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SCULPTING PLACE: Redefining the Use of Museum Collections for Classroom Practice: A Case Study in Constructivism By Teresa M. Tipton Berne International Graduate School June 2002
“Constructivism” is being discussed as a new paradigm in education. Although not a new term, its use has profound implications for restructuring schools, educational practices, and curriculum. Research from cognitive scientists gives new impetus for educational reform efforts along constructivist lines. While the call to “reconstruct” classroom interactions for more purposeful learning is coming from many sectors, it is proposed that the constructivist model maximizes brain processing for authentic learning experiences. This paper discusses the background and concepts behind constructivism and its related paradigm, “didaction,” as new tools for redesigning learning experiences in schools. Specific reference is made to its application in arts education. A case study supporting constructivism as a postmodernist approach to thinking about the use of museum collections in classroom practice, follows.
Sculpting Place Introduction
While contemporary scholarship in the field of arts education has moved beyond traditional content and “discipline-based” (DBAE) methods of instruction in arts education, schools have made little progress incorporating new paradigms and content into instructional practice. New developments in Visual Culture and Postmodernism, for example, are taught for the most part, as course content for undergraduates in select universities, and not in K-12 schools, nationally or internationally. Postmodernism as a new conceptual framework for thinking and teaching about art, cannot be retrofitted into formalist curricula, requiring that new structures be developed, as well as new content be taught within them. This paper examines the call for “reconstructing” schools and curricula, specifically in the field of arts education, using implications from contemporary research in cognitive processing and brain-based learning as the impetus for change. In particular, I will make use of a case study of a “constructivist” unit of instruction to examine the limitations of using traditional models of arts education in classroom practice. Particular reference will be made to an case study using constructivism as a way of redefining the use of museum collections in classroom practice.
Problem Statement Since the Enlightenment, Western thinking has been based upon an epistemology in which scientific models have been dominant. The scientific method and perspective as it has evolved, reduces reality into sequential, interrelated parts in order to gain insight into objective "truths.” However popular and pervasively used, this model does not fit into a postmodern paradigm. Instead of predefined order, postmodernism emphasizes the impact of social forces that shape human behavior and knowledge, questioning the possibility of absolute truths (Doll,
1993, as cited in Meban, 2001). Quantum physics also gives us new impetus to think in terms of patterns instead of fixed entities. If we think of knowledge building systems of thinking instead of fixed bodies of knowledge, we can understand more clearly the dilemma faced by education. Our schools are set up to convey old models of thinking, knowledge and learning. And yet, our research and our very models of how we understand “reality” have vastly changed. The development of new knowledge-based businesses and learning organizations, stimulated and supported by the advances in the use of hypertext and interactive multimedia technologies, have already changed the nature of predetermined knowledge, as is currently taught in schools. If our beliefs about truth, reality, and beauty are deconstructed, they reveal certain operational paradigms, which uphold the importance of personal self-expression, devoid of any social function for it. This epistemology has become the mainstay of modernism in arts education. Developed in the 1930’s, modernism required a new language for interpreting artistic expression, for which formalism was adopted as the universal language of art (Clark, 1996). Formalism attempted, in a scientific manner, to breakdown the properties of form to its essential parts in order to provide both the basis for expression and the context for viewing art. The way in which formalism is usually presented in schools is didactic in nature. Didactic, is a term defined as containing elements of teaching for a moral purpose (http://www.dictonary.com/wordoftheday/archive/2000/09/28.html). Traditionally, this has come to mean a sequence of teacher-presented material for student learning. Postmodernism as a concept and a conceptual paradigm, shifts us from a modernist emphasis on examining specific works of art according to their formal elements – such as line, space, shape, color, content, media, etc., to a broader context for self-expression. Postmodernism
