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Higher Education Around the World
Edited by
Palgrave Studies in Business,
Arts and Humanities
Series Editors
Samantha Warren
Cardiff Business School
Cardiff, UK
Steven S. Taylor
WPI Foisie School of Business
Business has much to learn from the arts and humanities, and vice versa.
Research on the links between the arts, humanities and b­ usiness has been
occurring for decades, but it is fragmented across ­various ­business topics,
including: innovation, entrepreneurship, creative t­hinking, the creative
industries, leadership and marketing.
A variety of different academic streams have explored the links
between the arts, humanities and business, including: organizational
aesthetics, arts-based methods, creative industries, and arts-based research
etc. The field is now a mature one but it remains fragmented. This series is
the first of its kind to bring these streams together and p
­ rovides a “go-to”
resource on arts, humanities and business for ­emerging scholars and established academics alike. This series will include original monographs and
edited collections to further our knowledge of topics across the field.
More information about this series at
Tatiana Chemi · Xiangyun Du
Arts-based Methods
and Organizational
Higher Education Around the World
Tatiana Chemi
Department of Learning and Philosophy
Aalborg University
Aalborg, Denmark
Xiangyun Du
Department of Learning and Philosophy
Aalborg University
Aalborg, Denmark
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities
ISBN 978-3-319-63807-2 ISBN 978-3-319-63808-9 (eBook)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017950387
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
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Printed on acid-free paper
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The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland
This book is dedicated to the memory of Grete Wennes
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education
Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts
as Learning and Development
Tatiana Chemi
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality
Kristian Firing, Kåre Inge Skarsvåg and Odin Fauskevåg
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment
Marina Haller
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning:
A Quality-Assured, Creative and Performing-Arts Model
Prem Ramburuth and Melissa Laird
viii Contents
Understanding Dance Through Authentic
Choreographic and A/r/tographic Experiences
Peter J. Cook
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions Within Teacher
Education: Enhancing Communal Engaged Learning
Antti Juvonen, Susan O’Neill and Pekka Räihä
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping:
ABM in Use in Entrepreneurship Education
Frode Heldal, Isabella Sacramento and Grete Wennes
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical
Process: A Cross-Cultural and Transnational Dialogue
Based on International Experiences of Higher Education
Across Global Continents
Lilian Ucker Perotto and Meeri Hellstén
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities
to Professional Education
Zeina Al Azmeh and Xiangyun Du
Developing a Transdisciplinary University in Finland
Through Arts-Based Practices
Kevin Tavin, Juuso Tervo and Teija Löytönen
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training
Mohammed Saleh Alkathiri
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher
Education: A Living Inquiry of an Academic Programme
in a Faculty of Education
Pamela Burnard, Carol Holliday, Susanne Jasilek
and Afrodita Nikolova
Contents ix
Future Perspectives for Arts-Based Methods
in Higher Education
Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du
Editors and Contributors
About the Editors
Tatiana Chemi Ph.D. is Associate Professor at Aalborg University and Chair
of Educational Innovation, where she works in the field of artistic learning and creative processes. She is the author of many published articles and
reports and is also the author of Artbased Approaches. A Practical Handbook to
Creativity at Work, Fokus Forlag, 2006, Kunsten at integrere kunst i undervisning [The art of integrating the arts in education], Aalborg Universitetsforlag,
2012, In the Beginning Was the Pun: Comedy and Humour in Samuel Beckett’s
Theatre, Aalborg University Press, 2013 and The Art of Arts Integration, Aalborg
University Press, 2014. In 2013, Aalborg University Press named her Author of
the Year. Her latest work focuses on distributed creativity, artistic creativity and
artistic partnerships published in the following contributions: with Jensen, J.
B. & Hersted, L., Behind the Scenes of Artistic Creativity, Frankfurt, Peter Lang,
2015; “Distributed Problem-Solving: How Artists’ Participatory Strategies
Can Inspire Creativity in Higher Education”. In Zhou, C. (Ed.). Handbook
of Research on Creative Problem-Solving Skill Development in Higher Education.
IGI global. 2016; “The Teaching Artist as Cultural Learning Entrepreneur: An
Introductory Conceptualization”. In Teaching Artist Journal. 2015. 13, 2, pp.
xii Editors and Contributors
She is currently involved in research projects examining artistic creativity
cross-culturally, arts-integrated educational designs in schools and theatre laboratory.
Xiangyun Du Ph.D. is a Professor in Department of Learning and
Philosophy at Aalborg University and a Professor in Department of
Educational Sciences, College of Education, Qatar. Her main research interests
include innovative teaching and learning in education, particularly, problembased and project-based learning methods in fields ranging from engineering,
medicine and health, and foreign language education, to diverse social, cultural
and educational contexts. She has also engaged with educational institutions
in over 10 countries in substantial work on pedagogy development in teaching and learning. Professor Du has over 140 relevant international publications including monographs, international journal papers, edited books and
book chapters, as well as conference contributions. She has also been actively
involved in a number of international academic programs, networks and editorial works for journals. Currently, she is also (co)editing book series for
PalGrave and RIVER publishers.
Afrodita Nikolova is a third year Macedonian Ph.D. student, with
an Aromanian background, at the Faculty of Education, University of
Cambridge. Her Ph.D. is investigating young offenders’ narrative identity reconstruction through a new culturally relevant Spoken Word
Poetry Programme in a Macedonian prison. Her work is based on artsbased research methodologies/practices, the role of the arts in social justice and youth self-development. Her past experience includes working
as a teacher and a university lecturer as well as directing creative writing
programmes and running spoken word poetry workshops in universities, schools, prisons and the community. Nikolova is an award-winning
Macedonian poet, representing the country at the European and World
Poetry Slam Championships, performing across Europe, and is recently
a member of the Versopolis platform representing emerging European
Editors and Contributors xiii
Antti Juvonen earned a Ph.D. in Musicology and Music Education
at Jyväskylä University in 2000 and works as Professor in Education
(since 2011), especially in Pedagogy in Arts and Skills, at the University
of Eastern Finland, Savonlinna Campus. He has qualifications as an
accordion instrument teacher and music subject teacher. He has written more than 500 music critiques in newspapers and lots of articles
in different magazines. Professor Juvonen has also worked as a studio
musician and theatre musician. He has widely collaborated in international research, for example, in the Baltic countries (Estonia, Lithuania
and Latvia), USA, Australia, Canada and Namibia. He has written and
edited 10 scientific peer-reviewed monographs and more than 50 international research articles on Arts Education.
Carol Holliday is an Affiliated Lecturer at the Faculty of Education,
University of Cambridge, where she leads the Child and Adolescent
Psychotherapeutic Counselling Programme. She is a UKCP-registered
arts psychotherapist who works therapeutically with children, adolescents and adults, and she has over twenty years of experience in clinical
practice. Carol has particular interests in the nature of the therapeutic
relationship and in working with images: in therapy, education and
research. Her doctoral research explored the contributions of psychotherapy to the teacher/child relationship and employed ABM. Her
publications are characterized by being intensely practical and having theoretical depth. They include texts for teachers, therapists and
Frode Heldal is currently working as an Associate Professor at NTNU,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and holds a Ph.D.
and M.Sc in engineering from the same university. Heldal has for four
years led the master’s program in leadership and technology, teaching
engineers to become leaders. Through this program, he has offered lectures in entrepreneurship, team leadership and human resource management. He has a special attention to practical work and live research
settings, employing practical methods to help teams, leaders and managers to improve their practice.
xiv Editors and Contributors
Grete Wennes was Professor of Leadership and Knowledge Work at
NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway,
with a special passion for the arts and leadership. She received her Ph.D.
in 2002 in arts management from Norwegian School of Economics. She
held a master in knowledge work from same institution and an extended
BSc from NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology
with, e.g. business administration and psychology. Grete’s work is published widely in international journals, edited books and books in her
own name (some of them in Norwegian). Her research interests have
developed in several directions, and among her favourites were artsbased methods, embodied leadership, relational leadership, values and
value-based leadership. Grete prematurely passed away in 2017.
Isabella Sacramento has a Ph.D. in International Business from
COPPEAD, Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. She has over 15 years
of experience in teaching MBA programs and 10 years of experience
in business consulting, having completed communications and teaching courses from École Superieure de Rouen, Instituto Tecnológico
Autônomo de México and Harvard Business School. Her work explores
innovative art-based methods (rhythm, dance, storytelling) to support learning soft skills and create energetic classes that foster reflexivity. She is fluent in Spanish, English, German and French besides her
native Portuguese. At Fluminense Federal University, Isabella works as
an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship.
Juuso Tervo works as a postdoctoral researcher and University-Wide
Art Studies (UWAS) project manager at Aalto University School of
Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland. His research revolves
around the politics and philosophy of art and education, currently
focusing on historical and literary entwinements of life, art and learning
in European modernity. His writing combines a wide range of theoretical frameworks and issues within arts, humanities and social sciences,
including critical theory, literary theory, political philosophy and contemporary art. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Arts
Administration, Education and Policy at the Ohio State University in
2014 and was the recipient of Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Award in
Art Education in 2015.
Editors and Contributors xv
Kevin Tavin is Professor of International Art Education and Head of the
Department of Art at Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. Tavin holds a
BFA, MEd and Ph.D. in art education. He has taught K-12 and postsecondary courses since 1990. His research focuses on visual culture, critical pedagogy, Nordic art education and psychoanalytic theory. His work
has been published in international art and education journals and books,
and presented as keynote and research papers across the globe. Recent
books include, Angels, ghosts, and cannibals: Essays on art education and
visual culture and Stand(ing) up, for a Change: Voices of arts educators.
Kristian Firing (Ph.D.) currently serves as an Associate Professor at
the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy, where he conducts teaching, coaching and research. Kristian has a great passion for teaching.
He loves to contribute to the students’ learning process. Beyond the
classroom, he likes to bring art-based methods of learning into other
contexts such as military exercises. Through his coaching, he tries to
practice the art of meeting, walk through the learning process together
with them and leave them with increased self-efficacy. Inspired by the
high standards set by people like Carl Rogers and Søren Kierkegaard,
he finds coaching both rewarding and challenging. His areas of research
interest include leadership development, experience-based learning, artbased learning, reflection, coaching, writing, social psychology, mindfulness, sport and many more. Kristian has a new book coming out in
2017 titled “The Key to Academic Writing: Practice Makes Perfect”. He
has also co-authored several other books and has published a dozen of
research articles.
Kåre Inge Skarsvåg (M.A.) currently serves as a Major at the Royal
Norwegian Air force Academy where he conducts teaching, coaching
and research. Kåre’s passion is leader development. He loves to contribute to the students’ learning process, embracing the Socratic method
of asking questions to make the students reflect upon important leadership questions. He constantly tries to broaden the leaders’ perspectives by asking existential questions and challenging the status quo. He
thinks that philosophy can contribute to leader development beyond
normal classroom teaching. He loves to study leader development from
a philosophical perspective. By focusing the students’ attention on the
xvi Editors and Contributors
questions rather than the answers, he hopes to help the students to
emerge as leaders who themselves can be reflective and attentive towards
how they conduct their leadership. His focus of research is coaching,
holistic debriefing and art-based methods in leader development. As a
“lover of wisdom” (the Greek translation of philosophia), he will focus
on those three areas in his upcoming research projects.
Lilian Ucker Perotto gained a Ph.D. in Fine Arts and Education at
the University of Barcelona (Spain). She holds the position of Professor
at the Faculty of Visual Arts of the Federal University of Goiás (Brazil)
and coordinates the art education degree in the distance education. She
works in the pedagogical coordination of the Network Learning Centre
of the Federal University of Goiás.
Marina Haller M.Sc. is currently working as a chief exam coordinator,
researcher and teaching assistant at the University of Zurich. She has a
master’s degree in both psychology and mathematics (M.Sc.). Her main
research interests lie in creativity and creativity processes. She teaches
several courses in experimental psychology as well as in statistics for
bachelor, master and Ph.D. students of psychology.
Meeri Hellstén is Associate Professor in International and Comparative
Education at Stockholm University (Sweden), where she teaches on the
master’s program in international and comparative education, the doctoral research program and professional development in higher education. Her research interests focus on the pedagogy associated with
international teaching and learning. She has published two books on the
topic of internationalizing higher education and is particularly interested
in researching communities of international scholar-practitioners.
Melissa Laird As Executive Director, Learning and Teaching, at the
National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), Dr. Melissa Laird nurtures
a culture of research, generated through creative and performing arts
practice, whilst working on quality-assured academic processes, curriculum development and activities in which the student-artist centres.
She was awarded the Australian Council of University Art and Design
Schools (ACUADS) Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, and she
Editors and Contributors xvii
is a member of both NIDA and the National Art School’s Academic
Boards. A material culture practitioner-scholar, she has an active creative
practice and has won several awards for her drawing and sculpture.
Mohammed Saleh Alkathiri is an Assistant Professor at the Deanship
of Academic Development, University of Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
He—with his colleagues—took the responsibilities of providing tailormade professional development training for all faculty members with
the intention of improving teaching and learning practices and ultimately enhancing the student experience. He earned his Ph.D. from the
University of North Dakota in Teaching and Leaning with emphasis in
Higher Education. His study and work gave him huge opportunities to
learn from many scholars from different institutions and to have a good
grasp of knowledge in the field of teaching and learning in higher education.
Odin Fauskevåg (Ph.D.) currently serves as Associate Professor at the
Department of Education and Lifelong Learning at the Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Norway. His field
of research interest is mainly theoretical and philosophical. More specifically his research is directed at showing how the German philosophical tradition may shed light on different aspects of modern educational
practices. A central theme in his research is how thinkers like Hegel,
Kant and Gadamer, and concepts like Bildung and Recognition define
a framework for discussing education that differs from more goal-oriented, competency-based education prevailing today.
Pamela Burnard is Professor of Arts, Creativities and Education at the
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She co-convenes the
British Educational Research Association (BERA) Special Interest Group,
Creativities in Education ( and the biennial international conference, Building Interdisciplinary
Bridges Across Cultures and Creativities ( She is an
international authority on diverse creativities research and has published
widely with 12 books and over 100 articles and invited chapters on bridging the theory–practice gap through research on creative teaching/learning
and the expanded conceptualization of creativities across sectors.
xviii Editors and Contributors
Pekka Räihä Ph.D. works as a University Lecturer in the Educational
Science Unit in University of Tampere, Finland. In the beginning of
his researcher’s career, he focused on election to teacher education and
teacher education generally. Later he has concentrated in his research
more in developing the teacher education and the culture of teacher
education. He has explored the hidden cultural structures which use
power. Räihä has been working in teacher education field more than 20
years. A new area in his career has been the export of education in Asia.
Peter J. Cook B.Ed., MAEMgt is a Lecturer in the Arts at Southern
Cross University (SCU), Queensland, Australia, in the School of
Education. He is also the academic coordinator for all initial teacher
education. Peter has a long record of successful creative arts teaching
experience and curriculum implementation with students from selective, performing arts and comprehensive schools in primary, secondary,
tertiary and early childhood sectors. In all of these settings, Peter has
merged his expertise in choreography, directing and teaching developing
students in, with and through the arts, with a particular focus on dance.
His experience has included choreographing original and commissioned
works and directing for stage and television within a variety of performing arts genres and with a range of performers. Peter is a Ph.D. candidate at SCU and his topic is Understanding the choreographic presence in
an artful Dance education.
Prem Ramburuth is Professor in International Business in the School
of Business at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney.
She has held several leadership positions in the Business School
including Associate Dean Education, Associate Dean Undergraduate
Programs, Head of School of Organisation and Management, and
Foundation Director of the Education Development Unit. She is the
immediate past President of the UNSW Academic Board (2011–2016),
and current Chair of the NIDA Academic Board. She was a member of
the University’s Governance Committees, the UNSW Council and the
Vice Chancellor’s Executive Team. She has been a member of the Chairs
of Academic Boards and Senates of Australia and serves on the Register
of Experts for the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards
Agency (TEQSA).
Editors and Contributors xix
Susanne Jasilek is an artist and artist educator and formerly Artist-inResidence at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She
has been involved in ground-breaking programmes working in diverse
settings with school children, families, artists, teachers, postgraduates
and the wider community. A video artist, she has regular art installations in site-specific spaces in Cambridge and London with fellow artists and members of NEUF.
Susan O’Neill is Professor and Associate Dean, Academic and
Research, at Simon Fraser University and Director of MODAL
Research Group (Multimodal/Music Opportunities, Diversity and
Learning). She has been awarded visiting fellowships at the University
of Michigan, USA (2001), University of Melbourne, Australia (2012),
and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (2015). Her international collaborative projects explore young people’s engagement in music, multimodal
literacies and digital technologies, and how creative practice contributes to expansive learning opportunities, positive values, identities
and well-being. She is President-Elect of the International Society for
Music Education and Senior Editor of the Canadian Music Educators’
Association book series Research to Practice. She has published widely
in the fields of music psychology and music education, including contributions to 15 books published by Oxford University Press.
Teija Löytönen (Doctor of Arts; Ed. M.) currently works as a Senior
Specialist for Art and Creative Practices at Aalto University, Finland.
Her particular research interests include higher arts education, arts and
creativity in academia as well as (disciplinary) differentiation in academic development. Her special interest is in collaborative research
endeavours and in “new” modes of (post) qualitative research. She has
published in several national and international refereed journals and
edited volumes as well as presented her research in various international
Zeina Al Azmeh is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge.
Before moving to the UK, she had been part of the founding team of
the College of Medicine in Qatar University where she was responsible
for communications and outreach as well as teaching medicine and the
xx Editors and Contributors
arts. Before joining the College of Medicine, Zeina was leading communications and external relations for Qatar University in her capacity as
Director of External Relations.
List of Figures
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment
Fig. 1Box plots comparing creative imagination and difficulty
to achieve operationalisation of performance 75
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning: A Quality-Assured,
Creative and Performing-Arts Model
Fig. 1 NIDA 2016. ‘Music video’ Industry collaboration88
Fig. 2 NIDA 2017. ‘Collaboration’ Black Box Studio96
Fig. 3NIDA 2017. Framework for Integrated Delivery of Arts-based
Fig. 4 NIDA 2016. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Live Production101
Fig. 5NIDA 2017. Live Performance Experiential Learning
Fig. 6 NIDA 2016. ‘The Olympians—Duet’ Live Production105
Fig. 7 NIDA 2017. Live Production Learning Model108
Fig. 8 NIDA 2016. ‘The Olympians—Gods’ Live Production110
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions Within Teacher Education:
Enhancing Communal Engaged Learning
Fig. 1 Elements of the students’ shadow theatre performance 160
Fig. 2Students’ mask theatre performance with music
technology and a lightshow 161
xxii List of Figures
Fig. 3 Acting through costumes and music 162
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process:
A Cross-Cultural and Transnational Dialogue Based on
International Experiences of Higher Education
Across Global Continents
Fig. 1 Work office stimuli images 202
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes
Fig. 1 Samples of participants’ work 283
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher Education:
A Living Inquiry of an Academic Programme in a Faculty
of Education
Fig. 1Sample of the field of HE research utilising artist
partnerships and arts-based methods 295
Fig. 2 The happiness pod 308
Fig. 3 Sonic-poetic enquiry text displayed as a word cloud 309
Fig. 4 Photographs of paintings made by student researchers 311
Fig. 5Making the mandala: ‘Ripples of the Self ’ and ‘Circles
of Influence’ 316
Fig. 6Lisa Zwierzanski (Administrator of the Facultartem Project)
higher degrees & PPD office 317
Fig. 7Lieke van Bree (Master of Education (MEd) Administrator)
higher degrees office 318
Fig. 8A representation of arts-based methods for enhancing
organisation learning in higher education 321
List of Tables
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment
Table 1 Multilevel logistic regression and Spearman correlation results 75
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes
Table 1 Samples of data analyses 276
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher Education: A Living
Inquiry of an Academic Programme in a Faculty of Education
Table 1 Overview of the sample and sample of 4 data sets 300
Table 2Analysis of the ‘happiness’ curated film viewing:
Participant responses 304
Table 3A sample of the ‘Sound Piece’ poetic text:
the analysis process 310
Table 4Visual art participatory methods: Drawings on living
the journey 312
Table 5A sample of participant voices (students, academics
and non-academics) 314
Tracing Arts-Based Methods
in Higher Education
Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du
The Complex Field
Mapping the field of arts-based methods (ABM) in education and
organisations is not a simple matter. All in all, the contributions to this
field in the last 20 years have been numerous and proper to different
contexts. The approaches that introductory mappings of the field can
take are several: it is possible to look at the perspective of art forms, of
educational levels, of geographical or cultural contexts, of institutional
placement or even of the thematic categorisation of purposes, such as
inclusion, equality, creativity, to mention a few of them (Hatton 2015).
Conceptual choices can have the consequence of ascribing the field of
ABM to different scholarly traditions: arts education, arts in education,
T. Chemi (*) · X. Du 
Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University,
Aalborg, Denmark
X. Du
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
2 T. Chemi and X. Du
arts in business (or arts-in-business) or more generically arts-based interventions in education and organisations. As Schiesser (2015) reminds
us, not even the terminology we use is consensual or unproblematic.
The background knowledge behind these theoretical approaches can be
common to or transferable from these fields of studies to the practices
of ABM. Any of these choices will influence the ways in which we
understand the workings and impacts of the ABM on given contexts.
When we, as editors of the present volume, set ourselves the task of
introducing the vast field of ABM studies, we started by delimiting our
attention to higher and adult education and to the contexts of formal
education and organisational change. We understand artistic interventions as based on participation in the arts, but not necessarily subject to
professional or amateur art making. Art practices can occur in artists’
studios, as part of the artist profession, or in amateur artists’ laboratories, as part of their spare-time engagement. In both cases, whether the
artists make art as their profession or their leisure, the arts are cultivated
for their intrinsic value. Arts-based interventions, instead, apply the
arts in different contexts and cultivate the arts instrumentally. Methods
based on the arts can be applied to non-arts contexts in education and
organisations, against the background of a multiplicity of purposes and
with a variety of impacts. It can be argued that no real intrinsic value
can be implicit in the arts, for instance when art is made for earning
money (as profession) or gaining pleasure (as leisure). However, addressing in depth, this philosophical conceptualisation would lead us too
far from the specific purpose of this volume; therefore, we wish to refer
here to Chap. 2, which partly addresses this arts-based dilemma. The
present volume wishes to disseminate a wide range of cases, as diverse
as possible in their approaches to the ABM and in their contexts,
with special attention to embracing global diversity. Our cases, scholars and affiliations cover countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada,
Finland, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Qatar, Italy, China, Brazil, Switzerland
and Sweden. The global perspective is unique to the present volume
and its most original contribution to the ABM field. Attention to cultural diversity in a global world ought to be further developed in the
future, including more systematically cases from non-Western cultural
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 3
and organisational contexts. As the conclusive chapter unfolds, the contributions to this volume show a number of commonalities across the
different cultural contexts. Even though we do not suggest that ABM
can be applied universally regardless sociocultural differences, it is still
plain to see that several themes, challenges, outputs, qualities are recurrent throughout several arts-based interventions. Whether this is intrinsic in the language of the arts or whether cultural specificity can be
documented, it is not to say. Future perspectives in ABM research will
hopefully extend the scope of our studies in this direction. The themes
here disseminated take into consideration different art forms: theatre
and performing arts, dance, music, rhythm and sound, language arts,
visual and multiarts (i.e. the co-presence of several art forms, multimedia included). The first thematic section is of a more general nature:
the present introductory chapter and the following chapter focus on
theoretical issues in arts-based approaches and methods. We conclude
with future perspectives as envisioned conceptually and through emerging practices or theoretical approaches. Each contributing chapter will
specify its particular theoretical perspective, but here we wish to present
some approaches that studies on ABM can exploit or have made use of
through the years.
Arts, Education and Creativity
The relationship between the arts and education is explained and sustained according to different paradigms. First of all, studies have been
addressing the topic of arts education in formal settings (Bresler 2007),
in disciplines such as arts pedagogies (i.e. the ways in which formal or
semi-formal institutions teach how to make and understand the arts) and
all the related subfields of each art form pedagogy and educational design
(called, in non-Anglo-Saxon countries, didactics). This, however interesting, is not the field we intend to address in the present volume and
introductory chapter. Rather, we find even more fascinating the cross-disciplinary dialogue that the arts can engage with in non-artistic contexts.
Studies in this field arise along the lines of a societal need for innovative
4 T. Chemi and X. Du
solutions, which creative individuals and environments (Sawyer 2007)
can bring to life. This discourse implies that the arts are creative par excellence and that the arts can and should be used instrumentally in order
to improve performance. This implication, however problematic in itself,
has inspired a number of studies and conceptualisations with the purpose
of specifying each single element. For instance, the discussion on how
creativity and innovation are interlinked (Puccio and Cabra 2010), or on
whether creativity is specific to the arts or, more in general, if it is specific
to any domain (Baer 2010; Kaufman and Baer 2005) has been a fundamental step, not only for the understanding of creativity but also for the
development and implementation of creative practices in education and
organisations. Secondly, it has been—and still is—debated whether the
arts ought to be used instrumentally for any purpose other than the artistic or aesthetic one (Deasy 2002). This debate is as old as the arts themselves. Approaches that apply the arts to non-arts contexts in education
and organisations ascribe themselves to cross-disciplinary research and to
educational and cultural paradigms that are progressive, democratic and
often hybrid (Cahnmann-Taylor 2008).
Last but not least, studies have been emphasising the concept of performance and outcome when the arts are applied to non-arts contexts.
They see performance broadly as either innovation, for instance in the
production of value, of artefacts and of change (Jones 2011; Williams
and Yang 1999) or in the generation of learning, for instance in issues of
memorisation, transfer, hard and soft skills or capacity building (Fleming
et al. 2015). Studies that address the former often focus on organisational learning and change, or on community issues. The latter field
often addresses cases from preschool to post-secondary school level. This
leaves higher and adult education in a gap between the two fields of studies, mostly relegated to the observation and analysis of specialised education in the arts, such as conservatories, academies or drama schools.
An example of this could be Harwood (2007) who maps the learning
that visual arts academies design for professional artists, or O’Toole
(2011) who highlights knowledge about and needs for drama education.
Interestingly, when O’Toole (2011) charts the teachers’ requirements in
teaching drama, he touches upon the following educational levels:
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 5
1.Early childhood teachers and care workers
2.Primary teachers
3.Secondary, post-secondary and adult drama teachers
4.All other (non-drama) secondary and post-secondary teachers
5.Teachers and trainers of dramatic artists.
He establishes, in this way, a hierarchy of skills and knowledge for educators, from the most basic one that essentially relies on broad playfulness skills, through the school-related educational skills (how to apply
drama pedagogy across the curriculum or how to make a formal performance), up to the training of professional artists, who “need not just to
know and teach their speciality, but also how to cultivate their students’
broader understanding of their context, and articulacy and advocacy
skills” (O’Toole 2011, p. 14). What is specifically interesting for our
present topic is category 4 with which O’Toole acknowledges the use
of drama for non-drama educators (see Chemi 2017, p. 220). O’Toole
(2011) might seem to undervalue these educators’ competence, but by
describing these competences as a basic artistic knowledge (drama pedagogic skills) and as an elementary positive emotional approach (confidence), he sees also the broad perspective of applying the arts across the
curriculum and at all educational levels. In other words, even though
these non-drama educators making use of drama just seem to need basic
skills and confidence to use drama pedagogy, this cross-disciplinary
perspective broadens the scope of the artistic agency on curriculum,
extending it to higher education (but not necessarily including the specialisation of artist training) and to adult education in contexts other
than the educational one, such as organisational or non-formal learning
environments. This is the perspective that our contribution intends to
investigate and the very reason for it being written: the need for further studies that describe and conceptualise the role of the arts in and
for higher education in all disciplines (humanities, social studies, artist training, leadership training, business studies, medical studies) and
more broadly adult education included lifelong learning in organisations, leadership development, organisational professional development,
organisational change.
6 T. Chemi and X. Du
Stealing from the Artist
For both organisations and individuals, learning can be seen as the necessary adaptation to ever-changing challenges and creativity as the necessary skill to use in order to respond appropriately to new challenges.
In this discourse, the arts are valued for their implicit relationship with
creativity. Beyond the myth of the creative artist, studies have shown
how artistic practices can be related to creativity (Sefton-Green et al.
2011) and how artists make use of creative practices and fully depend
on lifelong, sustained learning processes (Chemi et al. 2015). Kerlan
(2011) emphasises the ambiguous expectations that society and education reserve for the arts: to be the role model and solution to all societal
and educational challenges but at the same time to be under-prioritised
in international policies. According to Jones (2011), this tendency is
implicit in capitalistic discourses about creativity, where creativity is
both contributing to the flourishing of the bourgeois society and to its
possible implosion: “in a knowledge society characterised by the ubiquitous presence of immaterial labour, [creativity] is a resource to economic
life; it is the raw material of capitalist organisation, that sustains the
capital, and is exploited by it” (p. 20). At the same time, creativity has
the power of societal transformation, by means of trajectories of development, learning and self-development.
This ambiguity remains intact when discourses on the arts meet
higher educational contexts, for instance in Burge et al. (2016), where
arts-based interventions are seen as a novel way of doing academic
research, alternative to other methods in higher educational settings.
Here, the arts-based research has the potential to surprise and to add
to the practitioners’ self-understanding, but also to be shocking and
even to pose risks. Hernández-Hernández (2016) calls it a “disturbance
experience” (p. 88), relating it to arts-based research practices that situate the self in context, and also to philosophies by Deleuze, Foucault
and Badiou. A similar position can be found in Bastos (2016), though
sustained by different arguments. According to Bastos (2016), artistic
disruption is essentially empowering and politically situated, as Freire’s
ideals on education and the creativity mindset maintain. On the one
hand, Freire envisions social transformation by means of educational
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 7
and artistic means while, on the other, creativity contains implicit transformative and empowering elements, “as it creates the conditions to
envisage a reality that is not there” (Bastos 2016, p. 41). In this way,
artists and researchers (and artists as researchers, we would add) might
contribute to building community by “enabling tools for investigating
possibilities” (Bastos 2016, p. 41).
It is noteworthy that studies involving the arts in higher education essentially cover two—often interconnected—contexts: academic
research (arts-based inquiry, auto-ethnographies) or art as research (Bast
et al. 2015; Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund 2008) and organisational
practices (leadership development, artistic interventions and metaphors,
arts-based training). Both fields draw from what we can call an emulation
paradigm, founded on the belief of cross-disciplinary transfer (of skills,
values, knowledge): How is it possible to emulate the artist’s processes
of creation, responsiveness and reflexivity and replicate them in non-arts
contexts? This concept of learning transfer, though criticised for not relying on scientific evidence (Journal of Aesthetic Education 2000), mostly
addresses the attempt of formal schooling institutions to transfer learning, skills and knowledge from the arts to other school subjects. Whether
scholars ascribe to the transfer paradigm or not is a question of beliefs
and research methods. However, even the transfer-critics do not deny the
central role of the arts in learning and development and find it meaningful to turn to artists and the arts at all levels of education, in order to
achieve a large number of purposes. One example of this might be Nelson
Goodman (1976) who maintained a critical approach to the transfer rhetoric while at the same time not advocating for art for art’s sake, inspiring
one of the most influential research initiatives on the value of the arts in
society and education: the Harvard Project Zero (Project Zero 2017).
Pivotal in establishing the ABM as an autonomous scientific field is
Elliot Eisner (1991, 2002). Both in his scholarly work and his teaching activity, he established the arts-based approaches as research and
educational method in academia. Together with his former pupil Tom
Barone, Eisner laid the foundations of the arts-based conceptualisations
(Barone and Eisner 2012) that defined the field of arts-based educational research (ABER), the methods of educational criticism and narrative storytelling, opening up to the hybrid forms of scholARTistry
8 T. Chemi and X. Du
(Cahnmann-Taylor 2008). Their rationale hinted at what Dewey called
disequilibrium, which for Eisner (2008) can be purposely induced in
the researcher’s and educator’s work in order to approach problems
imaginatively and emotionally. This approach “suggests an emphasis on
inquiry, a tolerance of ambiguity, a preference for what is open-ended, a
desire for what is fluid rather than what is rigid” (Eisner 2008, p. 22).
