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We were privileged to have Ken Lum speak on day three of the symposium. While his talk revolved mostly around the role of the teacher/artist and the priorities that such an individual has, I would like to concentrate on Lum’s mention of empathy as a “theory of existence” for the student, the artist and the human being during his conversation with Catherine Sousloff.
In relationship to the classic student struggle through art school, Lum called for individuals to “open [themselves] up to the love of others” as a humble and genuine appreciation for the combination of personal and political histories which fuse within bodies. By honing this constant curiosity in humanity, students (and leaders alike) can collect unbelievable amounts of information which can be further divided and recognized as important moments in dialogue. Lum distinguished this ability to recognize information as important moments in history as the student’s epitome of quality.
Quality is an extremely difficult word to use and an even more abstract concept to navigate in the context of education and leadership. It certainly was not used lightly by Lum but his definition of quality may have posed a problematic binary. Lum posed the question of what is quality, and thus, who/what is a student of quality? Is it an individual who passes hours wandering halls and malls, with no apparent interest or significance, or is it the individual of “traditional” talent (I use this word with hesitation since I could argue that tradition is relative, and ever-changing), the one who draws horses well. I agree with this debate to a certain extent, for the meandering student may display several tendencies that are highly appreciated in contemporary art. It is also extremely strange to think of its relationship to the modern concept of the flâneur, an individual of privilege who has time to walk the streets aimlessly and adopts an individual responsibility of social observation.
The individual who draws horses can be found within a very difficult predicament, for an appreciation of (relative) aesthetics and tastes can become a dangerous territory of exploration wrought in history. What is to made of technical talent in the contemporary student and artist? If institutions are striving to include interdisciplinary programs and attitudes, while teaching critical skills and honing a space of self-reflexivity, doesn’t the individual who draws horses present an opportunity for variety and instigation thus also deserving of empathy? Must the relativity of taste and trend be apparent in the classroom and how will an institution’s selection or recruitment process reflect the difficult nature of pointing out potential at such an early stage?
If students/artists of technical favour are continuously being perceived as artists of quality in the eye of the general public, this opinion based on aesthetics must be addressed or else the domain of art may find itself in a state of even greater exile or elitism. If the main thesis of contemporary art exists within the student wandering the mall, then its antithesis may exist within the one who draws horses. Ignore one and we ignore our potential range in value and quality and strive for a society of homogeneity.
I will begin reflecting on the incredible amount of information delivered yesterday at ELIA’s last day of the leadership symposium by talking about Butch Morris (whose wonderful quote I have taken as my title). As institutions of art and design, it can certainly be easy to talk about related disciplines which share primary appreciation and utilization of visual knowledge such as architecture, engineering and dance among others. But the symposium’s inclusion of conductor Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris brought an immense feeling of relief to my saturated brain.
Butch’s approach to conduction and musical understanding provokes important questions about the role of the leader and where it can be found. His theories thrive on the basis of shared responsibility, where memory and progression are both embodied by musicians and conductor alike. The sustainability of a thing so ephemeral as music depends completely on symbolic stimulus which can only be characterized as a constant push and pull of supply, demand while leaving room for fantasy. We can easily link this discussion back to my previous post on Imagination and its role in the organization of artistic leadership.
However, I must concentrate on the ephemeral nature of music as an important potential model for the construction of communities and administrations. As Butch noted in his presentation, the continuity of creative ability (both in leadership and in following for they are both as valuable) depends completely on “some kind of understanding” within or between communities. What visual disciplines may lack is the ability of retaining an ephemeral nature. Of course, this type of art making has been explored in Conceptual Art, where the object has been eliminated time and time again. But our constant desire to return to the object, to the image and to permanence has certainly affected the way we construct our institutions and administrations. Would there be use in building a community based on Butch’s concepts? Would an ephemeral institution provide more symbolic stimulus than its concrete partners if students and administrations alike recognized an institution as a fleeting moment in time. Would the inclusion of music as a visual field of art and the inclusion of art as an auditory potential for music bring about impulsive shifts in how we view education and leadership in the arts? Which domain has the biggest ego, and who must surrender it first?
Yesterday was the last day of ELIA and its focus was on leadership. The day was packed with various inspirational discussions and presentations. After arriving home from the long day I felt incredibly tired yet very high strung. My heart still raced from delivering a brief comment to all of the delegates which unfortunately was poorly articulated. As my mind was imbued with information and my nerves were slowly calming, the impact of the day slowly settled in. While I reflected upon the entire experience, an overwhelming sense of gratitude emerged. Now the question arises, how do I communicate what was said and what happened during such a substantial day? Due to time constraints, instead of attempting this laborious task, I intend to focus on Lawrence “Butch” Morris’ and Ken Lum’s presentations, focusing on a few points which I found inspiring.
The first presentation of the day was Leadership without Scores in which Lawrence “Butch” Morris conducted a group of musicians from Vancouver Community College. The music produced was a combination of improvisation and interpretation while maintaining a cohesive melody through the leadership of Butch. Many of the statements and antidotes he provided were insightful and poetic. One which stuck with me, the one which I tried to present in the final remarks was, “Surrender the ego”. At first there seemed to be a slight contradiction between this comment and the idea of leadership. However, after considering the strongest leaders, I realize they do not have an ego for an ego creates resistance and resentment. Leaders should embody confidence and security therefore, allowing those whom they lead the space for choice within a particular direction. Through motivation, encouragement, and inspirational guidance, the ideas, and individual drive of the followers can be cultivated and flourish. Therefore, the common goal can be successfully achieved. Applying this idea of surrendering the ego in our current competitive culture is a difficult task, but it opens up wonderful possibilities for personal and social happiness and cooperation.
Next to the podium was Ken Lum. His presentation was derived from his essay “Dear Steven” which is written in the form of a personal letter to a friend and is published in the book Art School: Propositions for the 21st Century. Ken Lum’s talks are always inspirational. He feels artists need to draw on experiences of their life, distill what is important, and then communicate it through art in order to “raise consciousness in the world”. Furthermore, he encourages students and artists to understand the difference between “life knowledge and institutional knowledge”. His ideas resonate with me. Being an art student I have certainly felt the pressures to conform to be relevant but how much is there to learn and grow if we are a “homogeneous” student body? It is through diversity of instructors and students which creates an arena for growth and innovation. Furthermore, Lum encourages us to be curious and open to our surroundings while stressing the importance of starting this process at the local level. He believes it is through love of and empathy for others permits us to access a great depth of knowledge. In my opinion, it is ironic that through the pursuit of knowledge and progress in modern culture we have lost connectivity to one another and our surroundings. The autonomous individual and artist has gained momentum and dominated western culture throughout the last half century. However, the implications of this type of thought on our environment and souls are becoming more understood in society which is in part due to art. This awareness creates the potential for change; however, it is the responsibility of each individual to internalize and display this empathy and love in order for our culture to embody and value it.
Due to the tremendous amount of information delivered by all the charismatic leaders, the full impact of that information is yet to be realized. It will take time to reflect upon the comments and discussions which I was privileged to be a part of. I would like to thank everyone involved in ELIA for allowing me to observe and participate in a symposium rich with ideas, questions, and hope for the future direction of art education.