Sculpting Place creates a social critique that challenges assumptions about relationships between objects, viewers, environment, and society. The quintessential symbol of the assumptions behind what cultures think about art and how they view art objects, is the museum. The museum represents a standardized dictum about what is valued and how it is valued in societies. These standardized dictums, established under formalism, are reinforced in our schools as “curriculum.” They define the content and meaning of art and art objects, and hence their value, in a didactic form. The information in museums is presented in a passive manner, in a sanctified space, under which conditions, certain goals and outcomes are expected. A museum is held up by a community as a symbol of its artistic
heritage, as well as embodying its artistic wealth. As much as they uphold a structured formalism in their approaches to presenting and viewing art, museums have also become a metaphor for how we think about the meaning and value of art in our communities and our lives. An approach to arts education that emphasizes the transformation of beliefs and values through a socio-cultural context, as postmodernism emphasizes, does not fit into the transmission model of current instructional practice. In educating students with a variety of perspectives from today’s visual culture, a postmodern approach to arts education emphasizes the importance of employing images from sources that go beyond iconoclastic objects normally found in museum collections and referenced for arts education activities and curriculum. Images from advertising and video, for instance, in a postmodernist perspective, are given the same analytical importance as objects found in museums. In order to teach students about the complex forces that shape us, including our conceptions about art and art-making, arts education should move beyond its didactic boundaries
Sculpting Place to include new models of education which encompass non-school and non-museum-based resources and learning experiences.
We can assume that if the material of pedagogical concern has shifted, then so, too, must its methods of being conveyed. And yet, educationally, we find ourselves in a current mismatch between concepts, methodology, and expected student learning outcomes. How then, can we create new models of classroom practice, according to new thinking and scholarship in a postmodern context for arts education?
Postmodernism Postmodern artists use narrative, allegory, metaphor, and juxtaposition of different images, to deal with content such as social and political issues, art as a consumerist product, and art as a critique of society and culture (Wolcott, 1966). While a modernist perspective relies on Western conceptions of art, a postmodern perspective seeks a plurality of perspectives and multiple interpretations of meaning. Postmodernist works of art deconstruct modernist aesthetics of form, revealing the socially constructed nature of visual representation and judgements of artistic value (Meban, 2001). In order to discuss postmodernist works of art, new aesthetic criteria needs to be identified and utilized. While the field of Visual Culture makes use of postmodern thinking, by using our visual field and our entire environment as source material for making, experiencing, and critiquing art, it has yet to fully address the necessary related structural elements in schools and curriculum to enhance delivery of its content.
Sculpting Place Constructivism While “constructivist” may not be a new term, until recently, it may have been an overlooked one. Certainly to Piaget, and his followers in early childhood education, the word describes one of the stages in the development of cognitive processing, and hence thinking, in a child. Today, constructivism presents itself as a new paradigm in education. Whether attributed
to Bruner, Piaget, cognitive scientists, or 17th century apprenticeship guilds, constructivism gives new impetus for educational reform efforts. While the call to “reconstruct” classroom interactions for more purposeful learning is coming from many sectors, the responses are not always beneficial to either teaching or learning. Along the lines of mimetic tools for learning, Vermette, Foote & Cliff (2001, paragraph 7) present this “primer” for constructivism, explaining its variables in a simplified context. CONSTRUCTIVISMS: C is for Connections O is for Options N is for Negotiation S is for Scaffolding T is for Time R is for Rubrics U is for Understanding C is for Collaboration T is for Technologies I is for Inquiry V is for Variety I is for Intentional Teaching S is for Student-Centered M is for Motivation S is for Standards Without going into each of these variables in detail, with the exception of the metaphorical “technologies,” and “rubrics” which are a fairly recent assessment tool in
Sculpting Place education, it could be argued that the precursor of the “constructivism primer” was John