In this way, the mindset is not only transferred from the artist’s skills
to the learner, but rather from the arts to the researcher’s practice. The
researcher finds a novel role in the narrative of research—the role of
main character. We believe that these conceptualisations of ABM and
ABER have greatly contributed to influencing reflexive practices in
the arts and artistic research. Valuing the power of intuitive practices
(McMillan 2015), ABM can open up to the reflexive practices investigated in cross-disciplinary fields, where boundaries between research,
arts and education tend to be blurred (Knowles and Cole 2008). For
instance, the practices of teaching artists (Dawson and Kelin 2014) and
cultural learning entrepreneurs (Chemi 2015) can further develop these
perspectives in the future.
The Arts in Organisational Studies
Specifically for arts-based interventions in organisations, Darsø (2016)
narrates tales from the field of arts-in-business from 2004 to 2014,
where—as her title suggests—she sees the field transforming “from
experiments in practice to research and leadership development”
(p. 18). The contexts of organisations and enterprises have been very
receptive to the bearings of the arts upon their specific context. This
brings about a different way of looking both at the arts and at learning,
leadership and organisations. Private companies or public institutions
willing to experiment with the arts have been exploring new alternatives
to “business as usual” in creative ways, opening up to a number of educational issues: How can the arts inspire, teach, facilitate learning and
change? In which ways can leadership learn from the artists’ approaches?
How can organisational learning and leadership training make use of
artistic tools?
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 9
Similarly to the first attempts at creating arts-business crosscollaborations and monitoring them (Seifter and Buswick 2005), the
aesthetic-based organisational learning of the twenty-first century
(Linstead and Höpfl 2000) is characterised by an even more aware and systematic approach, and a research-based theoretical background (Taylor and
Ladkin 2009). The attention gained by topics such as creativity and innovation at a global level has worked in favour of organisational aesthetics,
which have been welcomed in quite a few scholarly environments.
Some early categories might define the different ways arts have been
applied in organisations.
Lotte Darsø (2004) suggests the following taxonomy:
1.Art as decoration
2.Art as entertainment
3.Art as tool
4.Art as changing process.
The first one is a function that is almost inherent to the arts. Looking at
the history of the arts, we can see that centuries of Maecenatism, sponsorship and branding have made the use of art as decoration or embellishment the most obvious and evident practice within organisational art.
From the first prehistoric drawings to industrial design, the connection is
easy and cross-cutting: across all cultures, the visual arts have been used
as means for making living environments cosy and appealing. Often this
consistent strategy has been linked to the visual transmission of given values: the grandeur of the Russian Hermitage mirrors the political grandeur
of Empress Catherine II; the Giotto frescos from Assisi Cathedral illustrate the life of Jesus and at the same time communicate St. Francis’ religious ideal. When organisations use the arts as decoration, they move in
the steps of this tradition and limit the impact of the arts to what is beautiful, reassuring and ornamental. Likewise, the entertainment function of
the arts in society is as old as the hills. Power has always used entertainment instrumentally, from the Roman emperors’ panis et circensis (the
practice of offering bread -panis- and circus entertainment -circensis- to
the indigent masses, to keep them quiet and satisfied) to propaganda or
the media tyranny of some modern democracies. When organisational
10 T. Chemi and X. Du
practices use the arts as entertainment, they exploit the ludic and amusing purpose of the arts, but not much more. If learning intentions are
connected to these actions, they can for instance be drawn from the positive emotional charge of playful environments. However, the first two
categories do not explicitly seek any developmental change.
When companies use the arts as a tool, they instead focus on specific
applications of artistic knowledge to specific needs. For instance, actors
might be employed to “teach” sales departments notions of body language and voice training to be more effective in their job.
What ABM in higher education and organisational learning mostly
concern themselves with is the above category, based on transfer of skills
from the artistic context to the educational and organisational one, and
also with Darsø’s last category. This is the area that is the most difficult
to assess and measure, but the one that is richer in truly innovative perspectives. The organisations that dare to engage in a conversation with
the unknown (Rancière’s ignorant schoolmaster, see Lewis 2012), enabling innovative opportunities (Meisiek and Barry 2016) are those who
attract the attention of observers from different academic fields.
In Taylor and Ladkin (2009), we can find a review of scholarly contributions to ABM and a slightly different taxonomy to the one Darsø
(2004) proposes:
1.Art as projection: this occurs when members of organisations are
involved in a symbolising process, using art or artful or arts-based
tools to express themselves non-verbally and reflect on the process
subsequently. The use of art as a metaphor for specific organisational
concepts can be included in this practice. Art as a metaphor for organisational issues is developed in Austin and Devin (2003), against the
background of Morgan’s original perspectives on Images of Organization
(2006). Where Morgan uses verbal and visual metaphors to look at
organisations, Austin and Devin use theatre rehearsal as a core concept in their analysis of software developers and theatre makers. An
interesting practice that we could define applied metaphor is the one of
Slovenian violinist Miha Pogacnik who employs musical interpretation
of master composers to explain organisational strategies (Darsø 2004).
This last example can also be interpreted as an illustration of leadership
strategies and might be included in the next category.
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 11
2.Art as illustration: very similar to Darsø’s (2004) first point, this
could be a sub-category of art as decoration, where the latter is used
to illustrate a given concept. This includes not only visual techniques
but a broad array of dissemination tools.
3.Art as making: art making is able to provoke long-lasting changes
and alternative behaviours. This could be understood as a variation of
Darsø’s fourth point. Examples might be the application of arts-based
approaches to the facilitation of change processes or the coaching of
individual or team development (Chemi 2006).
4.Art as skill transfer: this resembles Darsø’s third point, based on the
belief of transferable knowledge from the arts to non-arts.
With regard to the different artistic strategies that operate in this direction, it is necessary to make a further distinction between aesthetic
knowledge, artful processes and arts-based actions. Pivotal in this field is
the work of Strati (2003). According to him, aesthetic knowledge is “the
form of knowledge that persons acquire by activating the specific capacities of their perceptive-sensorial faculties and aesthetic judgment […] in
the day-to-day lives in organizations” (p. 53). Aesthetic understanding or
knowledge, like Polanyi’s (1983) tacit knowledge, is the interiorised selfawareness of the learner in situated environments, and differently from it,
emphasises the tacit, sensory and corporeal dimension of knowing in the
practice of organisations. The sensory dimension as connected to leadership and sense-making has been recently developed by Springborg (2010).
Arts-based experiences imply a practical involvement in the making of an artistic product or in the training of specific artistic skills.
Differently from other interactions with the arts, the training of artistic
skills returns to or discovers anew the direct contact with artistic materials and the artistic creative process.
Higher Education and ABM Experimentation
The arts can hold a transformational function, and when we transfer this
transformation to daily workplace routines, we magically find out that
“organizational aesthetics is not separate from the daily lives of people
12 T. Chemi and X. Du
in organizations” (Strati 1999, p. 111). However, critical perspectives
have arisen even in the early stages of this field. For instance, in the
middle of the arts-in-business euphoria—as Darsø (2016) describes it:
“those were exciting days!” (p. 18)—critical voices could be heard, warning that the arts were not the one and only answer to all organisational
and educational issues. Ferro-Thomsen (2005) warned that the arts in
organisations, if uncritically received and used, could be deceiving for
organisational processes. Darsø (2016) also voices the ambiguity with
which the arts can be met in organisational contexts, either being seen as
charming and “interesting” or as “strange” and leading to “fear and scepticism” (p. 23). We believe that the impact of the arts in organisational
change and education is contextual to the specific arts-based practices
and the discourses that introduce and follow them.
According to Sköldberg et al. (2016), the discourses that can be
mapped are the following: managerial (the discourse of growth and
improvement), aesthetic-inspired (“the arts as inspiration for action”, p. 8,
italics in original), metaphoric (art as “translation to organization theory ”,
p. 9, italics in original) and multistakeholder (discourses on and about
participants’ experiences) (Berthoin Antal and Strauß 2016). These
authors also emphasise the central role that institutions at higher education level have had and still hold in pioneering the ABM. With a specific
focus on management and leadership education, the authors point to
several fundamental reviews: Adler (2011), Nissley (2002), Springborg
(2012) and Sutherland (2013). The higher education examples mainly
come from business schools, such as the McGill University in Canada,
the LAICS and Learning Lab initiatives in Denmark, the HEC in
France, the Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal, the
IEDC Bled School of Management in Slovenia, the London Business
School in the UK and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the USA
(Sköldberg et al. 2016, pp. 6–7).
The Volume
The present volume, while placing itself in the composite traditions
drafted above, also aims at originally presenting current cases and
broadening the scope of the educational and organisational contexts.
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 13
The volume embraces a collection of contributions with diverse
perspectives on ABM in higher education. The first two chapters provide theoretical grounds of arts-based methods. In the present chapter, Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du trace the state of the arts in the
field of arts-based methods in higher educational practices, including a
variety of perspectives: art forms, educational contexts, geographical or
cultural contexts, institutional placement and thematic categorisation,
opening up inter- and transdisciplinary, intercultural and international
dialogues on how arts can be incorporated, formally and informally,
into higher educational development. In Chap. 2, Tatiana Chemi calls
for a new paradigm of ABM, which is rooted in creativity studies with
sociocultural system perspectives. The author argues that ABM offer an
alternative learning environment by encouraging pluralism, diversity
and hybridity.
The following chapters focus on theatre, play and performing arts.
In Chap. 3, Kristian Firing, Kåre Inge Skarsvåg and Odin Fauskevåg
explore a theatre-based exercise conducted at the Royal Norwegian Air
Force Academy, in which the cadets participated together with actors,
directors and coaches. The authors suggest that the cadets developed
an openness to experience that is made possible through the artsbased experience itself. In Chap. 4, Marina Haller reports her study of
facilitating 15 students to learn a new method of performing psychological experiments in performance art. The method motivated the students since they learned that they do not need to be artistically creative
to be able to design and conduct performance art. In Chap. 5, Prem
Ramburuth and Melissa Laird suggest a quality-assured, creative and
performing-arts model to promote student learning through collaboration and interdisciplinarity. Specifically, the authors stress the contributing role of assessment in the dynamic area of live theatrical production.
Three contributions in this volume provide insights into the art forms
of dance, music and sound, together with rhythm and body exercise, in
ABM. In Chap. 6, Peter Cook examines how authentic choreographic
experiences and assessment may enhance students’ appreciation of
dance as an art form. Through analysing a/r/tographic experiences, the
study provides significance in understanding the choreographic presence
as an artful means within dance curriculum and pedagogy. In Chap. 7,
14 T. Chemi and X. Du
Antti Juvonen, Susan O’Neill and Pekka Räihä propose a concept of
communal engaged learning, examining the practice of an innovative
teacher education programme in Finland that includes music theatre
as a basic element and focuses on expression, cooperative learning and
experiential learning. In Chap. 8, Frode Heldal, Isabella Sacramento
and Grete Wennes introduce an ABM in teaching entrepreneurship and
suggest that by doing an exercise consisting of making a song in teams,
based solely on body sounds, to elicit reflections, students learn important points related to exploring vs. exploiting, in a different way than
normal classroom settings.
In Chap. 9, Lilian Ucker Perotto and Meeri Hellstén explore how
an auto-ethnographic perspective of arts-based research contributes
to narrating the experiences lived in the letters. Through an example
of a cross-cultural and transnational dialogue—the exchange of letters
between the authors over a decade—they critically reflect on subjectivities produced in international scholarly spaces.
Incorporating visual arts and multiarts in higher education is
addressed in Chaps. 10–13. In Chap. 10, Zeina Hazem Al-Azmeh and
Xiangyun Du examine a process of design, delivery and student engagement with a course on Medicine and the Arts offered to medical students in Qatar. Analysing a group of 15 medical students’ reflective
essays, the study reports how these students perceive the connection of
humanistic thinking to professional learning in a range of areas, including empathy, ethical practice, philosophical reasoning, interpretive and
reflective thinking, and emotion management. The chapter also provides a list of recommendations for better connecting humanistic thinking to professional education.
Chapter 11 is an effort to think outside of the box of university
discipline-led pedagogy. Kevin Tavin, Juuso Tervo and Teija Löytönen
present the concept of arts-based transdisciplinary education that has
been implemented in a Finnish higher educational institution.
In Chap. 12, Mohammed S. Alkathiri investigates the perceptions of
faculty members relating to the use of arts-based techniques (i.e. sketching, drawing, graphic design and lyric writing) in faculty training programmes in Saudi Arabia. Results of the study suggested that using
arts-based techniques in training can be an introduction for faculty
Tracing Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 15
members to the arts-based educational approach. Although there are
some hurdles to overcome, a commitment to incorporating more artsbased techniques is promising by inviting faculties to try, experience
and get committed.
In Chap. 13, Pam Burnard, Carol Holliday, Susanne Jasilek and
Afrodita Nikolova endeavour to conceptualise how arts-based methods
can be developed as a pedagogy of viewing organisational learning ecologies, so that arts-based methods become not just an option but a necessity
in terms of innovating programmes within higher education. They bring
examples from multiple activities based on visual arts and multimedia.
In the final chapter, Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du summarise the
multiple theoretical, empirical and practical implications for the arts-based
methods in higher education and point out that the major significance of
the volume is the diverse angles and different co-creative perspectives on
ABM, bringing further innovative ideas about higher education.
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Springborg, C. 2012. Perceptual Refinement: Art-Based Methods in
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Strati, A. 2003. Knowing in Practice: Aesthetic Understanding and Tacit
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Sutherland, I. 2013. Arts-Based Methods in Leadership Development:
Affording Aesthetic Workspaces, Reflexivity and Memories with
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Taylor, S., and D. Ladkin. 2009. Understanding Arts-based Methods in
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of Creativity, ed. R.J. Sternberg, 373–391. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm
for the Arts as Learning and Development
Tatiana Chemi
Practices of Transgression
or Instrumentalisation?
Contemporary practices that connect the arts with learning are widespread at all level of educational systems (Chemi 2016) and in organisations (Taylor and Ladkin 2009). This phenomenon includes very
diverse conceptualisations defined by multiple approaches, methods
and background values and concrete practices span from arts-based
facilitation of change processes to systematic integration of the arts in
education. Examples of the former can be visualisation tools applied to
organisational processes (visual facilitation) or theatre used to mirror
relational issues in workplaces (forum theatre). Examples of the latter
can be cross-disciplinary partnerships between schools and artists (artsintegration, teaching artists) or the extensive use of the arts in scientific
T. Chemi (*) 
Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Aalborg,
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
20 T. Chemi
knowledge-development projects (art-science partnerships, STEAM). In
both cases, the arts contribute to the trigger and facilitation of knowledge, learning, development and creativity. However, this happens
with different magnitudes and ontological impacts depending on the
background perspectives implicit in these connections. Some of these
approaches encompass the potential of transforming the very concept
of knowledge and of aesthetics; some others merely consist of facilitation or educational tools for a better organising of everyday working or
learning routines. What this amelioration of existing routines is about is
differently formulated (new, different, optimal, more effective and more
engaging) and sustained by evidence (Fiske 1999).
Even though findings on the educational benefits of art experiences are often misunderstood or contradictory, showing either large
cognitive outputs, or little- and short-lived benefits if not none at all
(Winner et al. 2013; Journal of Aesthetic Education 2000), the fundamental role of the arts in human development cannot be denied. If
scientific evidence fails in bringing coherent finding to this field, the
reason might reside in the complexity of the phenomenon and not on
its lack of impact or resonance. In other words, the problem might
reside in the effect discourse as output that can be quantified and measured, rather than resonance that can be qualified by meaningful experiences. However, regardless of magnitude or explicit learning benefits,
the arts/learning partnerships bring about a specific approach to learning, which is embodied, sensory, aesthetic and makes use of metaphors,
mediation, meaning-making and sense-making. I will make the point
that the arts establish a learning environment, which is different from
and alternative to the formal schooling system (still today) based on
logical–rational reasoning, right-question answer and accountability
tests. Moreover, arts-based learning environments offer the platform for
multiple approaches to learning to unfold in a place that is characterised
by pluralism, diversity and hybridity.
The presence of the arts in learning experiences has the consequence
of leading to the need for novel conceptualisations on the arts and
their role for and in society. Are the arts in these contexts ancillary to
societal needs or should they enjoy a limitless autonomy? Should the
arts be attended to because of their learning outputs or should they be
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 21
cultivated “for the arts’ sake”? Shouldn’t the arts be free of all social
functions or should they serve a purpose? In this chapter, I will focus
on the deceptive opposition between the arts’ dispositional transgression and their instrumental use in educational and organisational settings, arguing that the two poles are nothing but two sides of the
same phenomenon. I will discuss how aesthetics and artistic practices
can describe and explain the very background for the interconnection
between the arts and learning. My hope is that this might bring about
useful insights for future artistic or arts-based practices in education and
in organisations.
Methodological Note
This reflection will be mostly conceptual, leaning on creativity studies with sociocultural system perspectives (Csikszentmihalyi 1996,
1999). As an empirical support, I will bring examples from two sets
of research studies: one on artistic creativity (Chemi et al. 2015) and
the other on practices of arts-integration (Chemi 2014a). The methodological approach of the former study is qualitative and based on retrospective narratives, collected by means of semi-structured interviews
with 22 interviewed artists from a wide variety of art forms and genres:
literature, poetry and scripts; dance and choreography; acting and theatre directing; music; film-making; visual arts; digital arts; design; and
architecture. These empirical findings bring evidence to and against
assumptions on the artist’s creative mindset: What does it really mean
to think and create like an artist? How do artists tell the story of their
own creative processes? What can educators and learners learn from
The latter empirical context draws from related but different qualitative studies focusing on artist–school partnerships. Culture Lab
(Kulturens Laboratorium 2015–2017) involved nine partnerships
between artists and schools in the Fyn region in Denmark (Chemi
2017). Its research is an ongoing study that leans on a previously carried research in several Danish Public Schools in 2009–2011 in the
Vejle Municipality (Denmark), the Artfulness project (Chemi 2014b).
22 T. Chemi
In both studies, I looked at how the arts can be integrated with other
school subjects throughout the curriculum (Chemi 2014a). Findings
from the Artfulness project are consistent with international findings (Deasy 2002) and show that this integration is able to generate
both emotional and cognitive benefits. Against the background of the
Artfulness study’s original empirical data, I designed the research on the
Culture Lab project, specifically looking at artist–school partnerships
in a novel political initiative, actualised in the Danish school reform
in 2014 and called the “Open School”, which attempts to implement
stronger relationships and collaborations between schools and cultural
institutions or initiatives. This context is hosting a number of school–
artist partnerships but also a warm debate whether the arts should be
instrumental to learning.
The methodological approaches of these studies are qualitative and
based on field observations or retrospective narratives, collected by
means of semi-structured interviews. The artists, students and educators interviewed allowed me to look behind the scenes of their artistic
creativity and to collect narratives on multiple aspects of the making of
art or art appreciation. Here, I will gather the findings that discuss artmaking and art-perception as at the same time transgressive and developmental. As a conclusion, I will propose a conceptual interpretation
of the arts as a third space where participants are free to negotiate transgression as well as an instrumentality for learning purposes.
The Arts Transgressing Borders
That the arts can make use of transgression and subversion is considered typical of art practices (Strati and de Monthoux 2002; Barry and
Meisiek 2010). The core of both arts as transgression and as instrumental is in modernity: from one side the Avant-Garde claimed freedom
and autonomous responsibility on art-making, but on the other side,
tendencies towards collectivism and socialism are clearly emerging during the Modernist era. Let us look at the first one.
During the twentieth century, Avant-Garde artists formulated statements of dissent and disorder, aiming at questioning formal ideas of
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 23
art but also the very critique of Avant-Gardes. For instance, the Dada
movement expressed its disagreement with manifestos in a manifesto
that Tristan Tzara published in 1918 (now in Motherwell 1951), where
he emphasised the uselessness of labels (“Dada means nothing”) and of
ideals of beauty:
A work of art should not be beauty in itself, for beauty is dead; it should
be neither gay nor sad, neither light nor dark to rejoice or torture the
individual by serving him the cakes of sacred aureoles or the sweets of
a vaulted race through the atmospheres. A work of art is never beautiful by decree, objectively for all. Hence criticism is useless, it exists only
subjectively, for each man separately, without the slightest character of
universality. […] How can one expect to put order into the chaos that
constitutes that infinite and shapeless variation: man? (in Harrison and
Wood 2003, p. 253)
This was a break with the bourgeois ideology of beauty, with art as a
closed system or as the privilege of the few and with a passive meeting with art. Tzara was suggesting the complete autonomy of art, which
Avant-Gardes practiced as transgression from ethics and aesthetics and
proposed as an alternative and extreme form of subjectivism. Common
to several Avant-Gardes was the giving into chaos, but not in a passive,
mourning way, on the contrary, this writing off of rules was playful,
loud and bombastic. The Futurists enjoyed to provoke their audiences
and knew no limits to their cultural aggression, for instance, when
covering with glue the audience sits in a theatre room or when staging
nonsensical plays filled with shouting and bold statements. Even though
their ideal of autonomy of the arts emerged within the social class of
bourgeoisie, its aim was to attack the very core of the bourgeois values.
According to Heinrich (2016), on the background of the Avant-Garde
negation of art’s presentational format, the very distinction reality/
fiction was challenged, including “the defiance of the role of the passive
(bourgeois) recipient in favour of a critical, active participant in art and
thus society, simply because avant-garde art wants to be seen as non-art”
(p. 1). In this sense, the autonomy of art was to be seen as the liberation
24 T. Chemi
from representation and the opening towards possibilities of application
to life-contexts and instrumentalisation.
However, the autonomy of art could also express itself in elitist and
anti-democratic practices. The bourgeois ideology was able to nest
at the same time conservative tendencies as the arts for art’s sake but
also the dissent against this view. The elitist ideology hidden behind
the art for art’s sake practices made art education accessible only to the
few privileged ones and defined the educational role of the arts as an
elitist Bildung. I already emphasised (Chemi 2014b, p. 375) how education can instrumentally use the arts in order to perpetrate cultural
exclusion and anti-democratic ideologies by bending the concept of
Bildung towards formalist cultural uplifting arguments, where the arts
can provide elevation of the spirit and cultural refinement (for the few).
Wakeford (2004) draws a short history of the meeting between schools
and the arts by highlighting the dialectic between the role of the arts
and the schools’ core mission. Besides the uplifting model, he founds
several responses in defending the arts in education, each one of which
is based on very different grounds, such as the pure entertainment argument (the arts provide recreation and fun); or the more recent cognitive
arguments based on the belief that the arts can provide learning transfer
to other knowledge areas (crossover benefits). Varkøy (2015) applies the
concept of Bildung to artistic practices and draws the concept’s historical
developments, according to fluctuating cultural approaches. According
to Varkøy (2015), the very core of Bildung “is a critical attitude towards
tendencies of instrumentalism in educational politics and thinking”
(p. 19). But what happens when the arts achieve the role of an agent
of/for learning in schools or organisations?
Creative Transgressions
The application of the arts in education adds one more layer of complexity to the theme of transgression in the arts: in which ways do the
educational role change, modify or wipes off the core element of transgression implicit in artistic practices? Is transgression an inherent ontological element of art-making and art-appreciation? In other words, are
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 25
art practices inherently dissident or provocative? In order to further
reflect on these questions, the field of creativity studies can suggest useful perspectives.
Creativity experts have in various ways suggested that different forms
of subversion could be the drive of creativity, or that some transgressive elements might constitute the intrinsic and socially accepted “dark
side” of creativity (Cropley et al. 2010). The transgressive element of
creation is vibrant in the diehard myths of the lonely individual who
creates by means of extraordinary sufferings and exceptional achievements. Creativity studies have shown how misleading these views on
creative processes are, and how these processes are actually always collective, shared, relational and distributed (Chemi 2016). However, a
certain level of transgression is always included in creative processes:
the very need of creating something new is based on the action of
breaking with the old and proposing novel solutions or ideas. In artistic practices, this disruption is not only accepted but also fundamentally expected. Regardless the view on the artist, either as lonely and
desperate creator or as an ordinary craftsman, the exceeding of limits
is implicit in the renewal of artistic forms. The arts seem to embrace
the values of transgression as no other human form of expression.
Empirical evidence for this claim resides in the history of the arts: no
genealogy of artistic idea lacks processes going beyond limits and the
challenge to preceding values and rules. The very core of artistic creativity is to find novel and appropriate solutions to novel and appropriate
problems. By doing so, the arts might stretch their tasks and methods
so far as to end up redefining itself, its purpose, its domain and its field.
What is accepted in the arts can be independent of canons commonly
shared in a given society (e.g. ethical rules) and even field-agreed criteria in a specific domain (e.g. the rules of staging theatre plays)? In
the case of cultural practices that expect artists to transgress, expectations may also comprise the rethinking of and within artistic practices. Because one of the functions of artistic creativity is to challenge
the established rules within a field and reinvent new rules, breaking or
bending the rules is not only accepted as part of artistic creativity but
also expected and nurtured. This is clear in improvisational practices in
theatre or in jazz.
26 T. Chemi
Breaking or Making the Rules
According to Dewey “every great initiator in art breaks down some barrier that had previously been supposed to be inherent” (2005, p. 235).
This does not mean that artistic creation rejects rules, on the contrary:
artists rely on rules and limitations in order to work with and against
chaos and unpredictability. Danish visual artist Michael Kvium explicitly describes the paradox of operating between disorder and structure:
But there are always limitations! We are struggling with them all the time
because there are constantly some things you’d like to do and that you
cannot. There are always some things you want to achieve that you cannot reach far enough into. It is also the driving force because it goes on
and goes on and nothing succeeds sometimes. The limit is one’s own life,
one’s intelligence, one’s own energy. You encounter limitations all the
time: the size of your workshop is a limitation, the choice of colour is a
limitation, the choice of brushes, in my case, the possibilities of the hand,
the possibilities of thoughts. Otherwise we would suddenly hit into a
divine state if we were without restrictions. We are defined by constraints
both as humans, but also as artists and most likely it is the reason we can
recognise each other. (Chemi et al. 2015, p. 110)
Other artists in Chemi et al. (2015) express the fundamental role of
rules and rules-setting in their creative work. They explain it as a necessary step towards the creation of appropriate novelty. In order to break
the rules, you need rules to deal with. The mentioned study emphasises
the dialectic rules/transgression as fundamental to the artists’ apprenticeship and identity-building in the journey towards artistic professionalism. Navigating between the two poles will indeed become central to
their artistic practice as professional artists. How this can be learned in
formal settings is less clear.
Learning Transgression
Theatre director Eugenio Barba challenges the educational role of formal
and informal learning environments when creativity is the desired output:
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 27
What is the enemy of creativity? It’s what we learn in school and in our
family. We teach our children to be mediocre, to avoid excess. For parents, the worst thing is a child [who is] too lively, who reads too much,
who doesn’t speak too much, too shy. Or anything which is in excess
and then we try to make him normal. Normality is what we wish for our
child. (Chemi et al. 2015, p. 65)
He rejects conformism, compliance of thoughts and shallow ordinariness. According to Barba, standardised conformity to norms can kill
creativity. In contrast to this, he mentions the creative environment
where his own creativity flourishes and thrives, a place where he creates together with others, in a team, his ensemble through 50 years the
Odin Teatret. He says: “As an individual I don’t feel very creative, while
with my actors, and my collaborators from other specialisations in the
theatre, I feel very, not creative, but I feel strong in this feeling of security” (Chemi et al. 2015, p. 66). Odin Teatret gives him the feeling (and
practice) of being creative, which he does not believe, he possess when
he is alone as a single individual. The educational environment that is
stimulating for him is the ensemble, the learning that happens together
with colleagues and from each other. Only in this environment, he is
able to get the feeling, if not of creativity, of trust in the process and in
each other, which is fundamental for his own creation.
If the transgression is almost ontologically related to the arts and if
historical examples of Avant-Garde, Modernist and Postmodernist artistic practices show that transgression is fundamental to the making of
(novel and meaningful) art, how can this be taught or learned? How can
educational institutions embrace this potentially disruptive ideology?
The Arts Applied to Learning
An instrumentality that in pragmatic educational theories is not a problem at all (Dewey 2005) is strongly opposed in discourses that look at
the purpose of the arts as secluded in themselves: the longstanding
refrain of the arts for arts’ sake. The relevance of a deeper reflection on
the role of the arts in education has recently had an impressive comeback
in Denmark because recent changes in the public school system (K16)
28 T. Chemi
have brought about an interesting debate on the role of the arts in education. The discourses opposing to each other in this debate might offer
an opportunity for reflection to be applied also in higher educational or
organisational fields. One of the changes actualised in the Danish school
reform in 2014 is the “Open School”, which aims at implementing
stronger relationships and collaborations between schools and cultural
institutions or initiatives. This context is hosting a number of school–
artist partnerships but also a warm debate whether the arts should be
instrumental to learning or not. Some scholars (Hjortshøj 2015)
strongly contribute to this debate by claiming that the arts should not
teach students any topics, for instance, math or physics, but should only
teach them something about themselves. I believe that opposite claims
can coexist in a system view of artistic purposiveness that embraces complexity or, alternatively, in postcolonial understandings of third spaces.
The link between aesthetics and learning is at the core of the transgressive quality of creativity but also at the core of instrumental use of
the arts for purposes that are not aesthetic. The gap art/learning can be
bridged by looking at the intrinsic intentionality of artistic processes
as one of the many different functions, roles and elements of the arts.
Making and appreciating art are different but related activities of a common participation in artistic experiences. Both activities are intentional:
recipients and art-makers expose themselves to artworks in often ritualised, institutionalised and agreed-upon forms. Postmodern art-forms
challenge this intentionality in practices that are emergent, such as street
art, happenings and street performance. However, also in these artforms, art-making is intentional from the artist’s side and recipients can
always turn away from art reception, even in these unexpected or serendipitous experiences.
Making art contains intentionality: artists—not even amateurs—cannot
make art by chance… “ups, I made some art!” The activation of artistic
processes is always intentional to a project, which can be fuzzy, blurred
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 29
and complex but always defined by artistic choices and visions. In its
extreme application to a given context, intentionality can turn into
instrumentality. In this case, art can be instrumental to learning, leadership, management, communication, propaganda, expression of power,
self-expression, therapy, pleasure, arousal and so forth. This long list
only mentions some of the infinite functions that the arts can regard.
What is missing in the debate that is opposing the arts to learning or
to any other instrumental end is thinking about the arts in their plurality. The arts are and have a multiplicity of different, complex, sometimes contradictory or simultaneously occurring elements, roles and
functions. Reducing the arts to only one of them would risk trivialising
the beauty and meaningfulness of the arts that consists in this intrinsic
complexity and diversity. Learning and development is one of the possible trajectories in which the arts can unfold, as well as transgressive purposes can be a mode of artistic expression. The two phenomena might
seem opposed because in the former, the arts are used instrumentally
to learning outputs and in the latter, the transgression paradigm might
seem as being part of the arts’ sake. The former model implies transmission of (often old) knowledge and traditions, the latter instead implies
the breaking of established rules and old traditions. These paradigms are
only apparently opposed, as several artistic practices show: Brecht’s epic
theatre is politically transgressive but contains the instrumental purpose
of developing critical consciousness in its recipients, Banksy’s street art
transgresses aesthetic rules but at the same time seeks to challenge perspectives and opinions, pop stars challenge ethics and moral but at the
same time might be coherent with developmental outputs (e.g. they
might teach us something about ourselves). Danish visual artist Michael
Kvium claims that artists are often “willing to venture into places that
do not necessarily make life easier” (in Chemi et al. 2015, p. 130) and
protests that making life easier is not the purpose of arts: “art doesn’t
do that”. The function of art is not necessarily to generate or express
positive feelings (or learning), because art is essentially research, is an
inquiry, is an open—and open-ended—venture in the unknown. Art
resists to all sort of instrumental reduction to a single purpose, but not
to instrumentality in itself.
