​​Learning in the Making

(BLOG Dated Nov 5 2016)


Just this evening, my neighbor’s 7-year old came along with his dad to take a look at our flagstone walkway that we were getting redone. Looking closely at a couple of thick roots that he (rightly) assumed we might have to get cut as they were getting under the walkway to be built, he deduced, “the Maple tree will die because the roots you’ll have to cut are so thick,” “but if you water the tree well, and keep watering it, it may survive,” he added after a brief silence during which he probably identified a problem and reflected upon his knowledge to look for a plausible solution. “Because the roots suck water to give to the tree, and that same water, if you supply to it, you can save the tree,” he surmised. 
                                                                               

Mindfulness and Meaningful Learning -> problem solving: 

Noel came across as an engaged learner: he had taken an active role in what he had learned: had done things hands-on- like planting a tree (he mentioned) and not just learned a bunch of facts but had analyzed and experimented with the data. He walked me through his tree planting experience: “I dug a hole which was initially too shallow and I saw the tiny sapling’s roots still exposed.” “How would they get water unless it rains, I wondered.” “I therefore dug the hole bigger so all roots were under the ground and thus able to derive water and nutrients from the soil, and I removed the rocks and pebbles so roots could have room to grow unhindered,” he explained. And now, on encountering this problem, he recreated and perhaps visualized in his own mind the function of a big root of a tree and applied his understanding to bootstrap the tree out of the situation! 

Hands-on activities are imbued with opportunities that allow children to reflect and consider options while making choices, thereby increasing children’s overall state of mindfulness. Langer (2000) defines mindfulness as a simple act of drawing novel distinctions and claims that being mindful increases one’s sensitivity to context and perspective. It’s a facilitative state that increase creativity, flexibility, and use of information (Langer, 1989). Ritchhart & Perkins (2000), argue that the real potential of mindfulness lies in transfer of knowledge and skills to new contexts, development of deeper understanding, students’ engagement, and the ability to think creatively and critically.


Evanescent learning

Most kids in school, however, have a sketchy notion of concepts that they find difficult to transfer to new contexts. Consequently, they find themselves hobbling through problems, while parents/teachers often blame it on them saying, “they don’t toil enough! Although the gap between ability and application is well documented in the literature on thinking, yet not much has been done to address the issue nor efforts made to improve thinking- the kind if thinking behaviors that assist individuals take an active role in the learning process. A phenomenal amount of evidence supports task engagement as one of the key factors in ensuring meaningful learning that “sticks.”

Unless individuals engage and take an active role in what they are studying, their learning is far from meaningful. When they do things hands-on, ask questions, seek clarifications, hypothesize, look for evidence to support the same, and recreate in their own minds the process involved, then learning is meaningful and can be applied to various contexts (Gardner, 2009). Otherwise, the learning (if at all) gets obliterated soon after exams and children simply find themselves buffeting between classes and challenges. What happens when people actively engage with tasks?


Learning by Doing: Authentic activity and autonomy

My 4-year old niece, just in a few keystrokes, can access new domains of information using which she can download music and her favorite programs, play her favorite games, and use the search engine to tell me what she wants for her Birthday gift. Picking up on the tiny details that draw her attention through repeated, random pressing of keys to begin with, she grows in her understanding of how things work. Most of her understandings are shaped by what she sees on the screen as her fingers wriggle on the keys, and the only way she’s able to navigate her way around technology to entertain herself is by ‘doing.’ Clearly, it would have taken several stepping stones (“failed outcomes”) for her to reach those understandings. 

By the same token, in Learning and Design thinking in Makerspaces, 758 Urban Education learners often combine physical and digital materials in a collaborative informal learning environment. Because the youth felt ownership of the program and felt agency in it- they proposed and carried out solutions that kept the program thriving: “I can make any idea real!” Similarly, when individuals do things hands on, reflect, consider and apply concepts, and get instant feedback in terms of results, the very authenticity of the task motivates them as they realize they’re using their learning right here instead of waiting to put the learning to use sometime in the distant future. In occasion of hitting a snag, they question their doing to figure out a reason for the failure and start again, learning from their mistakes and consequently changing strategies. 

If seeing is believing, doing is learning through experimenting to reach understandings. (Read a manual on how to ride a bicycle or just ride it!). Doing, in addition to involving our visual sense, involves our mind/brain and thinking in a more deliberate, targeted manner. By involving the mind in a deliberate manner, hands-on activities enable individuals to proactively engage, pushing them to think- creating a visual picture so to say of the process involved; and these very thoughts are what individuals can hold on to in order to retain what is learned. 

