Learning in and through the arts

Authored by: Mike Fleming

The Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning

Print publication date:  July  2011
Online publication date:  July  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415548892
eBook ISBN: 9780203817568
Adobe ISBN: 9781136730047


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This chapter will explore the broad conceptual distinction between learning in and learning through the arts. These constructs provide valuable theoretical perspectives on the teaching of the arts as well as useful tools for evaluating practice when the arts are used in an applied way to further creative learning. Although the two constructs overlap to some degree, they provide an indication of potential pitfalls when the elements associated with one approach dominate at the expense of the other. At its simplest, learning in the arts is learning within the discipline itself, learning that pertains to the particular art form. Learning through, as the preposition suggests, looks beyond the art form itself to outcomes that are extrinsic. For example, some writers argue that drama teaching should be more focused on learning about theatre, acting and dramatic structure, whereas others place more emphasis on the explicit development of personal, social and moral attributes and the use of the art form to advance understanding of subjects like history and RE. From this example, it may be tempting, in the context of the school curriculum, to see learning in as that which happens within the specialist art subjects and learning through occurring when the arts are employed across the curriculum to further creative learning in other subjects. However, the distinction is more far-reaching than simply being a matter of curriculum organisation because it embodies fundamental differences based on theoretical perspectives and historical traditions.

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