30 T. Chemi
Summing up the conceptual points so far, I can point at the diversity of
purposes and roles of artistic experiences that are often qualified by the
opposition paradigms: transgression versus conformism, autonomy versus instrumentalisation and arts versus learning. However, it is possible
to look beyond the antagonism paradigm by drawing from educational
and artistic theories that are pragmatic and constructivist. According to
constructivism, meaning depends on the subject’s understanding, and
learning occurs in complex interactions between subjects. Pragmatism
stretches the construction of knowledge to the understanding of learning as directly applicable to practical needs and as fundamentally
Historically, Modernity is the cradle of utilitarian reflections on
art. Initiated as an opposition to idealism and as the dissemination of
Bolshevik or postrevolutionary aesthetics, Avant-Garde practices built
on utilitarianism and constructivism aimed from one side “at the dissolution of art into life”, on the other side at “the aestheticization of
life itself ” (Harrison and Wood 2003, p. 225). In this cultural project, true art is the one that educates and that educates all, not just a
privileged elite. The utilitarian approach to art is initiated against the
background of the ideals of openness, inclusion, democracy and participation. Even though this socially aware approach presented itself
as an alternative to idealism, it is possible to draw similarities between
the utilitarian aesthetics and Platonism. Plato’s undermining of the arts
as an imperfect copy of (true) reality had the consequence of relegating the arts to mimetic activities that could be potentially disturbing to
human beings: believing in false representations of reality was deceiving for the wise man. Plato understood aesthetics as an epistemological
project that had its source in philosophy. Even though he distinguishes
and opposes art and philosophy, according to Grey (1952), he comes to
“assert that art is philosophy; but on the other hand, the political and
educative function of art will not belong to the philosopher qua philosopher, but to the philosopher qua pilot or guide” (p. 295). However
imperfect, art in Platonism is called upon a fundamental role: the morally uplifting function and the educational one. Grey (1952) emphasises
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 31
Plato’s approach to art in Republic (passage 401B seq.), where he formulates the core concept that “true art must be like a ‘health-giving breeze
from happy places’ […]. True art will imitate only what is morally uplifting” (p. 295). In other words, the arts should be useful and emotionally
pleasing at the same time. This particular interpretation of utilitarianism as at the same time aesthetic and moral, tightly binding beauty and
goodness, has been a recurrent attitude throughout antiquity and in
Platonism, Neo-Platonism and Classicism. An example is Horace’s Ars
Poetica, Epistula ad Pisones (written ca. 19 BC), where the purpose of
art is clearly pedagogical by means of pleasurable experiences: art mixes
the useful to the sweet (miscuit utile dulci ) by entertaining and teaching
(delectando pariterque monendo ) (Horace, 343-4).
This utilitarian view on the arts, instrumental to educational purposes is common to both platonic idealism and to Bolshevik AvantGardes. The moral values and the political undertaking might radically
change, but the acknowledgement of the application of the arts to nonartistic contexts or to explicitly educational purposes does not change.
In different ways, also the disruptive Futurist-Dada Avant-Gardes, contributed to the instrumental application of the arts to real-life contexts,
even trying to wipe off the very divide art/life. Considering how diverse
artistic practices and ideologies end up advocating for the educational
application of art, it might be possible to suggest that utilitarianism and
instrumentalism might be some of the likely functions that the arts can
hold in society. Utilitarianism might be one of the elements of the very
ontology of art.
The Construction of Learning
Similarly to utilitarianism in the arts, constructivist and pragmatist
theories of learning embrace practices that are experiential across
boundaries, constructed, situated and applied to given contexts.
Against the background of this ideological commonality, constructivist educational theories have explicitly valued the arts as an environment rich with learning opportunities and experiences. Here, I wish
to bring the example of John Dewey and his reflections on the arts
32 T. Chemi
(2005) as an example of how the instrumental application of the arts
in education does not necessarily obliterate the transgressive potential
of the arts.
In Dewey’s version of pragmatism, to which constructivism owes
much, the instrumentalism of education and learning is not only
acceptable, but a fact implicit in any learning process. Dewey’s
reflection, as the Modernist Avant-Gardes reaction against bourgeois
elitism, takes a clear stand against the public school tradition of
his time and the ideal of the making of the gentleman. According
to Hyland (1993, p. 90), “owing something to the Confucian
conception which associated a particular style and etiquette with
a hierarchical social system, the ‘gentleman ideal’ emerged as the
approved form of education for the public schools which fed the civil
service and government”.
The standard form of classical formal education nurtured the
most powerful political and economic groups in British society with
accordingly shaped minds. In this case, the non-instrumental conception of knowledge extended its influence on the very design of
educational formal environments, by valuing academic generalists against the shaping of vocational specialisation. Dewey, whose
epistemology relied on anti-Cartesianism, similarly to C. S. Peirce
and William James, could not ascribe neither to this pedagogical philosophy nor to its didactic solutions. He envisaged an educational
system where organisms interacted actively with their environment
and were at the same time they were shaped by these interactions.
Going beyond the limits of Cartesian oppositions, Dewey proposes to teach for and to a whole human being who actively constructs knowledge and understanding, together with other organisms
and artefacts, by means of experiences. However, experiences do
not stand alone as blind practice, but are one element of Dewey’s
broader conception of enquiry: the pursuit of knowledge is to be
conducted as personal discovery based on the learner’s interest and
on a direct relevance to the learner’s life. No wonder Dewey found in
artistic experiences the complex and diverse environment that could
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 33
stimulate human enquiry and offer, accordingly to the organism’s
specific needs, either resistance and obstacles or favouring agencies in
order to harvest learning.
As qualitative findings on school–artists partnerships show (Chemi
2014a), the arts can design environments where challenges and competences can dialogically interact. As an example, I can mention the
community project described in Chemi (2014a), where a whole school
engagement with a professional visual artist brought school kids to
paint collaboratively on street installations. The challenges in this project seemed to be low: the students had to “just” paint on the wood
panels that the artist had prepared with drawings. The artist had also
decided which colours to use and the students had “just” to find the
right colours accordingly coded to numbers on the wood panels. Even
though the task-related challenges seemed to be too simple, students
reported in interviews and showed in field observation a big deal of
engagement, understanding of medium and painting techniques, collaborative competences, understanding of aesthetic criteria, fascination
for artistic processes, pride in looking at and showing of the final product. In other words, the participating students reported a positive influence on a wide range of developmental areas that stretch far beyond the
limits of subject-related learning or memorisation. Their learning processes were based on the individual (cognitive and emotional) capacity
to put up with challenges and were facilitated by means of peer interaction, adult modelling and scaffolding, the offer of a variety of tasks with
different levels of involvement and of difficulty, the meaningfulness
of the public display in community spaces. Even though the painting
activities gently pushed learners out of their comfort zone, the designed
learning environment allowed the artistic encounter to initiate a safe
enquiry, and as such was reported in interviews (feeling of safeness, joy,
well-being, Chemi 2014a). A conceptual hypothesis for this might be
that transgression and instrumentality in artistic experiences are not
opposite but rather strictly related to each other. The hybrid interaction
between the challenging transgression of limits and the organism’s strategies of coping is individually constructed, and this construction (of
34 T. Chemi
meaning, of knowledge, of understanding) is in itself the core of any
learning process.
Two Sides of the Same Paradigm
The ongoing relationship of the transgression/instrumentality paradigms can be explained as two concurring sides of the same phenomenon by looking at systemic perspectives on artistic creativity.
Csikszentmihalyi (1996) explains creative transgressions as cyclical,
contextual and negotiable amongst individuals, fields and domains.
With the purpose of approaching creativity not only as a psychological
but also as a sociocultural phenomenon, Csikszentmihalyi conceived the
domain-field-individual theory.
In this perspective, creativity occurs in the interaction between individuals, field (a group of individuals in a specific domain who are in
charge of accepting or rejecting a creative feature) and domain (the values, explicit and implicit rules, shared practices, procedures). Creativity
can be triggered at the individual level, in a case of talented persons or
geniuses, but happens in a dialogue between individual and field (role
models, critics, mentors, peers). In the case of an extraordinarily creative individual able to create a groundbreaking product, the field’s gatekeepers (exceptionally influential individuals within a field) might open
up the doors of a domain, securing accessibility to domain transformation. This means that any talented individual needs a network of relationships and influences to flourish and thrive as a creator. According
to Csikszentmihalyi, any creative process is conceived and developed
within a community: “creativity is not the product of single individuals,
but of social systems making judgments about individuals’ products”
(1999, p. 314).
Implicit in this perspective is the chronological dimension and the
cultural complexity of the relationship to creativity through time, the
recurring of the same patterns of acceptance and rejection of transgressions that can become game-changing rules. “Creativity occurs when a
person makes a change in a domain, a change that will be transmitted
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 35
through time” (Csikszentmihalyi 1999, p. 315) and the understanding of change or originality is highly variable, given specific sociocultural conditions. Taking the arts as an example, the artistic domains
might grow ready to accept or embrace a given change (Nakamura and
Csikszentmihalyi 2003, pp. 188–189) but as well reject the changes.
Artistic creativity never happens in a void and Csikszentmihalyi’s
three areas of interest—personal background (individual), culture
(domain) and society (field)—are themselves included in and influenced by society at large. Moreover, the relationships in between are
most likely to occur in chaotic, complex and reciprocal trajectories.
For instance, an artistic product can be perceived as groundbreaking,
on the verge of being provocative or offensive, in a specific period of
time (Impressionist painting at its debut), until a gatekeeper (an art
critic) or a group of gatekeepers (the organisers of the first Impressionist
exhibition) finds it interesting and valuable. The provocative nature of
Impressionism is today lost and the function of provocation has been
variously reinvented within other painting styles. As theatre director Eugenio Barba pointed out: “You were hanged, you were burned
300 years ago if you said that you could fly or that human beings
could fly, because it was an offence against the angels and God. The
Inquisition came and told us that it was a Satanic way of thinking […],
it took a little time” (Chemi et al. 2015, p. 48).
The interactions between individuals and groups tend to be dynamic
and recurrent; for instance, individuals can be part of one or more
fields, and at the same time, they are part of society at large, which
also influences the dynamics within fields and domains. In this sense,
gatekeepers can be both individuals within a domain-specific field but
also the general public in a given sociocultural context or a combination of those. In the arts, this would mean that a jazz musician who is
part of the domain of jazz music and whose colleagues and recipients
participate to the field of jazz music is at the same time involved in relationships with other fields, for instance, the field of rock music or the
field of the general public. A jazz musician might choose to transgress
the rules of his domain proper and engage in a conversation with other
music genres and practices or with other artistic modalities.
36 T. Chemi
The Transgression and Value of Novelty
Novelty often emerges from excursions in other domains, in mixing and
blending and in stealing and borrowing. But how is this coherent with
an educational purpose? How can this resistance against the borders of
domains be integrated into education and organisations without being
First of all, looking at Csikszentmihalyi’s (1999) system perspective,
would it be possible to acknowledge that transgression is nothing but
a negotiable label. Whether the arts are transgressive or not depends
on the negotiation occurring amongst members of or participants in a
given field (classical musicians and recipients) within a given context
(today’s society) and domain (classical music). This might not even
occur in a single domain closed in itself, but across different fields and
domains in a multiplicity of influences and negotiations.
Second, the negotiation of labels (transgressive, creative and acknowledged) is recursive. In other words, something labelled transgressive in
a given historical period is not necessarily what is understood as transgressive in other historical periods. This is extremely plain to explain by
looking at how the arts challenge moral values or sexual orientations:
just looking at nudity in the visual or performing arts and how this has
developed accordingly to ideologies and religious believes, it would be
enough to understand the recurrent and cyclical occurrence of specific
Third, specific for transgression is the need of overcoming frames.
According to Csikszentmihalyi’s (1999) model, boundaries move all the
time and this challenges the transgression strategy in the arts.
When former transgressive forms of art, for instance, the Impressionist
painting, become a tradition and establish new rules in the domain, then
a whole new form of transgression is needed. This form of transgression
will stay transgressive as long as the field understands its function as such.
Last but not least, what are educational institutions and organisations
to do in order to make room for transgression? How can they use the
arts for learning and development without annihilating the transgressive part? Why should education and organisations be concerned about
transgression at all?
Transgressive or Instrumental? A Paradigm for the Arts as … 37
Finding an answer to these last questions will constitute my conclusion
and my proposed perspective. I will start from the bottom. The ability to go beyond borders is basically a creative process. Breaking with
the known, as transgression does, brings new angles that can lead to the
definition of the novel and useful outcomes. So, transgression is fundamental to creativity and new-thinking. In some creativity traditions, the
definition of creativity brings together the novelty, originality, transgressive with the applicable, useful and adaptive (Feist 2010).
The arts practice this unity of novelty and usefulness in a plurality
of coexisting functions, which all have a purpose: even the arts for art’s
sake, has the function (“for”) of unfolding the aesthetic purpose of the
arts. All the artistic functions coexist in a complex and safe network.
So, my proposed paradigm consists of looking at artistic transgression
in formal institutions, such as organisations or education, as one of the
functions in the arts, acknowledging the arts’ plurality. If the transgression is seen as one of the many functions in the arts, organisations and
educational systems might reflect on the contexts in which transgression is needed, accepted or required and design spaces and situations
where borders can be broken safely. This initial acknowledgment of plurality and reflection on the context of the application is fundamental to
the educational consequences of arts-based interventions: lacking this,
the arts can be seen as belonging to only one paradigm as opposed to
all the others. This attitude brings a conflict mindset where the arts are
seen as transgressive or educational, expressive or instrumental, where
in reality, the arts contain all of this: both transgression and learning,
both expression and instrumental use. So, what educational systems
and organisations should do in order to embrace the transgressivity of the arts is to engage in reflections on the plurality of arts functions and purposes, to reflect on the contexts of work where the arts
are required, to design educational and developmental situations where
individuals can safely transgress, that is spaces where making mistakes
is allowed and does not bring life-threatening consequences. Last but
not least, the partnership between the arts and organisations or education requires a paradigm shift by looking at the arts as networks of
38 T. Chemi
a plurality of functions and not mono-functional activities. This paradigm shift would entail going beyond sat ideologies about the arts, or,
in other words, transgressing the boundaries of ideological arenas where
views on the arts fight against each other destructively.
One possible framework applicable to this perspective is the postcolonial theories (Wolf 2000) concept of third spaces, which can be defined
as the alternative to either/or perspectives in cultural domains. The space
of art might be a third space: the space of possibilities that go beyond
borderlines, the third alternative, which is not a synthesis of two opposing
poles but the coexistence of oppositions. The third space is the locus of a
“dialogic process that attempts to track displacements and realignments
that are the effects of cultural antagonisms and articulations – subverting
the rationale of the hegemonic moment and relocating alternative, hybrid
sites of cultural negotiation” (Bhabha 1994, p. 178). According to Varkøy
(2015), postcolonial perspectives might contribute to extending the very
concept of usefulness by giving space to generative paradoxes, such as the
usefulness of uselessness (p. 26).
Utilitarianism might be an element of the ontology of art as well as
(and side by side) transgression. The ontology of art might not reside
in the one or the other, but rather in the pulsating diversity and on the
coexistence of multiple, often contradictory and paradoxical, functions
and constituting elements. In this way, the arts resist definite, conclusive, one-directional interpretations and practices, but the plurality of
artistic functions might allow us to look at artistic experiences as the
possible playground of the creative construction of knowledge. This is
how the arts might constantly renew themselves and how they might
systematically cultivate (and educate to) the generation of meaningful
novelty, that is to creativity.
Acknowledgments The origin of this chapter is a paper submitted to the
EGOS conference in Naples, Italy, 2016. I am grateful to the participants of
the Sub-theme Transitional Spaces and Practices in Organizations. Questioning
the Powers of Art and Design, for having contributed to the development of the
essential concepts in the paper that led to the present reformulation.
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Theatre in Military Education:
Play and Reality
Kristian Firing, Kåre Inge Skarsvåg and Odin Fauskevåg
Military education has a long tradition of exercises where the purpose is
to give the participants experiences of situations close to the real Theatre
of War. During some of these exercises, a theatre is used as the context,
with two functions: to mirror the Theatre of War, on the one hand,
and to give educational experiences, on the other. According to Dewey,
such exercises encompass scripted and non-scripted events, coexisting
K. Firing (*) · K.I. Skarsvåg 
Department of Leadership, The Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy,
Trondheim, Norway
K.I. Skarsvåg
O. Fauskevåg 
Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
42 K. Firing et al.
and developing with the intention of providing a context within which
the participants can construct experiences to learn from (Dewey 1980).
One may even wonder whether such theatre-based exercises are able to
bridge the gap between the exercise as theatre and the real Theatre of
War; not only mirroring, but providing real experiences of war.
One example of such experience-based exercises, operated by the
Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy, is based on a dynamic scenario, a
rich script, a large number of parties and a variety of cases. The cadets,
taking the role as UN officers solving a UN mission, face other actors
playing roles ranging from refugees to terrorists. In one of these exercises, the following took place: suddenly, while in the restroom, assuming that this was a safe base, one of the counter players seized the
initiative to steal the cadet’s gun. The cadet experienced the event in this
The incident with the weapon is what I think is one hundred percent
real. What happens, the feelings I have, the feelings the others have
and the way the others respond to me. All that was not a part of the
game. And it was something that occurred along the way where one person saw an opportunity. But that also makes it so genuine. In this case, I
was in the middle of it, I was the “centre of attention” and everything was
focused on me and I was responsible for everything that happened. And
in addition, it was as if I tried to turn on and off switches, but it didn’t
work. It was as if in this way I was trying to remove myself from the situation. Whatever I did, I was in the middle of that situation. So, it was
really intense at the time, a very difficult situation. It felt really heavy, and
wouldn’t stop, that’s the problem with that particular day, the shame just
continues. Then I hear that there’ll be a parade. It feels like as though you
are participating in the Hunger Games, the game is dynamic and alive,
and the game is against you all the time.
The cadets’ experiences and narratives are the crux of this research on
military exercises and are what explains the real dimension of the exercise. Drawing on Gadamer, we explore the idea of exercises as theatre
through the concept of play (Gadamer 2004). During play, different
possibilities for the construction of experience are disclosed. We can
invoke a distinction between experiences that are mainly practical and
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 43
experiences based on being playful, where the players are subjected
to the world as it unfolds. In this playful mode, the complete absorption in the exercise, the exercise can no longer be understood as only
being associated with either war or education, but with experiences that
bridge the two contexts (Dewey 1980).
The aim of this study was to explore how theatre-based exercises,
through their authenticity, may bridge the gap between the real Theatre
of War and exercises as educational situations from which participants
can develop experiences and learning. Bearing such an aim in mind,
before looking more closely into the current study, we would like to
elaborate on such concepts as “Theatre of War”, “Military Education
and Exercises”, “Education Through Theatre” and “Theatre as Play”.
Theatre of War
Colonel John Warden defines the Theatre of War as follows:
“Depending on the goals of the war, the theatre may extend from the
front to the enemy’s heartland or the theatre may be a relatively isolated
area” (Warden 1989, 4).
The concept of Theatre of War has evolved historically. In 1030,
when Saint Olav was fighting local warlords at Stiklestad in Norway,
the Theatre of War was literally that place: Stiklestad. During the First
World War, the king was at home, the generals were far behind the
front, while the forces were at the front lines. There was a great distance
between them: geographically, mentally, politically and militarily. It
was also a war that involved the whole community. The Theatre of War
encompassed almost everything.
After the Cold War, the concept of war changed from what was the
fear of “a total war” to “a war of choice” (McInnes 2002). Western states
can view war from a distance and choose to participate in the war with
professional soldiers a minimum of risk. McInnes argues that for some
Western societies, war has lost its direct meaning and for too many has
become a kind of spectator sport (McInnes 2002).
For most people in Western democracies today, war is not something that affects their everyday life. We assume that very few people in
44 K. Firing et al.
Norway feel that the war in Afghanistan has had any impact on their
lives. The same can be said about the Norwegian participation in Libya.
For most people, these wars were something you read about in the newspaper and watched on television. The Theatre of War was, to a lesser
extent, about Afghanistan or Libya, but was mainly driven by politics
and alliances, influenced from Brussels (NATO) and Washington (USA).
One can argue that for most people in Western democracies today,
the modern Theatre of War has become a distant and abstract phenomenon. However, for the military troops serving in the operations,
distance is not an option. This poses a challenge to military education
which needs to build a bridge into this Theatre of War.
Military Education and Exercises
Officers face unpredictable, complex, dynamic and stressful situations
in which they are to demonstrate judgment and make decisions to fulfil
their mission and take care of their soldiers. Officers must both follow
standard operating procedures and depend on their own judgment. In
some cases, when placed in the person–situation interaction (Mischel
2004), officers may even need to improvise and use their creativity as
the situation unfolds. This has given birth to dynamic exercises as an
important activity in the education at the Royal Norwegian Air Force
During the Cold War, exercises largely involved the drilling of
basic military skills, such as marching, shooting and providing first
aid. Recently, however, military exercises have become more dynamic.
According to Dewey, we can argue that the military offers both activityand experience-based exercises. Activity-based exercises are set up as a
theatre for which the script is fixed and communication mostly follows
a transitive mode. An example of this is shorter exercises where two or
three cases are addressed in the course of one day. Here the overall context is less important; each case has its own intention when it comes to
the cadets’ learning. Experience-based exercises, however, offer a variety
of situations in line with experience-based learning (Dewey 1961). Such
exercises are set up as a theatre in which the script often develops into
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 45
interaction and transaction between participants, a process in which
scripted and non-scripted events coexist and develop. This praxis is
heavily based on education through theatre.
Education Through Theatre
Experience-based exercises try to build a bridge between the theatre as
an educational situation and the real Theatre of War and its purposes
and content. To explain this, the educational function of theatre will be
elaborated on briefly.
There is a long tradition of using the theatre as an educational arena.
The birth of the theatre was in approximately 400 (BC). The Greeks
used the theatre, with all its didactic elements, to share their experiences
from the war fought at the front far away from the city (the origin of
the Greek Tragedy). In 1594, the Theatre of Science was founded in
Italy under the concept of “anatomic theatre”. This performance consisted of humans and animals being dissected on a table in the middle
of the room, while the audience was seated in a semicircle around the
table. This anatomic theatre was established as a mandatory part of physicians’ education worldwide and was the catalyst for professors using
visual effects, techniques and surprise in their teaching of their audiences (Krejberg et al. 2010).
Science Theatre is a phenomenon at the intersection of theatre, science, learning and communication (Chemi and Kastberg 2015, 57). We
can address this in addition to three communication paradigms as outlined below:
•Transmission. Communication as transmission is seen as a linear
process from a “sender” to a “receiver”—that is, communication is a
matter of the sender transmitting a message to a receiver. This can
have a monographic focus or thematic focus.
• Interaction. Communication as interaction can be first said to occur
when the receiver—in one way or another—has reached out to the
sender and/or the message. This can be play-based, dramaturgy-based
or museum dramatisation.
46 K. Firing et al.
• Transaction. Communication as transaction no longer questions the
sender’s or the receiver’s action or reaction, but is a matter of cooperation. Communication only occurs if both sender and receiver cooperatively construct and co-create meaning, a common reality.
As discussed in the previous section, military exercises may encompass
all three above-mentioned communication forms. But to build the
bridge between the exercise as educational situations and the Theatre of
War, the question is how the exercises may reach beyond the transmission-based level of communication into an interaction-based and even a
transaction-based mode of communication. This question addresses the
concept of play, a concept we will explore further below.
Theatre as Play
How can the theatre, or the play, bridge the gap to reality? Drawing on
the work of Gadamer, we explore “theatre as play” through such concepts as “the player”, “playing” and “the play” (Gadamer 2004).
Participating in a play, the “player” enters into a mystery. From one
angle, a play or a theatre is fictional, something not real. But to be a
player, one has to take the play seriously. Anyone not taking the game
seriously is spoiling it. Part of the assumption of the play is that the
player should be playing. Taking the play seriously implies accepting the
rules and norms governing the play, for example the particular role one
has in the play. The player is thus stepping into a context where his or
her actions and utterances are given a particular meaning. Taken seriously, this meaning is not “only” something fictitious. It also has some
dimension of reality for the players. As Goffman points out, the performer can be taken in by his own act, on the one hand, or he can be
cynical about it, on the other. However, “if a performance is to come
off, the witnesses by and large must be able to believe that the performers are sincere. This is the structural place of sincerity of the drama of
event” (Goffman 1990, 77). The structure and the sincerity are what
mediate the player.
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 47
In the “playing”, the to-and-fro motion of play develops in its own
right. Playing seriously is about being played by the play: “Play fulfils
its purpose only if the player loses himself in play” (Gadamer 2004,
103). The subject of the game has changed from the player to the game
itself. The primordial sense of playing is the medial one, playing is about
being played. The player can only play himself out by transforming the
aims of his behaviour into the tasks of the game (Gadamer 2004, 107).
Together with others, or on one’s own, whoever “tries” is in fact the one
who is tried. Losing oneself in the play, renouncing authority as a subject, opens the possibilities of developing new experiences and new ways
of relating to reality.
In this way, “the play” itself, the play as a whole, becomes the quality
of representing something real. The play emerges as a medium where
the players can make real experiences about themselves. This is possible
because the play is not defined by a predefined, fixed script to which
the players are subordinated. Instead, the play comes into being only
through the players. Through the playing, the reality of play emerges.
What holds the player within its spell, what draws him into the play
and keeps him there, is the game itself, the reality created in the process
of playing. In this way, the play has become real; it has evolved into
structure (Gadamer 2004, 110). In this reality, the players no longer
exist as independent subjects, but exist in terms of what they are playing. In the act of playing—as players submerged in playing—new
meaning and new dimensions of reality are disclosed for the players.
Theatre as Play is one way of realising Dewey’s communication
as transaction in theatre-based exercise. Here, the play becomes the
medium where communication that co-creates a shared meaningful
reality takes place. That is, in the process of playing, the play constitutes
its own reality and its own context of meaning. In this context, wherever the player acts and expresses him- or herself, new ways of experiencing freedom or of being a subject may be possible. This is explored
in the play and may become a transactional experience. Theatre-based
exercises are therefore not to be understood only as fictitious theatre,
they also contain real dimensions, and this makes transactional experiences possible. Dewey argues that with its playful attitude, through a
48 K. Firing et al.
transformation, the play serves the purpose of a developing experience
(Dewey 1980, 279). In this way, theatre-based exercises, understood in
terms of the concept of play, enable a bridging of the gap between the
exercise as theatre and the real Theatre of War.
The Current Study
This study, conducted at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy,
examined elements of the three-year-long leader education programme
at the bachelor’s degree level. The Academy has based its education programmes on the concept of learning from experience (Dewey 1961;
Luftforsvarsstaben [AirForceStaff] 1995). The Academy’s educational
philosophy has been built on three pillars: theory, practical training and
reflection (Firing and Laberg 2010), where the practical training mostly
takes place within military exercises.
The context of the study was a theatre-based exercise in which the
cadets participated in a theatre together with actors, directors and
coaches in order to learn. The cadets organised themselves so they could
work on solving a UN mission. Other actors played roles as refugees,
the press, landowners, farmers, police, military and terrorists. The exercise theatre staff facilitated the scenario and developed the play on an
ongoing basis. The cadets participated in the one-week-long exercise
and were the subjects of an overarching scenario and a large number of
cases, some scripted and others created at the moment of interaction or
transaction. During the exercise, the cadets underwent reflection processes, writing and coaching processes through which they shared their
thoughts and emotions in groups to develop experiences that they could
learn from.
The aim of this study was to explore how theatre-based exercises,
through their authenticity, may bridge the gap between the real Theatre
of War and exercises serving as educational situations from which participants can develop experiences and learning. We accomplished
this by investigating one theatre-based exercise in which we aimed to
explore intimacy between theatre, play and experiences of learning
among military cadets training to be leaders. Our research question was:
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 49
How did the cadets experience the exercise “Leadership in Operational
Environment” from a learning perspective?
With the context being given and the aim being to explore how one
theatre-based exercise contributed to learning, we chose a narrative
approach. The participants were 44 cadets from the Royal Norwegian
Air Force Academy. Data gathered for this study included observation,
research field notes and interviews. Of the 44 cadets, 12 were asked to
participate in further exploration through interviews. The study was
approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) in 2016.
Based on this data, all of which centred around the cadets’ experiences during the exercises, four narratives were developed to explore
the learning process taking place: (1) Mass Demonstration, (2) Platoon
Leader, (3) Toilet Fight and (4) Lost Gun.
Four Narratives
The upcoming narratives are unique as they literally mirror certain
cadets’ lived-through experiences from the exercise. To maintain the
authenticity of the experience, this involves verbatim extracts from
the interviews that were held shortly after the exercise. However, even
though the narratives are unique, they stand out as prototypes of experiences from the exercise.
The Mass Demonstration
The cadets’ actions in the theatre inconvenienced locals in the Midland
area and even caused some casualties. The theatre staff used this actual
situation to initiate a Mass Demonstration involving about 50 people
acting in an extremely provocative way, shouting and throwing milk
and juice at the cadets (Firing and Laberg 2010, p. 235). This was experienced as follows:
The situation was escalating. I felt like… thinking that if I was allowed to
go over there it would be to wreak as much damage as possible. These were
50 K. Firing et al.
really my thoughts, to be completely honest. And then it would be like,
not punches, but pushing as hard as I could. So, we go on moving onetwo, moving two steps at a time. Got close to them. Then we’re there. And
then we’re ordered one-two again. I go two and then I go three, four, five
steps. And I suddenly realise, and also from my side; halt! I’m almost alone
up there. Just standing there. Then it had boiled over for me really. I went
back. And I told the person who was behind me; if we’re allowed to go
forward then you have to hold me back. You have to grab me like this, I
can’t hear anything. For some reason when I get going, I’m just going. So,
then I let myself completely loose. I don’t think anything happened. No
one was hurt. If I had been allowed to go, I would certainly have done
some damage.
I let myself be really provoked by the flour throwing. And then thoughts
of revenge hit you. My focus drifted away from the assignment, which
is to de-escalate. I’d rather go on and escalate. I wanted to fight. So, I
started to work against the assignment. I completely lost focus. If I get
too hot under the collar, I lose my grip totally. But, to a certain extent, I
managed to calm down. And then someone said to me that I had to hold
back so I wouldn’t break up the formation completely.
As we can see from this extract, the cadet was really fired up by this
dynamic event. Our interpretation is that the cadet was susceptible to
the social forces at play during the Mass Demonstration and that these
forces really challenged the cadet’s emotional awareness and emotional
The Platoon Leader
During the mission in the theatre, the cadets were organised as a UN
force, operating in different teams where one of the cadets served as a
Platoon Leader for each. Here is how one leader experienced this:
I was in the game all the time. And I didn’t feel I had the time to stop and
think that this is only a game, don’t let yourself get so stressed, stuff like
that. Because it just progressed naturally at that point. I was really in the
situation, sometimes I was also inside myself, just like, what should I say,
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 51
emotion-based coping, in a way. Just to try to gain control and breathe
a little. But I was in the game all the time; it’s not a game, it’s real. It’s
like the performance I show in the moment that is the real me. It’s not
something I’m playing, it’s me. That’s the way I chose to solve my assignment. And the feedback I would receive would be real. So even though
I’m not afraid of being thrown out of the Academy, I feel that I’m making
myself vulnerable. I’m a little afraid of receiving bad feedback.
I’ve got a couple of fellow cadets. I often compare myself to them at
times. It’s like that feeling, shit, I should have been like them. At one
point, I really felt that it was more like being in an ordeal. This is the
point where you show the war umpire, course commander and your
fellow cadets that you’re platoon leader material. It might have been
different if I had been in a slightly different role, was assigned to staff
duty on that particular day. I had a sincere feeling that this is what I
would be working on later. So, then it was important for me to give my
all and show that I could do this. That stressed me a little then. It’s the
notion that, in fact, there’s pressure. Because now you are expected to
During the exercise, I was a little afraid that I was not cut out for leadership. I don’t have that fear any longer. I’m not afraid that I’m not
leadership material. Seen in relation to talks I have had with others and
thoughts that I have shared. I feel comfortable now.
As we can see from this interview extract, the cadet was caught by a
continuous process of social comparisons, judging himself against significant others and perceived norms. Our interpretation is that the
cadet, being lost in the play, was affected by an ongoing review of himself, ranging from not being leadership material to feeling comfortable
that he was.
The Toilet Fight
Sometimes during the dynamic play, unexpected opportunities occurred
for the theatre staff. Being aware of rumours that some of the cadets had
used the toilet facilities beyond the agreed upon time, they made a plan
52 K. Firing et al.
to send some of the landlord’s assistants into the toilet facility to acting in an extremely provocative way to address the subject of emotional
control. Put into action, the cadets experienced having their privacy
The door opened and it triggered a very high alert state within me. The
moment when I know that I will have to react, I sharpen up. In the same
moment I saw him, I took lock and load on my firearm and was ready to
take him out. It was very intense. And when I realised that there was no
danger, I felt like it was a real stab in the stomach. When I learned that
there was no threat to us, I felt very stupid. It could have serious potential, it could be perceived as very wrong and it could have had serious
consequences for us, and more importantly, it could have had serious
consequences for me. Some could argue that I acted in a wrong way and
that it was stupid of me.