Leading without scores is a way of leading without content and preconceived outcomes. If we trust that the people we are working with have talent and knowledge we can lead by giving a sense of structure that allows for individuals to take direction but to create their own content. From this self developed content, we can learn from each other, see new visions and create something unique and of extended value because it comes from within rather than being imposed. As leaders we can demand the best of those we lead, but in order to do that we need to allow for them to find what that best is, and how to push past it for more. The challenge for leaders is to provide an environment that is open and directional.
Second day of ELIA at Emily Carr University,
Yesterdays focus was on the institutions while today’s' focus is on the student. What role does the student play in the process of creating and designing the future curriculum, not only their courses but the structure of their four year program. Do we look at the long term or are we just used to inserting them through the cookie cutter mold of what the institution can offer.
Students need to be asked from the first year what they want from the school and where they see them selves four to six years after university (their education) is over. The teacher once being able to asses and understand the students goals can make it easier for them to focus on achieving these goals. They would guide them through a specific teaching curriculum focused on the particular student while advising them with their own experience and knowledge. Not only understanding their weak points but being able to mentor them and give then a personal push (a kind of motivation from within). In most cases the student came to be taught something that they either did not know or are curious about. These choices are reflected from their family’s, friends, environments and personal goals but in the end they chose to be there and have some kind of interest in what they are doing. There is a kind of curiosity that brought the student to be in that position.
In our group we found it extremely important for the student to know the basics of his focus (discipline). They need to study a structure and history before being able to break the rules to do what ever you please. You need to understand how these basics work and why they are important, not only as tools but as methods of creating media. A firm and comfortable understanding needs to be there for the student to be able to push those boundaries. This is where history is an important part because it can reference you to what has been done, not saying it should not be done but it should be understood and experienced. While going over different ways of how these basics are important it came back to the idea of the individual. Do they want to study? Are they ambitious? Can they focus on their studies or does life around them play a critical part in time management?
This lead to the idea that a student needs to be able to self reflect on his ideas, experiences and thoughts. Have some personal time to think about it all, digest it and then plan and reflect on what they want to do and where they want to go with it. This is where the role of the teacher becomes important in guiding/helping the student go through this process but also advising them on their thoughts and ideas of how it is important to go through these steps of self revision. Because in the end the student will deiced what they want and what works best for them. To sum it up gently it is about being aware.
Here are some points that I found very intriguing during the discussion over the table (these are just segments of the many conversations that we had and to say the least I was not fast enough to write down everything)
- Teach students to teach themselves
- achieve deep learning on your own
- art school a place to push students and their experience
- failure success minor part of whole experience
- making your own choice
- you need to master your skills to be able to create, knowing the basics
- students part of the process of creating the curriculum
- is it productive for students
- generalist specialist
- technical skills
- RISD quickies (thought this was brilliant, very curious on the out come and its possibilities within student organizations)
These are just part of one page from the four that I scrambled to develop while engaging in the discussions. It is interesting to look at the words and phrases alone to see and understand them within the context of the questions asked, covered and explored.
Today our group addressed the evolving student and the ways in which curriculum and organization need to chang in order to better accomodate them. Many issues were brought up from integrating international students with the rest of the student body, to allowing for interidisciplinary studies, to facilitating passion. The group felt as if the discussion was firmly based in their institutions’ experience, and they were not surprised by the direction of the conversation. The most intriguing factor seemed to be the diversity of the current study body, in motivation, interest, responsibilities, and direction. Designing a system that is able to address the variety of challenges and expectations seemed daunting and inspiring.
A delegate brought up the idea that students, through feedback and course assessment, have the power over curriculum. ‘Students are the client and customer’ was stated. As much as it may be true, that statement made me uncomfortable.
Students may be vocal in complaining but the reason they are called students is that they have something to learn. They don’t know what they need to know. Students can speculate but they don’t actually know the skills they need to be successful because they do not yet have the or perspective of the discipline or the industry; not to mention experience, soft skills, knowledge or necessary insight.
We talked specifically about the need for collaborative learning models to respond to complexity but also how students resist working in groups or teams. One delegate noted that on a recent student survey that working in groups was at the very bottom of the list of desires of priorities. There is a tension in meeting student expectations and broadening their horizons. This brings me back to a point posed yesterday. How can institutions and faculty help students to value the journey and not just seek their anticipated outcomes?
One interesting idea that my table talked about is regarding the future of institutes in this technologically advanced age. Some feel that with all the social media the students can get access to, the students are able to get information off the social medias instead of having the need to come to school. As a result, would schools turn into a gathering space or studios for students use to creative their art instead of a destination for knowledge?
This comes back to the idea of having a co-existence between technology and art. With technology rapidly evolving and becoming accessible to almost everyone, art institutes may have a feeling of school endangerment. By having a vast amount of information on the Internet and accessible from almost anywhere, the institute campuses may turn into studio, working spaces for students instead of a haven of knowledge.
I would like to think that the institutes campuses will be able to find a way through the percieved threat of technology and take advantage of the technological advancements to help students.
Our table discussed the difficulty of transitioning as academic/creative intitutions. The challenge seems to be how to expand and accomodate more students with new subjects and up to date technology while still maintaining the same level of quality education. The institutions seem to be approaching the same issues as students in terms of diversifying their talents. While we as students are having to learn an excess of new skills the universities are striving to provide the education to address those needs. Each of the participating institutions had very similar experience and need with regards to supporting students, aquiring funds, and creating integrated spaces. It was wonderful to see the commonalities and validate each insitutions questions.
Today, at my table the discussions consisted in an exchange of views on the student of the 21rst century from a leader’s perspective. Questions around complexity emerged: complexity on the side of the student as an individual but also on the sice of the institution, dealing with complex demands and fluctuating contexts. In this post I will focus on certain elements and raised questions that appeared key to me during the discussion.
Failure and economic uncertainty
Complexity can be overwhelming. Facing a growing complexity in their every day life students experience insecurity and often express a desire for structure. This insecurity takes place on different levels of society: children today will probably, due to economic uncertainties, do less well than their parents, while still having the expectations that they will/should do better. The expectation to be employed according to passion is one that can not be achieved with a degree only.
Would it be regarded as ‘Failure’ not to achieve this goal after obtaining a University degree?
What do we qualify as ‘Failure’ and what are its markers?
How can the institution deal with those expectations and position itself?
Other questions emerged in this context:
What is the pathway to self realization in a situation of economic uncertainty?
Would this pathway be to teach/learn a skill based profession that provides a certain base from which to start of from? Under the influence of changed financial support such as in the UK for example thoughts about a return to technical training are emerging. What consequences does this have for Universities?
What role does maturity play in the shaping of the personal learning pathway? When is the time for what kind of formative experience?
Optimism and Lifeskills
A goal for Universities and Colleges is to help students deal with complexity and integrate lifeskills such as optimism, curiosity and navigational skills into the curriculum.
How can those lifeskills be considered as a curricular product?
How can the institution foster competences that are situated outside of disciplines?
