The History Of Identification Education Essay

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The issue of the importance of integrating multiple ways of knowing - particularly through creative or artistic expression - in an attempt to attend to the spiritual, somatic and affective domains of learning is not new to the field of adult education. In fact, in recent years, there has been a growing body of research and discussion on how to incorporate such ways of knowing into general adult education practice (Dirkx, 2001; Lawrence, 2005; Tisdell, 2003; Yorks & Kasl, 2006 as cited in Stuckey, 2009).

For the purposes of this paper, I will use the terms "creative expression" and "arts-based education" interchangeably to mean "the use of symbols and metaphors as a way of making meaning out of an experience or of expressing emotional states" (Stuckey, 2009, p. 47), and will include dance, poetry, music, painting, sculpture and other visual art forms. "It involves a mix of surrender, or letting go of inhibitions that breed rigidity, and engagement, or cultivating responsiveness to what is takng shape in the immediate situation" (McNiff, 1998 as cited in Stuckey, 2009, p. 47). In addition, arts-based education will speak to both the participation in, as well as the 'witnessing' of artistic works (Malchiodi, 2002 as cited in Lawrence, 2008, p. 74). By virtue of these definitions, it would seem then, that any- and everyone is an artist. Also, creative expression will be viewed as a complement, rather than a challenge to the way knowledge is constructed in the dominant student-centred paradigm of adult education.

This paper lays the foundational framework for a subsequent literature review on the issue of how the creative process of arts-based educational methods across disciplines and within diverse groups helps to enrich the learning process of adults. I begin by exploring critically, the general topic of "Arts-Based Approaches to Adult Education", followed by a rationale of why this topic is important to me, as it relates to my social awareness and understanding of adult education. Throughout, I analyze this issue with respect to its content, importance and relevance to the field of Adult Education, offering strong arguments, grounded in relevant literature, which lend support to the feasibility of my research,. I conclude with an exhortation to adult educators, and my draft research question.

"If learning is to be revivified, quickened so as to become once more an adventure, we shall have need of new concepts, new motives, new methods; we shall need to experiment with the qualitative respects of education" (Merriam & Grace, 2011, p. 8). This reality forms the basis of my exploration, and will centre around the topic: "Arts-Based Approaches to Adult Education".

The cognitive approach to learning is largely a Westernized view that emerged from the Scientific Revolution and displaced the former "somatic" or "embodied" ways of knowing (Clark, 2001; Lawrence, 2008). The age of reason required that only demonstrable facts could be accepted as knowing, and thus "Somatic and emotional knowing then, came to be regarded as unreliable, biased, and 'only' subjective, a mode of knowing that may be useful for our intimate, personal lives, but not for claiming knowledge about the world" (Heshusius and Ballard, 1996 as cited in Clark, 2001, p. 84). Ironically, it is still widely understood that learning has to be internalized or 'embodied' in order for knowing to be achieved, however, students are expected to reflect on their learning in their quiet time to accomplish this. The argument therefore becomes that knowing now occurs during reflection and not during learning; it is this disjoint that has put an increasing number of learners in a quandry, and it is becoming clearer that the cognitive-rational treatment is inadequate, and that attention to the affective component is needed (Stuckey, 2009).

The "Global Village", once merely a catch phrase used by its harbingers in the late 20th century, has now become a reality. Challenged by a perpetual need to "expand or die", companies have gone global, in a bid to reach new and emerging markets before their competitors do. Geographical borders have now all but dissolved with the advent of high-speed internet and supporting technologies that allow companies to do business in other countries with an ease and efficiency never before imagined. A co-worker may now just as easily be located in the Far East as they could live down the street.

The emergence of globalization has brought several diversity tensions, once able to be neatly tucked away due to physical distance, to the surface. Languages, ethnicities, cultures and creeds are colliding head-on, and the new order of business dictates that these tensions need to be addressed and dissipated for the sake of global survival.

I contend that arts-based education is an underutilized means of resolving the inner conflict of the adult learner as he/she attempts to understand, first him/herself, and then the world around him/her, since conventional means of "expression through spoken or written language can be a limitation" (Lawrence & Mealman, 2001). Creative expression allows the true, "unfragmented" self to emerge, thereby empowering the adult learner to communicate fully and openly; as this happens, "there is no pre-occupation with outcomes or worries about failing…A person in this flow state is working intuitively…" (Lawrence, 2008). From there, the learner is now free to explore, put him/herself in another's shoes, and so develop empathic understanding (Eisner, 1995).

Of course, there are many educators who hesitate to allow creative expression in their classrooms, usually because they themselves are either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with ways of knowing involving the affective domain (Clover, 2000; Lawrence, 2005). Their quick defense is usually in finding objective ways to evaluate creative submissions. One solution, suggested by Lawrence (2005), is involving students in the evaluation of "non-rational" work.

Despite the opposition, in the end, it can be demonstrated that "Arts participation broadens people's worldview, forms bridges that cross racial and ethnic lines, creates a special and almost sacred learning space, and taps into multiple ways of learning and knowing" (Wesley, 2007, p. 13).

I am of mixed heritage: a blend of Anglo-Saxon and African - the blood of slaves and slave owners courses through my veins; I am an immigrant, who has been translated from the status of the majority in the land of his birth, to a "visible minority" that is rife with stereotypes in my new homeland; I am a first generation student: the trailblazer for both my immediate and extended family in post-secondary education, and, I am an adult learner. Since early childhood, artistic expression has been my natural way of expressing my thoughts and feelings, of ascribing meaning to my internal and external environments, and to bring order to chaos. I fully identify with Dirkx (2001) when he states "Our consciousness seems populated by multiple voices, each claiming a different sense of reality" (Clark & Dirkx, 2000 as cited in Dirkx, 2001, p. 65). School was a battle for me, as it required my full cognitive capabilities and the suppression of my affective capabilities - in short, my method of constructing meaning was taken away, and then I was instructed to learn. I was forced to embrace the belief that science was superior, and that anyone who tended towards creative expression was carrying emotional baggage, and had significant barriers to learning (Dirkx and Spurgin, 1992; Gray and Dirkx, 2000 as cited in Dirkx, 2001, p. 67).

Therefore, I was deeply relieved to find such a plethora of literature speaking to the critical importance of the arts in the learning process; this has now empowered me to advocate for a place for arts-based instruction in adult learning, and has enabled me to see art as a vehicle for social transformation. It has also reinforced my view that adult education is still an emerging field, where new ideas and approaches are being sought in order to define it, and that, in the final analysis, adult education requires a deep commitment to accept and participate in change. I envision a day when I can educate future educators on the crucial role that arts-based education will play in the holistic development of their students.

As the findings of this paper demonstrate, the field of adult education is groaning for the emergence of a unified voice to not only shape it as a profession, but to act as a key player in the social transformation necessary to achieve the "One World" goal. This means that the onus is upon adult educators to assist their learners in reclaiming their voices, suppressed for centuries in "rationality". It can already be agreed that arts-based education will play a pivotal role in this reclamation, and so the question which now remains, and which will form the basis of my literature review is: "How Can Arts-Based Education be Used as a Tool to Enhance Adult Learning Within Diverse Groups?"