This was a very strong experience for me. I was not afraid for my life for
real, but I was afraid for my reputation and our credibility. And it was
very embarrassing for me to be caught with my pants down, for several
reasons. I’m a warrior and I have damn good control of my conduct
in battle, and I should not be taken that way. It would also have been
embarrassing for us if we had been detained by local insurgents.
It’s completely real; of course, I’m never afraid for my life, but it’s about
respect to position/recognition and not losing the game. Recognition was
important for me in that moment. Also in relation to myself, I need to
know that I have acted correctly, that I did not do anything wrong in the
situation where I have high expectations of myself. But in the moment,
I don’t care about what others think, it is doing the right thing, to me it
was important to solve the mission.
As we can see from this extract, the cadet was immediately triggered by
the assumed attack. He was not afraid for his life, but he was afraid of
being caught with his pants down, for his reputation and his credibility. This immediate reaction was followed by the fear of having done
something wrong, addressing the social comparison and the fear of having deviated from social expectations.
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 53
The Lost Gun
Now we will return to the Lost Gun case. Sometimes during the
dynamic play, unexpected opportunities would occur, even without the
theatre staff’s involvement. An actor acting on her own initiative stole
a cadet’s gun and started a process the theatre staff took even more
advantage of, leading to a series of experiences for the cadet, and beyond
that to the other cadets. We shall start by reading how two of the other
cadets experienced this:
The weapons; it’s a mistake that was not scripted in the game. My
thoughts are that this could have happened at a petrol station. I think it’s
just as simple as that. I think that it’s not the kind of situation where you
can say “no it was an exercise”, so it’s okay in a way, or “the game staff
should have intervened”, it is not an event like that. You have no control,
in that respect I think that this is just as in need of a reprimand as if you
had put the gun anywhere else.
It’s real, yes, the play aspect is completely gone for me, this has nothing to
do with the game. Of course, the weapon has been taken because it’s part
of the game, but whether you’re in the barracks or on an exercise or in
war, it’s sort of, be in control of your weapon. It’s the first rule.
As we can see from this excerpt, the cadets express their attitude on the
lack of weapons control very clearly. Moreover, one may imagine how it
would be to meet such cadets deviating from the norm, even though it
is only a play. From the opening vignette, we remember that the cadet
experienced the incident with the weapon as “a hundred percent real”,
that she was the “centre of attention” and that it was like “participating
in the Hunger Games”. However, the situation was not finished. It took
on a life of its own among the theatre staff, the other players and the
cadets in the UN force. The next spin-off event is the parade, scripted
by the theatre staff. The story goes on:
Everyone got very stressed out because I didn’t have my gun and where
should I stand? We had to try to hide me in the line-up. And then he
54 K. Firing et al.
came out and yelled at us. The shame continued. At first I felt ashamed
of being a cadet, I felt ashamed at how I was displaying the Academy in
front of the conscripts. For all the conscripts the Academy is something
beautiful and grand. And then I thought that; oh my God, I’ve ruined
it. There’s nothing mystical and fantastical about the War Academy any
longer. And I felt ashamed about what had happened, and how I had presented myself.
Moreover, the game continued and the cadet got her gun back, and the
role was changed. Our cadet was to serve as UN commander for the
next 24 hours. Let us listen to her voice again:
I’ve actually learned quite a lot from this, I can point out three
things. You learn a lot about yourself and your own reactions, how do I
handle it, see how much I’ve matured. The old me would have tried to
laugh this off, make fun of it, instead of showing that these are indeed the
emotions I feel, now I’m ashamed, now I’m sad, really depressed. I can see
a maturation process and a healthy development. Moreover, then there
is this thing about how stressed I get, I’m not so stressed about myself.
I’m stressed for all the other things. Finally, you learn pretty much about
how others perceive you. It was really bad when I came out of that tent.
I think the majority of them saw me, how depressed I was, and not the
As we can see from this extract, the cadet went through a stressful, longlasting process of personal and social identity. Our interpretation is that
the cadet, together with the other cadets, being subjects in the play,
constructed a series of experiences to learn from.
Experiences Across the Narratives
An experience is something more than a mere action. An experience
consists of an active element and a passive element that are combined in
a special way. The active part is the action itself in a natural context. The
passive part is being exposed to the consequences of the activity that has
been conducted. These two elements become an experience when we
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 55
discover the connection between them. By integrating doing and reflection, you are able to understand the activity and the consequences, and
the relationship between the two and then fulfil the experience (Dewey
According to Gadamer, experience in general is a process which
is essentially negative (Gadamer 2004, 347). By “negative”, he means
that our expectations of what something is or means are regularly disappointed and disconfirmed. The consequence is that we see things from
a new perspective and have experienced what experience is. Gadamer
views the hermeneutic experience as an ongoing process of working out
The narratives above illustrate how the experiences became intense
and had a deep impact on the cadets. Analysing across the narratives, we
revealed four thematic categories: (1) social comparison, (2) emotions in
action, (3) between play and reality and (4) identity in situation. From
this more substantial perspective, we would now like to explore how the
cadets experienced the theatre-based exercise.
Social Comparison
The Norwegian Armed Forces have had a high-degree of confidence in
individual-based personality measurements in selecting new cadets and
as a tool in the process of leader development (Myers and Myers 1995).
However, other perspectives on the self in which human consciousness
is social may be just as relevant for understanding leaders’ development.
Mead’s concept of “I” and “Me” is directed on the dialogue between the
self and the surroundings and emphasises the importance of significant
others (Mead 1934).
Being part of this dynamic context, the different cases triggered
uncertainty and became a stress factor as the standard operating procedure did not fit (Flin 1996). Being faced with situations where no
objective or non-social means were available prompted the cadets’ tendency to compare themselves to discrete others, hypothetical others and
aggregated standards (Alicke 2007; Festinger 1954).
56 K. Firing et al.
The cadets’ tendency to compare themselves to others was evident
in several situations. Social forces were very much at work during the
Platoon Leader case. Lacking objective or non-social standards, the
cadet entered into an ongoing process of comparing his behaviour to
that of significant others. Utterances like “I often compare myself to
them” and “I should have been like them” mirror an ongoing social
comparison, most likely to mediate the cadet’s thoughts, emotions and
behaviour. Thus, it seems as though the cadet was affected by a continuous process of social comparisons, judging his actions and himself
against significant others and perceived norms.
Thus, the Platoon Leader case seems to disclose a twofold set of stressors on participants’ actions in the theatre. The first is the stress and coping associated with the events, both the scripted and non-scripted ones.
Each of these demanded that the Platoon Leader has to develop his situational awareness and make decisions to act. This kind of stress is obvious. However, the second type of stress is relational and social and may
be less obvious. Facing the first type of stressor, the cadet enters into this
ongoing review of his actions and himself, asking questions such as “Am
I doing the right thing here?” or “Am I good enough?”. The latter type
of stressor may trigger performance anxiety and the fear of not being
good enough. Social comparison and social identity theory transform the
leader role from being only a play in which the cadet is welcome to make
mistakes, to being a real experience of being more or less up to standard,
with the fear of being rejected from the group (Brown 2000).
Emotions in Action
Running the exercise as a theatre-based exercise, while encompassing
the above-mentioned activities, addresses the cadets as holistic human
beings in terms of Bruner’s classic triad encompassing action, emotion
and thinking (Bruner 1986). Dewey writes that “emotion is the moving and cementing force. It selects what is congruous and dyes what is
selected with its color” (Dewey 1980, 42). Emotions played a key part
in the cadets’ experiences during the exercise.
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 57
From the Mass Demonstration case, utterances such as “it boiled
over” may mirror the experience of emotions and impulses to act, on
the one hand, and the need to control emotions and actions in the
heat of the moment, on the other hand. The Platoon Leader experienced being in an ongoing process of social comparison that led
to such utterances as “I really felt that this is more like being in an
ordeal”. This may mirror performance anxiety. The Toilet Fight instigated emotions of being “afraid” and associations that it would be
“very embarrassing for me to be caught with my pants down”, and
impulses to act, on the one hand, and the need for control, on the
other. This addresses emotional control in a situation where one should
behave ethically, even when feeling that one’s privacy is being intruded
upon. The Lost Gun case illustrates how the cadet was on an ongoing emotional roller coaster. Feeling that you are part of “The Hunger
Games” triggered a range of emotions where “shame” was the most
All the way through this exercise, we have seen how emotions were
interwoven with the participants’ thoughts and actions, or at least
impulses to act. This is in line with Vygotsky’s perspective that “every
emotion constitutes an urge to action or a rejection to action. No feeling can be indifferent and without outcome in behaviour” (Vygotsky
1997, 103). Through games, which are always emotional, you learn not
to follow emotions blindly, but to turn instinctive and emotional behaviour into conscious behaviour. The difference is enormous.
Investigating the emotional experiences among creative artists,
Chemi used the utterance “a safe haven for emotional experiences”
(Chemi 2017). Being involved in art involves and draws attention to
emotions, and it creates a learning potential for both the artists and the
audience. Transforming this utterance into our context, the exercise is
“a safe context for emotional experiences”. Safety is secured by having
theatre referees intervening in the play if necessary, and by having an
extensive debriefing at the end of the exercise. This process is driven by
the aim of enhancing learning and the need to make the cadets feel safe
and motivated to meet upcoming learning opportunities on their leader
development journey.
58 K. Firing et al.
Between Play and Reality
The cadets know that they are in an exercise, thus knowing that they
are not going to be shot at for real or killed. The first problem is that
while the participants know that it is only a game, they do not know
what exactly they “know in knowing that” (Gadamer 2004, 103). The
second problem is that the cadets play roles very close to themselves as
officers in operations. Thus, regardless of the name and nature of their
character, they bring themselves into the situation, presenting and representing themselves in everyday life (Goffman 1990). To the cadets,
this means being an officer in the theatre mirroring the Theatre of War.
Across all the narratives, the cadets tell in their own voice that they
experienced a special state of mind. From the Mass Demonstration case,
we read about an impulse “to wreak as much damage as possible” and
that “it boiled over”. From the Platoon Leader case, we read that “it’s
not a game, it’s real. It’s like the performance I show in the moment that
is the real me”. From the Toilet Fight case, we can read “this was a very
strong experience for me…It’s completely real”. And finally, from the
Lost Gun case, we remember the words “the incident with the weapon
is what I think is one hundred percent real. What happens, the feelings I have, the feelings the others have and the way the others respond
to me. All that was not a part of the game”. The cadets’ voices give us
insight into a state of mind between play and sincere reality, in line with
the concept of play (Gadamer 2004).
The cadets’ state of mind also addresses the person–situation interaction that we meet in social psychology. This person–situation interaction seems to be in line with Zimbardo’s view of situation as the context
that has the power “to give meaning and identity to the actor’s role and
status” (Zimbardo 2007, 446). We can ask how far a person would go,
and the Mass Demonstration case may offer an example of this. From
earlier research, we have seen that when the situation turned into free
play, anxiety and anger were turned into aggressive behaviour for some
of the cadets (Firing and Laberg 2010). In explaining such aggressive
behaviour, Zimbardo went beyond the metaphor of “bad apples” to the
“bad barrel”. Bad situations create “bad behaviour”, even in “good people” (Zimbardo 2007, 445). Being a good person, having experienced
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 59
bad behaviour, or at least impulses to act badly in a relatively controlled
environment that such an exercise is may provide one with valuable
knowledge that is highly relevant to officers in operations.
Identity in Situation
The exercise investigated here is well suited for exploring identity in
special situations. The overall scenario, encompassing different parties,
may trigger processes associated with social identity theory (SIT). SIT
comes into play through three intertwined processes. Initially, intergroup processes come into play within different groups, exaggerating
the differences between the groups and exaggerating the similarities
within one’s own group. Moreover, the intragroup climate is developed
as the members view themselves as representatives of the in-group category, processing the characteristics that separate the in-group from relevant out-groups. This transformation is possible as people adjust in the
direction of the exaggerated perception of the prototype of the in-group
member. Finally, each member of the group undergoes a transformation
from personal identity to a group identity. People end up acting as a
prototype of the in-group member more than a unique person, they are
depersonalised (Hogg 2004).
The Lost Gun case provided us with a window into the SIT process. The case occurred in a context encompassing three distinct groups
with different leadership skills, different basic military skills and different expectations regarding weapons control. From this, it follows that
the UN force should have high levels of leadership skills, military skills
and tight control of personal weapons. Finally, the typical cadets should
have high levels in all these skills.
At the moment when the Lost Gun case occurred, SIT came into
play. Being a soldier suddenly became a matter of weapons control, and
two imaginary groups came into play: soldiers lacking weapons control as opposed to soldiers having control. The intragroup climate was
defined by peoples’ degree of weapons control, and the prototype of
the in-group member was defined by this particular skill. A person is
defined by ones’ ability to have control over one’s personal weapon, to
60 K. Firing et al.
the point that other characteristics are less important and end up defining themselves in relation to this prototype of the in-group member
being depersonalised.
Two perspectives seem to exist when it comes to how personal and
social identities are connected. On the one hand, there is the “interpersonal-intergroup continuum”, which encompasses the degree to which
one acts as an individual within interpersonal relations as opposed to as
a group member within intergroup relations. On the other hand, being
a member of a group may imply a transformation from a personal to a
social identity where one may even ask whether there is a psychological
discontinuity between acting as a person and acting as a group member
(Turner and Reynolds 2004). Having first-hand experiences as to how
personal and social identities are connected may be highly relevant to
officers in operations.
Closing Comments
In this study, we have aimed to explore intimacy between theatre, play
and experiences of learning among military cadets training to become
leaders. Moreover, we have also asked whether our study contributes to
the improvement of military pedagogy that can then enhance behaviour
in operations. We have seen, through the narratives, that people have
explored questions beyond the physical environment. By addressing identity in situation, self-awareness and self-regulation, the cadets have discovered the process of regulating actions in situations beyond exercises.
We argue that learning is a matter of “experience to learn and to learn
to experience”. “Experience to learn” addresses the goals of experience as
being knowledge and self-knowledge. The narratives have given insight
into to how the cadets have constructed experience in terms of social
comparison, emotions in action, between play and reality and identity
in situation.
“Learn to experience” addresses the process of continuity: “every
experience enacted and undergone modifies the one who acts and
undergoes, while this modification affects, whether we wish it or not,
the quality of subsequent experiences” (Dewey 1997, 35). Gadamer
Theatre in Military Education: Play and Reality 61
writes that “the dialectic of experience has its proper fulfilment not in
definitive knowledge but in the openness to experience that is made
possible by experience itself ” (Gadamer 2004, 350). The experienced
person is still open and vulnerable and has the wisdom that involves a
willingness to listen to the other’s perspective, not once but again and
again. Let us listen to the informant from the Lost Gun case once more:
When we went down after debriefing, one of the guys who was going to
be on my staff came running over to me, hugged me, and said “you’re
going to be the best, you’re going to be shit hot, I’m really looking forward to this, I really want to work with you.” Then I found myself saying
that it was perhaps a bit exaggerated, but then he simply said “no, with or
without weapons, it doesn’t matter, I really want to work with you, it’ll be
incredibly good”.
As one can imagine, this way of being responded to by another person
had a positive effect on how the cadet led and how she filled her role as
a UN commander.
Concluding this study, we are both humbled and privileged to see
the ability the cadets have shown in sharing their personal and unembellished experiences from this exercise. We are proud to pass on their
extraordinary stories so that others may learn from them. It is our
strong belief that when serving as officers in operations, these cadets will
benefit from this exercise and relate to the complex context in a highly
professional way.
Finally, we reflect on the potential of theatre-based exercises in today’s
higher education. Knowing that the theatre-based methods were part
of physicians’ education (anatomic theatre) and now are widely used in
leader development in the military (theatre-based exercises) opens a range
of opportunities that one can be open to without having to be an artist.
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MA: Harvard University Press.
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Perspectives on Participation in the Arts. In Innovative Pedagogy. A
Recognition of Emotions and Creativity in Education, ed. Tatiana Chemi,
Sarah Grams Davy, and Birthe Lund, 9–26. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Chemi, Tatiana, and Peter Kastberg. 2015. Education through Theatre:
Typologies of Science Theatre. Applied Theatre Research 3 (2): 53–63.
Dewey, John. 1961. Democracy and Education. An Introduction to the
Philosophy of Education. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Dewey, John. 1980. Art as Experience, A Perigee Book. New York: Berkley
Publishing Group.
Dewey, John. 1997. Experience and Education. New York: Simon & Schuster
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Performance Art as a Form
of Psychological Experiment
Marina Haller
Psychological Experiment
The experiment seems to be the silver bullet in psychological research.
In contrast to correlational studies, it allows researchers to prove causal
hypotheses (Greenwood 2004). Therefore, psychological experimental research has a long but somewhat controversial history. Many wellknown experiments like the Milgram and Stanford-prison experiments
were strongly criticised because of the ethical problems they posed
(Sieber and Tolich 2013). Moreover, some of them had a qualitative
rather than a quantitative character (Burkhart 2010). The qualitative
experiment, with flexibilisation instead of control of the examination conditions, was used in psychological research of the first half of
M. Haller (*) 
University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
66 M. Haller
the twentieth century. In the middle of the twentieth century, however,
influence from behaviourism completely disappeared (Burkhart 2010;
Strangl 2002).
Nowadays experimental quantitative research is widespread in psychology. Researchers have considered the critical points of the previous
studies and, aside from ethical considerations, have defined two conditions as characteristic of the psychological experiment: systematic variation of at least one variable and control of the other variables (Bortz and
Döring 2006; Festinger 1953; Huber 2009). Such control has a positive
as well as a negative side. The positive side is a possibility to formulate
a causal hypothesis; the negative side is that the controlled environment creates an unnatural situation, which does not allow describing
real life (Greenwood 2004). The creation of these unnatural situations
is an important point, particularly in laboratory experiments. Festinger
(1953) underlined that laboratory experiments do not need to attempt
reproducing real-life situations, but should attempt to create situations in which the influence of the variables can be clearly seen. Hence
some situations contrived in a lab distort the natural context so strongly
that the results can hardly be justified beyond the lab (Kantowitz et al.
During the first three semesters of the bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Zurich, students learn many aspects of theory
but have no possibility to practise psychological research. In the fourth
curricular semester, students gain practical experience in psychological research for the first time, namely in experimental psychological
research. During this semester, students learn how to carry out experiments from beginning to end. Most of these experiments are laboratory studies with limitations. Reduction of the artificial character of
laboratory experiments can occur in two ways. The first is to conduct
a field experiment instead. Field experiments are conducted in a natural environment, and the variations of independent variables largely
occur in natural life situations. The participants often do not know that
they are participating in an experiment. Such studies, however, must
be approved by an ethics commission. The approval process is timeconsuming,­and approval is difficult to be obtained for experiments
which only last one semester. The second possibility is to carry out the
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 67
study as laboratory experiment but in more natural context: for example, through the format of performance art.
Performance Art
The concept of performance originates from the English language
and bears diverse meanings: from implementation or representation
of staging (as in theatre, dance, or opera) or screening (as in film), to
“achievement”, “competence”, or “development” (e.g. of share prices).
Performance can also refer specifically to performance art, which
emerged as an action-oriented genre from the visual arts in the 1960s.
It is only one form from the huge field of action arts, which include
“actionism”, “body art”, “demonstrations”, “events”, “happenings”, “liveart”, “non-static art”, “Fluxus”, “action painting”, and “living sculpture”.
The first attempts of performance art appeared in the 1920s in Dadaism.
Nevertheless, performance art as an independent art form emerged only
in the 1970s, in the context of transition processes in an increasingly
postmodern society, in which the clear allocation of signs was disappearing (Pfeiffer 1982).
The beginnings of the performance style in the 1970s were mainly
characterised by the physical presence of artists such as Marina
Abramović, Chris Burden, or the artists of Viennese Actionism, who
often exposed themselves to extreme situations and borderline dangerous experiences. The use of electronic media, such as video, photography, acoustic equipment, and interactive computer environments, was
then increasingly integrated into the artistic work. Through its multimedia character, performance art often also blurs the boundaries between
popular culture and art, and above all between the classifications of the
arts by genres (Pfeiffer 1982).
Performance art has gradually opened up to theatrical procedures
since the 1980s. Although the action art of the 1960s and 1970s
approached the event-like nature of the theatre and turned away from
the visual arts, it at the same time proved to be decidedly anti-theatrical
in mind. The theatre was related to fiction, characterised by the “as if ”,
but performance art related to reality and the real (Pfeiffer 1982; Wulf
68 M. Haller
and Zirfas 2006). The reorientation of theatrical art towards mediation,
materiality, the connection of actors and spectators, physicality and perceptions, and spatial and temporal structures resulted in a concentration
on physicality, linguistics, eventfulness, and materiality of the processes
taking place (Wulf and Zirfas 2006).
Fischer-Lichte (2004) developed a comprehensive concept of performative turns, which could be applied to varying degrees to all art
forms since the 1960s. Not only theatre is subject to the influence of
performative turns: like world championships, congresses, concerts,
or the visit of the pope, more and more public events turn into cultural performances. Therefore, a clear classification of performance art
by itself is very difficult, even impossible, from the point of view of art
(Pfeiffer 1982).
One characteristic of performance art is that not only the actors,
but also the audience have a constitutive significance for the event.
The interaction of actors and spectators is meaningful (Wulf and Zirfas
2006). Fischer-Lichte (2004) argued that the actors create a situation
that exposes themselves and others, as an examiner would. This role of
an examiner bridges the gap between performance art and psychological
Performance Art in Psychological Research
Performance art was already opened as a subject for research in the
1960s. Austin (1962), a philosopher, formulated the term performative. He referred to the way in which oral statements have various social
functions in addition to conveying mere content. Performance-oriented
research involves different forms of artistic performance and may be
presented in textual form, but also before live audiences, or in various
media forms such as film, photographs, or websites. Theatre, of course,
has a different effect on the audience than graphic or statistical representation does (Gergen and Gergen 2010).
In psychology, the earliest uses of performance were largely by therapists. The question of how performance can be applied to explore both
one’s past life and one’s potential for future action occupied psychologists
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 69
and psychotherapists such as Jacob Moreno, Joseph Wolpe, Eric Berne,
and George Kelly (Carlson 2013; Gergen and Gergen 2011).
Some years later, performative studies were highlighted at symposia
held over a five-year period, between 1995 and 1999, at the American
Psychological Association’s national meetings. Sessions were composed
of dramatic monologues, dance, multimedia presentations, plays, and
poems, all related to relevant psychological issues. Important roles in
this kind of study were held by Kenneth J. and Mary Gergen. Kenneth
J. Gergen had co-created graphic and poetic representations of theoretical views. Mary Gergen delivered dramatic monologues and textual media intersecting social construction and feminist studies. Her
works were among the earliest performative presentations in psychology
(Gergen and Gergen 2011).
However, the future of a performative approach in psychology is not
unproblematic. Performative practices blur the boundaries between
art and science, fact and fiction, seriousness and play, challenging the
standards of “normal science” (Gergen and Gergen 2010). Therefore,
the use of performance in psychological research must be carefully
All students in their fourth semester of psychology at the University
of Zurich were offered 16 different practical seminars in psychological experimentation. My seminar consisted of 15 participants. In small
groups of three to four, they were responsible for organising an experiment under the following conditions; in addition to forming the usual
two groups, i.e. the control and the experimental group, I asked the students to form a third one which had to integrate performance art. The
students were free to choose the topic of their experiment as well as the
performance art concept.
Through their studies to this point, the students already had some
knowledge of psychological experiments, but they did not necessarily have experience with performance art. To address this, I had to
instruct my students in performance art and had to explain how they
70 M. Haller
could carry out these performances themselves. My explanations were
First, I gave examples of performance art during our first meeting:
a pantomime from Mary Gergen and a piece called “Private Space” by
Orange Suit and Juli Drozdek.
Mary Gergen developed this pantomime in 1999 for the symposium
on performative psychology at the American Psychological Association
meeting in Boston. The piece, titled “All the Gold in Fort Knox”, was
dedicated to the issue of danger. The independent variable was the
generation of fear. The pantomime showed that people try to protect
themselves from injuries arising from fear. Dressed in a camouflage suit,
the social psychologist moved through the audience. She moved furtively, like a soldier in the Special Forces. As part of her pantomime, she
refused to trust anything or anyone. This behaviour disturbed the spectators and led them to realise that safety precautions can be dangerous
(Gergen 2005).
The performance of “Private Space” by Orange Suit and Juli Drozdek
was situated in subway trains. A woman or a man with a folding chair
entered a train, sat down directly before one of the unsuspecting passengers, and stared at them. This confused some passengers; some changed
places, and others stared back. The concept of this performance is about
personal space. Within a confined space, i.e. the subway train, personal
space was invaded. The sovereignty and freedom of the individual were
placed in danger, and this consequently induced random passengers to
expose their own strategy for the protection of freedom (Boba-group
Second, I invited, as a lecturer, Dr. Gunter Lösel (a theatre scientist
at the Zurich University of the Arts, actor, certified psychologist, coach,
and author). During his lecture, he emphasised the following overlapping aspects of performance in experiments: the cover story, role play in
the experiment “Brain Check” (Klein 2010), role play in the field, and
real performance, with examples from Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Marina
Abramović, Tino Sehgal, and Hermann Nitsch.
The students watched and discussed a nine-minute video about the
experiment “Brain Check”. The research question of the project “Brain
Check” (Klein 2010) was whether, when, and how people are able to
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 71
enjoy the feeling of anger. For this purpose, a one-hour theatre performance was created, in which an actor pretended to perform a psychological experiment in front of the audience. In addition, they were told
that an agency (which was in fact a fictitious one) had been looking for
participants for the “normal” psychological study. These participants
as well as the theatrical audience took part in the same procedure. The
real goal, however, was to provoke the anger of the visitors (Klein and
Tröndle 2012).
The different tasks the audience was faced with were similar to a
Stroop test (Stroop 1935), in which participants have to read out aloud
the colour in which words are written as quickly as possible, while
ignoring the actual written meaning of the word (e.g. the word “blue”,
written in red). A different task was to count backwards from 1999
in steps of 4.5 and, at the same time, to cut five-pointed stars (Klein
2010). This seems to be even more difficult than some parts of the classic Trier social stress test (TSST; Kirschbaum et al. 1993) where participants only had to count backwards from 1022 in steps of 13.
To assess the irritation of the visitors, their emotional condition and
blood pressure were measured repeatedly. The difference between the
emotional experiences of the two visiting groups was the interest of this
study (Klein and Tröndle 2012).
Dr. Lösel’s discussion with the students about performance art in
psychological experiments led to the conclusion that there is no experiment without elements of performance. In their own performance
experiment, the students were given two main possibilities regarding
how they could execute the performance: person performance (in which
either the supervisor of the experiment performs in his/her own role as
supervisor, or in which a different person performs as, for example, a
passenger) and object performance (which involves changing the light,
examiner’s clothes, pictures, or objects in the room, etc.). In person performance, the students expected it to be difficult for them to act convincingly and to stay serious during the whole of the experiment.
After Dr. Lösel’s lecture, the students discussed possible main topics for their experiments and fitting performances for them. Two weeks
after the lecture, they presented their ideas in class for evaluation. In the
following two weeks, they addressed organisational questions and issues.
72 M. Haller
When all groups had started their experiments, I asked my students to
complete a questionnaire with the following questions:
What is the title of your experiment?
How have you operationalised a performance in your experiment?
How did you discover this way of operationalising the performance?
Was it difficult for you to operationalise the performance?
You have already gained some initial experiences with your experiment.
What theoretical considerations regarding the performance have not
worked out in practice? What worked out as planned?
Was the guest lecture useful for formulating your idea for the performance?
In general, operationalisation involves translating a construct from the
abstract to the more concrete (Nicholas 2008). To “operationalise a performance” is to define its concepts and production values.
Additionally, I collected data about their age, sex, and some aspects of
their personality with the German version of the Big Five Inventory–2
(BFI-2; Danner et al. 2016) originally described by Soto and John
(2017). The BFI-2 covers the “big five” personality characteristics: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality (alternatively labelled neuroticism, which contrasts with emotional stability),
and open-mindedness (alternatively labelled openness to experience,
intellect, or imagination). Initial empirical studies have proven the reliability and validity of the measurements (Danner et al. 2016).
In the BFI-2 test, each of the 60 statements can be answered on a fivepoint scale ranging from “disagree strongly” to “agree strongly”. Each of
the five main domains has three facets, for a total of fifteen values. Of
particular interest in this study was the facet of open-mindedness­focusing on creative imagination and measured by the following statements:
“I am inventive; I find clever ways to do things”, and “I am original,
I come up with new ideas”. For the scale, these statements were recoded
to their inverse: “I have little creativity”, and “I have difficulty imagining
things” (Danner et al. 2016; Soto and John 2017).
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 73
By means of a multilevel logistic regression analysis, the five personality
characteristics were first examined with respect to their influence on the type
of experiment selected by the students (person performance vs. object performance). In a second step (while ignoring the type of experiment, i.e. person or object performance), the five personality characteristics were correlated
with the students’ perceived level of difficulty operationalising the performance art they designed. The same calculations were made with the aspect of
creative imagination of the students as well: the students’ creative imagination
was first examined with respect to its influence on the type of experiment
that was selected, and then, in a second step, was correlated with their perceived level of difficulty operationalising their piece of performance art.
Fifteen students—2 men and 13 women between the age of 20 and 27,
divided into four groups of three to four members—conducted psychological experiments about the following topics: ego depletion, framing
effect, self-perceived eating habits, and experimental manipulation of
The students described their processes of finding their ideas about
performance art differently. While some said it was easy to find an idea,
others disagreed. They could not design just any performance art, but
had to design pieces appropriate for their experimental topic.
One particular group had difficulties creating a fitting performance;
this was the same group that had problems finding a main topic. At
first, this group chose a topic and designed a piece of performance art
without taking theoretical considerations into account. After receiving feedback, the students found better ideas for both main topic and
performance. Finally, all groups were able to find ideas fitting for their
experiments’ topics.
Another problem was to detect a standardised performance medium,
preferably constant in its staging process but not necessarily in its effect
on the participants. This was an important point with some constraints,
since performance art has to be a unique and temporally and spatially
74 M. Haller
limited event (Wulf and Zirfas 2006). Social researchers consider the
lack of replicability, applicability, and generalisability in performance art
to be a veritable strength because of its deeply contingent, unstable, and
ephemeral praxis (Gergen and Gergen 2011; Seitz 2012).
A third problem was that the experiments could not be limited to
qualitative research alone. Psychological experiments conducted during
seminars are usually quantitative. Performative research, on the contrary, mostly generates knowledge with a qualitative character (Seitz
2012). Moreover, the examples given by Dr. Lösel were quite inspiring,
but most of them were clearly theatrical and purely qualitative.
The performances my students chose can be classified into two
groups: two experiments used objects (in these cases, photos were
used for the experiment on framing effect, and the experiment on selfperceived­eating habits centred on sports equipment), and two experiments worked with the actions of the examiner (a phone conversation
was used to generate a disturbance during an experiment for the experiment on ego depletion, and a statement generating time pressure was
used in the experiment on experimental manipulation of creativity).
To prove the influence of Big Five personality traits on the type of
chosen experiment (object vs. person performance), six scales were
built: extraversion (α = 0.89), agreeableness (α = 0.79), conscientiousness (α = 0.86), negative emotionality (α = 0.93), open-mindedness
(α = 0.91), and creative imagination (α = 0.91). The type of performance was coded with “zero” for the performances using objects and
“one” for performances using actions of the examiner. Big Five personality traits were determined on a personal level, but the variable type
of performance was determined at the group level. The appropriate
method was a multilevel analysis. For each personality trait as independent variables and the type of performance as dependent variable,
a multilevel logistic regression analysis was applied. Of all these regressions, only the regression coefficient of creative imagination was significant (p = 0.034). The regression coefficients for open-mindedness
and negative emotionality were marginally significant (p = 0.053, and
p = 0.080). All results of the multilevel logistic regressions are shown in
the second column of Table 1.
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 75
Table 1 Multilevel logistic regression and Spearman correlation results
Negative emotionality
Creative imagination
Coefficients (s.e.)
0.076 (0.057)
−0.025 (0.050)
0.098 (0.094)
−0.159 (0.091)†
0.046 (0.024)†
0.218 (0.103)*
Note *p < 0.05, †p < 0.10
Fig. 1 Box plots comparing creative imagination and difficulty to achieve operationalisation of performance
The same six scales were also correlated with students’ difficulty to
operationalise their performances. Students’ answers were coded with
“zero” for “not difficult”, “one” for “rather difficult”, and “two” for
“difficult”. Of all these correlations, only the correlation with creative
imagination was significant, with rs(15) = −0.530, p = 0.042. All correlations are shown in the third column of Table 1. Figure 1 shows box
plots comparing creative imagination and difficulty to achieve operationalisation of performance.
