This week in my pursuit of an Art Ed degree…
This field study explores the creative process in relation to andragogy: to connect motivation to practical application. I looked two concepts: combining transformative thinking with reflective teaching to define of a successful learning experience, and the power of personal experience on perception. I also considered two questions: What divides young and mature learners, when individual learning styles suggest most learners are unique regardless of age? And, is it possible to be objective when interpreting the subject’s answers? The clearest realization was that a sensitivity toward needs of the individual be considered when developing art activities, more so for mature students, because of the life experiences they bring into class.
My artist, Maria A., recalls drawing as early as three years old when she was being babysat by her grandparents. She created elaborate stories for all the characters she drew to amuse herself all day. At the age of seven she spent time in her fathers library to explore and copy all she saw in his art books. Even then she was determined to copy the images perfectly and set goals for herself to accomplish them. Her father quickly recognized her interest and started adding challenges with his encouragement. She recalls being motivated by both her father’s encouragement, and her mother’s amused disapproval of her drawings Renoir’s “voluptuous women”. In Maria’s words: “It seemed like I always did some drawings. When I decided to actually go into this high school of fine arts, and it wasn’t even a decision; there was nothing else I could do basically.” This sentiment was repeated throughout the interview and I understood her to mean she felt this was her purpose and calling in life, that making art was all she wanted to do.Her drive to learn was always there.
“…traditional art instruction must take greater cognizance of the fact that most learning for adult students, and for younger students too who will continue making art as adults, will take place outside of formal courses.” Edelson, P. (1998). Enhancing self-direction in adult art education. In D. Fitzner & M.Rugh (Ed.) Crossroads: The challenge of lifelong learners. Reston: NAEA. (p.32-39)
In high school she started traditional art education and enjoyed teachers who taught technical skills while encouraging a personal voice outside the classroom. The students looked at, talked about, and made art together. This cherished memory defined her views about the purpose of her art. Edelson (1998) mirrors this notion about the safety and support peer groups offer in the reflective learning experience. They were on a shared journey and she loved it. That love is evident when she talks about her art practice as a mixture of dogmatic procedure and a complete openness to allow the process to guide the work to it’s natural conclusion. From the perspective of Knowles’ principles of learning, she became an adult learner at a very young age.
Maria showed self-motivation, self-direction, and both goal and relevancy orientation when she explained: “Later in fine art high school, I would give myself additional tasks to complete in art … And I would diligently sit and do it until it was completed, because I had decided it was something I had to do.” She repeats this practice throughout her education. The lifelong joy of peer interaction could indicate a democratic belief that everyone was a co-learner, illustrating her adult-learner desire to be respected. While we didn’t discuss how she might have applied her knowledge in any practical way, she often explained her joy of learning new skills and then finding ways to use them for different media explorations. The question when Maria’s became a lifelong learner became clearer in her creative process.
“Knowledge emerges only in the invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (p.72) Continuum: New York
Maria explains: “You always have ideas from looking at artwork or other things, but I’m never sure what I’ll do with that. Even if you have an idea, you still have to sketch and sketch. Maybe with one in every 20, 30, or 50, I might want to do something in a different medium… Something in them starts telling me stories,… and it almost takes on a life of its own. Instead of guiding it, it guides you to where it wants to go.” This practice showed her classical training. She kept practicing until it was right, and she knew from experience what was right. Then she let’s her inner child take over and her skills followed her bliss and joy. She went on to say: “What I want from my artwork is, I think, to make connections between people. No matter what I do, the shapes, whatever, it is the interaction and connection between them that I want.” Maria elaborated: “The simplicity of your ideas or what you want to convey (pause) the consistency is important to me. Always the same story; different variations of the same message, different ways of telling the human conditions.” She created praxis in her personal artistic process. For her, all new work is a transformation of previous work.