Conclusion

Instead of making students passive recipients most of the time, if schools could provide space where students try things out, inquire, experiment, and take intellectual risks, learning will be much more meaningful and applicable across contexts. To ensure that children don’t find themselves on tenterhooks on encountering new problems (in exams or in real life), they need to be anchored in knowledge and learning behaviors through such experimenting, questioning, and so forth. When children have opportunities to engage and make meaning, their learning experiences become memorable and then they are more likely to use the learning in real life situations.

Given the plethora of information and problems we need to make sense of in this digital age, it is crucial for schools to enculturate the aforementioned thinking behaviors in children so they become engaged, informed citizens who don’t twiddle their thumbs in a quandary but navigate their way out through knowledge application and make (informed) choices. 

 
Copyright © 2016 Anu Bhatia



Terrorists? Or ‘Islamic’ Terrorists?

(Blog Dated 10th July 2016)



For quite some time now, the issue of referring to the killers of innocent people as Islamic terrorists, or just terrorists, has been a running battle between President Obama and his opponents; so much so, it’s leading some to use President Obama’s stand as a question on his very allegiance!

In this blog, I’m not going present whether President Obama’s decision to refrain from adding ‘Islamic’ to ‘terrorists’ sums up to his being “pro-Muslims,” or argue why the claim is outrageously ridiculous, nor get into why the questions raised about “his allegiance” are bizarre, (or valid), (much less get into making any suggestions regarding what might be the best option to deter the criminals); instead, I’ll delve into the social cognitive questioning-thinking to better understand how adding the word Islamic might work in the individual’s mind: propel one to act, or undermine the sense of purpose (or make no difference at all).

Needless to say, it can get challenging to wrap one’s head around issues that are complex and fuzzy to navigate and don’t lend themselves to a single right answer. To this end, I’ll discuss and underscore the value of critical thinking skills with a focus on how these skills are conducive to constructing meaning, especially in the absence of Absolutes.

Expanded identity: seeing oneself as a part of the bigger whole

Telling kids engaged in pottery making that this was an art practiced by people a 1000 years ago enhances their sense of efficacy as it makes them feel connected to the big picture. Similarly, sustained motivation in school requires identification with school and its subdomains (Steele, 1997). Irrespective of who we are or what intentions we harbor, we are social beings who need feedback and validation for what we do and look for a sense of identity that in some way connects us to something bigger than us.

By the same token, will not a criminal (or any group that claims to be Islamic) also gain empowerment and a sense of expanded identity through the very association with the broader community? There is ample amount of evidence suggesting that group efficacy has a beneficial effect on group dynamics and overall group effectiveness. Whether group efficacy also accounts for efficacy in individuals (who imagine some sort of affiliation to the group) is something that needs more research to throw light on. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that despite their one-pointed evil purpose, these individuals also look for an enhanced efficacy through their very association with the larger group. And an enhanced sense of efficacy is likely to support people in what they do- good or evil.

The pertinent question that emerges is- what it requires of our mind/brain to navigate complex issues so we can make better sense of the world we are living in? How to facilitate the mind/brain function so we can figure out whether claims are championed by plausible, cogent arguments, or are a matter of opinions (and biases)? And how do we perceive or gauge our own conclusions about issues that evoke multiple responses?

Scientific thinking in Qualitative Research:

Now it is worth bearing in mind that biases often fog data and color understandings. Interestingly, while conducting Qualitative Research, researchers typically look for discrepant examples that undermine the prevalent theory, or ask themselves, “how can I be wrong?” in a self-regulatory, metacognitive way. Involving an inductive approach that enables individuals to check their stand for possible biases, this self-reflective research method allows inquirers to winnow down ideas/beliefs through constant questioning and inquiring.

Making Sense of Murky Issues

Strong biases hamper thinking and meaning making, bombarding the thinking process with doubts, fear, and conspiracy-inspired tantalizing stories, making individuals susceptible to ‘simplistic explanations.' The kind of thinking behaviors that support meaning making and help individuals assess whether a statement has crept out of a bias, or is backed by solid reasoning/evidence, need to be nurtured and taught throughout school. Intellectually exploring ideas, i.e., analyzing ideas through the lens of reason and evidence, keeping in mind that certain issues may lend themselves to multiple perspectives and so evoke opposing viewpoints should be part of curriculum. Opposing viewpoints within the frame of reason ought to be considered and respected rather than seen as threats to be shot down. 