76 M. Haller
The reliability of the six scales of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, and creative imagination was good, with min. α = 0.79 and max. α = 0.93. The original
scales have reliabilities between α = 0.60 and α = 0.88.
The results of multilevel logistic regressions with the type of performance as a dependent variable showed a positive effect for creative
imagination, a positive trend for open-mindedness, and a negative trend
for negative emotionality. When interpreting these results, it must be
considered that the small sample size (n = 15) is principally insufficient
for conducting a multilevel logistic analysis (Moineddin et al. 2007).
Therefore, the significant results must be accepted with reservation.
The personality trait open-mindedness showed a positive trend relative to the type of performance. Open-mindedness is a main domain
consisting of three facets: aesthetic sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, and
creative imagination. The subscales’ alpha reliabilities were α = 0.77 for
aesthetic sensitivity, α = 0.91 for intellectual curiosity, and α = 0.91
for creative imagination. The results of the multilevel logistic regressions
from each of these facets and the type of performance showed a positive
effect only for creative imagination (p = 0.034). The effects to aesthetic
sensitivity and intellectual curiosity were not significant (p = 0.390 and
p = 0.780). Therefore, the positive trend for open-mindedness is owed
to the subscale creative imagination. The groups with pronounced creative imagination chose a performance based on actions of the examiner
instead of a performance based on objects.
The personality trait negative emotionality showed a negative trend
to the type of performance. The choice of a performance involving the
examiner’s actions was linked with lower negative emotionality. On the
other hand, for choosing a performance using the examiner’s actions
instead of a performance using objects, students needed a certain level
of confidence in their own acting abilities. Some of the literature suggests that aspects of negative emotionality correlate positively with artistic creativity (Batey and Furnham 2006; Clark 2015). Although other
studies dispute this point, there are some indirect clues supporting this
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 77
correlation. For example, a meta-analysis of creativity research noted
that artistically creative subjects tended to be more hostile and impulsive compared to scientifically creative subjects (Feist 1998). These
aspects belong to the domain of negative emotionality.
The main domain of negative emotionality consists of the three facets of anxiety, depression, and emotional volatility. The subscales’ alpha
reliabilities were α = 0.85 for anxiety, α = 0.89 for depression, and
α = 0.80 for emotional volatility. The results of the multilevel logistic regressions from each of these facets and the type of performance
showed a negative effect only for emotional volatility (p = 0.047). The
effects to anxiety and depression were not significant (p = 0.091, and
p = 0.079). These results suggest that high emotional volatility corresponds with the choice of performance that uses objects instead of
The emotional volatility measurement includes the following statements: “I am temperamental, get emotional easily”, “I am emotionally stable, not easily upset” (for the scale, this statement was recoded
to negative), “I keep my emotions under control” (this statement was
also recoded to negative), and “I am moody, have up and down mood
swings” (Danner et al. 2016; Soto and John 2017). These statements
suggest that for the performance using the examiner’s actions, it was
more important not to have artistic creativity, but to be emotional stable and keep one’s emotions under control. This personality characteristic helped students detect a standardised performance and staging
process for all groups.
The results show a negative correlation between difficulty to operationalise performance and creative imagination. This means that the
students with high manifestation of creative imagination operationalised their performance more easily. On the other hand, the students
who manifested low creative imagination had more difficulties.
This result was expected since creative imagination was measured
with statements such as “I am inventive; I find clever ways to do things”
or “I am original; I come up with new ideas”. Thus, it is to be expected
that people with high creative imagination can envision ideas to operationalise a performance more easily. This finding emphasises that
78 M. Haller
high creative imagination is an important factor for operationalising a
A limitation of this study is its small sample size; therefore, the significant results of multilevel logistic regressions must be accepted with
reservation. I plan to conduct the same study in the spring semester next
year. By doing so, I will be able to use the results from students in both
studies for further analysis. However, this will not eliminate the problem
of sample size, because to produce valid estimates for the multilevel logistic regression, it is recommended to use least 50 groups, and this will be
difficult because of the given study design (Moineddin et al. 2007).
A second limitation is the fact that my students knew the “big five”
personality characteristics (fortunately, however, they were not familiar
with BFI-2). It is possible that they understood the purpose of the survey and therefore did not answer the questions entirely honestly. On the
other hand, high values ​​of Cronbach’s alpha indicate a high reliability
of all scales that were used. Therefore, the results of the BFI-2 (Danner
et al. 2016) can be considered reliable.
The aim of this study was that students would conduct their experiments in the form of performance art. This goal has been achieved.
However, it is yet to be discussed whether either of the two variants of
performance art (object- or examiner-based) helped the experiments to
be set in a more natural context. Next year, the students will be able
to ask the participants in their experiments about their perceptions of
the experiments and performance art pieces. For example, they can
ask, “Did you understand that the performance was actually part of an
experiment?” (yes/no), “Did the setting seem natural, even though it
was an experimental setting?” (yes/no).
After being instructed by Dr. Lösel and me (as the instructor of the
seminar on performance art), each group of students designed a piece
of performance art, which was suitable for the topic of their experiment.
The performances were classified into two groups: two experiments
Performance Art as a Form of Psychological Experiment 79
worked with objects, and two experiments worked with the examiner’s
actions. The results show a positive link between creative imagination
and performance using actions of the examiner. Moreover, high emotional volatility influenced the choice of performance, using objects
instead of action. The choice of a performance involving the examiner’s
actions, on the other hand, was linked with creative imagination and
qualities of being emotionally stable and keeping one’s emotions under
control. The results also showed a negative correlation between difficulty operationalising a performance and creative imagination. This
finding emphasises that high creative imagination is an important factor for operationalising a performance. By correlating aspects of their
personality traits and characteristics of their performance art pieces,
the students learned that they do not need to be artistically creative to
be able to design and conduct performance art which includes actions
of the examiner. In these ways, the students were made to understand
their potential and acquired a new method of performing psychological
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Approaches to Enhancing Student
Learning: A Quality-Assured, Creative
and Performing-Arts Model
Prem Ramburuth and Melissa Laird
Delivering quality higher education to students in the tertiary sector has
become increasingly more challenging as providers seek to address the
diverse expectations of multiple stakeholders including those of governments and funding authorities, accreditation and quality assurance
agencies, the private sector and potential employers, parents, communities and societies. Providing highly specialised arts-based education
in the creative and performing arts, and incorporating an innovative
approach to combine professional training with academic and theoretical knowledge, brings even greater challenges. This chapter highlights
the challenges, and how they can and are being managed to facilitate
P. Ramburuth (*) 
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
M. Laird 
National Institute of Dramatic Art, Kensington, Australia
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
84 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
greater opportunities for creativity, preparation for a highly specialised
area of the arts, and learning and development that transcends into
realms of resourcefulness, responsiveness, and the capacity to collaborate
across multiple sectors and disciplines. As such, arts-based approaches
to learning and teaching in higher education have a unique and distinct
capacity to provide students with authentic and generative learning
opportunities, through practice-informed research models, and engagement with ‘experiential’ learning which is undertaken by doing, making
and reflective practice (Dewey 1934; Kolb 2015).
The chapter spans the broad base of arts-based education and cultural
theory, ranging from John Dewey’s (1934) action-oriented learning and
philosophies of practical activity, through to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s
(1968) refutation of the mind-body dichotomy, to David Schon’s
(1983) reflective practice and learning by doing. It reflects the influences of Martin Heidegger (1962), who valued the emotional and creative impulses associated with caring and being in the world (p. 195),
and that of Marjorie O’Loughlin (1997) who placed embodiment as
crucial to an arts-based education. These foundations, among others,
closer to home in William Laird (1963) and Robin Tudor (2005), provide authority for doing, making and reflection as vital to creative-arts
learning and teaching, where the senses and lived experience feature
becoming, belonging, doing and experiencing, in the words of (Schon
1985, p. 44) the ‘experienced felt path’.
The chapter also identifies the nature of student learning that occurs
in the performing arts at one of Australia’s leading creative and performing arts institutions, and indicates the complexity of bringing together
the multiple facets of education in the arts, in a cohesive, meaningful
and fulfilling learning experience for students. In doing so, it provides
examples of programme offerings, identifies challenges, explains opportunities and demonstrates what can be achieved in terms of student
learning. It also traces and explains the significant transition from a performing arts curriculum that focused traditionally on professional skills
development to an approach that incorporates theoretical knowledge,
research informed practice and academic qualifications merged with the
professional training. The chapter highlights how greater opportunities
can be afforded to talented students—the cultural leaders of the future.
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 85
The authors assert that the transition from vocational oriented training,
with its focus on discipline-oriented skills, knowledge and attitudes,
to the more academically oriented higher education sector, in which
broader cultural contexts and theoretical constructs are examined, is an
exciting one that is beneficial to students.
The discussion also draws attention to the highly collaborative and
interdisciplinary nature of education in the performing arts, in which
contemporary higher education curricula, delivered by discipline expert
academic staff, not only connects with professional skills development,
but also with culture-making, commercial viability, industry and community partnerships, influential thought leaders, international ventures
and internships, and practice-based engagement across the many facets of
the performing arts. Such collaborations, although challenging in bringing together smoothly and cohesively, provide for rich academic and professional experiences for students as key dimensions to their learning.
The quality of student learning in arts-based education, like all good
educational practice, needs to be underpinned by adherence to the highest academic standards in the higher education sector, to ensure the
delivery of quality education to students in the creative and performing arts. Consequently, the chapter includes examples of the Quality
Assurance measures and practices that underpin programme delivery and
student learning, as well as benchmarking with national and international arts institutions to ensure comparative performance and standing.
Finally, the chapter showcases these multiple educational facets being
brought together at one of Australia’s leading performing arts institutes, the
National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). NIDA is a higher education
provider that has as its strategic priority to be a centre for innovation and
an incubator for disciplinary expertise in the creative and performing arts.
Student Learning and the Creative
and Performing Arts
Students enrolling in the creative and performing arts are required to
study core aspects of an arts-based education curriculum. Key educational elements for students in arts-based training are those relating to
86 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
the intersection of academic knowledge and professional disciplinefocused knowledge, underpinned by interdisciplinary collaboration and
engagement with creativity and the senses.
In terms of academic knowledge acquisition and learning, the focus
is on students attaining the capacity for situating and interrogating an
idea, practice or object through a range of contexts and on providing
access to the multiple perspectives of the world in which we live. The
philosophical, historical, theoretical, cultural and social contexts of seeing and perceiving are applied to the development of new ideas and
provide stimulus to reimagine existing ones. In terms of professionaleducation, the focus is on attitudes and functions that mirror industry and the professions, and has at its core, employability skills and
the opportunity for practice. Current industry practices are examined
through training, which draws on the development and enhancement
of new skills and methods. Artisanal, technical, physical, logistical,
teambuilding and flexible-thinking skill sets may be enhanced through
studios and workshops, and demonstrated through individual assessment of artistry or as capstone-style collaborations. The intersection of
academic and professional learning, placed in interdisciplinary environments, creates unique opportunities for student learning in communities of creative practice.
Researchers and practitioners highlight the significance of interdisciplinary learning as a vital component in arts-based education. For
example, Paul Rogers and Craig Bremner (2013) note that through interdisciplinary learning, ‘…individuals demonstrate at least two disciplinary
competences. One is primary, yet it is able to employ the concepts and
methodologies of another discipline [which] strengthens understanding
of the primary discipline’ (p. 11). Clearly, through interdisciplinary practice, perception and interpretation, students are able to acquire unique
knowledge, skills and understanding. Eve Harwood (2007) stresses this
type of interdisciplinarity when she notes that the ‘conceptual boundaries
between the arts have little meaning’ (p. 313) and suggests that through
interdisciplinary learning approaches students find new ways of ‘knowing the world’ (p. 324)—a feature that is essential for involvement in the
creative and performing arts. In interdisciplinary learning contexts, students learn from one another alongside tutors and mentors, to ‘know
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 87
their world’ in what might be termed ‘active-engagements’. As Rosie
Perkins (2013) asserts, ‘learning is a constructed phenomenon, reflecting
an interaction between people and their world’ (p. 199).
This interaction is evident in the experiential learning offered in
a ‘community of practice’ in which students in the creative and performing arts engage—a learning environment in which they are able
to attain and then develop the skills of academe, together with disciplines related to their intended professions. ‘Communities of practice’
are creative frameworks where the learning focus is the holistic outcome
framed in relation to the independent experience (Tudor 2005, p. 25).
These communities provide authentic and generative student learning
Figure 1 is indicative of an arts-based ‘community of practice’ at
NIDA that brings together creative directorial vision, design, costume, props and set-making, with applied technical and digital expertise applied in a music video project for an independent client. With
mentorship by industry-practitioners, the project reflected in Fig. 1 was
creatively devised and produced by NIDA students for a national and
international audience.
Beyond the Traditional Learning Context
Students engaged in the performing arts also explore and develop
resourcefulness in areas beyond traditional learning boundaries. They
need, for example, to be equipped with the capacity to bring their sensory awareness to the fore, to act and react creatively to change and
sensate experience. This approach forms the foundation of experiential
learning, exploratory practice and self-discovery in the student learning
journey. As Tudor (2005) notes, ‘creative modes of learning deal not so
much with “what is” but with “what-might-be” using rhetorical questions such as “What if?” and “Why not?”’ (p. 9).
Other unique features of learning in the arts-based education models
that require special mention include the conservatoire approach to learning delivery and engagement. The conservatoire-learning model situates
practice at the fore and is founded on a ‘master-apprentice’ relationship
88 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Fig. 1 NIDA 2016. ‘Music video’ Industry collaboration
of practice informing skills development (Carey 2010, p. 1). This model
ensures that students work in small specialist groups, are guided by discipline expert practitioner-academics, are encouraged to think creatively
through their own practice and are able to frame their learning in whole
of body experience. Through the intensive conservatoire approach,
students are encouraged to become creative risk-takers, disrupters and
problem-solvers who can function in highly socialised and non-traditional learning environments.
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 89
The benefits of this approach to create conducive learning environments are articulated by Tudor (2005) who notes that:
The cultivation of creative confidence in heart, body and mind through
targeted teaching strategies requires development of multidimensional,
highly interactive and participatory educational approaches…Teaching
strategies may then be developed to prompt and sustain affective engagement with what it means and feels like to ‘be’ intentionally creative in a
given field…”. (p. 9)
Together with the conservatoire approach, in which students engage
in intensive learning (working individually and /or in small groups)
and develop their practical and performance skills in arts-based education, is awareness of the broader collaborative contexts of the world in
which we live, that is so important to the success of graduates entering the creative-arts professions (Quality Assurance and Accreditation in
Higher Music Education 2010). As noted earlier in the chapter, collaboration is a key element of contemporary arts-based education and training. Collaborative activities, such as the live dramatic performance, act
as spaces for students and their mentors to demonstrate their creativity
and expertise. As Tudor (2005) asserts: ‘By conscientiously focusing on
the shared nature of the lived experience, and attending to the issue of
embodiment for both teacher and learner, it is possible to better appreciate how creativity operates holistically in the day-to-day conduct of
human life and learning’ (p. 4).
Research Led Practice in the Performing Arts
The knowledge, skills and embodiment of practice, and the research
outcomes informed through practice, lie at the heart of creative and
performing arts education and training. Ways of knowing through
‘doing’ and ‘becoming’ incorporate the multiple perspectives essential
to practise as an academic activity (Perkins 2013, p. 198). On the significance of practice-led research, Jillian Hamilton and Luke Jaaniste
(2009), note that practice-led research is a ‘unique research paradigm
90 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
because it situates creative practice as both a driver and outcome of the
research process; it also positions the researcher in a unique relationship
with the subject of the research’ (p. 1).
Hamilton and Jaaniste (2009) explain the recording of research
informed through practice:
The researcher’s creative practice section describes the creative process,
including the methodology and methods, as well as the creative works
at the heart of the project. It may include how the research unfolded in
practice, the process of discovery, and the methods of development, iteration and review. It may include a discussion and description of the creative artefacts that have been realized within the research project. It may
also include an analysis or discussion of the reception of the creative practice in exhibition, performance or implementation. (p. 3)
Further, the authority of embodied responses to action as research provides additional scope for students to actively interact with their own
practice through the sensual body. Students undertaking practiceinformed research often undertake multiple roles, as creative practitioners, philosophers, theorists, historians, disrupters and analysts. Tudor
(2005) questions ‘what it means for humans beings to experience creativity, to holistically feel and be creative in a fully embodied sense with
heart, hands and head and then to examine how they and other people
may interpret and value creativity differently’ (p. 20). However, Cheryl
Stock (2013) cautions that ‘Researching from the inside may well provide insights not available by other modes of research but it is also a
privileged position that can easily slip into self-referentiality…’ (p. 306).
Providing external reference points and signposts to support students’
personal-critical analysis and evaluation skill is essential when engaging
in practice-led research of this type.
Arts-based education, particularly that of the creative and performing arts areas, champion practice-led research which favours participant-observation methodologies. Recording the activation of a practice
or subject as research may be undertaken through an examination of
use, providing drawings, photography, text, image, performance, and
noting change through iterative activity, as documentary evidence.
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 91
Participant-observation outcomes may be presented as narrative
­discourse—writing of object biographies for material culture research;
writing through practice by verbalising the visual; reporting of ‘felt’ artisanal craftsmanship and performance through the senses; interweaving
of text and (moving and non-moving) image; inscribing the surface and
text as landscape in written forms; and embodiment of findings reconciled as performance, text and image, exhibition, among other publically peer-reviewed exhibition modes (Laird 2013). Research and the
creation and publication of new knowledge via the academic curricula
in arts-based education facilitate knowledge sharing and thought leadership in the creative arts.
Collaboration and Experiential Learning in the
Performing Arts
Collaboration is well recognised as a ‘fundamental skill for contemporary practitioners in the arts’ (Rumiantsevi et al. 2016, p. 2). In recent
studies (e.g., Gregory 2010; Rumiantsevi et al. 2016), collaborative
learning is shown to positively impact on students’ ability to bridge
cultures, take ownership of their own learning and develop industryoriented behaviours through collaborative projects in professional
learning environments. The collaborative learning and teaching model
supports students’ critical and flexible thinking, as they negotiate and
problem-solve for a shared purpose, ‘instilling a sense of ownership and
responsibility in the both the process and in the final product’ (Gregory
2010, p. 388). Collaboration requires students to engage with a range
of discipline skills and in doing so to develop new knowledge. Through
collaboration and interdisciplinary skills, students’ reveal curiosity
and empathy by engaging with the work of others, whilst cultivating
the higher order critical and flexible thinking skills manifest through a
unique community of creative-arts practice. Windsor (2016) cites Neil
Peplow, who notes ‘that collaboration is increasingly important in the
way that people are producing content’ (p. 3). Such creative and strategic relationships are developed through trust and mutual respect, which
92 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
reinforce creative leadership. Peter Renshaw’s ‘Postlude’ on collaborative
learning in higher music education stresses the fact that, ‘for a collaboration to “work” in practice and to be a catalyst for development, it is
essential to create conditions based on shared trust’ (2013, p. 237). In
this context, ‘trust’ is attributed to the confidence that is experienced or
expressed in relationships within and between social groups, specifically
in the dynamics of inter-group and intra-group interactions (Hardin
2002), which is an essential component of the collaborative learning
process. To develop the critical and flexible-thinking skills necessary for
collaborative practice, students undertaking an arts-based education are
asked to engage with a range of propositions through which they can
elicit creative responses. Methodologies that prompt critical thinking
suitable for lifelong learning include participation with iterative processes, experimentation, using new and unexpected materials in unfamiliar ways, and research undertaken as practice. Students are invited to
take risks in safe learning environments as they transition from novice
to expert. Independence is generated through pedagogy that scaffolds
learning in safe environments, which provides mentorship, peer respect
and support. Further, it encourages experimentation and embraces
failure and iterative thinking through carefully constructed learning
experiences. Design process, with its inherent iterative framework for
conceptualising, testing, critically evaluating and reiterating outcomes,
is a powerful pedagogical model that underpins practice-oriented education in the creative and performing arts. Perkins (2013) draws on Pierre
Bourdieu when stating that ‘practice…draws together the individuals
with the social spaces in which they are positioned’ (p. 198). She advocates that ‘learning (be) viewed not only as a process of skill acquisition
but also a process of ‘doing’ and ‘becoming’ through participation in
social life’ (p. 198).
‘Lived experience’ learning (Tudor 2005) has its roots in ‘experiential’ learning and reflective practice (Dewey 1934; Kolb 2015). David
Kolb (2015) notes that in this form of learning, ‘the learner is directly
in touch with the reality being studied’ … and ‘the emphasis is often
on direct sense experience’ (xviii). This form of learning, frequently
referred to as the ‘lived experience’, is now more commonly being used
in arts-based education. Small-scale experimentations undertaken in
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 93
safe learning environments are foundations for larger and more complex
projects in which play, experimentation and improvisation feature. An
analogy of the child’s sandpit is drawn to refer to the positive nature of
experimentation and play by Samuel Leong (2017) who states: ‘…Mess
is a consequence and should be embraced. Set parameters but allow
for things to get messy and have support structures in place that can
respond quickly and are light of touch. Curriculum should define “the
sandpit” and then invite students to “play”’ (Leong 2017, p. 3).
Assessing Creative and Performing Arts Practice
Despite the specialised (and often unique) approaches to learning in
arts-based education, assessing students’ skills, knowledge and attitudes in the creative and performing arts should follow similar rigorous principles and practices to those of assessment in the broader higher
education sector, although finer nuances will be required. This would
generally include traditional forms such as the formative method (which
informs) and the summative method (which summates). However, educationists such as Geoffrey Crisp (2012) introduce principles of critical
reflection and projection, and an integrative approach (which integrates
past activity with future activity) that is positioned as a potent form
of ‘future-oriented’ assessment ‘whose primary purpose is to influence
students’ approaches to future learning’ (p. 39). For creative and performing arts students, this form of self-reflection and futures-oriented
critique is a useful tool that supports future learning in academic, professional or industry contexts.
Crisp (2012) also identifies diagnostic assessment as being useful in
identifying gaps in specific knowledge, therefore offering opportunities
for early intervention, for the provision of additional learning resources,
or revised learning structures for affected students. Focusing on the
performing arts, Stock (2013) notes the complexity of analysing material forms, that ‘live within the bodies of artist-researchers, where the
nature of the practice itself is live, ephemeral and constantly changing’
(p. 298). This is one of the many challenges of assessing live performance, where the performance and performer are fluid, changeable and
94 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
multidimensional. Stock (2013) also notes, that ‘to complicate m
­ atters,
the performing arts are necessarily collaborative, relying not only on
technical mastery and creative-interpretive processes, but on social and
artistic relationships which collectively make up the [performance]
“artefact”’ (p. 299).
Observations such as these provide an indication of some of the complexities inherent in assessment in arts-based education, especially if the
training is formally embedded in academic curricula and programmes.
Learning can be gained from the research findings of educationists such
as Graham Forsyth (2013) in the disciplinary area of Art and Design,
which recognises that assessment is deemed effective if it uses an appropriate range of tasks and outcomes that are ‘valued’ by a student,
is relevant to the nature of the discipline and is developmental in its
structuring to reflect learning stages and progress. Notions of what is of
‘value’, the ‘structure’ and ‘number’ of tasks assigned to assessable student outcomes help, in part, to deal with the ‘complications’ associated
with assessment and the collective. However, with greater opportunities
for creativity in the creative and performing arts come greater challenges
for defining, assessing and measuring the success of the individual
within the ensemble, and the ensemble as collaborative project. These
challenges are not different from those outlined by Cecilia Almqvist
et al. (2016) in their discussion of changing requirements for assessment in another domain of arts education, that of music. The search
for innovative approaches in arts-based education, including approaches
to address academic and higher education standards and requirements,
needs to be ongoing.
Quality Assurance in the Performing Arts
As with the topic of assessment, education delivered under the banner of the creative and performing arts should follow similar principles
of quality assurance as reflected in the broader higher education sector. Again, finer nuances will be required to cater for the unique elements of programme and education delivery in arts-based education,
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 95
and challenges may be encountered if these nuances are not ­available
in the traditional systems of higher education. In Australia, the Tertiary
Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) regulates the
Australian Higher Education sector through the Higher Education
Standards Framework 2015 (HESF15). The HESF15 provides the
structure through which providers frame their pedagogy, administer
their courses and operate their facilities.
The HESF15 has the Student Learning Experience at its core, and
its foundational principles operate in seven domains, all of which are
applicable to an arts-based education and its academic and professional
offerings. The domains include Student Participation and Attainment,
the Learning Environment, Teaching, Research and Research Training,
Institutional Quality Assurance, Governance and Accountability, and
Representation, Information and Information Management. A risk
based and evidentiary approach is required to demonstrate institutional
quality mapped to the standards. A broad and diverse range of evidence
may be offered to the regulator, which reflects the philosophy, scale
and standing of the organisation. As such, creative and performing arts
organisations, particularly those higher education providers who are not
universities, are able to provide unique and dynamic evidentiary materials during registration, accreditation and audit periods, which reflect
their organisational identity. The brief case study provided in this chapter provides examples of such evidence.
Case Study: The National Institute
of Dramatic Art (NIDA)
This case study provides an insight into the learning environment and
educational activities at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, one
of Australia’s leading performing arts institutes, with a long tradition
and well-established reputation for educating actors and theatre makers. NIDA’s creative teaching methods are based on the Creative and
Performing Arts Student Learning Model played out in the conservatoire,
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where values of the master apprentice are intertwined with academic,
professional, and interpersonal knowledge. NIDA trains and educates approximately 300 higher education students annually and seeks
to ‘empower students to become resilient artists, industry leaders and
global citizens’ (NIDA Vision Statement 2017b). Students undertaking NIDA courses prove, through their participation and practice, to
be game-changers and disrupters, interpreters and storytellers, makers
of contemporary culture. The institute places its student-artists at the
heart of all its activities, preparing them to be the future leaders in the
creative and performing arts. The showcasing of NIDA aims to demonstrate an institutional approach to the ‘lived experience’ and provides
an insight into the collaborative and interdisciplinary learning activities
associated with live theatrical production.
Figure 2 reflects the experimental nature of technical theatre using
diverse materials and technologies.
Fig. 2 NIDA 2017. ‘Collaboration’ Black Box Studio
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 97
NIDA’s Creative and Performing Arts Model
NIDA’s creative and performing arts model of learning and assessment
can be at once a measure of independent discipline expertise and the
aggregated knowledge that leads to a collective dramatic performance.
At the intersection of academic and professional learning situated in
interdisciplinary environments are unique opportunities for student to
learn in communities of creative practice. Through academic knowledge, students attain the capacity for situating and interrogating an
idea, practice or object through a range of contexts, providing access to
the multiple perspectives of the world in which we live. The philosophical, historical, theoretical, cultural and social contexts of seeing and
perceiving are applied to the development of new ideas, and provide
stimulus to reimagine existing ones. A professional discipline-related
education draws on attitudes and functions that mirror the creative-arts
industry and the professions, and has at its core, employability skills
and knowledge. Current industry practices are examined through workplace training, which ensures the enhancement of learned skills and
the development of new ones. Artisanal, technical, physical, logistical,
teambuilding and flexible-thinking skill sets may be enhanced through
studios and workshops, and demonstrated through individual assessment of artistry or as capstone-style collaborations.
NIDA’s integrated delivery models provide scope and flexibility for
students to collaborate across cohorts in a range of genres with internal
and external stakeholders; industry, community, business and research
partners. The Framework for Integrated Delivery of Arts-based Education
is provided in Fig. 3 to show the capacity for a strengthened student learning experience at the intersection of these sectors with quality assured practice. The NIDA twice-yearly Production Seasons form
a significant part of the assessment activities for most courses and are
situated across a spectrum of contexts including the theatre, studios,
rehearsal rooms and workshops. These are the creative hubs where students creatively envision, collaborate and then construct a range of plays
and performances for a public audience. This model provides a framework through which complex ideas may be played out beyond cultural
98 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Fig. 3 NIDA 2017. Framework for Integrated Delivery of Arts-based Education
and geographic borders, and with certain ‘permissions’ enabled by work
created outside of a formal classroom, presented in ways that may challenge convention. As creative storytellers, students have the capacity
to skilfully reflect the real, or to promote the obscure, determine a set
of emotional responses, interpret historical memory, frighten, disrupt,
inform or disturb, through design, material culture, props-making, set
construction, costuming, sound, lighting design, technical magic, videography, stage management, cultural leadership and performance. The
NIDA Vision Statement 2017 states that:
NIDA aspires to be a world leader in performing arts education. Led
by practising artists, NIDA is a centre for innovation, forging partnerships between the arts, technology and enterprise to develop outstanding storytellers with unique Australian voices. Experts in collaboration,
NIDA promotes a culture of life-long learning and empowers students
to become resilient artists, industry leaders and global citizens. (NIDA
Vision Statement 2017b)
Figure 3 demonstrates the integration of the key areas of knowledge
sources and professional and learning development required in the
delivery of arts-based education. It also demonstrates the underpinning
higher education standards that signify sustained quality in education
and a worthy experience for all students.
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 99
Community engagement is another area in which students’ professional pathways can be strengthened using the Framework for Integrated
Delivery of Arts-based Education. NIDA students undertake a range of
extra curricula activities that bridge their learning lives to professional
ones, building networks with industry, community and business, and
trajectories for further study. Innovative arts-based knowledge translation projects have seen NIDA included as a contributor to research with
university partners, as for example, psychosis recovery narratives reimagined by creative and performing arts students and staff. Leading research
is also being undertaken in the theory of creativity, 3D modelling for
theatrical design, and the costume-making workshop positioned as an
intersection of material culture, technical skill and the senses. Students
are also productively engaging in the arts-health sector, working on projects that translate research through arts-based modes such as design
and performance. These projects show the NIDA model in action and
highlight strategies and practices that engage students’ working empathetically with their peers, participating in experiential learning and
practice-informed research, preparing to be intuitive and ambitious student-artists with future careers in the creative and performing arts.
Student Learning and Course Delivery
NIDA provides education and training at both the undergraduate and
graduate levels. The current reinvigorated Bachelor of Fine Arts and
the innovative Master of Fine Arts were launched in 2014. Curricula
at both graduate and undergraduate levels connect professional skills
with academic knowledge underpinned by NIDA’s measures of quality assurance. Course and curricula include the building of discipline
expertise, culture-making, industry partnerships, networking, embodied
practice and practice-informed research, all ratified and linked by quality assured learning and assessment processes to provide rich academic
experiences for students. The strength of NIDA’s higher education curriculum design lies in its flexibility, and the opportunities it provides for
integrated learning experiences, appropriately scaffolded to support students’ academic progression. Built into the accredited structure of each
course is the opportunity for students to be measured appropriately
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against subject Learning Outcomes whilst developing their personal
research interests, expertise and discipline practice.
An example of a subject Learning Outcome against which student
learning is measured in the MFA Programme ‘Contextualising Practice’
(NIDA 2017a) is one which requires students to: ‘Demonstrate the
connections between your own practice and creative insights gained
through multi-modal experiential learning’ (p. 2). The strength of this
Learning Outcome is the opportunities it facilitates for students to
perform individually and in the context of other disciplines in the live
production model. Yet another example in this MFA Programme is
subject content that encourages students to: ‘Become a reflective practitioner who can synthesise and empathetically evaluate the relationships
between the work of self and that of others’ (p. 2). Critical self-reflection and the application of the outcomes of self-discovery are manifest
throughout the live production, which includes active engagement with
others and other disciplines. Such Learning Objectives lead to a fusion
of skills-based training with socialised practices of higher education, in a
creative interdisciplinary context that embodies the foundations of education in the creative and performing arts.
Student Learning Environment at NIDA
A key component of quality in education is a learning environment that
is conducive to student learning in the disciplines of the performing
arts. NIDA’s learning spaces include state-of-the-art studios and theatre and design spaces in which staff work closely alongside students to
facilitate engagement with new and exciting performing arts education
and training agendas. The modern and student-friendly learning spaces
offer opportunities to take and make creative risks, to experiment with
new and innovative ideas, to succeed and fail, to reiterate thinking and
practice skills, and to experience ‘newness’ and ‘otherness’. In this highly
mentored learning environment, students build their skills from inexperience to expertise. NIDA encourages students to be curious and resilient, to create the creative abrasions that will elicit new knowledge, to
practice new skills, test new theories and embrace tradition whilst challenging the norm. As NIDA’s Director of Undergraduate Studies and
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 101
Head of Acting, John Bashford notes: ‘We draw from the European tradition, and reimagine the canon through our practice in a range of cultural contexts. Innovation is at the core of this approach’ (2017).