Could this take the shape of an overarching “Student Advising” that takes into consideration student life activities on a general level? Solutions to influence the student’s learning outside of the school area, such as going abroad or organizing internships can be embedded into the curriculum. Collaborative processes can be organized, but it has to be defined, where ‘true collaboration’ begins in contrast to ‘partnering’. To avoid doing 90% of the work for 50% of the credits guidelines for collaboration such as expectations, required environment and their assessment should be put into place.
Another connected topic of discussion was the double agenda that Universities and Colleges are facing. On one hand public statements and politics use employability as criteria of evaluation, looking for an immediate measuring of the University’s ‘effciency’. On the other hand there are personal goals that students strive to achieve such as personal development, the search of ‘becoming yourself’ and the collaboration on creating new ideas and making things? Is the reason to go to university to find a job or should it be for the joy of increasing personal knowledge? Universities and Colleges should be able to provide both, and aim for high goals. There is a danger in setting minimum standards as goals.
One participant noticed that in his University drawing classed have recently experienced a higher interest accross different disciplines. Is drawing for a non-art student a question of being able to represent through drawing or a way to learn perception? I wonder if the mapping exercises as described by Meredith Davis can be connected to drawing in the way that they teach you to comprehend the whole thing and not just to focus on a detail?
Here I would like to integrate the reference to MBE (Mind, Brain and Education – Kurt Fisher) introduced by a participant that considers the web as an image of learning as opposed to a linear structure.
To conclude it seemed to emerge from the discussion that one of the challenges that Universities and Colleges are facing today is to find their balance between openness and structure. Depending on the stage of maturity and moment in life, a student will seek for more structre or more openness.
In art institutes, the teachers are always the ones giving critics to students. This is not bad as we, the students, need a differing perspective to give comment to our work. But it is also good to get students involved in giving full critiques instead of having mini comments on the side after the teacher has finished critiquing.
One delegate at my table was talking about the ability of students learning from each other, all the while, the teachers take a step back and become a facilitator of sorts. As students are very diverse in the thought processes, having some fellow students give full critiques of artworks is able to give the artist, an albeit similar perspective, but a fresh take on his/her artwork.
It does not seem easy to give up the role of the teacher and the ability to critique students work. By taking a step back, becoming a facilitator, and letting the students teach each other would have a heavy impact on the students.
I think the balance of teacher and student has the most effect when the two are in balance and are able to contribute the same amount from each other, instead of having the teacher doing critique and the student listening.
If students are coming in to university with digital or material skills, it becomes redundant to teach as a part of the curriculum. Maybe If there was opportunity and flexibility to ask students what they know before teaching, then the academic experience might be more efficient in some areas to allow room for play and creativity in others. One delegate discussed how their school moved the learning of skills to individual time and workshop technicians. This model frees credit hours up for more applied learning, may it also be an answer to the earlier posed question of rigor and academic intensity?
Understanding student pressures was a prominent topic at our table.It was discussed how a high percentage of students are working, some nearly full-time, jobs. If balancing work, life and study is a challenge students are facing, what role can the institution play in responding to these types of student needs?
One challenge of the 21st Century student is the notion of life as a series of scheduled moments. Rushing from one class to another then to work with no space for reflection to occur. One consequence to this packed lifestyle is no time for rigor. Students are too easily satisfied with the first iteration, which can be a hollow solution. Thorough exploration comes with time spent creating many iterations and deep mental and material understanding. Rigor is often the space for students to practice and fail, privately in the studio outside of assessment.
Rigor is the time for deep thinking-making but also, one delegate noted ‘you have to have time not to be efficient.’ Our constantly stimulated and active brains need reflection in order to have innovation. If art education becomes, for the student, one narrowly scheduled activity in a life of constant movement and deadlines, how can deep learning occur?
As the conversation unfolded, the complexity of modern student life unveiled itself. It may have a pull-string of social and economic pressure at the center but it quickly unravels to a larger question of quality of life and what is mentally and physically sustainable for students to endure.
Dispersed learning may not be the answer to a culture that already feels displaced by a rushed lifestyle and lack of physical community. I don’t think technical tools of connectivity will be enough. We have experience with the internet and social media and those connections often leave us flat, craving deeper and more authentic human interactions. One delegate noted, “it is about materiality, you can’t disperse embodiment.”
These were observations of the delegates of my table but I have experienced this personally as a student and noticed the influence of over-scheduling on my peers. Meredith Davis’ model confronted some student needs and lifestyle changes with strategies that bring students back into the studios, instead of working from home. In order to do that you need to build community through facilitating collaboration. I was excited and encouraged by the NC State College of Art, it seems that they have structured the learning experience in a way that adds value to the student experience.
With this post, I will be discussing a topic which had continuously been of pressing concern during my studies. This symposium is centered around schools of art (or arts) and design discussing the notions of past, present and future educational shifts. As we are seeing as a repeated topic of discussion in this blog, the need or desire to implement inter-disciplinary approaches within these schools is paramount. There was also a closing remark today (Day 2) denoting the possible need for collaboration between schools, giving educational an even more educational scope despite the already rampant use of web-based platforms.
And so there is a call for a shared vocabulary between disciplines, and between its institutional representatives. But there is the consistent reminder of context that comes into play, denoting the differences between universities or colleges and their innumerable differences: small, large, budget limits, part-time or full-time faculty, funding sources etc. The creation or recognition of a shared vocabulary is already such a difficult thing to imagine since language can be molded and defined by the context in which it sits. On one level, this type of collaboration can be seen as intradepartmental, or local, since it prioritizes education within the spectre for the arts and design.
However, my table also demonstrated the desire for interdepartmental as intercultural opportunities with other disciplines. Such relationships are easier to develop within the frame of larger universities where such departments exist under one administrative roof (one could consider these glocal, a mix of local and global) but what of smaller institutions? As a student in such a specialized school of art and design, there have been many moments of longing for the ability to converse and collaborate with engineers, mathematicians, anthropologists, linguists, scientists and business associates despite the school’s numerous efforts in establishing co-op programs, community projects and affiliations. And it is certainly true that such relationships must also be taken up as student responsibilities, where the desire for personal exploration must become an individual endeavor to truly build a set of skills required of professionals. But in light of more and more specialized institutions, is the student sacrificing critical global partnerships? Is industry itself the generator of such specialization?
Furthermore, how do we recognize a genuine shared vocabulary, a genuine effort for the sake of education and the development of arts and culture. With these advances, we must question who truly benefits from them and how are they to serve future generations of students, institutions and elements outside of academic walls. This symposium is creating ample opportunity to discuss such matters but there is a significant contextual point which must be addressed. It includes institutions predominantly resting on a North-West to South-East global axiom. How are questions debated by institutions of the South-West to North-East axiom in South America, Africa and Asia? Are we missing elements that are necessary in order to even imagine, nevermind implement the concept of a genuine share vocabulary?
There exists basic nomenclature in order to tag student populations as a whole: The Student Body. This image presents students as a united front which tasks itself in a variety of ways to achieve a singular living organism. But what are the implications involved in embodying the student as a fluctuating representation? Does it become the ideal image of the institution, the product of an intensive program of formation and modification? Is there validity in claiming the perfect student as being a repeatable carbon-copy or a brilliant individual mastermind? There are obvious problems in claiming a mass of individual students as a singular body, for it eliminates the possibility for range, variety and difference. It is also problematic if the institution views its student populations as a singular body. How is this complicated by institutions that demonstrate collaborative or inter-disciplinary programs?