For example, while some balked at the idea pitched in by Angela Mercel, others applauded her for opening the borders of Germany to refugees streaming into Europe, and thus ‘expand their identity’ as she explained (was named woman of the year by Time magazine). Frankly, a single right answer to complex issues like this can’t be easily divined. So, though her opponents demurred her response to the historic exodus, they didn’t accuse her of being “pro-Muslim,” nor questioned her allegiance.

Science and Skepticism:

A modern and scientific way of thinking upholds open-mindedness because the very nature of knowledge being dynamic requires individuals to avoid mindsets that limit them from testing statements/theories and challenging assumptions to seek knowledge and reach new understandings. A peep into History will reveal that even scientific theories are subject to change, modification, or even rejection, should there be reasonable evidence that conclusively establishes a theory to be a fallacy.

Skepticism that helms our thinking to reaching clarity through seeking evidence, persisting in the face of ambiguity, and considering multiple perspectives in the absence of absolutes reflects high level thinking that should be nurtured in schools, right from the start. I deem that it is necessary to include activities that nurture this kind of critical thinking in schools. Alas! We care about results without paying heed to how those results are achieved.

Critical thinking skills should be upheld in our society as a value. When we learn to question our observations and/or assumptions (or others’), when our questioning at times steers us to new understandings, when we begin to examine opposing view points with a readiness to change or inform our existing views, and our confidence doesn’t dwindle in the face of view points that challenge our own, our thinking becomes an experiment in its own right. And when public discourse is based on ideas sprouting from reason and evidence rather than emotions which may or mayn’t be rational, then we can better assess claims and dismiss the dramatic and bizarre ones!


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​​" Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin


Learning to Think Scientifically

(Blog Dated 27th April 2016)


Thronged by visitors all year round, the Discovery Room Q?rius in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History endeavors to unleash children’s curiosity through inquiry-centered, open-ended, hands-on activities imbued with an element of play. While it’s encouraging to see the society recognize the role of these unique educational settings, questions emerge regarding what is it that we value and how that might influence learning and meaning making. 

While handling specimens from the museum’s collection, kids discover how animals adapt to their environment, curiously look for patterns in insects’ survival strategies, or simply dig into fuzzy areas searching for patterns to crack a puzzle. They make and analyze observations, hypothesize, consider multiple options and look for alternatives (while solving puzzles for example), persist in the face of ambiguity- even initial “failure,” and develop decision-making acumen in reaching conclusions regarding what works. All in all, kids get to develop the aforementioned thinking skills that facilitate learning & meaning making.

Unintentionally though, commenting on “how quickly” a kid can solve a puzzle or interlock plastic blocks to construct a crane etc. might put a stricture on their exploration by raising self doubts in their minds if they take long, even when they might be developing new understandings and strategies through the very struggle involved in solving puzzles or reaching hypothesis. The following vignettes provide a window to how what we say influences the development of such thinking patterns: (names of children are assumed)

Parent: (explaining Matilda’s inability to crack a puzzle “instantly”) “Don’t know what’s happened to her today! She’s so good at this.” 
Parent: “Oh! Derek is really bright & does it so fast but sometimes he does like this” (referring to his inability to get it instantly, while Derek plays with the puzzle, seemingly enjoying the challenge posed by it and duly exercising his mind to crack it. He looks at the pieces, turning them around in his pudgy fingers, perhaps trying to make sense why it’s not fitting in the space provided, looking at the animal’s picture in the booklet to assess if he’s choosing the right sized block etc).


A 6ish year old boy Mark: “I get it quickly because I have a smart brain.” Skipping from one activity to another (e.g., attempting to place resin bones in their respective space on a skeleton sketched on a canvas, apprehensively trying to take cues from Mr. Bones- the life-size skeleton dangling in the showcase), he barely spends a minute on any activity, fleeing if unable to instantly figure out how to get around the problem. Taking cognitive dissonance to be falsely indicative of his “inability,” he abandons activities that pose a challenge lest his persistence and effort should adumbrate his "lack of competence." This continues until he comes to what his sister about 3 years younger to him is doing!
While a toddler Kenji happily makes random attempts at dovetailing blocks, his mom is “efficiently” maneuvering his little palms to shove the pieces in the right places.