A reimagined performance of Poe’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ in 2016
attests to the innovative approach brought to live performance at NIDA.
The production drew on integration between BFA and MFA student
cohorts, and the intersection of academic and professional expertise.
MFA directors, writers and designers worked with BFA actors, makers
and technicians to bring the play to fruition. In this instance, the live
production becomes the reconciliation of a range of assessable outcomes
in diverse disciplines, mapped together as a cohesive whole. This community of practice was a real-world learning environment, embodying
the interdisciplinary practice on which NIDA’s pedagogy rests.
Figure 4 demonstrates the complex range of disciplines and
skills operating in the live production model at NIDA. ‘The Yellow
Wallpaper’ prompted students to use a diverse range of media, techniques and materials in innovative ways.
Fig. 4 NIDA 2016. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Live Production
102 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Embedding Collaboration in the Learning at NIDA
Collaboration signals the essence of learning at NIDA. A complex set
of industry-standard relationships is negotiated through the collaborative live production model at NIDA. At the undergraduate level, it is
brought to bear through scaffolded BFA curricula and assessable projects in which students learn the theory of collaboration, and then test
its application in small-scale productions, exhibitions and performances.
Intensifying in scale and complexity over three years of study, student
final productions at the time of graduating, demonstrate advanced
skills, knowledge and attitudes consistent with creative and performing arts industry practice and standards. Similar levels of collaborative
understanding, demonstration and leadership are expected in the MFA
A key aspect of collaboration is understanding the complex relationships essential for productive engagement. Relationships within collaborative teams are developed through the production research phase,
through conceptual discussions, production meetings, rehearsals in studios and theatres, and finally through the live production itself. Tamara
Rumiantsev et al. cite Armin Zanner and Dinah Stabb, who note that
‘sharing, exchanging and communicating are important assets when
choosing to be a performer’ (2016, p. 3). The authors also note that a
relationship also develops with the audience in live performance. This
complex of relationships is based on empathy and productive communication through the use of ‘shared languages’ for creative and performing arts practice.
An example is provided which outlines some of the key student
relationships in the live production model. The director–designer relationship is an instructive one that shapes the creative direction of the
production, whilst the designer-set builder, properties and costume
maker bring about the performance landscape and material artifacts.
The director works with the theatre technicians and stage manager to
bring their creative vision to bear through theatre ‘magic’. Lastly the
director–actor relationship draws on technical craft, emotional intelligences and particularly trust, who along with the voice and movement coaches, bring the performance to life. These and other complex
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 103
relationships where students work with one another, whilst mentored by
external experts and academic staff, are based on creative, technical and
logistical aspects of live production.
Figure 5 outlines the relationships inherent live production at NIDA.
Whilst developing these productive relationships, it must be noted that
there may be tension that develops when agency is removed, authority is questioned or a judgmental environment develops. In these
cases, NIDA students draw on communication skills developed in
their studios and negotiate creative and productive outcomes. NIDA’s
approach to problem-solving is based on clear, immediate and respectful communication between parties that is undertaken in a timely manner. Through their coursework, BFA and MFA students are trained to
understand the safety net provided in the appropriate institutional policies and procedures pertaining to communication, interpersonal interactions and relationships with others. Another useful tool accessible
Fig. 5 NIDA 2017. Live Performance Experiential Learning Relationships
104 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
for students and staff working in the highly demanding environments
of live production is that of negotiation. Negotiation skills are useful
when students are working with internal and external stakeholders,
perhaps with a greater emphasis on the latter. Students engage with a
range of arts and business community stakeholders, including other
arts-based education institutes, government agencies and commercial
enterprises, which support them in their learning and career aspirations. Furthermore, values of intellectual freedom, self-awareness and
mutual respect act as foundations for productive participation in artsbased projects. Students participate at the intersection of practice and
theory, community and commerce, which reinforce and augment one
another, celebrated through externally validated performances, conferences, exhibitions and publications.
Learning Beyond the Curriculum at NIDA
Alongside the complex set of knowledge and skills to be developed
in the creative and performing arts, students need to develop skills to
sustain performance in that sector. Emotional intelligence, empathy,
curiosity, resilience, bravery, self-confidence, leadership, the capacity
to develop professional friendships and appropriate intercultural communication, among others, are skills which contribute significantly to
a student-artist’s success. NIDA Chief Executive Officer, Kate Cherry,
emphasises the fact that there exists an opportunity for NIDA creative
artists to explore their emotional intelligence, demonstrate a greater
expression of what it is to be an empathetic and resilient human and
show leadership in the broader creative-arts landscape (NIDA Vision
Statement 2017b). These qualities are perhaps more difficult to define
in specified learning outcomes than they are through practice. These
skills are developed at NIDA through mentorship, by students guided
to reflective practice, and by testing and assessing approaches and methodologies associated with self-awareness and discovery. Learning these
interpersonal skills, and using them to enhance productive relationships, is undertaken through collaboration with a range of external
partners. NIDA students, working across disciplines and sectors, have
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 105
Fig. 6 NIDA 2016. ‘The Olympians—Duet’ Live Production
shown the impact of the training in this area and its effectiveness. This
is evident in BFA students who work interstate on interdisciplinary
projects with cultural organisations and MFA students who undertake
international placements, where the capacity to develop meaningful
professional relationships in new environments has a direct impact on
their entry into the professions.
Figure 6 demonstrates the interpersonal skills necessary for actors in
live productions.
Though their education and training, students at NIDA are able to
relate to the various characters, contexts, cultures and other dimensions
they need to be part of a creative, vibrant and ever-changing creativearts community. They are capable of thinking flexibly, are disruptors
who are responsive to change, engage their emotional intelligence,
and can make meaning in a variety of ways to influence audience perceptions. They show cultural leadership as Australia’s future storytellers. This is brought to bear by creative and strategic leadership, good
governance, discipline expert staff scholars and practitioners, and flexible and rigorous curricula this is carefully constructed and delivered at
NIDA, making it the leading institution that it is.
106 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Shifting Focus to Enhance Learning Opportunities
Discipline-oriented industry skills, knowledge and attitudes are traditionally aligned with the vocational sector, where employability outcomes are an essential aspect of training and assessment. However, when
a professionally positioned, arts-based institution makes the decision to
extend and enhance the learning and assessment of its students, then
even greater complexity to the learning process is added, at the same
time leading to greater opportunities for engagement and employability.
It is a unique approach and a combination that prepares students for
careers as cultural leaders in the creative and performing arts.
In an innovative change of approach, NIDA entered the Higher
Education sector in 2000, with its first Bachelor of Dramatic Arts
awards. In 2014, students were able to participate in a Bachelor of Fine
Arts, a change that reflected NIDA’s growing interest in the broader
scope of creative and performing arts education and practice. This shift
was in part a reflection of national and international trends in the sector. The NIDA course maintained its reference points for performance
practices, but restructured its course content to include requisite academic knowledge and discipline theory. Whilst in its infancy in the
higher education sector, NIDA leaned on pedagogical models akin
to the universities, however, the increasing focus of curriculum development several years later shows a strong focus on collaboration and
studio practice, the power of imaginative play, and research generated
through practice. It is more commonly apparent that the ‘university’ is
seeking out partnerships with the arts-based education providers such as
NIDA, to bring the authentic and generative nature of embodied practice to their inherently theoretical courses of study.
As the institute has matured in the higher education sector, NIDA
has also developed a suite of Master of Fine Arts courses that respond
to industry, business and arts-community need, and have the potential to strengthen the arts landscape in years to come. These include
the MFA (Directing), MFA (Writing for Performance), MFA (Voice),
MFA (Design for Performance) and MFA (Cultural Leadership).
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 107
The MFA (Creative Producing) has also been approved by NIDA’s
Academic Board, but is yet to be launched.
Quality Assured Collaborative Learning at NIDA
NIDA is a dual-sector provider and, subsequently, subscribes to a dual
set of Quality Assurance regulators, namely, the Tertiary Education
Quality and Standards Agency Act (TEQSA 2011) which regulates the
Australian Higher Education sector, and the Australian Skills Quality
Agency (ASQA), which regulates the Vocational Education sector.
NIDA achieved Self-Accrediting Authority status in July 2015, making
it one of the very few arts-based institutions to have achieved this status.
Self-accrediting status permits NIDA to accredit courses within a band
of Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) levels 7, 8–9 in consultation with its Academic Board; Bachelor and Master level courses in
creative and performing arts or related cognate disciplines.
Sound academic governance and leadership by its Academic Board
guide quality assured practice at NIDA. ‘Good’ practice at NIDA is
synonymous with critical reflection and continual improvement processes, which are mapped to a range of criteria provided in the Higher
Education Framework Standards 2015. The NIDA Quality Assurance
Framework (QAF) articulates risk and opportunities at an institutional level, through robust and sustainable evidentiary-based processes. Evidence is provided from a range of inputs including Learner
Experience Surveys, Director’s Reports and minutes of committees and
meetings. Student creative outcomes are potent and informative elements through which to demonstrate compliance with the standards. At
the heart of NIDA’s ‘elite education’ in the creative and performing arts
lies a strengthened and novel Quality Assurance system that, it is hoped,
will provide a model for the merged governance of academic and professional education at arts-based institutions.
Figure 7 provides an overview of the collective inputs to a live production from students and staff at NIDA in the graduate (MFA) and
undergraduate (BFA) programmes, together with external experts, guest
artists and thought leaders.
108 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Fig. 7 NIDA 2017. Live Production Learning Model
Artists in Residence and Mentors and Their Impact
To enrich the specific skills for student learning, NIDA employs Artists
in Residence, enlists Visiting Scholars to engage with its academic
community and invites Guest Directors to work on live productions.
These initiatives bring an added vibrancy to the learning experience.
This assures national and international currency and equivalency, with
external community leaders in academe and industry being brought to
the students’ learning environments. Specialist guests have positive and
creative learning influences on students and staff, as they bring specific discipline expertise, academic prowess and industry focus to the
student cohorts. As such, students have the opportunity to work with
professional creative artists, international and national directors and
discipline experts and scholars shoulder-to-shoulder in creative enterprise. Harwood (2007) notes that the ‘role of visiting artists as models
for professional behaviour become singularly important for art curricula’
(p. 320).
Other mentors from industry who support students to achieve ‘good’
learning outcomes include technical mentors who support Technical
Theatre and Stage Management students through their industry practice
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 109
whilst working in NIDA theatres; design students are supported by
professional designers as well as by leading design scholar-practitioners.
Whilst these learning practices are undertaken to imitate the industry,
the habitus is that of a learning environment and is evidence of the
complex contexts within which NIDA works. As stated, whilst a fundamentally an institute for learning, NIDA’s productions are professionally actuated, and publicly attended by paying audiences alongside
assessors, members of the Academic Board, tutors, friends and family,
demonstrating the vision as ‘an environment that embraces the makers,
doers and thinkers’ in an ‘incubator for innovation’ (Vision Statement
Figure 8 represents the collaborative aspects of the live production—
video enabled through set design; evidence of the outcomes of a productive director–designer relationship.
To conclude, the authors have sought to present a discussion on important facets of arts-based education, with a focus on the creative and
performing arts. It also sought to provide insights into practice in this
unique disciplinary area and a model devised at a leading performing
arts institute in Australia, a model in which learning and assessment
outcomes in the creative and performing arts are strengthened through
discipline standards and sector regulation to ensure the highest quality
in student learning.
Specifically, this approach has been demonstrated through the creative teaching methods used to produce a live dramatic performance at
NIDA, where there has been a shift from a training model that focused
on professional skills development in the creative and performing arts
to a model that included an academic and higher education focus with
researched informed practice and theoretical foundations in learning. It
also included the assurance that learning outcomes and assessment are
mapped with national higher education standards and benchmarked
with parallel international standards. Learning and assessment strategies are developed to be at once a measure of students’ independent
110 P. Ramburuth and M. Laird
Fig. 8 NIDA 2016. ‘The Olympians—Gods’ Live Production
discipline expertise and the aggregated knowledge that leads to a collective dramatic performance. This approach ensures comparative
standing and opportunities for students across performing arts cultures
and borders. To deliver quality, it brings together the many dimensions of learning and teaching, and the strength of the offerings found
in the intersections as shown in the Framework for Integrated Delivery
Approaches to Enhancing Student Learning … 111
of Arts-based Education. Tudor (2005) reinforces the place of creative
­practice, which we might comfortably apply to creative and performing
arts education: ‘Creativity is a dynamic cultural mechanism that supports human life and learning in an uncertain world’ (p. 20).
Acknowledgements Director/CEO Kate Cherry, Deputy Director/CEO
Michael Scott-Mitchell, Head of MFA (Writing for Performance) and
author of ‘The Olympians’ Stephen Sewell, and John Bashford, Director
Undergraduate Studies for their support of NIDA as a source for this chapter.
Almqvist, Cecilia, John Vinge, Lauri Väkevä, and Olle Zandén. 2016.
Assessment as Learning in Music Education: The Risk of “criteria compliance” Replacing “learning” in the Scandinavian Countries. Research Studies
in Music Education 1–16.
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Bashford, John. 2017. Meeting with Director Learning and Teaching. Sydney,
April 25.
Carey, Gemma. 2010. Performance of Learning? Reflections on Pedagogical
Practices within the Conservatoire. Presented at the 18th International
Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician,
Shanghai, China.
Crisp, Geoffrey. 2012. Integrative Assessment: Reframing Assessment Practice
for Current and Future Learning. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher
Education 37: 33–43.
938.2010.494234. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.
Dewey, John. 1934. Art as Experience. New York: Capricorn Books, G.P.
Putnam’s Sons.
Department of Communication and the Arts. 2017. Performing Arts Training
Bodies. Canberra: Australian Government.
Forsyth, Graham. 2013. The COFA Experience: Assessment Reform and
Review. In Improving Assessment in Higher Education: A Whole-of-Institution
Approach, ed. Richard Henry, Stephen Marshall, and Prem Ramburuth,
147–165. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing.
Gregory, Sean. 2010. Collaborative Approaches: Putting Colour in a Grey
Area. International Journal of Community Music 3: 387–397.
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Hardin, Russell. 2002. Trust and Trustworthiness. New York: Russell Sage
Hamilton, Jillian, and Luke Jaaniste. 2009. Content, Structure and Orientations
of the Practice-Led Exegesis. Presented at the Art.Media.Design: Writing
Intersections Conference, Hawthorn, Melbourne, 18–19 November.
Harwood, Eve. 2007. Artists in the Academy: Curriculum and Instruction. In
International Handbook of Research in Arts Education, ed. Liora Bresler, 313–
325. Illinois: Springer.
Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie, and
Edward Robinson. New York: Harper Row.
Kolb, David. 2015. Experiential Learning Experience as the Source of Learning
and Development. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Laird, Melissa. 2013. Remnant and Reliquary: Fragmentary Traces Reconciled
as Object and Knowledge. In Doctoral Writing in the Creative and
Performing Arts, ed. Louise Ravelli, Brian Paltridge, and Sue Starfield, 115–
134. Oxfordshire: Libri Publishing.
Laird, William Terris. 1963. The Use of the Textbook. MAed diss., University of
Leong, Samuel. 2017. Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts
Benchmarking Exercise. In NIDA-HPAPA Benchmarking Report. Sydney:
Merleau-Ponty, M. 1968. The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis.
Evanston: North Weston University Press.
National Institute of Dramatic Art. 2017a. Contextualising Practice. In MFA
Subject Outline. Sydney: NIDA.
National Institute of Dramatic Art. 2017b. Vision Statement. Sydney: NIDA.
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Education and the Post-modern Subject. Journal of Philosophy of Education
33 (2): 277–286.
Perkins, Rosie. 2013. Hierarchies and Learning in the Conservatoire:
Exploring What Students Learn through the Lens of Bourdieu. Research
Studies in Music Education 35: 197–212.
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Polifonia Accreditation Working Group. 2010. Quality Assurance and
Accreditation in Higher Music Education. In AEC Publications 2010—
Framework Document. Amsterdam: AEC Publications.
Renshaw, Peter. 2013. Collaborative Learning: A Catalyst for Organisational
Development in Higher Music Education. In Collaborative Learning in
Higher Music Education, ed. Helena Gaunt and Heidi Westerlund, 237–
246. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
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Rodgers, Paul, and Craig Bremner. 2013. Design Without Discipline. Design
Issues 29: 4–13.
Discipline-final.pdf. Accessed 20 April 2017.
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Collaborative Learning in Two Vocal Conservatoire Courses. Music
Education Research 1–13.
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Schon, David. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in
Action. London: Basic Books.
Schon, David. 1985. The Design Studio: An Exploration of its Traditions
and Potentials. London: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
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Ravelli, Brian Paltridge, and Sue Starfield, 297–318. Oxfordshire: Libri
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of Discipline-Specific MAs. IF Magazine, August 25.
Understanding Dance Through Authentic
Choreographic and A/r/tographic
Peter J. Cook
There is a push amongst Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes
in Australia to embrace online education as the most financially viable mode of delivery. The higher education Arts sector, and Dance
in particular, has unique issues with online delivery, given the strong
reliance on physical instruction, technical immediate feedback and
communication of complex and multi-layered intents found within
choreographed artworks. The requirement to deliver to both online
and on-campus students simultaneously and effectively demanded a
need to redesign, recreate, reorganise, re-prioritise and repurpose both
curriculum and pedagogy in the Arts within this specific degree programme, and to do so from an artistic lens offering authentic artistic
experiences at every opportunity in content and assessment. The pilot
P.J. Cook (*) 
Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
116 P.J. Cook
study was designed to investigate, through a small sample, the impact
of the artistic approaches taken in this unit using arts-based methodology to review curriculum and pedagogy, and to inform the research
This pilot study took place at Southern Cross University, an
Australian regional university that has traditionally drawn students into
its programmes from two different states, Queensland and New South
Wales, with differing teacher registration requirements. The development of the online education programmes being offered increased the
reach in terms of recruitment into the ITE courses. Prioritising economic rationalism in this context is a development that affronts the
preparation for the complexities and realities of teaching Dance as
a practical art, and necessitates the delivery to be both synchronous
and asynchronous (Baker 2011, 2012, 2013; Alter 2014). It is possible for some of our ITE students to graduate without ever setting foot
on ­university grounds. Beyond the traditional methods of presentation,
the tutorial room was becoming a digital, online and virtual learning
space requiring contemporary considerations of all aspects of the educational environment irrespective of its location. It is this broadening
of the educational site that mandated the need for discussion about the
­organisation of the unit and its impact on learning, responding to the
first research question.
The students within this pilot study are enrolled in a double degree,
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Primary). On completion of
this course, students are qualified to teach from Kindergarten to Year
6. In Australia, this is from the beginning of compulsory schooling, at
approximately five years old, to when they enter secondary education
at approximately 12 years old. The ITE students are deemed generalists,
in that upon graduation, they will be primarily responsible for a class
of approximately 30 students and charged with the concern of teaching all compulsory syllabus materials for that cohort. The Arts is one of
those Key Learning Areas (KLA), and Dance is a one of the Art forms
studied. It is asserted, however, that all teachers who will deliver the Arts
in schools need experiences and appreciation in the practice of Art making. As stated by Cutcher and Cook (2016, p. 3),
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 117
…we adhere to Eisner (2002) position regarding the attributes of the
Arts and artists. That is, an artist is one who understands what it is to
think within and through the particular materials of Arts practice, to
make and resolve artworks in order to understand that problems can have
more than one solution, and that multiple perspectives and approaches
are possible.
This view is shared with Bresler (1994) who stresses that even a generalist educator needs robust, creative and multifaceted thinking within the
studio paradigm, in order to appreciate the complexity of the Arts in
practice. The key points of concern are that as tertiary educators, it is
essential to insure that authentic artistic experiences are developed and
offered through innovative learning organisation and design. In particular, the Dance component needs to provide content knowledge that
would equip these ITE students to understand and appreciate the elements of Dance artistically, creatively and experientially. The design of
the unit in question needed to support the process and product of the
artistic pursuit and to employ strategies found within the artistic community and profession that would be applicable to the educational context. This concept is central to the second research question regarding
choreographic experiences, assessment strategies and their capacity to
enhance appreciation of Dance as an Art form.
At the core of this process of redevelopment was a reacquaintance
with the fundamental principles of unit design, ensuring a constructive alignment of student learning outcomes, learning experiences and
assessment (Biggs 2011), but from an artistic perspective. Secondly,
the organisational aspect of the unit design employed the principles of
backward design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). This approach began by
identifying the desired results for the unit outcomes based on competence and confidence in the Arts, followed by determining the evidence
of achievement required through artistic assessment and finally planning the practice-based learning experiences accordingly to artfully support the artistic accomplishment of the goals. In essence, responding to
these models placed the importance of artistic assessment processes at
the centre of the concern of the redesign and reorganisation, simultaneously offering solutions for curriculum and pedagogy. The pilot study
118 P.J. Cook
within this research occurred after the implementation of this newly
organised unit, and as such serves to review the benefits of studying
Dance education concepts artistically.
In order to investigate and interrogate the Dance educational field,
the literature was reviewed with an emphasis on the needs of the ITE
students and their future role as generalist teachers. This forms the basis
of the background section of this chapter and provides a basis for the
responses to the third research question about preparedness as future
arts facilitators. The literature review also explored the recently published national curriculum—choreography as a learning experience—
and the evolution of Dance in higher education. The texts were selected
to develop an existing foundational response to the research questions
and to identify the current paucity, and to better position the pilot
study within the field. The chapter goes on to explore the theoretical
underpinnings of choreographic practice from an educational paradigm
with an emphasis on Dance analysis. A/r/tography is then described as
an effective Arts-based methodology, perfectly suited to this pilot study
as the research questions will largely be understood and responsive
through an artistic lens. The chapter then moves on to the description
of the pilot study and provides analysis and understandings in response
to the research questions.
Whilst the Arts are discussed in the literature surrounding Initial
Teacher Education (ITE), it is seldom explored form an artful processual perspective. The consideration of the Arts and Arts learning appears
segregated from the Art-making processes that aid in understanding the
Arts generally. It is essential that ITE students have artful experiences in
order for them to teach the Arts (Ewing and Gibson 2015). Cognizant
of this, it is important to clearly define the term choreography and draw
limits around the definition for theoretic clarity. Foster (2010) provides the origins of the term choreography, which have Greek derivatives,
coming from the words choreia meaning the synthesis of Dance and
rhythm and graph meaning to write. The writing aspect resonates with
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 119
contemporary thought on Dance literacy and the embodiment of the
body from a communication standpoint. Conceptually, choreography
has been used as an explanation of social phenomena but is responding
more to the physical manifestations of processes rather than an artistic
pursuit (Hewitt 2005). Nadel and Strauss (2003) articulate that choreography is a combination of the capacity to analyse creative movement
possibilities in conjunction with the artistic sensitivity to select appropriately. The term choreography appears in the Australian Curriculum
(Australian Curriculum Assessment And Reporting Authority n.d.) as a
central skill in the study of Dance.
Dance in the Australian Curriculum
Dance is one of the five distinct Art forms within the Australian
Curriculum, all of which are housed in the Arts learning area
(Australian Curriculum Assessment And Reporting Authority n.d.).
The Australian Curriculum outlines the national expectations for students learning, offering content and assessment guidelines that are
standardised across the country. There is an acknowledgement of the
dual capacity within the Arts to exist singularly and as interrelated disciplines. The curriculum highlights the worth of the Arts for children
and young people and places creative expression as the centrepiece of
the justification for inclusion with an emphasis on creative contributions both as students and future community members (Australian
Curriculum Assessment And Reporting Authority n.d.). Both process
and product are valued in the curriculum with prominence given to
understanding the cultural significance of the experiences and appreciation of associated symbols, techniques and language. All of the Arts
have a common relationship between making Art, responding to Art
and experiencing the connection between making and responding.
Each of the Arts has their own section within the curriculum, which
provides deeper explanations of the specifics of that Art form and how
they respond to the mandatory linkages to student diversity, general
capabilities and cross–curriculum priorities (National Advocates for
Arts Education 2015).
120 P.J. Cook
The rationale for Dance embodies the intention of the curriculum
to provide opportunities for students to physically express with intent
and form using the body as an instrument and movement as the vehicle
for this communication. The central focus is on Dance practice, which
permeates all experiences. Students “choreograph, rehearse, perform and
respond” (Australian Curriculum Assessment And Reporting Authority
n.d., para. 9) as they explore their own and others’ choreography and
performances. The aims of the curriculum are clearly focused on students developing:
• An awareness of the body in order to communicate technically and
• Choreographic and performance skills;
• Aesthetic, artistic and cultural appreciation in historical contexts; and
• Respect and knowledge of socio-historical traditions of the Art form
as a participant and audience.
It is these aims that are later used as the measure for the success of the
unit design and organisation within the pilot study.
Whilst the overarching concept within the Arts curriculum is about
making and responding, the Dance-specific learning processes include
activities in choreography, performance and appreciation. Knowledge
and skills in Dance include demonstrating technical and style-specific
movement in order to express the artistic qualities aligned with the choreographer’s intent. At all stages of development, there is an emphasis
placed on the development of the creative process. The emergence of
the role of the choreographer in this curriculum develops as the students’ capacity to create movement increases (Australian Curriculum
Assessment And Reporting Authority n.d.).
The Dance section of the curriculum also provides some rudimentary
terms in the glossary. The terms included providing definitions with
little understanding or deliberation for how a teacher may incorporate
them into the curriculum. The term choreography is not included, but
the use of the term choreographic devices is defined as “The tools a choreographer selects and uses to communicate ideas, including: abstraction, sequence, repetition, transition, contrast, variation and canon”
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 121
(Australian Curriculum Assessment And Reporting Authority n.d.).
Whilst the syllabus places a strong emphasis on the role the choreographer plays in a Dance education, this is not clearly articulated within
the limitations of this curriculum or associated resources.
Beyond the Australian curriculum, Bonbright et al. (2013) attempt
to provide a definition of Dance education by explaining that experience is largely to do with understanding of the body for the purpose
of self-expression. This philosophical positioning emphasises the relationship between the student-centred approaches which nurtures the
creative spirit as apposed to imposed structural limitations that traditionally have accompanied the Dance training regime. The Australian
Curriculum provides no such distinction, rather leaving the interpretation and focus on the individual school for implementation. This
approach also aligns with the discussion provided by Koff (2000) who
offers sage advice for curriculum writers internationally. “Through
Dance, students represent, question and celebrate human experience, using the body as the instrument and movement as the medium
for personal, social, emotional, spiritual and physical communication”
(p. 210). It provides direction on the need to explore the learning areas
of performance, appreciation and choreography.
Whilst it is agreed that these learning experiences overlap significantly and can be taught in any number of intertwined methods, for the
purpose of this chapter, the Learning Experience of Choreography takes
the focus.
Learning Experiences: Choreography
According to Bullen (2009), choreography is central to the professional
field of Dance, yet the research into teaching choreography is under
investigated compared to the components of performance and appreciation. Composition and choreography are often taught with a studentdirected focus and expecting the student to device movement and then
expertly craft the material into an artwork that communicates intent.
This is an extraordinary expectation unless supported by robust study
of each of the elements ascribed within the course (Davenport 2006).
122 P.J. Cook
Planned experiences need to develop students from initial movement
activities towards understanding of the relationship between the body
and meaning, with a reliance on the educator’s capacity to provide
authentic artistic experiences.
An investigation into the development of the choreographic pedagogy defines choreography as a product of work, and as a creation, design
and construction of the said work. This makes for an important philosophical distinction, as both the process and the product are important
components of these artistic explorations (Mullins 2004; Smith-Autard
2002; Blom and Chaplin 1982). Harrington’s participatory action
research investigated the role of the teacher in choreographic classes
and noted a development of the students needing to be redefined as
co-researchers. Through the planning, reflecting, analysing and evaluative processes, student participants/co-researchers developed awareness
of the power of the reflection in artistic development and the purpose
of authentically experimenting with the compositional elements. The
outcome of this research said as much about pedagogy as it did about
choreography. The researcher identified countless viable teaching opportunities that increased students’ awareness and understanding of the
choreographic process, largely through the use of reflection and questioning techniques. These pedagogical tools form the centrepiece of the
choreographic inquiry and require problem-solving strategies to augment the teaching experience (Harrington 2013).
Harrington (2013) notes that as Dance became an academic pursuit,
composition became included in its study. The focus on the creative
process increased as a result of these developments. Some of the key figures in the history of Modern Dance were responsible for this scholarly
push as the major progress in this historical chapter was housed in the
American university programmes (Hagood and Kahlich 2007). The literature surrounding the choreographic process increased as the demands
of the field merged within the academy. Whilst the generic concepts of
choreographic analysis and grew, so did the connection to the cultural
location. Kraus et al. (1991) review much of the artistic ventures in
terms of their sociocultural significance and attribute many of the developments with this linkage at the forefront.
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 123
Dance in Higher Education
Kraus et al. (1991) provide a strong analysis of Dance in America
within the higher education sector. The emergence of Modern Dance
saw university programmes supporting the intellectual, physical and
educational needs of the sector. The university programmes incorporated technical studies in Dance genre, some with pathways into Dance
education. There is a strong connection between universities, the professional industry, community partnerships and Dance education.
The implications for Dance education, and addressing social issues
within schools in the USA, feature in Stinson’s (2016) research, which
provides contemporary, thought on Dance curriculum and pedagogy.
Her focus is on ITE and states that,
Dance education students need to develop their own skills as dancers and
choreographers in order to appreciate the sense of personal power that
comes with competence, and they need to develop the pedagogic skills to
help others find their own power. (p. 152)
Stinson provokes much discussion about Discipline-Based Arts Education,
a trend in ITE courses that promotes the need for more time in reflective
practice and less in studio or practical classes. Stinson makes solid arguments about providing opportunities within ITE programmes to better
understand the significance of the sociocultural existence that their future
students will endure. This provides guidance for planning appropriate and
effective activities that are relevant and accessible.
Ausdance (n.d.), the Australian peak body for Dance advocacy, charts
the development of university Dance programmes in Australia from the
1980s until time of publishing, describing the design and implementation of these courses along with the necessary lobbying of government
agencies to gain acknowledgement at the level necessary to be accredited formally and in the perceptions of the community. Fensham (2005)
places the ultimate acceptance and credibility of Dance in tertiary settings in the hands of the assessment of the doctoral thesis, additionally
stimulating the discussion around the acceptance of practice-based and
creative thesis as part of the doctoral study.
124 P.J. Cook
The study of Dance as part of ITE programmes appears in a variety of literature either within the wider Arts or from a specific teacher
efficacy perspective. There is solid evidence that teachers believe in the
benefits of teaching the Arts, and Dance in particular; however, it is the
perceived skills deficiency that is of concern (Russell-Bowie 2012; Power
and Klopper 2011; Jacobs 2008; De Vries 2013; Davies 2010; Alter
et al. 2009a, b). Where the literature does exist, it is normally focused
on expert Dance educators normally headed for the secondary education
system. The limited literature provides inadequate understanding for the
teaching of Dance from an artistic perspective, whereby the students
work from an arts-centred perspective. This is especially the case where
generalist ITE students are concerned.
Choreographic Practice and Theoretical
Understanding the choreographic practice has the potential to aid
in addressing the dearth of literature currently available and is critical
in responding to the research questions in this study. It is essential on
a theoretical level to understand the essence of the Art form and the
Art form in educational settings. It is important to place this concept
in perspective and inform the depths and levels that are treated when
employing choreography from a theatrical and theoretical lens. The
choreographic practice constructs experiences built on the recognition of symbolism and metalanguage. Choreographic practice uses the
body as the conduit of meaning and to instil the intent of the work.
Embodiment as a concept is written often in relation to Dance with the
obvious physical connection. The theory of Dance analysis and the connection between the elements of Dance and their involvement in the
communication of a desired intent are important to this study.
Blumenfeld-Jones (2008) eloquently focuses the realm of Dance in
research by stating that “the potential of dance for research lies not in
dancing but in the act of choreography” (p. 177). As with all disciplines,
the research can be far reaching and come from many angles, but for
clarity, this quote serves to provide a focus on the choreographic process
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 125
rather an appreciation of the Art form or the study of the performative
aspect of Dance. Leavy (2015) acknowledges that Dance is well connected historically and culturally, but it is the choreographic process
that is the pinnacle within the Dance practice and provides the philosophical underpinnings of the investigation. In Leavy’s view, the presentation of Dance research should not solely be performed or exhibited
but instead be accompanied by written forms in order to contextualise
the findings.