“In transformative learning, however, we reinterpret an old experience (or a new one) from a new set pf expectations. Thus giving a new meaning and perspective to the old experience.”(Merizow, 1991, p. 11)” Lawton & Laporte. (2103). Transformative lifelong learning in community-based settings with older adults: Beyond traditional art education. Studies in Art Education, 54(4) P. 310-320
While from my perspective, she was working as an artists, for her being an artists was entirely self-directed. She said: “I was getting miserable at working for others in animation, I decided to follow another passion and become a personal trainer. On one of my first aerobics lessons, I badly hurt my knee and didn’t know what to do, I became depressed and didn’t want to believe I wouldn’t be able to be as more as I was and lose the physical activities I loved. I was forced to rest. While healing, I started to draw for myself again and immediately became filled with happiness and realized this is what I had to do. The more artwork I did for myself, the happier I got. I asked myself what I was doing all these years instead of being happy.” She never directly answered her own question out loud, but it was clear that this moment was when she was transformed from a person who makes art into being an artist.
“only a person who possessed equal measures of talent, committed work ethic, perseverance, and drive could succeed.” As related to what a successful artist must be and how to teach them. Orzelski-Konikowski, I. (2011) Reports of practice: the power of adult learning in fine arts. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education. 37(1) P.2
Maria teaches us need to start with the mindset of individualizing the learning experience for every student and inviting all these diverse life experiences into the classroom enriches students and teacher alike. The adult learner already comes to class ready to learn, according to Knowles, it is our task to engage them in how they achieve that learning and making the experience meaningful to them. Over several questions about the storytelling abilities of art, Maria illustrated examples of how discussion could be used to build and transform understanding. She related: “The more people look at my artwork, the more they see and discover about it. I believe everything in intricate and connected… I want them to think a little bit, to find something different in it every time they look at it.” She strove to create reflective situations with her work.
“Reflective teachers who wish to act as transformative agents and make abstract ideas meaningful need to extend thinking beyond a specific event to a consideration of interconnectivity of experience. Rose, Karel. Everything changes: Transformative thinking through aesthetic Experience. In G.Diaz & M. McKenna (Eds.), Teaching for Aesthetic Experience: The art of Learning New You: Peter Lang. p.103
Maria always invited others to talk about art. She found the way to create reflective situations in learning moments. As with Rose, she believes in the interconnectivity of everything and that is where she shows us how to teach. I believe she described transformative thinking when she talked about artistic growth: “There’s something about being consistent in doing the artwork; not consistent in what you do exactly, but in actually working, you come up constantly with something new. From everything, you can get ideas. It never, ever stops.” The lesson to adult teachers and learners might be everyone contributes in a co-learning classroom, regardless of their position or age.
Individuals with different life experiences have unique perspectives. When shared, foster divergent thinking, improve reflection, meaningfulness, and lead to transformative experiences. Other ways of doing & seeing are solutions to be explored as fast as the learner desires. The key creating a community atmosphere in the classroom so the students engage in the discussion and discovery. With Maria I discovered that some learners are uniquely mature due to their natural drive being a lifelong learner is ageless. Maria demonstrated open inquiry encourages the learning experience. As teachers, we need to be aware of our experiences, but not let them override the sharing and potential transformative experience of the class. *
*Postscript: In total I asked Maria over thirty questions and went much deeper into her artistic experience. For the sake of brevity and a practical application for teaching adults, I attempted to focus on the key aspects of the interview to Lawton & Laporte’s transformative Lifelong learning and Knowles’ adult learner principles, as I understood them. More of the interview and my observations, were included in an addendum to my research paper. I have not published them here in respect to the privacy of the artist. You can find out more about her and inquire about purchasing her extraordinary art on her website at http://www.astadjov.com
- Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (p.72) Continuum: New York
- Rose, Karel. Everything changes: Transformative thinking through aesthetic Experience. In G.Diaz & M. McKenna (Eds.), Teaching for Aesthetic Experience: The art of Learning New You: Peter Lang. p.103
- Orzelski-Konokowski, I. (2011) Reports of practice: the power of adult learning in fine arts. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education. 37(1) P.2
- Lawton & Laporte. (2103). Transformative lifelong learning in community-based settings with older adults: Beyond traditional art education. Studies in Art Education, 54(4) P. 310-320
- Edelson, P. (1998). Enhancing self-direction in adult art education. In D. Fitzner & M.Rugh (Ed.) Crossroads: The challenge of lifelong learners. Reston: NAEA. P. 32-39
- Perron, M. (2019). The Field Study Interview of Maria A. See Addendum