As discussed within the frame of future education in the face of increasing complexity and connectedness, the debates centers around the meaningful qualities of a student-institution relationship. This is further complicated by the scope, scale and aspirations of individual institutions for it completely shifts the definition of the ideal student who ought to be admitted, even recruited. The position of the student becomes incredibly difficult to define and experience since the placement of responsibility in collecting/disseminating knowledge is dispersed among several platforms. We can consider technological tools such as Facebook, Twitter, QRs and Google (among others) to be platforms of student-generated curriculum, where the term Organic Student defines multiple personalities ranging from user or daily consumer to teacher, manager and the critical eye. But in relationship to conventional expectations of education, it is the institution and its hired participants who most often hold the burden of responsible education? Should, or can, the student be more involved in an institution’s administrative processes?
This brought our table to debate the validity of quality control in the assessment of demands and desires of student bodies within organic institutions. How do administrations identify and implement the programs, courses and spaces (physical or virtual) demanded by its students? Continuous feedback with student communities may seem to be crucial in the advancement of process-based education where re-invention and innovation are critical, but in fact, such heavy quality control could achieve the very opposite by implementing more conservative programs. This is not to say that conservative is a negative approach to education, in this case, it is simply used as an argumentative counter-weight. The opportunity of constantly communicating with one’s administration could seem to be a beautiful utopia for the student but the table brought the very important point in describing the cutting-edge as a narrow corridor, where the likelihood in being understood is small and administrative real-time is always pressing.
Thus, in the mash of constant re-invention of knowledge, where certainties are nullified and the vulnerability of collaboration is heightened for the sake of progress, where is the space for breath? Sprinting may seem like a powerful and reactionary alternative to walking, but perhaps limits the student’s ability to perceive the wider landscape as it rips by. Where does practicality fit when breathing as an organic being?
An interesting discussion based on the relationship between dependence, economics, and expectations was presented at our table. As a student, I am very aware of the financial weight of pursuing a higher education. However, I rarely look at it from the perspective that there is a consumerist attitude towards education in which the teacher is not a facilitator and educator but rather a service. It has been noticed that young students display greater dependence on their parents. In my understanding of the conversation, as a result of their financial support, this attitude towards education as commodity is driven by the parents of the students. As a result of the high tuition fees parents expect their child to get A’s. However, these expectations are placed on the professors to give an A rather than the student earning an A. The term provided for these types of parents was “helicopter parents” as a result of their constant hovering over the teachers.
This mentality towards education is very unfortunate.I believe it stems from a complex social social system. If this mentality is to be shifted layers of changes will need to be implemented . Taking responsibility for one’s own actions through a proper work ethic is the way to achieving success. Parents are unfortunately setting poor example for their children by placing high outcome expectations for application of minimal effort. Unfortunately, in the end everyone loses in this scenario.
• Courses based on specific themes relevant in today’s society. These thematic courses could be but taught from different perspectives, for example from the perspective of an ecologist, psychologist, and a geologist. This would allow the students to hear multiple view points and allows them to align themselves with the perspective which best suits their ideals.
• A convergent curriculum which involves less specificity of disciplines and more fluidity of ideas and information.
• Project based learning could allow students to achieve the learning outcomes. An entire semester on a project may permit the student to navigate the theme in a non linear fashion.
• Collaborative learning.
Today began with a presentation by Meredith Davis, where she provided many details about her institutions approach to design education. Meredith explained how mapping is a tool that is as important for today’s design student as drawing, as we are able to better understand the problem space before work begins. She saw managing complexity as the essence of design, and called for greater collaborative activity in design education to meet the changing needs of the design student of the 21st Century.
At our round table discussion, there were many opinions, and I was often asked for my opinion and understanding of different issues, so it was a great opportunity to speak and share with a group of amazing people.
Some voices at the table were concerned that if the design curriculum becomes too streamlined and prescribed, it would lose much of its abstractness, and ignore it’s rich history. Others explained their frustration over the amount of say industry and unions have over their design curriculum, but everyone seemed to be on the same page when it came to the fact that they were all interested in how they could meet (and exceed) the needs of today’s student.
We questioned the relationship between design and other disciplines, and called for more collaboration. We also touched on how to deal with students demanding a greater depth of knowledge in some areas and a broad reach over others as well. Should students be able to focus in on one area? Should there be a dual curriculum offered? Is there enough room for students to reflect on their process? These are all hard questions, and certainly require more time that we were allowed for today to answer in full – if an answer can even be found!
When we started to talk about students being advocates of education, I began to wonder if students were being provided with the skills they needed to think and write critically. I kicked myself for not asking Meredith how her school teaches students to express their opinions on the changes design is undergoing. Sitting here now, I wonder who will be the Meredith Davis of tomorrow, who will bring in a new form of co-creation, a new tool kit, a new version of the T-shaped designer, and what will these things look like in the next 5-10 years? Perhaps that is a question for the next ELIA conference…
First off, I wanted to thank everyone for the opportunity to be a part of this symposium, and I hope I have helped add value to your experience at Emily Carr. I was overwhelmed by the openness and willingness to let me contribute. As I will not be able to contribute on the last day of the symposium, there was a really interesting quote in today’s discussion that I wanted to share. “Artists should be irritating. Art schools should prepare them to be so.”
I get where this is going. We should question the status quo, we should look at things critically. I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that, as a student, it concerned me. It felt a little like students existed to be forged into weapons for use against the ideological enemies of the institution. We are not weapons. I have personally felt like “Artists should be irritating” is very easy to change to “Artists should be irritating to those I don’t agree with.”
I don’t mean to be preachy, I just ask you to remember as you go into your sessions on leadership tomorrow that students have goals of their own, and they don’t always include continuing the fight of those who represent the avant garde. If a student has no great desire to shake up the world, that doesn’t make them any less important than those who go on to become the next Judy Chicago. Some of us see value in things as mundane as comic books or Disney movies. We are still artists, and when what we care about is denigrated by those who we trust to help us reach our goals, it hurts deeply.
Thanks again for stepping up to the challenge of helping your students work to reach their dreams.
It was suggested in our group that a different way of organizing students would be around themes of real-world problems. Instead of having a program that solely focused on design, or painting, or film, you could have programs that focused on things like sustainability, or global climate change. A student would then be able to gain experience with the sorts of actual issues that the institution would like them to be dealing with upon graduation, and each student would have the ability to go as broad or as deep as they personally felt was necessary to affect change.
We talked about how the university model came out of the medieval monastery, where knowledge was protected behind walls, horded like treasure against those who would destroy it. Perhaps today’s learning institution needs to tear down those walls, focusing more on the usefulness of knowledge than its value? As Chris Wainwright repeatedly asked over the last two days, “Where does knowledge sit?”
In many ways, this seems to be at the core of how an institute of higher learning relates to its students. Within the delegates at Table 5, the answer to this question was different for each school, and there seemed to me to be strengths to both sides of this continuum. The advantage to recruiting is diversity of student body, which is something that schools like Emily Carr seem to pride themselves on. The drawback is that students may be missing key skills and abilities, even down to fundamentals like reading and writing or critical thinking.