Hagood and Kahlich (in Bresler 2007) state that research in choreographic practice and theory is in its infancy and is developing as a
natural outcome of the increase within the scholarly inquiry occurring
within Dance. They categorised their literature into four discrete areas,
the most relevant of which is titled Choreographic Pedagogy. Iantelli’s
work (in Bresler 2007) identifies six creative processes that are involved
in choreographic pedagogy and involve generating, interpreting, exploring, selection, evaluation and the forming of movement. Hagood and
Kahlich are critical of the style of research undertaken generally in
Dance, identifying that there is limited connection to theoretical frameworks, and the research design itself lacks rigour. This results in poor
communication of data and makes interpretation difficult for other
researchers. They make another observation explaining that the field
would be advantaged if further research were undertaken with robust
and well-articulated associated theory and design.
In essence, researchers within social science have a similar interest to
that of choreographers, both of whom seek to explore and communicate social phenomenon for the purpose of discovery (Blumenfeld-Jones
2008; Leavy 2015; Fraleigh and Hanstein 1998). Choreographers are in
a unique position as their comment can be abstract and lead an audience to understanding of a phenomenon without predetermining the
expected outcome of the knowledge exchange. The exchange moves
from the choreographer via the dancer to the audience.
Taking up Hagood and Kahlich (2007) comments, this chapter
blends the choreographic practice with the more widely appreciated
Practice Theory as defined by Bourdieu (1977). In essence, the theory
concerns itself with the dynamic between the human action and a more
global systemized approach. The choreographic practice theory builds
126 P.J. Cook
on the understanding of the actions, through skills and practices developed through the lens of the Art form, and the understanding of the
systems required to communicate organised thought, actions, intents
and meaning (Nicolini 2012). Furthermore, Schatzki (2010) describes
the main elements that make up practice, they being practical understanding (knowing how to perform the action); rules (the staggered
norms that allow for the structure to build); teleo-affective structures
(linking of ends, means or moods); and general understanding. At each
stage of the choreographic practice, it is able to articulate the processes
and products using these four elements.
Dance scholars (Foster 2010; Smith-Autard 2002, 2010; Stinson 2001,
2006; Adshead-Lansdale 1988, 1994) have deepened the i­nvestigation
of meaning making whilst questioning authorship in the collaborative experience, and ask, who owns the work in a post-structuralist
performing environment? Is it the choreographer, the dancer or the
audience who is considered the end-user and therefore the final contributing factor in the meaning exchange? The theoretical considerations
extend to discover and investigate the choreographic capacity in the
construction of agency. If the choreographer ultimately charts the experience, are they in the power position of the experience or is it reliant on
the other contributing participants being the dancer and the audience?
Whilst these inquiries ruminate around the academe, the nature of the
philosophical questions reinforce that the choreographic practice possesses a theoretical lens by which it exists (Foster 2010). Dance theorist,
John Martin posits that the viewers of Dance are active participants in
the Dance. He goes further to suggest that the viewer’s “… kinesthetic
sympathy we actually reproduce it [Dance] vicariously in our present
muscular experience and awaken such associational connotations as
might have been ours if the original movement had been of our own
making” (Martin in Foster 2010, p. 7). The outcome of the successful
choreographed work is empathy.
The body, including the mind, is at the core of all of these exchanges,
and the embodied experience is central to the understanding of the
choreographic practice and its relationship to the theory. Stinson
(2016, p. 163) purports that “thinking is an active verb” and as such
requires movement to be part of the process. Furthermore, for Dance
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 127
practitioners, the body is a regular portal for thought, and theoretical
frameworks can first be discovered in the body and then articulated
through language, which may be different for other types of sensory
thinkers. However, Warburton (2011, p. 66) states, “bodily movement
is essential to an understanding of all aspects of life”. This echoes the
sentiment of many contemporary writings on Dance and embodiment (Foster 2010; Martin 2004; Hanna 2008, 1985). Capitalising
on notions of embodied writing, Ulmer (2015) informs both Dance
as an Art form and Dance in education and research spheres. There is
a strong connection here between Deleuzian philosophy and embodiment, which has opened the door on Dance as practice-based research.
“Deleuzian philosophies, therefore, regularly inform bodily studies both
within and beyond dance and inspire a broad range of embodied artistic
practices” (Ulmer 2015, p. 40).
Stinson (2016) aims, in her research, to provide imagery that can be
felt and not just read which promotes the kinesthetic perspective further and offers a more meaning reflection of the lived experience. The
ultimate inclusion of the embodied research experience can be summed
up with the following comment. She states, “…whilst not all of us are
trained dancers, we all have the capacity to attend to what we are experiencing on a body level. We can allow ourselves to use all of our senses
as we live in the world with others and try to understand them and be
present with them” (p. 164).
Dance Analysis
Adshead-Lansdale (1988) provides a sound definition of Dance
Analysis, as she outlines, “Analysis provides a structure for the knowledge that is needed to frame interpretations and increases the possibility
of becoming imaginatively and creatively involved in a work” (p. 12).
Dance analysis was originally documented by Rudolf Laban, theorist
and movement practitioner, who created a system of analysing movement operating within their personal kinesphere, or the space that can
be reached when all limbs are extended in all directions. The analysis
describes movement in terms of body action (what the body is doing),
128 P.J. Cook
space (where the action takes place) and effort (how the action is done)
(Laban 1971; Newlove and Dalby 2004). Adshead-Lansdale (1988)
comments that this approach provides a movement analysis, which
provides descriptive potential, but in order to achieve an interpretive
appreciation, the analysis also requires deeper understanding of the
characteristics of the Dance that are beyond the scope of movement.
This may involve sociocultural symbols and gestures, expressive qualities, and the interrelationship of the various components with these factors individually and collectively. It is a constant collaboration that is
being analysed.
The analysis needs to undergo an elemental treatment with heavy
emphasis placed on the structural movement phrases and its contribution to the Dance, according to Blom and Chaplin (1982). This also
includes an exploration of the manipulation of the choreographic
devices employed and understood by the choreographer, dancer and
the audience. Their approach borrows the idea of abstraction form the
Visual Arts world in understanding artistic processes that manipulate sociocultural meaning through compositional tools. Smith-Autard
(2010) provides a strong structure to the Dance analysis process whilst
enabling the study of composition. The theory here is that in learning how to compose, the skills in analysis are heightened. The components in this approach include developing a movement motif (symbol
or recognisable moment), extending it to a movement phrase and then
constructing the phrases into a formed Dance work. Her research has
provided the interrelationship between the composition, performance
and appreciation of Dance that feature of which is synonymous with
Dance education (Mullins 2004; Stevens 2010; Hämäläinen 2002;
Leijen et al. 2008; Warburton 2005; Côté 2006). The discussion on
Dance analysis explores the connection not only between the theory
and practice but also within the theory and itself.
This pilot study embraces the theoretical underpinnings expressed
in the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment And
Reporting Authority n.d.) in the analysis of the participants creative works
and conversations within the associated interviews. This has been crossreferenced with Schatzki’s (2010) four elements (understanding, rules,
teleo-affective structures and general understanding). The methodology
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 129
used, A/r/tography, is a wise choice for this study given it is a theory
research nexus, especially with the recognition of the concept that dance
education is a lived inquiry, and it seeks to better understand the choreographic practice in the tertiary educational environment.
A/r/tography as Methodology
In essence, a/r/tography acknowledges the interrelated identities of artist, researcher and teacher, and provides, as Rousell and Cutcher (2015,
p. 69) describe, a “creative praxis that both integrates and disrupts” the
lived inquiry. It explores the spaces in between the three identities and
artfully unravels and reassembles them (Irwin et al. 2008). The a/r/tographer examines educational phenomena by employing artistic processes
at the centre of the research inquiry (Springgay et al. in BlumenfeldJones 2008). In doing so, they translate their lived experience through
either an artistic or educational lens and define research through artistic
pursuit. It is generally agreed and accepted that a/r/tography is a form
of creative practice that engages and investigates Arts education-based
phenomena, utilising performative pedagogy for the purpose of social
science research (Hannigan 2012; Gouzouasis et al. 2013; Irwin et al.
2006; Irwin 2013; Winters et al. 2011; Sullivan 2010; CahnmannTaylor and Siegesmund 2013). None of the three identities in question
are privileged over the other, and all are enacted and interwoven singularly, collectively, artistically, aesthetically and rhizomatically. “A/r/tography is a way of living, inquiring, and being relational” (Springgay et al.
2007, p. xxxi). This methodology is well suited to the research in this
chapter as it is entirely involved within the interconnection of the identities of the artist, researcher and teacher.
When employing the concepts found within a/r/tography, analysis
inevitably renders newly devised and defined meaning. They are interrelated and illuminate potential findings rather than criteria for assessment. Sinner et al., (cited in Leavy 2015, p. 124) explain that,
A/r/tographical work is rendered through the methodological concepts of
contiguity, living inquiry, openings, metaphor/metonymy, reverberations,
130 P.J. Cook
and excess which are enacted and presented or performed when a relational aesthetic inquiry condition is envisioned as embodied understandings and exchanges between art and text, and between and among the
broadly conceived identities of artist/researcher/teacher.
Whilst helpful organisationally, not all renderings are required within
all studies, nor are they intended to be exhaustive. The renderings most
aligned with this study are the Living Inquiry (the embodied encounter
of the artist, researcher and teacher) and Metaphor/Metonymy (exploration of symbolic significance and associated imagery).
This pilot study is situated within a qualitative paradigm and is firmly
positioned in the realm of Arts-based Educational Research. Arts-Based
Educational Research (ABER) has been widely accepted as the investigation of social phenomena relating to the educational environment
through the use of creative practices (Eisner 1991; Barone and Eisner
2011; Cahnmann-Taylor and Siegesmund 2013; Chappell and Barone
in Lapan et al. 2011). To that end, Eisner (in Greenwood 2012) suggests that knowledge is also constructed as a result of the arts-based
research approaches rather than merely discovered, all of which will
escalate as the range of investigations increases. Leavy (2015) states that
arts-based research can be deployed at any stage of the research process
and is shaped by various tools for use during the data collection and/or
analysis stage.
The extensive review of ABER dissertations over a ten-year period at
the University of British Columbia (UBC) led to the development of a
practice and methodology known as A/r/tography (Sinner et al. 2006).
The assemblage of dissertations that were reviewed in the Faculty of
Education at the UBC saw the emergence of the Arts-based educational research methodology, A/r/tography, with four common attributes, including “a commitment to aesthetic and educational practices,
inquiry-laden processes, searching for meaning, and interpreting for
understanding” (Sinner et al. 2006, p. 1).
There is potential for all of the Arts to engage with A/r/tography as a
viable research methodology; however, currently, the connection is most
obvious amongst the field of Visual Arts (Hannigan 2012; Irwin 2013;
Irwin et al. 2006; La Jevic and Springgay 2008; Rousell and Cutcher
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 131
2015; Siegesmund 2012; Springgay et al. 2005, Springgay and Rotas
2014; Smitka et al. 2012). Dance is amongst the least represented Art
form within a/r/tography, a fact this research will aim to redress. The
justification of using a/r/tography as methodology is best summarised
by the founders’ original concepts in this quote. “To be engaged in the
practice of a/r/tography means to inquire in the world through a process
of art making and writing” (Springgay et al. 2005, p. 899).
The Pilot Study
The unit at the core of this pilot study includes artistic approaches to
curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. It incorporates a/r/tographic processes throughout the students’ journey and is philosophically underpinned by the Choreographic practices and Practice Theory.
In order to meet accreditation for the teaching registration boards
in Australia, the primary education course in this pilot study is badged
as a double degree. The Bachelor of Arts component requires students
to complete a study of disciplines across the KLAs that will eventually
form the basis of the curriculum that they will teach. After ITE students’ first year of study, they enter the Bachelor of Education components. It is at this stage in the course that the curriculum and pedagogy
units are studied alongside the wider educational units such as history
and philosophy of teaching, behaviour management, inclusive education and professional experience. Within the course, all primary
education students complete two, ten-week units in the Arts. The discipline unit, usually studied in first year, is titled Foundations: Creative
Arts (FCA), and the second unit, usually completed in second year, is
Creative Arts: Curriculum and Pedagogy.
The first unit, FCA, the focus of this study, aims to develop students’ knowledge of the central concepts of Music, Visual Art, Dance
and Drama, as well as personal competence in these areas. The unit also
explores creativity and the importance of Creative Arts and requires
students to develop broad and critical knowledge and understanding
of the range of academic disciplines related to the Creative Arts. The
study includes practical experiences in Dance and requires students to
132 P.J. Cook
engage with the elements, which correlate with those in the Australian
Curriculum. Whilst the major focus in the first unit is to increase competence and confidence across the Arts, the unit aims to connect all ITE
students with the Arts.
Students in this unit are provided with online material irrespective
of their mode of enrolment, online or on campus. The online material
is divided into ten topics; each topic provides theoretical information,
viewings and readings, and outlines the concepts and elements needed
to complete the assignments. If a student is enrolled on campus, then
they are required to attend workshops where each Art form offers practical experiences and delves deeper into the nexus between the theory and
practice. In Dance, this equates to four × one and a half-hour tutorials (six hours in total). Should the student be enrolled online, then they
are offered optional online collaborate sessions, (a synchronous webbased conferencing tool, that students can participate live or view as a
recording), and optional residential workshop in Dance. Online and oncampus students are offered similar amounts of synchronous experiences.
The limited time available from an instructional and organisational
perspective heightens the need for astute selection of the content, what
is presented and consideration of the most viable tool for this communication. This requires a balanced recipe of engaging online material
and stimulating resources. The assignment work needs to be educationally and artistically sound requiring a robust exploration of the content
The assignment is focused on the ITE student’s capacity to demonstrate their understanding of the elements of Dance through a filmed
two-minute presentation that they choreographed. On-campus students
create, perform and record a dance piece in groups of three to five.
Students studying online can also work collectively or have the option
of creating a solo work. Students have free choice on the stimulus, or
starting point, for the dance performance and may incorporate the use
of props and/or costume that are essential for the meaning of the performance. The work must be recorded, and students can also choose to
use the camera artistically. The marking criteria highlight the need to
demonstrate the connection between their choreography and the online
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 133
Students also submit a 200-word reflection on their understanding and usage of the elements within their choreographed work. The
major challenge within this assignment is to provide creative and artistic responses whilst simultaneously self-analysing their work for clarity
of understanding. The written reflection provides opportunities for the
students to articulate their critical understanding of the Dance elements
beyond those demonstrated physically in their choreography. In general, the higher-achieving students demonstrate consideration of all elements in an artistic way and communicate an idea, concept or intent
creatively. Conceptually, meaning is communicated through abstract
The major aim of this study has to better understand how ITE students access the choreographic practice through engagement in the codified Dance education experience. What do students access in order to
create work? How does this engagement enhance their understanding of
Dance an Art form for their future roles as teachers?
This investigation focused on a group of four ITE students enrolled
on campus and one online, in the Arts unit described above. The pilot
study provided experience within the methods used to better inform
the larger sampling soon to occur. The inquiry documented evidence of
the students’ journey through reflections of completed assessable tasks
that demonstrated movement responses and written accounts of activities from their virtual and live classroom. There, work was analysed, and
then semi-structured interviews asked students to consider their choreographic explorations to articulate their critical understandings. Students
analysed their experience using their Dance works as the vehicle for discussion, outlining how they accessed the codified curriculum and then
demonstrated this knowledge, choreographically. These experiences were
recounted during semi-structured interview.
Pilot Study Data Analysis
The overarching research questions are foremost in the author’s consciousness when the analysis began. This research looked closely at two
assessment submissions that were presented as part of the redesigned
134 P.J. Cook
unit to review its success and challenges. The participants were selected
because of their highly graded assignment material and their lack
of prior experience in the study of Dance. The first work analysed
was titled “Overcoming Adversity ” and was choreographed by four
males in their early twenties all of whom were novices in the study of
the Arts, and none had previous formal study of Dance in their education. Interestingly, all four presented with athleticism resultant of
their involvement in sporting lifestyles and activities including surfing,
cycling and football. These participants did not know each other prior
to undertaking this unit.
The intent of their work offered an insight into overcoming bullying through inclusion. The Dance relied heavily on the structure of the
overall work, which highlights an abstract narrative reinforcing their
chosen theme. The Dance commenced with one dancer appearing separate to the rest of the group, spatially and metaphorically detached. As
the Dance evolved, each of the other dancers demonstrated signature
movements that were adopted by the other dancers and continued until
all participants were included in the action. The overall impact of the
Dance, which was boldly presented without musical accompaniment,
was a cohesive movement based, expressive, communicative, simple
message that embodied the meaning as well as the student’s conceptual
understanding of the elements of Dance. The Dance was submitted
The second work was titled “Full Circle”, and was choreographed
by an online student who also had no background in Dance as a formal study. This participant, a male in his late twenties, is also physically
active as he goes to the gym and swims regularly. Given his enrolment
as an online student, the participant chose to complete the assessment
The intent of this work was to respond physically to the orchestral
music and the chosen location as a means to communicate several stages
of entrapment. The choreographer was able to locate a semi-urban park
in their neighbourhood, which formed a backdrop for the opening of
their Dance and later provided stimulus for a travelling pattern through
the trees. This participant chose to use the camera as an artistic device
creating interest and meaning in their clever angles and shot choice. The
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 135
product of this study was an incredibly well crafted and choreographed
Dance that not only provided robust understanding of the elements
in question but also was an engaging theatrical experience with critical responses to the theme and the elements. This was an extraordinary
demonstration of understanding defying the prior experience of the participant and validating a close connection with the material studied.
The author conducted semi-structured interviews, which were
focused on delving into the participants’ working knowledge of the
elements of Dance that were at play within their choreographic processes. The interviews began with rudimentary questions about their
process, and they were reminded of their work as they watched their
performance as part of the interview. All students articulated a strong
body memory of their movement and understanding of the elements
of Dance. They were able to affirm their reliance on the codified material available to them online and the value of the experiences they had
within the tutorials.
During the semi-structured interviews, a number of themes emerged
that made for insights into the artistic development of these students
and success of the unit design and implementation. This directly
responds to the research questions inquiring into the effectiveness of
the organisation of the unit; the enhancement of appreciation of Dance
as an artform; and the impact on the participants’ future role as generalist teachers. These themes provided alignment to Schatzki’s (2010)
four elements of Practice Theory. In the interview, it became apparent
that all students were comfortable and reliant upon the use of terminology provided within the codified unit material. One participant stated
that to demonstrate their understanding of dynamics, they described,
“forceful, erratic movement enforces the superiority of the three dancers surrounding the victim. This is then contrasted to slow, flowing
movement portrayed by the victim who stands tall and joins the fellow dancers who accept and follow the movements in unison”. The students also assumed the language of the Dance sector with accuracy and
136 P.J. Cook
incorporated these terms into their discussions, which was used appropriately in the context of their work. “We would rehearse a little bit,
get an understanding of that”. Additionally, participants created their
own terminology that was repeated often to describe movements that
they created and was incorporated into their reflections in an economical way. “I remember I was stuck for a long time on one of Ryan’s dance
moves and that’s what we call the “power slam””. Interestingly, the participants conveyed a memory and then a response as they recalled a
term they created.
Most notable was the fact that the students referred to themselves as
dancers. In their understanding of the process that they went through
they would state, “It starts off with the dominance of the one center
dancer”. This added to the understanding that the students’ language
reflected their knowledge and new-found role in the context of this
When the terminology could not be recalled, students resorted to
demonstrating movement, elements or concepts to critically evaluate
the impact on the thematic development. One participant provided a
description, “Rigid movement which turns into free flying movement,
when we accepted them towards the end”.
The material the participants had devised became central to the
capacity to discuss evolving into a reference point for inspiration, clarification and security. This became a way to explain the impact the elements had on their intended meaning. “As we changed our height over
this middle dancer they gradually became lower until they were flat on
the floor, this then tells the audience that the relationship was of a negative one”.
Movement metaphors featured throughout the participants Dance
work and took on an importance for communication. There was a constant interplay of the use of the movement metaphors and symbols.
“The fact that it’s usually a majority over a minority. There was the bulk
amount of us surrounding the other”. Participants were infinitely more
excited about their skills to analyse Dance works, theirs and others, professional and student based. There was a huge increase in the appreciation of Dance as an Art form. All were keen to study more and include
this in their future teaching. “By creating this dance with my group
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 137
it really consolidated my understanding of the elements of dance and
the main components of which is required to construct a dance”. The
themes presented provided further evidence of understanding of the
second two research questions, demonstrating the participants’ move
towards robust appreciation of Dance as an artform and preparedness
for their role as future teachers.
A summary of the understandings is listed below with correlating elements of the Practice Theory; the aims of the Australian Curriculum;
and the a/r/tographic renderings.
1.Use of language and terminology (Rules, Knowledge of traditions
and Living Inquiry)
2.Critical understanding of the impact of the elements of Dance (Practical
understanding, Rules, Teleo-affective structures, Choreographic Skills
and Living Inquiry)
3.Reliance on the codified online material (Rules, Awareness of the
body and Living Inquiry)
4.Use of the metaphor (Teleo-affective structures, Aesthetic and cultural appreciation, and Metaphor/Metonymy)
5.Outcomes for learning Analysis/Understanding and Appreciation
(General understanding, Awareness of the body and Living Inquiry).
The major understanding from the author’s perspective was an appreciation of the codified Dance education that had been provided alongside
an authentic artistic assessment that was engaging and informative. As a
result of engaging in the theoretical online material, the practical workshops and the assessable tasks, these participants:
• Became composers of a Dance (Artists).
•Contributed to the understanding of the choreographic practice
through their individual development and collective input to choreographic practice Theory (Researchers).
• Explored creative learning with and through Dance in their identity
as future educators (Teachers).
• Became Arts-informed and Arts-experienced GENERALIST primary
138 P.J. Cook
In undertaking this research, these participants have become choreographers and what Harrington (2013) termed co-researchers, in an a/r/
tographic study that provides deep possibilities for their identity in the
future as teachers. The possibilities of seeing these participants explore
Dance when they become teachers and to be comfortable with the use
of embodied artistic learning is exciting and inspiring. The fact that all
participants happened to be male seems to add a stimulating challenge
to the gender stereotypes associated with the teaching of Dance.
The pilot study provided evidence that four elements of Practice Theory
as outlined by Schatzki (2010) can be observed through the data collection and analysis. Additionally, the A/r/tographic renderings of
Metaphor/Metonymy and Living Inquiry were apparent through the
assignment artwork and reflections. The aims of the Dance component
of the Australian Curriculum were explored within this experience.
The research questions provided great stimulus for the scope of the
research and the understandings from each question yielded significant
contributions to the field and for further exploration.
1.How does the unit organisation enhance students’ artistic learning?
The organisation of the unit employed a/r/tographic practices to
develop students understanding of the Arts through the Arts. The students’ reliance upon the codified material that was strategically scaffolded provided an artistic repository for ongoing understanding. The
use of the resources as a touchstone continually reinforced the participants’ knowledge of Dance elements. The backwardly mapped assessment task provided evidence of the use of an artistic tool that offered
opportunity for participants to demonstrate learned skills, and to articulate artistically their knowledge.
2.How does offering authentic choreographic experiences and assessment enhance students’ appreciation of Dance as an Art form?
Understanding Dance Through Authentic Choreographic … 139
The themes emerging from the data collected reinforced the participants’ knowledge of their capacity to demonstrate choreographic skills
using the body to communicate. They have demonstrated understanding of terminology and used it appropriately as part of rehearsals, processes and discussions. They have also created new terminology to
further choreographic moments. The participants’ responses to the codified unit material and their assessable work were aesthetically engaging,
artistically stimulating and culturally aware of issues related to contemporary contexts as choreographers, performers and audience.
3.How could these choreographic experiences better prepare students
for their future role as generalist teachers?
These generalist teachers are expected to become experts in so
many areas—their experiences in the newly designed and organised
Foundations: Creative Arts has provided artful opportunities to identify
the knowledge, skills and creativity required for implementing the mandated syllabus. These participants have successfully engaged in experiences that frame the study of Dance within the Australian Curriculum.
These are all necessary for their future teaching roles as generalist
These experiences form the basis of sound Dance educational practices and in total alignment with the Australian Curriculum. To have
achieved this level of attainment and qualitative evidence within six
hours of tuition may not qualify these participants as experts; however,
to have become choreographers, co-researchers and a/r/tographers satisfies the description of beyond generalist moving towards expert.
1.A/r/tography explores the interrelated identities of artist, researcher
and teacher, and those in between, to examine educational phenomena
engaging artistic processes at the centre of the research inquiry. In doing
so, participants’ lived experiences are translated through either an artistic
or educational lens with outcomes presented artistically.
140 P.J. Cook
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OPEART: Music Theatre Productions
Within Teacher Education: Enhancing
Communal Engaged Learning
Antti Juvonen, Susan O’Neill and Pekka Räihä
In the Shadow of Pisa Research
Finland has continuously shown successful outcomes in various studies of international school accomplishment and in learning research.
This has sparked international interest in Finnish education and led
to a phenomenon that might be referred to as PISA (Program for
International Student Assessment) tourism—a flow of continuous
interest by individuals in nearby and faraway countries. Those who are
A. Juvonen (*) 
University of Eastern Finland, PL 86, 57101 Savonlinna, Finland
S. O’Neill 
Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6,
P. Räihä 
School of Education, University of Tampere, FL-33014 Tampere, Finland
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
148 A. Juvonen et al.
interested—researchers, educators, school principals, and school and
educational administrators—want to see with their own eyes how the
worldwide respected education system in Finland is carried out.
And yet, a surprisingly negative phenomenon has occurred as a
by-product in PISA research concerning Finnish schoolchildren. When
compared to students in other countries, Finnish schoolchildren do not
seem to enjoy being at school as much as others. As we will discuss in
a moment, in Finnish schools, there is evidence to suggest that good
learning takes place, but no one seems to enjoy it while it is happening.
Although there has been some public discussion of school enjoyment related to PISA success in Finland, the lack of enjoyment experienced by Finnish school children has received far less attention than the
PISA success stories. Yet, school enjoyment is a much older phenomenon than the whole PISA research endeavour. As early as the 1970s, the
International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement
(IEA) conducted research that found Finnish children’s attitudes towards
schoolwork and learning were negative. Similar attitudes concerning
Finland have also been found in other research, such as the IEA Study
of Reading Literacy in the 1990s. The results of these studies add evidence to previous impressions that school enjoyment in Finland is much
poorer than in many other countries even though a small increase in
school enjoyment has been reported in the last few years (Harinen and
Halme 2012). Around the world, there has been intense discussion
about the Finnish situation and the problem of school enjoyment.
In this chapter, we suggest a new approach to increasing the general
enjoyment of students and teachers in Finnish schools through developments in teacher education that offer future teachers new methods
and ways of working that enhance communal engaged learning. The
aim of this chapter is not to present empirical research about developing
teacher education in the Finnish context. Rather, the main purpose of
this chapter is to describe the Savonlinna OpeArt education program,
which has been operating for two years. OpeArt offers a new approach
to teacher education that moves beyond the traditional divisions of
school subjects that fragment the curriculum and provide a poor basis
for generating an integrated understanding of schooling. As such,
OpeArt connects several subjects into a wider and more comprehensive
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 149
approach aimed at overcoming the fragmentation that often occurs in
teacher education.
Two of the authors (Juvonen and Räihä) have been planning and
building the OpeArt program, and O’Neill is collaborating in research
and development of the program. The trio of authors has contributed
to the preliminary analyses and interpretations offered here. In addition,
the results of several doctoral theses are currently being prepared both
at University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and other universities as well as
various research projects associated with this program that will be published in future in international journals.
Instead of focusing this chapter on an analysis of the reasons for
Finland’s PISA success, we have the following aims: (1) we bring to light
key problematic issues that are associated with the otherwise recognized
Finnish teacher education and school education systems, and which have
caused the school enjoyment problems found in many recent research
studies; (2) we describe different solutions that have been implemented
to solve problematic issues in different Finnish teacher units in different
universities; (3) we focus on Savonlinna teacher education in University
of Eastern Finland, which has developed a quite distinctive approach to
teacher education (OpeArt) that differs from other solutions that have
been implemented in other universities in the country.
The approach we use consists of: (a) recognizing the existing problems
which have been found through the research, (b) providing reasons for
these issues through the existing research literature, (c) presenting solutions from different Finnish teacher education units to solve the problems and (d) addressing these issues through an innovative program that
was implemented at the Savonlinna campus and highlighted the opportunities the program created for enhancing communal engaged learning.
Finnish School Enjoyment Under the Magnifying
Many Finnish teachers and parents of school children might be surprised to hear that the Children’s Committee of the United Nations
recommended as early as 2011 that Finland should take more serious
150 A. Juvonen et al.
notice of school well-being and enjoyment (Harinen and Halme 2012,
p. 3). This and other notions about the dark side of Finnish schooling
have focused criticism on Finnish schools as the source of the problem,
but these notions have never been widely discussed in public.
However, another explanation is that poor school enjoyment is a
consequence of the general negative attitude which is characteristic of
Finns. For example, Britta Hannus-Gullmets (1984) sees poor school
enjoyment as a consequence of a “negative culture paradigm” that is
more common in Finland than in other countries. These thoughts are
also shared by Linnankylä and Malin (1997), who thought that Finnish
youngsters see enjoyment at school as embarrassing and that “the shame
of being a top student” is not an international norm but is typical of
Finnish youth culture (see also Kiilakoski 2010).
In our search for the source of the issues in this chapter, we also discuss later the need for more experiential and collaborative opportunities
within Finnish schools. We argue for the need within teacher education
programs in Finland to embrace experiential and collaborative opportunities as a way of instilling the values of lifelong learning that are
associated with deep levels of student engagement, communal agency
and school enjoyment. Drawing on the ideology of communal engaged
learning, we describe the Savonlinna OpeArt education program in
Finland that was introduced in teacher education in 2014. We outline
the fundamental significance of the program for fostering collaboration,
connections and commitment on the part of students and teachers
by providing opportunities for bringing about valuable perspective
School Enjoyment, Participation and a Culture
of Silence
Research focused on children’s school enjoyment indicates that the
more students experience enjoyment at school and in their education,
the more likely they are to show higher levels of engagement in learning
(including increased attendance and inclusion at school) and that this
is linked to improved learning (Barth 1970; Stables 1990). However,
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 151
as Gorard and See (2011) suggest, experiencing enjoyment at school
should also be considered “important in its own right” (Gorard and See
2011, p. 671) and “part of creating a lifelong learner identity” (Gorard
and See 2011, p. 671), which creates a greater likelihood of having
higher aspirations and the desire to seek further educational opportunities following compulsory schooling. This is why, in countries outside
Finland, policies have been introduced that emphasize the importance
of the enjoyment of learning. For example, in England “Excellence and
Enjoyment” was introduced as a key theme within primary education
(DfES 2003) and later in secondary education (Gorard et al. 2009).
Differences may also be observed in the culture of schools in the field of
discussion: Finnish school children do not participate in general discussions in school lessons and are not taught discussion skills.
When we explore the questions and answers from some of the school
enjoyment research, in many areas, the experience of being at school
is quite different for Finnish school children compared to children
in other countries. For example, in the IEA Civic Education Study
(CIVED 1999) and the International Civic and Citizenship Education
Study (ICCS 2010), social skills and level of participation in school
(a pupil’s feeling of being an important participant in the classroom
and the whole school) were measured among students in the eighth
grade. The results showed that Finnish students have the social knowledge, but they are the least interested in the area compared to students
in other countries. This may be connected to a lack of empowerment:
Finnish students also do not participate in decision-making at schools.
Only 15% of Finnish school children reported participating in decisionmaking at school compared to the international average of 40%. In
addition, participation in discussions during student meetings at school
is lower among Finnish students (23%) than the international average
(33%). These examples indicate that the Finnish school culture differs
considerably from other countries.
Finnish pupils do not usually, or even often, discuss learning materials or question in any way the teaching they receive from their teachers. In Finnish schools, usually only teachers choose the subjects of
discussion—if discussion occurs at all. In this regard, the roles and
leadership behaviours of teachers in Finnish schools are quite traditional
152 A. Juvonen et al.
(we question whether this could be a reason for poor school enjoyment). This seems to be one field in need of development, especially in
teacher education. The only sector where Finnish students participate in
some amount of school organization is when they help organize activities outside the curriculum, such as theme days, celebrations, excursions
and school trips.