Goals & Beliefs

Students with a learning (or mastery) goal engage in activities and figure out strategies that will help them learn, e.g., make sense through experimenting and analyzing, recognize effort as the key to competence, and persevere in the event of failure, evaluating “failure” as a stepping stone to learning what works and what doesn’t and duly changing their strategy. A massive amount of evidence from research suggests that kids with learning goals are more likely to succeed through being more engaged and in having an intrinsic value for learning rather than a mere concern for performance (Alderman, 2003). Conversely, students with performance goals choose those tasks that maximize opportunities for proving competence to save self-worth. So, what role does feedback play and what’s so wrong about ability-centric feedback? 

As a society, we often equate one’s self-worth with one’s accomplishments (Alderman, 2003), inducing children to believe that ability is crucial for attaining success (or failure is indicative of lack of ability). To protect their self worth, children resort to failure-avoidance, e.g., stumped by some puzzles, Mark barely spent time/effort on them lest it became obvious that despite effort he couldn’t get it! Furthermore, students tend to procrastinate- deliberately put things off so they can later explain the poor result on ‘studying at the last minute’ so their ability can’t be blamed (Alderman, 2003). 

How we shape the environment determines the beliefs children hold about ability & competence. Giving undue precedence to ‘result’ and undermining the role of the process & the struggle involved, we condition children to performance goals. A considerable body of research indicates how ability beliefs affect curiosity, persistence, (intellectual) risk taking etc. (Alderman, 2003) that facilitate learning.

Feedback, Speed & Competence: 

Open-ended activities aim to encourage a sustained inquiry that shapes children’s thinking as they explore ideas, discover and determine the best fit, and reach new understandings. Serving as a Vygotskian scaffold, the process itself provides cues, prompting children to navigate their way to solutions- perhaps fortuitously to begin with but eventually through reaching understandings. When kids persist in their attempts to crack the film of ambiguity surrounding seemingly inscrutable problems, they become open to novelty and pursue ideas that make little sense to begin with, but may eventually lead to finding creative solutions emerging in the process. Research indicates that these thinking dispositions are conducive to learning and help explain intelligent behavior far and above intellectual aptitude (Perkins, Tishman, Ritcchart, Donis, & Andre, 2000). 

I think there’s a widespread belief that positive feedback serves as a motivating factor. Now I don’t dispute the role of positive feedback; however, I suspect that complementing kids on speed and associating it with competence could deter them from exploring and using their imagination to its apogee. In such a climate, kids may choose to not engage in challenging tasks to save their self-worth (like Mark). Improper feedback can etch in kids’ minds notions (like knowledge is static) that might bear down on knowledge seeking behaviors and it becomes incumbent on us to delete such notions. 
Feedback needs to be incorporated in an open-ended way so kids can use it as a tool to assess their strategy and change it if needed, thereby serving to scaffold so they reach solutions through their taking cues from the feedback itself, without discouraging independent thought/action through overindulgence (like Kenji’s mother). Asking Kenji “is it big (or small) enough for the space you are trying to fit into?” might have steered Kenji to become actively involved in assessing and thinking through his action. 

Conclusion

Intellectual ability develops depending upon how environmental or contextual factors provide the space to use the mind and induce thinking. Encouraging kids to ‘play around and see what happens’ and ‘not worry about the mistakes’ promotes them to be curious etc. & learn by virtue of such thinking. For most part, however, the educational endeavor limits its focus to evaluating students on the success of their solutions, while ignoring the ingenuity applied and the risk involved in trying something novel. We tend to limit educational goals to mere memorization of facts and procedures, getting the answers right and quickly, and prepare our children for tests and grades. We rely on achievement and speed as if they were good predictors of success later in life (Eisner, 2003). 

It’s a challenging world that children are going to inherit. In order to meet those challenges head-on, it is clear that children need to have critical thinking skills in addition to strong academic skills. Learning that follows an unconventional code of evaluation by engaging kids in unstructured exploration develops the tendency to wonder and probe. To this end, museums are a model in providing mysteries to be solved rather than facts to be memorized, offering problems to be investigated than data to be absorbed. Feedback can sure serve as a catalyst in learning provided it underscores the specific thinking behavior involved, the ingenuity applied, or simply effort expended in solving problems. 

References:

Alderman M. K. (2003). Motivation for Education
Eisner, E. W. (2003). Artistry in education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 47, (3).  
Perkins, D. N., Tishman, S., Ritchchart, R., Donis.  K., & Andrade.  A. (2000).   Intelligence in the wild: A dispositional view of intellectual traits. Educational Psychology Review, 12, (3).  