On the other hand, selection has the potential to create a mono-cultural and elitist system where “out of the box” solutions are harder to come by. One of the delegates felt that “If two students have the same senior project, we have failed as an institution.” If this is your criteria, selection can be problematic. The upside is a higher quality of student activity and results, and less of a chance of holding back growth of motivated students by the failings of their classmates.
In either case, I believe there should be some form of base minimum for students – If you can’t read, write or think critically, is it fair to put you in an environment where such things are required? Is it fair to the other students?
In talking about changes in the field of design, she said that in many cases, designers are now “designing with instead of for”.
Could the same phrase be used, changing “design” for “educate”? As roles blur, the flows and sources of information necessary for students also change. Modern designers spend a great deal of their time helping clients arrive at the desired outcome on their own, instead of giving discrete “things”. Several times in Table 5′s discussion, the notion of the educator as facilitator was brought up. Maybe the role of the teacher going forward is that of a coordinator, someone who takes disparate sources and flows of information and helps students make sense and use of what otherwise would be useless data.
The conversion of data to information has increasingly played a key role in major industries around the world. Prior to my return to art school, I built systems that took seemingly unconnected pieces of data and made actionable and measurable from them. In a world where all knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips, the role of teachers should be to instruct in how to sort through and use the tools of today.
If you think about it, maybe that’s not such a big change – educators help students use the tools available to them to become successful. This has always been the case, only the tools change.
From Chris Wainwright, in today’s discussion on the 21st Century student, and preparing them for the inter-connected world:
“Do students need to be prepared for connectedness, or do teachers?”
Maybe connectedness to the 21st Century student is like water to a fish…in other words, the natural state? The true question might be how do educators join the students in the water?
Covering many points the education system and pedagogy still are key components of our group discussion. We further pick at different parts and start discussing the core of the system. To spice things up, and I personally think this is the best part, there are many ways of viewing the many systems that are there. This is where I believe that the conversation is up for grabs because there is not only one kind of system out there and it is not linear nor dynamic nor is it something of everything. (I find this a bit tricky to explain because I feel that if I explain it, I have already defined it, where I want this to be open and flexible like it was in our group discussion). Jumping along we put aside the differences of different experiences of the education systems, we started discussing some of the problems and issues that are arising in the twenty first century, education and its future. We started at looking at a core.
The education system is a business. It will process students through an already programmed funnel and produce them into the “real world” to keep doing the same thing over and over again while sustaining their life in this consumerist society. To fit the mold of the working place, ironically this is ideal for most students and even parents. They feel that the future is already planned out, there is nothing to worry about and in the end its all great. But this becomes a cycle and there does not seem to be any space for the mind to grow or even change. Could we even say that you/we/us become a robot desensitized to our own world enviornment? Does technology also influence this?
The education construct, has their own priorities to not only educate certain topics but to institutionalize a system of order (and enforce it). A community within a community. Every person in this community play different roles that range from being a student to working for the government. All these roles are important in modern day schools. Breaking it down further, everyone has their own agenda. We go to work to make money and in end have a place to sleep, eat, feel comfortable, raise a family and experience life (hind from life). This is a cycle we get used to and it gets very difficult to push away from it. At our table we quickly questioned how we could unite everyone so that we would all focus on education and the learning process.
A decision came into play that would influence the people who ran the show, but would that be enough. Could the people at the top do everything we wanted them to? Realizing that we need to change or influence the policy makers (politicians) to not only look at the future but invest and help develop policies that are up to date and relate-able both with students teachers and everyone involved with education to be able to progress and develop new strategies of effective learning. Does this mean that we need an international community to work on this process or is it something that we as individuals can tackle?
Going around the table we went off topic but ended this point with the idea of an international community that we could all connect to and develop solutions to these problems. (This sounds a lot like ELIA) Looking back at it we were still not able to define what the future would be or how the problem should be resolved fully.
I will leave with the question: Do we all need to participate and communicate what is going on around us in our worlds to be able to fix the problems of the present/future?
Today’s discussion about the development of the role of the institute has lead to a variety of questions. You will find them in the following paragraphs, along with a set of my own.
Transdisciplinarity has an increasing appeal in the agenda of institutes and students. However, transdisciplinarity should not be exploited or confused. In recent times we have seen a student body that is highly evolved, self-trained and capable of transcending their area of focus, but the danger of teaching transdisciplinary is in the loss of focus and depth, especially in those students who have not yet developed a single discipline to begin with. The function of the institute should always be to instruct those who wish to advance and to give talented individuals a chance regardless of their previous experience. When we continuously focus on a single practice, how do we retain our originality and our diversity? An example I recall, is that of a classically trained pianist attempting to play his instrument as though he has no previous training whatsoever. The strength of the work is derived from his struggle with trained response. Transdisciplinarity can offer a similar diversion of this dreaded trained response. Whatever happened to the ingenious dilettantes? What makes an ingenious work, is it intent or execution? Do we put preference on encoding ourselves, our minds, or decoding? And what is more valuable, and who is to say?
Art institutes are constantly adapting their curriculum to the changes the world undergoes. If there was a recipe for Art, my taste would instantly perish. However, I wonder if the judgement of success is in the hands of one and not many, what kind of judge does a student body require and to what extent do we choose our own judgement? Can we hand over the responsibilities of change to the students and allow them to fuel their engagement and ultimately foster their own development? This is already true to some extent. But where does guidance become questionable? Can institutes customize their programs to the needs of individual development without losing their fundamental identity and intent of the learning outcome. Is there a preference for attaining a prospective goal or is there preference for process and exploration?
The institutes carry a social responsibility. The difficulty with leadership in education is to translate needs like employability to politicians and the community at large. Art often functions on a separate platform. One of the reactions to these needs is to create an institute that programs students to follow an old format that has made success stories for some, but the difficulty remains that Art is a changing subject that does not cohere to the models of the past. Development that runs strictly in one direction can stunt the broader development of artistic practice altogether.
Should Art schools become more competitive to ensure a high standard? To ensure flexibility and a broader supply of courses, should these universities focus on making revenue so they can offer specialty courses, or does that compromise the quality of the overall curriculum? Subsequently, does a focus on revenue put emphasis on certain disciplines over others and what kind of impact does that have on the creation of a culture? Is it beneficial to offer life-long contracts to staff members? Many students suffer from an education that is outdated because there is no protocol that oversees the development of staff members.
The question is to what degree the institution lends flexibility in favour of the student and in how far the student should be subject to the agenda of the institute. My recent focus went to the text on the floor of the Dusseldorfer Kunstakademie, it reads: “Für unsere Studenten nur das Beste” (“For our Students only the Best”)
In our table discussion an interesting idea was brought up regarding who has the capability and/or responsibility to shape and change the arts institution.
On the one hand we talked about shaping students and the need to liberate/reframe their expectations on the potential of art education.
On the other hand it was suggested that students are, and should be, the disrupters. Students have the power to push back, shape, change and alter curriculum to keep up with shifting culture. If this is true, then what is the role of the institution and faculty? One suggestion was for curriculum to be malleable enough to respond to those forces.
What do you think?