Dewey’s early work in education (Doll, 1999). Dewey believed that students make an experience out of an experience (Dewey, 1963/1938), which is a basic tenet of constructivism. Constructivism maintains that students make connections with their prior experiences in order to develop personal meaning from life events. Constructivist learning is an intensely individual process. Each individual structures knowledge of the world into a unique pattern, connecting each new fact, experience, or understanding into meaningful relationships to the wider world (Wilson & Daviss, 1994). This finding supports the postmodernist perspective that the social context cannot be separated or removed from discussions about learning. Learning happens within a non-linear but interconnected web of relationships and meaning, which are bound together. It cannot be predetermined and fixed in the definitive ways in which our schools have standardized assessment practices for measuring the achievement of student learning outcomes according to subject and grade-specific scope and sequences. As an educational practice, constructivism has come to symbolize more of a method than a way of thinking about the process and purpose of education. Its underlying premises are antithetical to current operating practices in the majority of schools worldwide. It proposes redefining the classic teacher-student paradigm for learning into a model which emphasizes student-centered and student-initiated content. Its success also relies on the incorporation of reflective thinking as a part of the classroom learning environment. Such meta-level thinking as a process for learners to engage in is necessary for the brain creating connections and patterns from experience into cognitive structures (Solso, 1993). Under constructivism, the instructional process is valued as an individual “construct,” instead of teacher-directed activities predetermining the content and intention of learning. Bereiter (1999) argues that such
knowledge-building behaviors are necessary for the future success of students operating in a new knowledge age. In order for constructivism to emerge, learning is viewed less as acquiring knowledge than it is a process of entering into relationships to develop it. In this paradigm, the teacher must suspend belief in the value of their own authority and engage in a process of inquiry with students to facilitates their own interests and learning patterns (Doll, 1993). A constructivist emphasis in curriculum shifts the teacher’s role from conveyor of knowledge in a passive format, to that of an active facilitator of learning from a student-centered point of view. Students determine the direction and form of the learning process, “constructing” meaning from the content as they go. Schools and professionals involved in alternative education will not find anything new in these directives. Yet, the implication for most state or public schools, is profound. Abbott and Ryan (1999) also add that a constructivist approach requires that the community outside the school play a greater role in student learning. They call upon restructuring efforts to direct more resources to younger learners and to extend the concept of "learning community" beyond the classroom. Ironically, none of the current literature on constructivism mentions the influence of the Russian Constructivists in the first half of the 1920’s. These post-revolutionary artists and teachers developed their own original artistic and architectural elements nearly independently of trends in Western Europe (Khan-Magomedov, 1986). Using elements evolving from avant-garde painting, the innovations carried over into twentieth century architecture by Russian Constructivists form a metaphor for constructivism’s related pedagogical aspects today. At the basis of their work was the desire to create material objects that responded to new social needs and corresponded to new discoveries in science and technology. Early
Sculpting Place Constructivists began experimenting by moving theories of art from pictorial to spatial relationships (Khan-Magomedov, p. 135). By introducing the study of elements of art as
independent from stasis to active, operant properties, they developed a philosophy of architecture and art whose purpose was integral to production efforts in the society as a whole. Not only did the addition of communicative aspects in architecture play an important role in the design and use of space for the Russian Constructivists, their relationship to social values represented a postrevolutionary ideology. Khan-Magomedov (1986) points out that the processes and means of expression in almost all new creative orientations eventually become formalized and stylized. Russian Constructivism gave precedence to the use of utilitarian and technical developments in architecture, elements that were extrapolated from discoveries of form while painting (KhanMagomedoy, p. 130). In architecture, this translated into the rationale for social change and functional purpose as the basis of form’s development. Today, societies are still grappling with this dichotomy and need for integration in the way urban spaces are designed around buildings. In arts education, we can look to the work of the Russian Constructivists as precursors to the kind of experimental and innovative approach necessary in education today.
Didaction Going one step further than constructivism, is the “didactive” model as defined by Tochon (1990). Utilizing the open-ended approach of constructivism, Tochon looks to the variability of elements in the junction between the creative, motivational elements that emerge from their interactivity. While classical didactics in education develops cognitive goals in order to master the conceptual aspects of course content, a didactive perspective works from a postconstructivist and postmodern perspective according to which every methodology is ideological.