© 2016 ANU BHATIA ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Stepping ‘Stones’ to Thinking & Learning

(Blog dated 16th Feb 2016)

Anu Bhatia

 

Learning to Look


In the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, three groups of four children each (ages between 5 and 6) hover over the assortment of rocks placed in front of them to test for color, luster, texture, magnetism, and hardness. As they wriggle their bodies and lean over to get a good close look, they collaboratively share observations before hypothesizing about the 'rock under examination.' Perceiving and attending to patterns as they run their little fingers over the contours of the rock and look closely to detect nuances, they learn to categorize based on what they see. Stretching their imagination to describe what they see, they scour through their vocabulary and learn to use words in context.

Consistent with the cognitive approach, the hands-on activity provides children a scope to make sense of what they see as they infer and hypothesize; and to this end, looking becomes a process that is rooted in thinking, analyzing and meaning making.
 
What does a Learning Behavior Look Like?


Student: (examining a rock’s physical features) Sparkles…
Teacher: What does Sparkle indicate? Luster, color, streak, or scratch?
Student: Luster!
Teacher: give another ‘luster word.’
Student: shine! gleam!
Student: rough edge but surface smooth and slippery.
Teacher: Rough is a ‘what’ word? And smooth and slippery?
Student: Ummmm….both are texture words.
Student (describing another rock): like a metal…feels like that one (pointing to another rock in the tray).
Teacher: how…in what sense?
Student: its smooth, I mean the texture is like that one…and like a crystal it glows if you slant it.
Teacher: Unique attribute? Place all together and go one by one. Student: flat, soft, round, smooth, edges- white flakes of color, sparkles. Student: The other rock’s sparkling too- so this couldn’t be a unique feature. So the white streak is a unique feature. Metallic…
Teacher: Why?
Student: because it’s dark….
Teacher: What else?
Student: has white spots.
Teacher: What do you think about the edges?
Student: Bumpy
Teacher: Is it hard or soft? How can you tell?
Student: (uses a paper clip to scratch it) leaves an inundation, so its soft.

Inquiry Triumphs over Outcomes

An environment that prioritizes inquiry over outcome, where what takes a back seat to how, propels children to drop inhibitions and freely think through a problem, reflect over responses (others’ and their own), and share ideas as they discern that thinking is valued. Unlike a judgmental environment that puts a stricture on children’s thinking by making them conscious of “getting it wrong,” an environment that emphasizes process over outcome encourages ideas to cascade freely as children engage in thinking. Instead of shooting down ideas, when students are asked to look for evidence to justify their claims, they become aware of their own thinking as they reflect over it while sharing observations to explain their hypothesis.

Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, involves fairly complex ideas and processes (like being aware of the effectiveness of specific learning strategies, planning an approach to learning etc.) that students acquire when exposed to challenging learning experiences.

Triggering the Propensity to Reason & Reflect

Interestingly, when children’s right and wrong responses are followed by ‘why,’ they reflect on their observation and hypothesis, possibly discover gaps, consequently reaching new understandings proactively. They learn to value inquiry to comprehend the relationship between their observations and scientific data (e.g., inferring that a rock is hard through experimenting, followed by learning that it’s granite that is used in kitchen slabs etc. for its hardness). Learning to engage in scientific thinking and hypothesizing makes them recognize thinking as a tool to reach those understandings.

Learning to Categorize

A student shares his observation that the rock ‘looks like glass,’ and on being asked why, explains ‘because of the luster.’  In doing so, he is able to find connections and relationships that enable him to categorize on the basis of properties he observes, and this awareness of the organizational structure of the material (rocks) facilitates learning. In another instance, when students notice three rocks to have rounder edges unlike the sharp edges in the other rocks, their observation becomes a basis for hypothesis through questions like, “what reminds you of this property?” “It could be scratched!” And what can be scratched? “Remember, I told you that diamond is so hard that only another diamond can scratch it?”

Clues woven in questions not only allude to the right responses but also support and scaffold thinking. Questions like ‘how could the edges have become soft?’ make them wonder about the possible causes behind the softened edges- as some of them hypothesize, “The wind,” or “could it be gushing water?” Eventually, by virtue of their thinking, they develop an understanding of erosion!

Educational Implications

How we shape the environment is key to developing intellectual ability. In addition to developing Reading and Math skills, education must broaden its focus to promote broad thinking abilities that cover a wide scope of subject/areas. We cannot reshape the curriculum or the way we teach until we conceptualize what we want to accomplish through education. Experientially rich public environments like museums induce thinking by providing scope for individuals to observe, reason, reflect, and hypothesize. Here, thinking and learning thrive.