One observation about the nature our table conversation is that we were consistently using language that organized institutes into dichotomies. Every issue at first appeared to be splayed by two spectrum ends. For example:
The unconscious realization after naming these concepts with opposing language was that somehow the key was in the overlap. How can formal and informal learning be equally validated, encouraged and balanced? Can we do away with structured schedules while achieving a higher level of rigor among students?
These ideas culminated in a sense that a framework must be simultaneously structured and loose enough to respond to different types of students. That is where things start to get complicated. With different students come different maturity, different skill levels, different
The challenge is customization.
Do education systems contribute to the way students think?
During the roundtable, one delegate voiced his thought on the education system. The students do not have a spherical thought process, instead of thinking of different routes to reach the solution; they want the solutions right in front. The linear thought process does not only affect students when facing school obstacles but would also affect the future of the students. Without a spherical thought process, it would impede on the students creative growth and constrain their risk taking as well.
With the education systems, specifically United States, the students are not able to explore other ways of “problem solving” in the set systems. The way to creative growth is not to constrain the students thought process, instead the systems should let the students form their own routes to get to the solution.
I think a linear thought process is not necessarily negative, but it may soon prove to have more faults than advantage for future students and graduates.
What a fitting way to begin a symposium that aims to embody its very premise: the medium is the message (Marshall McLuhan) Imagine several large tables of 8 to 10 individuals clustered gently in a room. The medium is a collaborative symposium, where delegates of international range commit to discussing the past, present and future of higher education and knowledge in the arts. Direct addresses were made from the podium from singular speakers, a paired conversation is witnessed by many and finally, the symposium as a medium features its message: individuals shift and gather their thoughts around smaller tables as they attempt to confront the shifts in structure, content and significance of education.
In this way, a cluster of smaller collectives was created within the larger confines of an intellectual debate around knowledge and education. It is unbelievable to think of what I have been able to witness (and engage with) while being seated at one of these tables but it is an even greater feat to think about what conversations I have missed! We speak of interdisciplinary education as a gold mine, as the gateway to the future and in many ways it certainly is. But we must also imagine the amount of information which can be missed at any given moment. It is a daunting reality that knowledge can never be fixed nor fully consumed and for many, that can fuel a certain level of fear. This is where I hold true value in the model proposed by this year’s symposium. With the presence of live streams, recordings, presentations, collective talks and blogs, there seems to be a mutual responsibility in the name of the dissemination of information.
Although information hubs that are collectively created are often criticized for their relative lack of accountability due to their erratic behavior. I believe we can argue that their supposed mythologies and infused fictions can be extremely valuable. What can we conclude from the hoax? Not only do these platforms offer radical shifts in hierarchy but they can often present more accurate portrayals of collective memory. What seems to be more reliable in the face of missed or mixed messages? The solid institution that may change its signs every ten years or a constantly evolving platform of information where the accountability of citizens is assured by its very citizens. This inclusive citizenship was one of the many topics brought up during the introductory addresses today but needs further development in order to truly address how institutions gather information regarding the demand for programs and their contents.
When one speaks the word education, there is a somewhat didactic frame of mind which may be the first to appear. A certain willingness to be formed, molded according to set structures and a combination of social ideals. To be taught to do something. Should we or should we not be responsible for our own collection of knowledge? Do we offer a child an educational toy, set with programs aiming for greater literacy or mathematical skills or do we give them a blank cardboard box. Especially within the context of a creative education, whether it be in mathematics, social studies, arts etc., where must we fit the role of imagination?
As brought up by this first day of symposium, educational institutions are seeing radical shifts in perception, programming and structuring and are certainly not all in the same direction. As different institutions cater to different values, student bodies, concentrations and yes, budgets, imagination may be of greater necessity. The variety of demands and desires that are to be supported by institutions seem to be changing at warp-speed, possibly due to the ubiquity of the Internet as the most common language in the world.
Where must imagination fit within the institution? Does it fall in the lap of the student, the teacher, the dean, the board of governors, the funding structures, the family, the collective, the memory? What is the value of mimicry in a world where so many bits and bites of information can be copied and pasted, sourced or not? What is the value of imagination in a world where so many ideas are disseminated daily to a daunting yet exhilarating effect? How do we prioritize what education is to encompass and how do we imagine an appropriate way of recognizing the knowledge that we hold as individuals or as a collective? Is it even necessary?
In a world where flexibility seems to be the most sought-for attribute, it seems that higher education in general is at a stand still until we modify our perception and recognition of education. The formulation of programs and interdisciplinary approaches must be met by fluid diplomas and degrees that speak of that imagination and be recognized as such by prospective employers, cultural producers and clients. If present and future students are no longer subject to studies which mold them to a box, then those tiny pieces of paper and the title they hold must also be recognized as valid currencies.
Technology has always been a grey area for teachers to talk about in art institutes. With the increasing need for technology in all areas, art institutes around the world are trying to find a middle ground for technology and fundamental skills. Some teachers find their profession endangered by the rise of technology.
With the frequent use of technology, the decline of students’ creativity is expected. One delegate from Korea voiced her concern of the rise of technology leading to the students lacking creativity when completing assignments. With the increased use of technology in-doors, students are much less enthusiastic about going out-doors to expand their creativity. As a result, this limits the modern students’ creativity and instead alter their thoughts to be more linear.
I do believe there is a common ground for both technology and fundamental studies. Through Animation studies, I create 2D hand-drawn animation that use technology as more of an enhancement or a supplement to the hand-drawn animation we do instead of replacing it.
A successful co-existence between the two is very realistic for art institutions.
Painting is dead.
What a common place statement, re-used to the point that it has become a comical cliché. I bring this time honored snippet to the table because of its immediate ambiguity in historical time. It is a cyclical sentence that seems to resurface every once in a blue moon, every time a seemingly novel idea or restructuring comes into play. This is especially significant within the symposium’s context of contesting knowledge in the face of radical shifts in technology and its use within the spheres of artistic education and practice. New gadgets are in, traditional mediums are dead.
I am not interested in debating the legitimacy of that statement since I am simply using it as a setup for a more ambiguous discussion surrounding the physical future of the studio space in the advent of technological shifts. What is to become of the studio space, of the educational institution as an architectural space if physical materiality is to die? Let us imagine a complete shift in the technological direction, where digital media rules and traditional modes of plasticity have disappeared. No painting, no sculpture, no ceramics, no paper etc. What is to become of physical space and in turn, the relationships that happen within them?
Surely we can think of the advantages of a completely digital studio space since it begs the question whether it would actually exist in space at all. In dense urban centers, where space is highly contested and prices sky-rocket, the complete digitization of one’s life and artistic practice is highly called for. Such digital studios could promote a proficient means to social networking, where academic and studio practices could easily fuse, intermingle or contest each other. But what of the materiality of the human being?