Its intention is to create actions by the individual that express their own personal voice, with no further process of appraisal than satisfying their own communicative goal (Tochon, p. 45). While few other scholars have taken up the call for didaction as Tochon describes it, he clearly has developed a conceptual paradigm that challenges current thinking and practices in education. As early as the 1920’s, Alexandre Vesnin wrote about the way in which some objects create an organizing effect on awareness and others do not (Khan-Magomedoy, 1986), thus setting the stage for an early conceptualization of the motivating principles within our environment, to which our educational systems are largely unaware. Taking student-centered learning and removing it from criterion-referenced outcomes as Tochon proposes, is clearly a revolutionary way of thinking about education, especially in a climate of the increasing use of standardized testing linked to models of student success, and hence funding, to schools.
Cognitive Science Our ideas of learning are based in 19th and early 20th century thinking, and not the latest developments in neuroscience. Instead of thinking of the brain as a computer, researchers now see it as a far more flexible, self-adjusting entity--an ever-changing organism that grows and reshapes itself in response to challenge, with elements that wither if not used (Abbott & Ryan, 1999). As neuroscientists Chang and Greenough noted in 1978, two sets of neurons enable us to learn. One set, they suggested, captures general information from the immediate environment while the other constantly searches through an individual's earlier experiences for meaning. Recent research at the Salk Institute suggests that this is a false dichotomy. Instead of representing two distinct strategies within the brain, these are two separate parts of the same process (Quartz & Sejnowski, 1997) (p.67).
Cognitive science helps us understand that the brain’s functioning is not purely compartmentalized into separate regions of the brain, but that specific areas in the brain are activated simultaneously (Solso, 1993, p. 32). In order to maximize learning potential in students, this natural “parallel processing” must be reflected in our learning environments. Congruently, the learning path itself is naturally non-linear (Doll, 1999). Developed through active learning, constructivism implies that the learner is not a passive recipient but a generative initiator. Each new fact or experience is assimilated into a pre-existing web of cognitive
structures in each person's mind (Abbott & Ryan, 1999). This ever-evolving web of understanding, shifts and moves. It is not static nor is it cumulative in the hierarchical sense most schools are structured. Nor does it fit neatly into parcels, as most curriculum is divided and delivered to students in sequential segments. If the neural structure of the brain is open-ended, then constructivist learning is the direction our schools need to take in order to authentically encourage and enhance the dynamic interaction between the environment and the individual brain. But an education system that focuses on specific outcomes and national curriculum targets does not support genuinely creative or entrepreneurial learners. The most promising new developments in education involve restructuring school activities and discourse so that they resemble in some fashion the workings of research groups—where real questions are being investigated and students are trying to contribute to progress on those questions Within the conceptual framework of folk theory of mind, however, this kind of collaborative knowledge-building activity degenerates into “cooperative learning.” It becomes students helping each other learn. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the same as collaborative knowledge building. Folk theory of mind cannot support the distinction. (Bereiter, 1999, p. 20). However, for the most part, whether public or private institutions, our schools are structured in ways that do not always support or enhance good brain development. "Authentic"
Sculpting Place learning experiences are those which resemble "real life" practices and encourages learners to engage in the processes of practitioners (Meban, 2002). The value of such experiences is supported by research demonstrating that when learners are provided with authentic learning situations, meaningful learning occurs (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989, as cited by Meban, 2002). By providing learners with opportunities to access practitioner knowledge and skills,
students gain an understanding of the elements that shape artistic practices. When experiencing the work of a practicing artist, students gain a better understanding of how artistic practice is actualized within the cultural context of a contemporary artistic community (Meban, 2002). Today’s learners will be the adults of our future world. The ever-increasing pace of change has made the ability to learn far more important than any particular skill set. (Mintrop, 2001). If we are in need of aligning teaching and learning to optimize brain processing, new school instructional practices and structures are necessary.
