Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Connecting Art, Learning, and Creativity: A Case for Curriculum Integration

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Connecting Art, Learning, and Creativity: A Case for Curriculum Integration

Article excerpt

Postmodern theorists endorse an art education where art is contextualized, boundaries between domains are blurred, and emphasis is placed on content in relation to form (Efland, Freedman & Stuhr, 1996; Hutchens & Suggs, 1997; Clark, 1996). Integration of art with other subjects is congruent with these tenets of postmodernism because it relates ideas to form (shifting the focus of art education away from formal concerns to meaning-making), crosses disciplinary boundaries to reveal conceptual connections, and locates art in context with other disciplines. Most importantly for teachers, integration represents a concrete and feasible approach to teaching art in a postmodern way.

Even with its attention to content, context, and boundary-crossing, postmodern art education has not explored fully the integration of art with academic curriculum as a practice congruent with postmodern theory. However, the topic of integration is slowly entering contemporary discourse in art education. We see this in 'issues-based art education,' which is a form of integration in which "social, political, and cultural issues become subjects to address in the teaching of art" (Gaudelius & Spiers, 2002, p. 3).

Integration is also emerging in art education literature that explores learning and cognition in light of postmodern and visual culture theory. Freedman (2003) and Efland (2002) examine how new findings and theories from cognitive science are shaping our understanding of learning and epistemology. These theories describe learning as essentially a situated, socially-constructed, and culturally mediated process of making meaning. They emphasize the connections between the body, context, experience, culture, emotion, and high-order thinking (Freedman, 2003) and view the mind as an integrated system that unites symbol-processing with sociocultural factors (Efland, 2002). Conventional notions of discipline-based epistemology are overthrown by these conceptions of learning. Knowledge is no longer thought of as divided into discrete domains, but is seen in terms of an integrated system (Freedman 2003, Efland, 2002). Freedman (2003) finds justification in these theories for the embrace of visual culture as a conceptual grounding for art learning and views thematic/conceptually-based curriculum as a methodology for exploring art in context. Efland (2002) also finds justification for curriculum integration as a way of advancing learning:

If the aim of education is to fully activate the cognitive potential of the learner, ways have to be found to integrate knowledge from many subjects to achieve a fuller understanding than would be provided by content treated in isolation, (p. 103)

Efland (2002) finds art to be a propitious, learning-friendly hub for integrated learning because art is the location where subjective and cultural interpretation (meaning-making) are most openly celebrated and practiced.

Efland (2002) also explores creativity in relationship to cognition. The subject of creativity is where postmodernism and cognitive psychology may appear to be least compatible. While some postmodern theorists challenge the very existence of creativity (Barrett, 1997), cognitive scientists persist in researching it in order to understand and demystify it. However disparate cognitive science and postmodernism may appear, the findings of cognitive science ultimately mesh with postmodernism in their challenge to the romantic modernist concept of creativity as a magical process of self-expression carried out by an isolated individual, and suggest that creativity exists in its cultural context, often entailing recycling, appropriation, reframing or adapting existing ideas to new concepts. This article further explores ideas from cognitive science and cognitive linguistics (metaphor theory) to help us understand some specific contributions integration brings to learning, understanding and creativity in the postmodern art classroom. …

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