There is no denying that we are material beings, the very flesh on our bones confirms it. Is there a reason why physical practices have survived the test of time to date, have adopted some physical changes but in some cases, remain interestingly untouched (fresco painting comes to mind, certain casting methods and some ceramic practices as well). Is there an irresistible aura which surrounds the studio space as a physical extension of an artistic practice? Does the complexity, placement and contents of the studio space give a direct judgment on the practice it represents? One delegate at my table asked a poignant question which begged whether the best studio spaces should be reserved for the best practices? What is the importance of the studio space in the advent of collaborative practices? Do they offer a greater possibility for risk and accident thus allowing even greater progress or are they simply scared tactics to hold onto tradition while digitization offers the greatest of possibilities? Can we ever define the perfect studio?
It seems to me that majority of delegates have their eyes set on the inter-disciplinary approach. By crossing two or more departments into one, this will allow the students to have broader knowledge. The delegates at our table liked the idea of the inter-disciplinary approach. A few delegates even has experience in the field.
Though this has both positive and negative effects on students. If students are to have focus on one disciplinary, he/she would have a better and deeper understanding of the specific discipline. Whereas, if students are to choose to take on the inter-disciplinary approach, this would allow him/her to gain the knowledge of more disciplines. If the student focuses on a number of disciplines, would that make him/her a “master of none”?
Through this approach, it shows the the flexibility in the structure of the institution. As a result, would this drastically affect the students?
Would a student be less likely to pay attention because they are distracted by technology or because they are bored by instruction, material and techniques that aren’t relevant to them anymore? or is there another reason?
- 1 engage in competition to attain (a position of power):she declared her intention to contest the presidency
- take part in (a competition or election):a coalition was formed to contest the presidential elections
- 2 oppose (an action or theory) as mistaken or wrong:the former chairman contests his dismissal
- engage in dispute about:the issues have been hotly contested
late 16th century (as a verb in the sense ‘swear to, attest’): from Latin contestari ‘call upon to witness, initiate (by calling witnesses)’, from con- ‘together’ + testare ‘to witness’. The senses ‘wrangle, struggle for’ arose in the early 17th century, whence the current noun and verb senses
Contest: The first conversation at our table was over the definition of this term, one that comes to represent the attendees’ assignment for this conference. It was collectively explained as a debate, proving a point, or calling into question, and when it came to be known that one of our participants had recently attended a conference on this very theme we also acknowledged its ability to also mean the act of witnessing or testifying. What feelings do these words evoke? It definitely made me excited to hear what everyone had to say and what the next few sessions were going to bring.
One person mentioned that their school had started to capitalize on the value of lab techs and the amount of knowledge that they share with students. From my perspective and I think I can speak for all students, techs are this wonderful source of after class learning and there are just never enough of them.
I was, however, interested to see how no one at my table mentioned the amount of learning that is done student to student. I can’t tell you how much we (students) teach each other, and I’m sure none of the delegates would deny it either. There seems to be a lot of conversation about faculty and technology but it seems like the old tradition of asking each other is still a go to. I suspect that we can incorporate this sort of DIWO philosophy to the concept of remodeling the shape of schools and who is considered an instructor.
I heard one of the most fascinating things today: flash mob classrooms, essentially.
One of the delegates at my table told me about how they are trying out this new idea. Apparently, you can create these spontaneous classrooms in these rental containers at their university. The idea is, if I’ve grasped it correctly, that anyone can teach and anyone can attend.
This is so amazing, I can’t wait to find out more. I really think that something along these lines, or the QR_U that we have in the Concourse Gallery, could really do some innovative and daring things in education that I feel really hasn’t happened in my life time. When did education become so safe? In the words of Howard Zinn, “Education can and should be daring”, I think it’s time to take some risks.
One person brought up that after choosing your students and having all this talent there is this quandary of what to then do with it. One only has so many years to direct it before you let it go. This raised the question of interdisciplinary education and how, when or if it should be taught.
There was an opinion of not deceiving yourself and that you can not train a specialist in only three or four years. There was another voice that contested that though by declaring that you must focus a craft before distracting from it. It brings up the old debate about whether or not you want a jack of all trades or a master of one. I suppose it depends on what you want from your school. As a student, if a school insists that I dip my fingers in a lot of pies, I at least would like to choose the pies.
The phrase “Learning to learn” was brought up in this discussion. I was immediately reminded of a lecture that had the most impact on me as an undergraduate student in Seattle. My professor carefully articulated that the goal of university was not, as most students thought, to acquire a skill in order to become marketable employees.
He noted that things change, specifically design and creative fields are constantly changing. Learning new skills or techniques, new software and new modes of thinking will always be required of us as designers. This was in the context of a software-themed course, the message being that you are not just learning the software program of this course but learning how to learn programs. His point was that the most valuable thing you could learn from higher arts education is adaptability and learning how to constantly learn.
I have carried that idea with me, through undergrad into my career and now in my masters studies. What I took from that was the notion of learning how to remain relevant as a designer and also the idea of the plasticity of the industry I was about to enter.
Something that became more clear to me as a masters student is the question: if things are constantly in flux, how can we as students and later as practitioners influence the system as it shapes and grows? Also, how can arts education balance formal and informal learning to foster this type of creative discourse?
This part of the table discussion came to a close around ideas to encourage students to recognize the value of the educational voyage and not just whatever destination that may be preconceived. To me that is an important part of university, helping students to imagine a world outside of what we could have ever planned ourselves.
Where to start… Well, ‘wow’ just about sums it up.
Today was a meeting of minds, and was as inspiring as it was exhausting. After listening to Dr. Ron Burnett discuss the profound changes digital technologies have evoked in education, and the new “explosion of informal learning opportunities” available to us, I began to wrap my brain around the fact that he was actually talking about my education. I wasn’t just a bystander in this conversation, and as he asked us to consider his word of the day, “customization”, I was immediately drawn into this amazing dialogue and was pinching myself to see if this opportunity was real or imagined.
Douglas Coupland continued the conversation, and allowed us a peek into his creative process – one that combines a critical eye on an “age of too much memory”, with a certain amount of nostalgia. His ideas were met and discussed by Dr. Burnett, and a conversation of whether or not contributing change to biological circumstances sets too many limits on how that change is understood.
This formed the basis of a series of conversations at my table, where representatives from Maryland to Rotterdam discussed the changing role of an arts education in today’s world. We began to discuss whether learners of today are learning differently, and whether new disciplines needed to be invented as graduates are offered up into a world that is constantly changing.
What was most interesting, is how unique everyone’s perspectives were, but how everyone agreed that this present course that each individual institution was on would benefit from an overhaul. On one side of the table was an institution with 50,000 undergraduates, and on the other, a university with only 200 students. Yet the main idea was consistent throughout – they all agreed that teaching people to collaborate was most important to an education that could weather the storm.
From a design student perspective, this is not new to me, but is in fact the norm. At Emily Carr, we are taught to see through many different lenses, to be compassionate listeners, and to me empathetic to the situations of others. The technology that existed when I began my journey at Emily Carr is now, three years later, obsolete, but the skills I have obtained are timeless and will carry me forward.
If I could humbly offer a piece of advice to the educators and representatives I met today, it would be this:
If we are expected to embrace change, teach us to adapt.
If we are expected to lead change, teach us to be leaders.
If we expected to be successful, teach us to be life-long learners.
Within a student body, it is easy to use technological ability as a placeholder for actual intelligence. Students with strong skills in Internet usage, or advanced programs can easily be seen as smarter, and this is not necessarily a correct definition. Core intelligence and ability should be measured and rewarded disparately from exterior technological factors.