The Call for New Models of Education Clark (1996) proposes a “reconstructivist” perspective, founded on the notion that arts education is a means for social transformation through a critical analysis of social values inherent in works of art. “Reconstructivists” believe that arts education should shift from a subject area to become a pedagogical tool that can be used across the school curriculum for the purpose of critical analysis, and ultimately, social reconstruction (Freedman, 1994). As Sullivan (1993) states, "To get a realistic perspective on what is authentic practice there is a need to cast a net beyond the classroom to incorporate the wider realm of professional art and the local context of everyday experiences (p.16).” How we think about the arts and education is changing.
Yet, Howard Gardner (2001) notes that the field of arts education needs to stop justifying itself according to the benefits to other subject areas. It is precisely this paradox that the field of arts education finds itself in today. By removing the social function of its value as a part of the character of its assessment, arts education has been relegated to whimsical agendas that regard its worth as secondary to other “academic’ pursuits. Faced with increasing budget shortages in schools, arts educators have been placed in the position or justifying the importance of learning in the arts according to success in other subjects. As a way to minimize cuts to arts programs, staff, and budgets, in schools, many institutions and organizations have devoted advocacy and research efforts to this point of view. In a climate of seemingly diminishing resources in schools for arts education, innovations in the field are less likely to be tried or embraced. If knowledge is generative instead of fixed, it has enormous implications for us in education. It means that knowledge within the field and that of other fields is not static and cannot be solely conveyed. If new knowledge is being constructed individually, collectively we are also creating new knowledge systems, as the current growth in “knowledge-based” businesses indicate. Our challenge as educators is to design instructional and pedagogical systems to reflect the natural process of learning, in order to better prepare our students for the world in which they will be working, earning, and living. What is needed is a new paradigm, what Deliss (1992) calls “a blueprint for a visual methodology.” If we apply the concept of constructivism to the language used to describe this new paradigm, it will shape shift according to the perspectives brought to it. As Deliss describes, the modern aesthetic paradigm, based on contradictions of opposites (primitive/modern, western/non-western, etc.) is no longer adequate to describe today’s hypertext environment where developments in quantum physics shift our thinking from dichotomies to both/and paradigms. Such is the environment that challenges us in
schools to develop non-linear instructional practices. “Opening up the museums of mankind” as she recommends, in order to dialogue with objects in new ways, led to the following sculpture project in Beijing, China.
A Case Study Background A museum in and of itself implies something about conservation, whether a contemporary idea, trend, or historical heritage. Beijing’s most famous and only National Art Museum houses potential, not objects. A grandly massive structure, it stands ready to reveal traveling national and international exhibitions, but has none of its own. Sadly, more of China’s treasures and artifacts from the past 7,000 years, can be found in museums elsewhere around the world. Source material for a unit to on developing sculptures with sixth grade students in Beijing, had to be created from the grassroots, to the places people ordinarily go to fill their collections There are social, political, and cultural aspects of visiting museums. How objects are acquired, selected, and displayed; how they are ascribed importance; how they are interpreted for the viewer, not to mention how the buildings themselves are designated, financed, and maintained, are all issues of growing cultural and international concern. (Karp & Levine, 1991). Certainly, we can trace the evolution of museums to the Victorians in England, whose obsessive acquisition of objects has led to the current preponderance of object-focused museum collections around the world. (Yanni, 2001). If we agree with postmodernism that what we see is conditioned by social norms and restraints, then the museum itself represents a way of seeing in a culture, as much as the objects in them come to be seen in a certain way. As Solso (1993)
describes, what we “see” is to a large degree determined by our knowledge of what we “should” see (p. 74). This case study presents an alternative approach, using artifacts in a non-linear way to allow students to construct their own view of their importance and use.