© 2016 ANU BHATIA ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



​Varuna’s Purple Trees

(Blog Dated 15th Jan 2016)

Anu Bhatia



 My friend’s daughter, a 3rd grader in a reputed school in Mumbai, painted purple trees in her art class. The idea of purple trees cut across the grain of the teacher’s ‘traditional beliefs’ about art and judging the color as a “discrepancy,” she harshly scribbled “redo” across Varuna’s newest idea.

Attempting to convince her to espouse her idea, Varuna waded through her teacher’s disapproval, citing examples to validate her art: “Miss Sam,” “do you know that Picasso painted men blue, and Cubists abstracted their work, using mainly browns, grays, or black….?” (her voice tapering as she dejectedly figured out the unconvinced look writ large on Miss Sam’s face). Miss Sam’s refusal to revisit her stand let Varuna’s ingenuity go unrecognized, repudiated. In choosing to make her trees purple, had Varuna pushed the envelope to far?

Now deciduous trees do turn yellow, purple and crimson during Autumn and we all revel in their beauty; and that purple trees ‘do exist’ during Autumn would have made a case for Varuna in getting her artwork accepted. But is it mandatory for purple trees to ‘actually exist’ to validate Varuna’s artwork?
 
Art: a matter of mind

Should art be restricted to things we can perceive and make assessments on the basis of mere comparison, i.e., how ‘close’ the artwork is to reality, or, should art be the arena where imagination can be unleashed to create something unique that may or may not be ‘beautiful,’ or a ‘duplicate’ of what already exists, but is an engaging representation of a perspective that has a potential to involve mental faculties?

Gardner (1989) posits that Art has evolved from a mere representation to a more involving and intellectually engaging representation of a perspective that has a potential to trigger reflection and inquiry. Cognitive psychologists contend that art is a matter of the mind, as it pushes individuals to exercise mental faculties as they envision, explore/take risk, consider alternatives and make decisions etc.

The question that emerges is, what happens when children play and experiment with color, clay, or other forms of media? And in what way can risk-taking be considered useful while children play with colors?

Forging opportunities to take risks:

When children engage in unstructured exploration, they develop a tendency to wonder and probe. Playful activities like those in the visual arts allow children to explore color, clay etc., cultivating in them open-mindedness and a risk-taking attitude by virtue of which they’re able to pop-up fresh ideas, reflect on options and fearlessly make choices, experiment and learn. Trinis & Savva (2004) argue that in attempting new things, children extend beyond what they’re familiar with- to explore and take risks, and in doing so, they extend their thinking and develop their imagination.

Opportunity for active cognitive participation:

Should feedback and assessment serve as a facilitator to this risk-taking attitude, or should it infringe children’s inclination to apply their ingenuity?

The opportunity stamped out here was to probe what possibly goes on in a child’s mind that might push her to pick the unusual (purple vs green) and to discern the potential in the expression to pose questions in order to make visible or document her thinking, e.g., why she chose the color purple, or generate thinking, e.g., did she like her purple trees and why. Such questions, (self or teacher-generated) serve to scaffold the thinking process, engaging a child through an inquiry to enable active cognitive participation. When inquiry or reflective thinking lead to new understandings, those understandings serve as an award, thereby encouraging children develop an inclination to engage in endeavors that involve reflection and inquiry.

Aesthetic responses and “Discrepancies” in art:

How do ‘discrepancies’ (like painting trees purple) effect aesthetic responses? What are the consequences that might flow from such decisions?

Sheridan (2008) writes in her blog Arts, Mind and Media that encountering discrepancies heightens our aesthetic responses as our senses become more attuned, our minds make up stories and associations to help us make sense, and that artists induce this state in their audiences. In making stories, children invent (characters and situations), imagine scenarios, exercise mental faculties in making decisions and choosing the more plausible and cogent arguments.

Identifying the gap:

Alas, our assumptions of a “reliable practice of education” allow skimpy space for the aforementioned broad thinking skills that are conducive to life-long learning. Children are freighted with an ‘either-or’ style of assessment that infringes the development of such knowledge-seeking thinking patterns which remain outside the circumference of the curriculum.

  

REFERENCES

Gardner, H. (1989). The Key in the Slot: Creativity in a Chinese Key. Aesthetic Education, 23, (1), 141-158

Sheridan, K. (2008, June 26). Art, Mind and Missoula. (web log comment) Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/…art-media-and-the mind

Trinis, E., & Savva, A. (2004). The in-depth studio approach: Incorporating an art museum program into a pre-primary classroom.Art Education, 57, (6), 20-24, 33-34.


© 2016 ANU BHATIA  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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