On the other hand, technology should be acknowledged as a useful tool that the modern student will rarely (if ever) be without. What is the value of rote memorization of facts in a world where the Internet can be used to find names and dates with trivial ease? Unfortunately, this rote learning has been the foundation of student evaluation, and continues to be used. Students need to be graded on their knowledge of concepts, and their ability to find answers to particular questions. It was brought up that while knowing the exact date of Picasso’s “Guitar” wasn’t terribly useful, knowing why that time period was important to art history was necessary.
In many ways, this ties into the core discussion of my group, which seemed to be, “How do we measure success of a student?” Is success tied to commercial gain, knowledge of how to use a particular tool, an understanding of social implications, or the ability to work across mediums to achieve a goal? Until this core problem is resolved and made public what the institution’s answer is, it will be difficult to measure success or enact lasting positive change that utilizes the exciting potentials of the 21st century.
What is the responsibility of an educational institution in regards to growth and change? On the one hand, as society, technology, and students change, new ideas and implementations must be considered to continue to be relevant. On the other hand, students, parents and governments are looking for a “foolproof” process that results in success, based primarily off of the successes of prior students. This has created a tightrope where innovation is rarely given the space it needs to grow. One person at the table made the point that information itself has become contested, but students want certainty.
Several people spoke of their institution’s analysis of modifying, combining or creating entirely new disciplines, but decided that students wanted a more or less “status quo” scenario where they knew their place and felt comfortable within it. Without comfortable divisions between programs, the fear was that students would not feel like they had a home from which to branch out and explore other ideas.
Adding to the complexity of the discussion was the acknowledgement that across different institutions, disciplines were based on staff and students, not terminology. The textile program at one school would be very different in both classes and desired outcomes than one at a different location. Although these differences were frame in terms of geography, in the global village we live in, it would be quite possible for two schools in the same country or even city to have vastly different paradigms. My question is, would that be a bad thing, or should students be encouraged to find a school and a program that would best fit their particular interests?
During the discussion this afternoon, our group talked about a really interesting point regarding Undergraduate studies. A student’s Undergrad years exist to set the tone of their artistic practice, and ideally, it is during this time that students will find the question that bothers them for the rest of their lives. This really resonated with me, and points at two possible paths.
The first is to expose students to as many different ideas and disciplines as possible, in an attempt to succeed in a sort of “shotgun blast” methodology. The second is a very intense, targeted learning experience that delves deeply into the kinds of work the student is passionate about, in a way that gives them access to subtle shades of meaning and distinction. I see both as legitimate roads to success, and which road is taken should in my opinion be up to the student, not the institution. Students in control of their academic path are more engaged, and have a higher likelihood of finding that question that will set the path of their work for the rest of their lives.
One of my favorite moments at any major Emily Carr event is the traditional welcome to Coast Salish Territories and once again Xwa-lack-tun has brought his talent, wisdom and humour of song and drumming to launch us off. Thank you Xwa-lack-tun for your gracious welcome.
Spheres space, triangles, and straight lines.
As the discussion flowed over the hour many at our table discussed their intuitions’ approach to learning methodologies and some familiar shapes appeared across the notes. The linear struggle between balancing both critical theory and practical skills became straight lines across the page.
The model of a triangle as in one suggestion was built out of 3 sides:
Explorative studies in which the method and the material are always changing.
Classical Reflection which references the students work in context to others.
And Production Integration when collaboration is necessary to complete something greater than yourself.
And in the spirit of multidisciplinary studies, several radiating options. As students pursue their directed studies there is a central hub that offers programed courses in directed fields of study that might be interesting for everyone. Projects in which students are invited to collabortate. As well as the opportunity to apply for an additional focused study on an area of talent.
Interesting discussion at 6:50 this morning on CBC Radio 1′s The Early Edition between host Rick Cluff and tonight’s guest speaker, Dylan Brown, Creative Director of Pixar, Canada. Brown raised the point of the importance for art students needing to be rewarded for taking risks and experiencing failure as a valuable method for learning.
The challenge is to support this type of aspiration in an environment where students often view a B+ as a failing mark. Motivation v.s. grade inflation? No simple answers here, but while the fear of failure should not be a stumbling block for students, failure should not be an end point either. It is as a method along the way to new discoveries and creative solutions. So rather than grade inflation we could consider offering extensions to students willing to take the risk to learn from the failure and “try again.”
delegate is discussing. Toggle Comments
Let’s assume for a moment that everyone is capable of being creative. This is a fair assumption based on an egalitarian model of human development. To varying degrees, people respond to complex situations in very creative ways. But is this enough to make the suggestion that everyone can translate creativity into expressive forms with the power and import of art?
For example, art schools are hotbeds of creative engagement and, wherever they are available, their community based creative courses attract a wide variety of the populace. Most people I speak to have a deep attraction to art and to artists. Many individuals harbor a secret desire to become artists. The same is true of the attraction to writing. One thing that is often forgotten in discussions of the period of history we live in is that the proliferation of web sites and blogs is perhaps one of the best indicators of the universal desire to create and communicate. This desire crosses national boundaries, class differences and religions.
The questions that flow from this seemingly superficial assumption about the universal desire to be creative are many, but among the most important is what do we mean by creativity?
First and foremost, creative engagement means producing something new and, most importantly, engaging with the world through less linear and unpredictable means than the constraints of everyday life often allow. The ephemeral nature of discovery combined with excitement of working with ideas and materials, encourages fluidity of thought and an almost child-like excitement about simple acts like shaping paper into a sculpture or creating movement from drawings that are still.
Artists are compelled to create. Their lives are burdened by the fact that there are rarely any alternatives to the depth of desire that they feel — the physical and mental need to explore their chosen craft or medium. Most writers cannot pass a day without engaging with words and sentences. Yet, not everyone is a writer or artist.
So, although everyone is capable of being creative, very few exercise their talent to the point of making creative engagement the centre of their lives. This is because the translation of creative desire into forms or
materials requires a further step beyond the spontaneous production of artifacts. The secondary act of speculative and critical thinking that needs to be applied to creative production requires a profound understanding not only of history, but also of our place in history.
Painters come to an intimate understanding of the materials they use in the context of the history of art. The intellectual work that is necessary here far exceeds popular notions of spontaneous inspiration. Take a hard look at the many letters which Vincent Van Gogh wrote, and you see a man devoted not only to explaining his art but also to communicating his intentions. Alternately, take a look at the many letters that Samuel Beckett wrote, and you become a witness to his intense and sometimes violent need to communicate his
views of the world.
In all of this, art is produced through action and reflection, through interchange and community. Practice, repetition and rigour transform working with materials, ideas and media into complex acts of communication.
Creativity is therefore about more than what we do or how we think. It is about the application of knowledge to the production of artifacts, ideas and even moments in time. Everyone can be creative, but not everyone wants to spend the time and energy engaging with the demands that creative production requires.
What are the factors that influence the rise of student debt? How does this influence admissions, student retention and student demographics? In the United States, non-profit and public schools as well as shorter, lower cost programs are becoming more appealing for the next generation of students.
See this NY Times article from early November 2011.