Design and Implementation Ideas, like people, often happen in unexpected interactions. Moments of serendipity when people, experiences, and ideas combust into an unexpected “aha,” are always spontaneous and unanticipated. What emerges from these moments of interactivity, is greater than any one individual’s efforts or ideas. Such “aha’s” form the basis of the artistic process, supporting Tochon’s call for didaction, where new ideas and forms are given creative imagination to their possibility. This project emerged one cold, winter day in February 2001, over cups of steaming hot, green tea, as three artists and teachers – Chen Ying, Qin Pu, and myself met and talked for the first time in Qin Pu’s studio amidst his drawings, photographs, and maquetes. Qin is Director of the Sculpture Institute of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, a place of national significance for of some of China’s most famous projects. The site develops both sculptural and architectural designs by national and international artists. Qin, himself an artist of national merit, oversees the sculpture branch of the facility where large and small sculptures all across China are designed as models and then fabricated into true-to-scale sculptures and monuments. Using both traditional and synthetic materials, the Institute develops projects for public, governmental, and private sources. As an art teacher at the Western Academy of Beijing, I had met Chen Ying at the National Museum of Art during a visiting Henry Moore exhibition. Chenar, in turn, introduced
me to Qin Pu, who in addition to his role as Director, is also a longstanding Sculpture Professor of the Institute. Qin shared photographs of his recent sculpture projects around China, drawings and notebooks from the age of nine year to the present. On his drawing board was a design for a private commission to design a sculpture park, laying the foundation for an idea that would emerge later in a local context. I was excited by what I saw and wanted my students to experience what Qin’s work and the Sculpture Institute represented. Qin was interested in my idea to bring sixth grade students to his studio and to view the entire sculptural process from design to fabrication. What began an initial idea for a field trip, grew into a larger, collaborative project that took shape over the course of our subsequent interactions. Our project began as an enrichment of an instructional unit on clay. Students worked on vessels with lids, as archaeological remains from either the future or the past. Early finishers created their own projects, one of which was a design for a sculpture. I let this idea become the next project, which grew into a competition for a student-designed sculpture. Over time, the idea to professionally fabricate it into a large-scale sculpture by Qin Pu and the workers of the Sculpture Institute, was born. With the support of a Teacher Grant from the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and additional funding secured by the Director, John McBryde, it was possible to fabricate one design as a large-scale sculpture in marble. Sixth grade students worked during their art classes once a week for a 90-minute block over a six-week period on aspects of the project. Because of our use of various computer and digital technologies, it also evolved as an integration with the Information Technology (IT) curriculum taught by Ivan Beeckmans. Both of us teachers were interested in ways of engaging students to use computer technologies artistically while learning important skills combining text and imagery. Qin Pu had been experimenting with embossing text from computers onto clay and
subsequently firing it. I wanted students to see what he had done with the concept as inspiration for their own work. As a culmination to our interrelating projects during this unit, we planned a combined field trip to Qin Pu’s Sculpture Institute as well as a visit to a contemporary art gallery. I wanted students to experience the process of creating art through all of its aspects, from idea and fabrication, to exhibition. In the design competition, participating students created a two-dimensional and threedimensional model for a freestanding or functional sculpture to be placed outdoors on the existing school grounds. Students were given the choice of the sculpture being free-standing or functional as playground art. Modeling the components of a professional design process for public art, students created renderings in charcoal of their sculptural designs, placing their design into the intended installation site in gardens or playgrounds of the school. In art class, they developed a small-scale model of their sculpture in clay. Early finishers were given the choice of taking a digital photograph of their intended installation site and integrating their drawings with it, skills they were learning with PhotoShop in the Information Technology (IT) curriculum. When fifth grade students saw the work by sixth graders, they asked to participate in the project as well. As a result, fifth and sixth grade art classes were given the option of entering their sculpture designs into a competition for inaugurating a school sculpture garden. Several models were selected by Qin Pu as finalists – work by Alexandra Crossman, Christopoor Brandjes, Kevin Liu, Ji Yun Lee, Jascha Doeke, and Brittany Maki. Because of eventual changes in the installation site and engineering needs of the sculpture’s base, Brittany Maki’s model of a dog’s head resting on the ground, was chosen. Qin imagined Brittany’s whimsical design as a giant slide made out of various types and colors of marble. He chose this particular model as it provided the most diversity in its use, from leaning, sitting, climbing, resting, and playing safely
