected to creativity, appreciation and complex processing. Efland and his focus on Metaphor as a key mental process fits the scheme here too.
I know this is a little heavy for a blog but these are the ideas we're exploring now.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Promises

More than any other summer, this summer opens with the promise of great achievement. I (we really) have much data to go through- the goal is to send at least three papers for publications- we must take all that we've learned and gathered evidence on and share it with others. Monique has made it to Nebraska and we are going to set the bar high- but I hope reasonable. We will spend the next five weeks improving existing texts that we've been working on for a while. As I said high hopes but- then again it is much easier at the beginning of summer than at its end.
Nancy is staying in California finishing her dissertation that I hope she will share with us through this blog.
I've said it before but it is worth repeating- I see my role as moving the field from lore to evidence. I believe that we know and we've seen the impact of the arts in the curriculum but we must also provide evidence. The kind of evidence that decision makers would like to look at. In my case it is quantitative- the challenge is continuously look for valid measures that do not reduce a complex story to a single measure.
Jean and I have also promised to work with the Sheldon Museum of Art on their Statewide program, nothing is set yet but I hope we'll be able to contribute something to this great program serving communities across Nebraska.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Evidence Based Education and Patience

There is great pressure right now for educational research to focus on evidence based practice. At the same time there is pressure on students to teach using the same kind of evidence. I have no problem with the approach- but I would like to see space and time for activities that may not have immediate visible impact on students. For example, I am pretty sure that taking students to the Opera, museum, and theater will not produce much of a result on their achievement tests that year. The experience is just not enough. The cumulative effect of these experiences over time should make a great difference but I suspect we are not patient enough to wait.
The same seems to hold for vocabulary development. Not every word that students read or hear will become part of their working vocabulary immediately. A year or so ago I was talking to one of our kindergarten teachers about vocabulary growth in her students. We were both somewhat frustrated by what seemed to be the lack of use of target vocabulary by the students. The conversation really started me thinking about the patience. We want results now but need to recognize that in some areas we need patience and the understanding that the impacts are beyond one or even three years in school.