Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Case Study Illustrating the Importance of Educating the Whole Person by Using the Arts as a Supplementary Training Tool in Workplace Learning

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

A Case Study Illustrating the Importance of Educating the Whole Person by Using the Arts as a Supplementary Training Tool in Workplace Learning

Article excerpt

Over the years I have come to understand that there are many theories on learning and the learner which are based on fundamental assumptions about the person, the world, and his/her relations. My belief is that learning involves the whole person and that the individual never stops growing and developing in body, mind, and emotions (Jarvis & Parker, 2007). Perceiving learning from this view involves seeing the whole person in a constant process of becoming (Jarvis, 2009), a notion which is based on my 20 years of teaching music to both children and adults, as well as my experiences as a performing artist. These practices have also offered me the possibility of working on various projects where I employ music as a tool for the purpose of developing people and organizations. While I was working as a consultant at Tetra Pak, a world leading food processing and packaging solution company, I was offered the opportunity to write a report about their new employee orientation trainings, based on the facilitator's own accounts and material. During a period of 6 years the facilitator, Rolf Viberg, had received high evaluation scores by the participants; the evaluations focused on immediate reactions to the trainings (Kirkpatrick, 1967). I was interested in what took place that participants would respond so positively. Since learning processes are complex and extensive, I have chosen to focus this paper on Viberg's aim to train the whole person with cognitive as well as affective aspects (Eichman, 2000). Hence my objective of this case study (George & Bennett, 2005) is to describe and interpret the trainings based on Viberg's accounts. My question of inquiry is, what is the role of emotion in learning and the role of using the arts as a supplement to traditional, rational workplace teaching?

Cognitive and Affective Aspects

As we know learning is an active process of combining new and old information (Illeris, 2003) involving a process of change (Jarvis & Parker, 2007; Swann, 1999) connecting cognitive, emotional, and social dimensions (Illeris, 2003). This experiential and holistic learning view (Dewey, 1910/1997; Kolb, 1984; Schon, 1983) helps to recognize that we learn more than we consciously know (Damasio, 2006; Gardenfors, 2005;) as it is acquired in the process of our everyday lives fostering interaction, experience, and reflection (Bergstedt & Herbert, 2011; Dewey, 1997; Lauder, Brown, Dillabough, & Halsey, 2006). This is central in Viberg's outlook as a facilitator.

However, I want to clarify that the view of emotion and thinking, often thought of as being on the opposite ends of the spectrum, has changed due to contemporary neurological findings which show how the cognitive parts of the brain are constantly conversing with the emotional parts (Damasio, 2006; LeDoux, 1996). Studies show that humans are fundamentally emotional and social beings (Immordino-Yang & Damasio, 2007); that the body and mind are not separate entities (Jarvis, 2009); and that there is no such thing as a pure cognition (Fineman, 1997), rather that emotion is deeply connected with reason (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995). Furthermore, emotions are organized responses that adaptively trigger cognitive activities and direct actions as well as judgments (Gratch, Clore, & Palmer 2008; Salovey & Mayer, 1990), and they help us know what to pay attention to and motivate behavior (MacFadden, 2007). Subsequently, emotions intersect in every aspect of our lives affecting our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about the world (Fineman, 1997; Phelps, 2006) as well as learning (Calvo & D'Mello, 2011; Kahneman, 2011). Emphasizing emotions does not happen in isolation (Damasio, 2006; Gardenfors, 2005), but is connected to our intuition and thinking (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986), thus enhancing our learning abilities (Gardenfors, 2005; Kahneman, 2011).

This leads to Viberg's philosophy which includes the notion that an ounce of experience is better than loads of theories (Dewey, 2005) as experience involves reflection and enables the learner to construct new knowledge. …

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