Sculpting Place on it. It was this vision that eventually led to the sculpture that was fabricated and installed on the new school site. The final part of the project was an integrated IT and Art field trip in June to the
Sculpture Institute and the studios of some of China’s most famous sculpture artists. To prepare them for viewing contemporary art, students worked with both teachers on a “Pop Art” unit, introducing students to the ways in which art is used to comment on culture and society. They looked at how Andy Warhol in the past and artists in China today are using repetition of imagery and changing its context to create new meaning for art. At the Sculpture Institute, students were able to observe the work of artists in the foundry, experiencing their process from developing small models to large-scale sculptures, with a view into how artists use technology today as part of their art. Qin and I had arranged that students view his studio, but when they arrived, they were also able to meet and talk with some of the other famous artists working on current public art projects around China today. After the Sculpture Institute, students visited the “China Art and Archive Warehouse,” a private gallery where they experienced the final step of the artistic process. At the gallery, students viewed contemporary pop and conceptual art, including a 40 square meter digital photograph, a postmodern metaphor using Chinese symbolism to emphasis the importance of feeling in an impersonal world. They met the curator for the show and drew in sketchbooks from the works of art in the gallery. Using skills they were learning in a digital video class, students took turns using digital and video cameras to record and document their experiences, editing and selecting imagery from the field trip for the school website, uploaded afterwards in their IT class. A display of the different steps of the process was created and the computer products displayed on monitors as part of the end of year student art exhibition.
Sculpting Place All of these experiences supported a constructivist approach to education. Authentic
learning experiences with working artists, and experiencing the various functions and aspects of the arts facilities they visited, gave students a realistic view of how it is to work as a professional artist. Instead of passively viewing objects on display in museum settings, they were actively engaged in developing their own understanding of where such objects originate from and how they arrive there. During the ensuing summer, Qin worked on translating the selected student design into a one and a half meter slide for the school playground. A representation of the best of the collaborative process, the importance of vision, and why the arts are important to us as students and adults – the selected sculpture transforms the school grounds as a work of public art. With the vision, support, and openness of the school, its PTA, and school head, John McBryde, this project was financially possible. Equally as important, was the way in which the project evolved. As an example of constructivism, it emerged as a dialogue between teachers, artists, and students. Students were an integral part of the design process, directing and guiding its eventual destination. As an interactivity between process and intent, it was not conceived of and implemented in advance, but as an ongoing process of the elements of art emerging into form. Without the openness to let each idea emerge and take shape, this project would never have happened..
Conclusion If inquisitiveness is what drives children's learning, and constructivism explains how an individual progresses from inquisitiveness to new knowledge, (Abbott & Ryan, 1999), then why is it so controversial? Creating new ways of thinking about what is possible in arts education and
in educational pedagogy requires shifting from the current behaviorist model of curriculum in the classroom, to one based on the principles of the open-ended principles of constructivist learning. Constructivism is an operative term, not a fixed entity. If what we consider "knowledge" is changing, even our understanding of what constructivism is and what it can do will also change. As educators, we find ourselves in the same position as students, in need of new skill sets, not just knowledge. Yet, our school structures are decidedly slow, if not also antagonistic, in embracing new ways of structuring and designing learning experiences. Perhaps our schools are not fully equipped or ready to embrace didaction. But constructivism helps us redefine the way the teacher interacts with the content, the student, and materials for learning. It allows us to open up the learning process to self-organizing systems of thinking and doing. Based on the fact that our brain weaves together relationships, constructivism asks that our teaching practice mimic it. Constructivism gives us the context and tools to redesign the way the variables are arranged in school settings, giving us a new direction in forging relationships between teachers and students, our understanding of knowledge and learning, and ultimately the world at large.
Sculpting Place References
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