Participation and school enjoyment seem to go hand in hand. If our
aim is to increase pupils’ school enjoyment, it requires making changes
in schools and, to accomplish this, making changes especially in classroom teacher education. Teacher education must change first: we must
create participation, collaboration, multi-professional cooperation, and
sharing of achievements, skills and experiences among future teachers so
that these values will be carried later into schools by new teachers, who
aim to transform the foundation of the work culture of Finnish schools
in the future.
We know that merely providing information about new learning
approaches and the use of ICT in teaching and learning is not enough
to change student teachers’ ways of thinking about teaching or acting
in a teacher’s role (Kolb and Kolb 2005). Student teachers’ beliefs and
attitudes are often conservative because of their own long school history (Mäkitalo-Siegl et al. 2011; Nikkola et al. 2008). Often the ways
of teaching and working with pupils are directly transferred from one’s
(a student teacher’s) own experiences during one’s school years instead
of those offered during teacher education studies being transferred to
the practices of new teachers. Exposure to knowledge alone seldom
influences a person’s behaviour (Kolb and Kolb 2005; Ojanen 2001),
but according to Vygotsky (1986) and the IEA Civic Education Study
(CIVED 1999), meaningful learning might take place through a learner’s own experience, which can lead to changes in his or her behaviour.
As Kolb (1984) pointed out in his experiential learning theory, which
was based on the ideas of Lewin, Dewey and Piaget, “ideas are not fixed
and immutable elements of thought but are formed and re-formed
through experience” (Kolb 1984, p. 26). Only through participation
can learning become “the process whereby knowledge is created through
the transformation of experience” (Kolb 1984, p. 38). Based on this
perspective, two key questions emerge: (1) What kinds of experiences
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 153
in teacher education create meaningful and enjoyable opportunities for
participation in learning that is capable of transforming students’ thinking and actions? (2) How might we bring about transformative engagement experiences within teacher education programs?
Attempts to Solve the Issues Through Teacher
Education in Different Universities in Finland
Attempting to change school culture requires changes in teacher education, which means at least updating general school understandings
and teaching methods. The teachers who are already in the profession
have almost an impossible mission to guide the school towards new
approaches that are relevant to real-world issues within society. Jari
Salminen (2012) mentions that in the school world, it is very difficult
to see what is most needed and what most urgently needs to change.
It is difficult to make changes in school culture as it is in teacher education (Fullan 2004, 2007). This has been seen through the years and
through many changes in curricula. Making changes is all the more difficult when changes demand commitment from the whole unit’s teacher
education staff. Still, many kinds of attempts of finding solutions for
emerging problems have been made both at the school level as well as
in teacher education. School level attempts often fail because teachers
are used to their own routines, which are resistant to change after many
working years. This means that to make real progress, solutions need to
be found at the level of teacher education. It is important that young
students (future teachers) learn new possibilities for action during their
Because the current need for school reform is so challenging (new
national core curriculum was introduced in 2016, highlighting the use
of drama education), the role of addressing potential solutions falls to
future teachers in particular. If teacher education does not systematically
create space for new pedagogies, it is probable that solutions for change
will rely too strongly on the innovativeness of independent teachers and
will not become the general capital of all teachers. Even though teacher
education in Finland is on solid academic ground, it is not always eager
154 A. Juvonen et al.
to notice new winds of change in education. In Finnish teacher education, there have been attempts to address needed changes in school
mainly through building differently focused lines of teacher education
rather than highlighting for example new digital technologies in developing new pedagogies. These changes have been considered especially
important in mathematics-focused, science-focused or foreign languagefocused teacher education. All recent attempts have been based primarily on attempts to emphasize the subject ontology and not for instance
on increasing human interactivity and understanding, which are very
badly needed in the modern differentiating world (see Nikkola et al.
Typical in Finnish teacher education is that differentiated education with divergent starting points is offered only for a small group of
students who are selected for a teacher education program. One example of this type of education is called JULIET and Integration education at the University of Jyväskylä. In JULIET education, 12 students
are selected, and they are taught mainly in the English language. After
graduating, these students are qualified to teach English in elementary classes. CITE-training (Critical Integrative Teacher Education) in
Jyvaskyla also consists of a selected group of 12–15 students. Their education focuses on understanding group phenomena. Their group forms
the target and the physical environment for education. In addition to
educational science, their education is based on psycho-dynamic theory
building (Nikkola 2011; Nikkola et al. 2013). It is yet to be seen how
this kind of specialized teacher education will impact on school enjoyment among the pupils that future teachers will be teaching.
The same kind of group differentiating exists in the University of
Oulu’s teacher education unit. Here, 80 students are divided into four
education module groups (20 in each group), each with a different
focus: linguistic orientation, technologic orientation, art orientation and
wire-ranged (traditional) orientation in teacher education. This kind
of specialization aims to give future teachers skills and abilities to offer
their pupils different kinds of orientations aimed at improving school
enjoyment among other targets.
At the University of Helsinki, students can choose educational
psychology as their main subject. This type of discipline is strong in
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 155
Finnish teacher education. If we explore the examination results of
incoming students in teacher education, we can see many efforts to
find consistent or commonly agreed starting points. For example,
the University of Turku has a math test for all new students, and the
University of Tampere provides a visual test for all new students in
teacher education.
Savonlinna uses video analysis as a means of testing the multiliteracy
skills of incoming students. This has been done only for two years, and
it is under continual research. We do not know the significance of these
tests for student selection into the program. In addition, these highlighted elements in the selection of students may not be seen or focused
on in their education later (Räihä 2010).
Opeart—A New Approach in Teacher Education
Following on from this way of thinking, the Savonlinna OpeArt education program, which was started in autumn 2014, provides an interesting alternative. Researchers, such as Elliot Eisner (2004) and Maxine
Greene (1995), have made compelling and extensive arguments for how
the imaginative processes we engage in through art practices are forms
of experience that can restore artistic balance and competence to education systems. According to Eisner, “the distinctive forms of thinking
needed to create artistically crafted work are relevant not only to what
students do, they are relevant to virtually all aspects of what we do,
from the design of curricula, to the practice of teaching, to the features
of the environment in which students and teachers live” (p. 4).
The program focuses on the education of a selected cohort of students according to one commonly chosen approach and principle. It
emphasizes communal ways of working and engaging students during
the first two years of their teacher education studies. This focus reflects
not only on an important component of learning; it is also a key feature
of music theatre productions. During the first two years, general courses
in each school subject area are taught (the basics of, e.g. math, native
language, visual arts, music). During this two-year period, three music
theatre productions are also performed, each of which has a different
156 A. Juvonen et al.
focus. The first production concentrates on preparation exercises and
introduces the theoretical starting points. The second production goes
deeper and requires more active work from the students. The third
production focuses more than the previous ones on the performance
itself, which is also open to public audiences. The main idea is not to
focus entirely on the performance situation or the artistic level of the
performances; instead, the core of the approach lies in the process of
producing, preparing and practicing these productions communally. The
substance of the different elements in the theatre productions is created
during the lessons and practice lessons in different school subjects that
are taught separately by the UEF (University of Eastern Finland) lecturers and professors. This means that the OpeArt practices are embedded in the school subjects’ curricula and the teaching of pedagogy and
didactics. The third- and fourth-year students participate in the productions according to their minor subject as musicians, singers, dancers,
dressers, advertisement painters, etc.
The grouping processes, project-based learning, design-based learning
and communal learning form the most important principles that produce and provide empowerment opportunities for the participating students as well as their teachers. At the same time, the program provides
students with opportunities to improve their ability to work together
to reach a shared target. Further, through the process, students find
new dimensions of learning. The implementation of the OpeArt plan
requires a strong commitment from the whole teacher education staff
at the Savonlinna campus, because most of the materials and appurtenances must be produced during normal teaching lessons for different
subjects, which keeps the amount of work for the students equal to the
standard teacher education curriculum. The big difference comes from
the focus of the work and the approach and methods of working.
The idea is that each student works in different roles (actor, dancer,
etc.) over the course of the design, implementation and performance
of the three productions. Students can choose to work on developing
the idea for the whole production, writing the story and revising the
lines for the actors and singers, composing the music, designing the
choreography, undertaking public relations, directing, acting, singing, playing instruments, designing and building the set, drawing and
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 157
designing the advertisements, designing and making costumes, doing
make-up, designing or making masks, or other roles such as lighting,
sound design, stage hands. In this way, the commitment of the students
becomes deeply rooted in communal work while at the same time they
have an opportunity to teach and learn from each other, for example in
preparing the dance or music parts of the production. In addition, students who are working on their minors also participate in theatre projects as musicians or in other ways.
The idea of collaboration, connection and commitment by the teaching staff and the students when focused on one shared idea of education at the Savonlinna campus can be explored in the context of the
university pedagogy as a whole. Fraser et al. (2010) explored university
education as developing through three partial components that focus
on a single worker (teacher), the institution or the entire university sector. When we focus on developing university teaching through a single
teacher, the targets are planning, executing and evaluating the teaching
process. When we focus on the development through the institution
(such as teacher education at the Savonlinna campus), the targets are
the structures and the organization on a wider scale (see also Hirsto and
Löytönen 2011). The idea of OpeArt is to develop the whole teacher
education program within the whole university organization instead of
concentrating on one partial component. This is in contrast to the different ideas about teacher education that were presented earlier, such as
the University of Jyväskylä’s JULIET and Integration education, which
can be seen (according to Fraser et al.’s [2010] stages) as focusing on
individual level development projects instead of the other two levels
despite their group orientation. In other words, most teacher education
programs do not reach the level of engaging the whole community.
What Actually Happens in Opeart: An Example
of a Production Process
The OpeArt education program started at UEF in autumn 2014 according to a new curriculum that included producing three music and theatre productions during the first two years of teacher education studies.
158 A. Juvonen et al.
The first production was carried out in Spring 2015 at the Savonlinna
campus. The work was produced by first-year students. After discussing
with the students, the teachers and students chose the broadly defined
concept of POWER as a focus. The students discussed different manifestations of power and started thinking about each group’s point of
view focusing on the chosen subject.
The production was carried out using applied improvisation and the
devising drama education method, which were presented to the students by the drama teachers. Forty-six students participated. Sixty students started the OpeArt education program, but some students started
later or did not start at all during the current year. In addition, some
of the students had previously studied at other institutions and, thus,
did not need to participate in this production. A total of three students
did not want to participate in the productions at all, and they were not
forced to do so.
OpeArt education is built on the basic idea that to become excellent
teachers, students should have similar life experiences of the things we
want them to practise and how they will act in their future work with
pupils. This experience should be guided gently and should be safe to
avoid traumatic experiences for the students. This method, guiding
and carrying out long-lasting collaborative learning projects at school,
requires that the students experience similar things and actions during their teacher education studies. This should take place while they
are students, so they are able to better understand pupils (see Nikkola
2011; Nikkola et al. 2013). What is most important in OpeArt productions is not the outcome (the performance of the music theatre project)
but the learning that takes place during the process of preparing and
practicing the project.
The students were divided into three groups in which they started
to work out the ideas together. Before beginning this phase, the students attended lectures about drama and drama education from different points of view. Experts from different fields participated in the
teaching, and a series of lectures was planned in terms of the OpeArt
program. Lectures consisted of general OpeArt subjects (2 hours),
the floor of the Professor of Arts and Skills (2 hours), a lecture about
theatre lighting (2 hours), visit by the artistic director and the music
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 159
producer of the Savonlinna Opera Festival (2 hours) and a meeting
with the scenographer and an actor from the Savonlinna City Theatre
(2 hours). The lectures in drama education handled areas such as “from
text to performance” presenting the basic concepts of drama education,
the “puppet theatre”, “applied and participating drama” and “being a
drama teacher”. The drama period also consisted of literature lectures
(10 hours) and contact practice lectures (12 hours). During the studies,
the students performed drama exercises that consisted of different functional methods of theatre, including improvisation led by the drama
education and literature lecturers. In addition, the students drew up a
plan for a drama lesson as a collaborative exercise.
The three production groups had their own fields of focus:
Group A focused on “mask theater with music technology and a lightshow”. Group B focused on “shadow theatre with musical dramaturgy”
and Group C focused on “acting through role costumes and music”. In
the three production groups, the students divided into different responsibility areas: Group A: physical theatre status of expression, actors and
music (N = 8), and lights (N = 2); Group B: physical theatre status of
expression, actors (N = 7), musical instrument playing (N = 6) and
lights (N = 2); and Group C: actors, costumes (N = 8), music (using
non-instruments N = 5), TVT-using technology (N = 6) and lights
(N = 2).
The students formed a heterogenic group in their theatre appreciation
and attitudes towards drama. Some had even participated in a drama
club. Some students were close to theatre and drama, some had been
involved in drama at school and another group had no connections to
theatre or drama education at all. The last group was the biggest.
Though there were difficulties and problems in producing the theatre production, the students managed very well and were quite satisfied
after the performances. They seemed to be surprised with the success
of the entire performance despite their own doubts about being able to
perform the planned production (see Figs. 1, 2 and 3).
The conclusion of the first OpeArt music and theatre production
was positive overall. There were difficulties along the road to the performance, but they were solved through collaboration and common planning and discussions. In the feedback collected from the students after
160 A. Juvonen et al.
Fig. 1 Elements of the students’ shadow theatre performance
the performance, many had found new dimensions of their own selfexpression, and they had gained experiences of succeeding in something
new. Most of the students had also stepped outside their own comfort
zone and enriched their growth towards becoming a teacher.
Communal Engaged Learning
The notion of reaching and engaging the whole community has been
the focus of many university engagement strategies internationally.
For example, the 2014 mission statement for Simon Fraser University
(SFU) in Vancouver, Canada, purports SFU “to be the leading engaged
university” by engaging students, research and community (SFU 2014).
However, what these forms of communal engaged learning look like or
how they might be enhanced within diverse and disparate educational
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 161
Fig. 2 Students’ mask theatre performance with music technology and a
contexts generally is not clear. Engagement in learning tends to focus
on what learners do when they move from being motivated to learn to
actively learning (Furrer and Skinner 2003). It has also been described
as the foundation for learning and “the glue that binds it together”
(Bryson and Hand 2007, p. 60). Toshalis and Nakkula (2012) defined
engagement as “the range of activities a learner employs to generate—
sometimes consciously, other times unconsciously—the interest, focus
and attention required to build new knowledge or skills” (Toshalis and
Nakkula 2012, p. 16). Engagement in learning has been found consistently to be a strong predictor of learner performance and behavior in
the classroom. It helps students feel less alienated and therefore more
likely to complete school and achieve higher grades. When learners
feel a sense of connectedness to teachers and peers, the learners report
increased positive engagement in learning (Furrer and Skinner 2003).
162 A. Juvonen et al.
Fig. 3 Acting through costumes and music
What makes learning engaging? The factors most often referred to
in the wider student engagement literature focus on learning activities
that are goal oriented, contextual, interesting, challenging, relevant (or
related to real-world experiences) and social or interactive (Christenson
et al. 2012). Others focus on the contexts in which learning activities
take place and the need for those contexts to promote learner autonomy
or choice, agency or voice, and personalized instruction (Toshalis and
Nakkula 2012). Contemporary research into student engagement or
engaged learning builds on ideas from William James (1890) and John
Dewey (1913), who emphasized the need for immediate interest and
spontaneous participation to be accompanied by a reflective process that
enables learners to step back and assess their aims. James and Dewey
believed that there is a necessary rhythm for sustaining intrinsic motivation or interest and engagement in an activity. This rhythm involves
a dialectic, or the alternation of immediate (playful/spontaneous)
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 163
experience (such as improvising music or “playing by ear”) with an
active voluntary (work-like) mode (such as capacity building and making connections) that helps organize the activity and focus attention on
novel or previously “hidden” characteristics. Dewey (1933) referred to
this as “undivided interest” and contended that the optimal state for
learning involved being “playful and serious at the same time” (Dewey
1933, p. 286).
The majority of research on engaged learning examines the individual learner or the learning context. This is similar to what we described
earlier about most teacher education programs falling short of reaching
the level of engaging the whole community. The notion of reaching and
engaging the whole community has its roots in two main traditions: (1)
public engagement, which is guided by “participatory and democratic
ideals” within “applied” research paradigms (Haywood and Besley 2014,
p. 93), and (2) inclusive engagement, which focuses on the nature of
including and integrating participants, decision-making, control and
ownership (Shaun 2008). The idea is that the act and degree of participation in the process within an area of experiential education can bring
about more meaningful, contextually relevant and mutually beneficial
outcomes for everyone involved. However, as Haywood and Besley
(2014) contended from the perspective of participation in science,
attempts at community engagement are not without their challenges
and potential limitations. It requires a concerted and collaborative
effort on the part of the entire community to be responsive and open to
new experiential learning programs, while at the same time continuing
efforts to meet the needs of individual students.
One way to conceptualize this form of communal engaged learning is
through Mead’s (1934) notion of communal agency as “a co-constructive,
reciprocal interrelation between selves and their societies” that enable
“integrative theorizing across personal, interpersonal, social, and cultural
levels of human experience” (Mead 1934, p. 183). Communal agency is
“reactive, creative agency” by virtue of its “social constitution” and “multiple perspectivity” (Martin and McLellan 2013, p. 189). It is “derived
from immersion and participation with others within sociocultural practices and perspectives” and “includes reactivity to those same practices
and perspectives” (Martin 2007, p. 435). This captures the communal
164 A. Juvonen et al.
and participatory opportunities for relationship building and making
meaningful connections that are embedded within the OpeArt teacher
education program.
OpeArt embraces experiential and collaborative opportunities as a
way of instilling the values of lifelong learning that are associated with
deep levels of student engagement, communal agency and school enjoyment. When viewed through the lens of communal engaged learning,
the OpeArt program in Finland provides a strong basis for fostering collaboration, connections and commitment on the part of students and
teachers. It does this by providing opportunities that bring about valuable perspective transformations that are likely to impact positively on
student enjoyment in teacher education and beyond to improve student
enjoyment in classrooms in Finnish schools.
The Culture of Focusing on Students’ Strengths
Is Deeply Rooted in Finnish Teacher Education
Teacher education in Finland has long traditions as well strong and
long-lasting principles. One principle, which is seldom spoken aloud,
is that students try to proceed in their studies by continually drawing
on their strengths and avoiding their weak points and stepping out of
their comfort zone. It seems fair to ask if this is reasonable given that
we are talking about education for a profession and not an elementary
school education. According to some researchers, this starting point is
not without problems (e.g. Britzman 1986, 2003; Nikkola 2011).
The way teacher education in Finland is executed at the moment
does not offer students an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone
in the choices they make for their courses (or study units) because the
structure of teacher education has developed to support the student in
continually studying only areas in which he or she already has specialized skills or abilities, or has otherwise earned previous credit. If, for
example, a student becomes interested in music after starting a teacher
education program, the program cannot support his or her interest in
studying music as a minor subject because all the courses occur during
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 165
the first two years (specialized studies, minor subject studies) are meant
for those who already have skills and abilities (gained before the individuals started the teacher education program at the university). These
skills and abilities are tested through examinations that are required for
incoming students who apply to music specialist programs.
Thus, Finnish teacher education offers students mostly the possibility
of developing further the abilities and skills that they already have and
not the opportunity to develop new skills and abilities while experiencing something completely new. This is an area where OpeArt ideology
is aimed at: to provide opportunities for every student, regardless of his
or her abilities, skills or talents, to gain the same kind of education. The
OpeArt education includes so many partial sectors that all students can
find some or several areas where they can safely step out of their comfort zone. The idea is that every student can meet his or her own zone
of uncomfortableness safely, with support and guidance, which increases
their abilities in their own professional practice when they are qualified
as classroom teachers.
The Culture of Certainty and Avoidance
of Uncertainty
Exposing uncertainty is not a virtue in current teacher education;
instead, it is seen as a vice. Being uncertain in a skill area, for example, may even express to some students their unsuitability to become a
teacher. When a student feels uncertain during teacher education that
does not belong in the teacher picture he or she has formed earlier, it
can generate great confusion. There is no space for dealing adequately
with this phenomenon in current teacher education: it is somehow an
anomaly or an unfitting piece in teacher education programs. The existence of uncertainty creates a problem for students as well as teachers.
Since uncertainty is a non-fitting piece of the teacher picture, students
often try to deny it. In addition, the didactics, practice school teachers,
classroom teachers and lecturers are quite unaware of the existence of
this uncertainty and its significance in becoming a teacher.
166 A. Juvonen et al.
Deborah Britzman (1986) wrote about the significance of meeting
uncertainty (also Nikkola: adequate uncertainty) as a part of teacher
education. According to Britzman, every student teacher should meet
his or her own uncertainty, which is connected to his or her growth in
the profession, under guidance. If this cannot be done during teacher
education, and if it is left untouched, the only possibility for the student is to push this unknown and unhandled uncertainty into the background. It is like a sign of something that does not belong to a teacher’s
habitus. What should be handled is pushed away and avoided. This can
manifest later as a form of strict dominance in the classroom instead of
an understanding orientation. However, if a student teacher learns during his or her teacher education to meet collective latent pressures (for
example, that the teacher is not uncertain ever), he or she will develop
better abilities to handle and understand professionally these pressures
instead of these pressures ruling him or her.
Although Britzman (1986) does not speak about uncertainty in the
same way that we are proposing (a consciously chosen uncertainty) in
OpeArt education, this notion fits well as a justification for considering
it more fully in teacher education. There is an apparent gap between
the ground student teachers currently stand on—their tried-and-true
methods—and embracing a new approach. Experiences of uncertainty
may make us wary of “falling into uncomfortable situations where we
do not know the answers” (Bolton 2010, p. xiv). And yet, many teachers face this scenario as they contemplate new directions in their practice. Uncertainty provides opportunities for questioning and becoming
suddenly struck by something we had never noticed before (Bolton
2010). As Wittgenstein (1953) explained, we then become better able
to “understand something which is already in plain view” (Wittgenstein
1953, p. 89). During these times in particular, when new understandings or possibilities emerge, we often see important transformations in
learners’ interest and engagement. The most immediate and recognizable outcome of introducing uncertainty into classrooms, which we have
witnessed many times in our own teaching, is a positive change in learners’ engagement as their curiosity and interest become newly sparked,
renewed or deepened.
OPEART: Music Theatre Productions … 167
If a teacher, instead of acquiring a dominating orientation, has an
opportunity during his or her teacher education program to develop
an understanding and appreciative orientation towards young people
at school, students in Finnish schools will experience the kind of communal engaged learning that leads to greater school enjoyment without
any loss in the quality of teaching or in the participatory and inclusive
engagement we discussed earlier. As we have articulated in this chapter, we see a need for more experiential and collaborative opportunities
in Finnish schools and in teacher education, including arts education.
Drawing on the concept of communal engaged learning, we propose
that the Savonlinna OpeArt education program has the potential for
fostering collaboration, connections and commitment in students and
teachers. We recognize the value of this approach for cultivating a form
of lifelong learning among student teachers that can foster deeper levels
of student engagement, communal agency and school enjoyment. This
is why we believe that OpeArt teacher education offers a valuable solution to many of the issues associated with Finnish school enjoyment for
both teachers and pupils.
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Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand
Clapping: ABM in Use in Entrepreneurship
Frode Heldal, Isabella Sacramento and Grete Wennes
A number of authors claim that entrepreneurship education is in
some sort of existential crisis. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
cites lack of education as one of three major barriers for entrepreneurship (Rideout and Gray 2013), not due to lack of efforts but due to
wrong use of resources. Business schools and universities, where most
entrepreneurship education is offered, are educating entrepreneurs
or entrepreneurs-to-be in traditional manners. Wagner (2008), for
instance, states that educational efforts in the area have been considered
F. Heldal (*) · G. Wennes 
NTNU Business School, Trondheim, Norway
G. Wennes
I. Sacramento 
Tao Estratégia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
172 F. Heldal et al.
as something of a contradiction-in-terms, ill-suited to conventional
pedagogy. Business schools teach students how to run corporate R&D
departments, rather than how to create, launch and manage a venture
(Aronsson 2004). According to Wagner (2008), educational systems in
general “squelch” entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviours, through the
discouraging of creativity, independence and a questioning approach
to life, and instead promoting conformity and undervaluing diversity.
Few university-based programmes have developed specific pedagogy
to develop and improve the creation of radical innovations (Haase and
Lautenschläger 2011; Kirby 2006).
In this chapter, we present early results from the employment of an
exercise developed to elicit entrepreneurial behaviours in a different
way than traditional pedagogy offers. It is based on learning through
the use of arts, more specifically music and dance, and involves specific learning points for entrepreneurship students through the making
and performing of a music piece. The procedure has been performed
twice in Norway, and a number of times in Brazil, for MBA students
and management students. It can be described as follows: the students
are divided into teams, given some instructions as to how to produce
sounds with their own bodies—for instance through hand clapping,
body clapping and stamping. They are then challenged to make a song
and perform it for the rest of the students as their audience. There is
then a very important reflection part afterwards.
The aim of the chapter is firstly to present the exercise and secondly
to advocate why and how we find it to be a useful addition to traditional entrepreneurship education. The teaching goal to be developed
is the traditional dilemma of explore/exploit in innovation (see, for
instance, Christensen (1997)) which may be developed in a number of
directions by the students. They need to discover new sounds (explore),
develop a new song and deliver it (exploit).
The chapter is structured as follows: first, we will present the exercise. Then, we will elaborate on theories within the perspective of artsbased methods (ABM) connected to the teaching goals to be developed.
Finally, we present our findings and discuss important factors to be
included to make the exercise work.
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 173
Case Description: The Exercise of Hand Clapping
to Teach Entrepreneurship
The aim of this exercise is to pay attention to one’s sounds and through
this attention gain a new perspective to the entrepreneurial dilemma
of explore vs. exploit. Students may be asked to read up on this topic
beforehand, but this is not imperative. The exercise is divided into two
parts: an exploration part and an exploitation part.
The Exploration Part
In the first five minutes of the class, some body movements the students are generally unaware of are demonstrated to them. A very good
example is clapping. Everyone knows how to clap their hands but rarely
pay attention to how they do it, and moreover, their way of clapping
is likely to be different from others’ way of doing so. After a statement
from the teacher that it is possible to clap your hands in five different ways, one of them even considered sacred by some natives in the
Middle East, the students try it out for one minute. Their gazes range
from amused to disconcerted or of disbelief. After being presented with
the five ways, they are generally amused and want to try the “catira”, the
sacred one, which is done with the fingers fully extended to the point of
the skin being really tightened, which makes a treble sound. The intention is for the entire surface of one hand to touch the other.
To reinforce that we all generally have a body sound repertoire we do
not think much about, the following part concentrates on the body’s
acoustic “boxes”, the chest and the oral cavity being the main ones.
Some possible sounds are then illustrated, but not too many; otherwise,
when they are asked to create their own sounds and music, they may
have less space to be creative. This part ends with snapping fingers. The
pinkie and the “ring finger” are the ones to make a small acoustic box
for the middle finger to “snap”. Even if, in a regular class, there are students who can snap their fingers and students who cannot, normally
none of them have ever thought that there was an acoustic box to be
174 F. Heldal et al.
With that, the students have ten to fifteen minutes to work, in
groups of four or five, exploring new body sounds and the sound the
group thinks is the most innovative/interesting is then presented to the
class. As a result, very amusing sounds come up. Some of the sounds
might even need a long time to be mastered, but the person probably
did it as a child, and possibly pursued the sound every day until he or
she could execute it, as most do when conquering whistling. It is not an
issue that very difficult sounds are demonstrated because no one has to
repeat it at this time. The intention is to exemplify how this knowledge
is already present in the group. The next challenge is for them to experiment with any new sounds in their own bodies they have not done
before. They are given 10–15 minutes, depending on the group.
With graduate students, this is the time to discuss feelings like the
frustration of not being able to make the sound or the thrill that their
classmate can do it for their group. With MBA students, generally all
the discussion is conducted afterwards.
Exploit Part
The last part of the class is where all the recently gained knowledge about
body sound possibilities is exploited. The students gather in groups of five
or six to create a whole new “musical piece” using body sounds. It is not
necessary that all sounds are the same for the whole group all the time.
There can be variations, as if they were different instruments in an orchestra. They are instructed to avoid relying on mainly vocal sounds or to use
too many “dancing movements” that make no sound. The final piece of
each group is then performed to the larger audience and a debrief follows.
Main leadership themes that can be discussed after the presentations:
• Was the leader appointed by the group or did they volunteer?
• Was it the most knowledgeable person in terms of sounds?
• Was it the one who could produce a specific sound?
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 175
• Was the final piece done in a way to accommodate people within the
group who had more difficulties?
• Did it show off abilities from the whole group?
• How were group difficulties dealt with?
Main entrepreneurship questions:
Did you feel awkward/excited/intrigued to try new things?
How did you overcome your difficulties, if you encountered any?
Did you at least try when it was difficult?
Could you be of help to someone in the group?
Have you learned something new about yourself?
Were you in any way frustrated with your group?
Do you consider your presentation successful?
Would you make it any different?
Would you like to do it again?
The facilitator should bear questions like these in mind, but generally
less conducive questions about the experience, such as “how was it?”
or “what happened within the group?”, lead to spontaneous answers.
Exploiting can and should be encouraged as something to practise
home. They should show other people (children being the easiest to
conquer) their new tricks, and they can ask friends to clap their hands,
observe which type of clapping they use and investigate some of the
sounds they were not capable of executing so far.
In this section, we will briefly investigate the learning goal to be developed and its theoretical principles rooted in ABM. There are many possible takeaways from the exercise, and we encourage the use and trust of
own experiences connected to the field of entrepreneurship and innovation. However, we have structured the exercise within the frames of
exploit and explore, a perspective which we will lay out theoretically.
First, we will present some ABM principles related to the exercise.
176 F. Heldal et al.
Our Perspective on Arts-Based Methods
Arts-based methods appear to be increasingly adopted in the endeavour
to achieve change in modern and complex organizations (Adler 2006).
In this chapter, we call attention to the application of arts as a method
in which entrepreneurship students in the artistic experience achieve
certain competencies or results (Kerr and Darso 2008; Darso and
Wheatley 2008). In recent years, arts-based processes, and their outcomes in organizations, have also increasingly attracted attention from
researchers (Taylor and Ladkin 2009; Taylor et al. 2002). Consequently,
scholars have started to look into how and why these arts-based methods
work (e.g. Darso and Wheatley 2008; Taylor and Ladkin 2009). Taylor
and Ladkin (2009) found that arts-based methods are typically adopted
as skills transfer, as a projective technique, as an illustration of essence and
through making. “Making” and “skills transfer” put emphasis on the art
process, whereas the “projective technique” and “illustration of essence”
shed light on the product or outcome. Furthermore, “making” and
“projective techniques” are focused on the particular, whereas “skills
transfer” and “illustration of essence” focus on the universal.
Skills transfer implies that particular skills learned in the arts can be
effectively applied to the organization. The adoption of artistic objects
as a projective technique (e.g. managers building three-dimensional representations of their organizational strategy using LEGO-bricks) can
help solve organizational issues (Avasilcai and Rusu 2015). The output
of such artistic endeavours serves as a window into participants’ tacit
“knowing in your gut” (Taylor and Ladkin 2009; Taylor and Hansen
2005), allowing participants to see things they cannot with words alone.
Illustration of essence is conceptually similar to projective techniques, but
rather than evoking personal meaning and sense-making, it embodies
universally recognized qualities, situations, emotional response or ways
of being. A common way to enact this process is using great works from
the arts and popular culture such as literature, films and improvisational
theatre. In the exercise presented here, we put an emphasis on the making, which implies that involving oneself in an artistic experience contributes to some kind of emotional release or cathartic effect (Malchiodi
2005; Dissanayake 2001).
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 177
Body Sound Theory
In this section, we will investigate more into the science behind making
body sounds and what implications it may have for learning. Children
experiment with their body sounds from their early ages. Sounds arouse
their curiosity, either produced with their own body, while discovering
it, or with percussion “instruments” such as a spoon, while discovering the world. Any parent has had the experience of fighting for silence
whenever tinkling with the fork on the plate is discovered. Embodiment
theories (Claxton 2015, 2012) are increasingly proving that the entire
body is important to what we consider being intelligent, not just the
brain. Learned body–brain loops account for a huge amount of our
intuition, emotions and general reaction to the world. As adults, we
tend to work our way through life with a rather fixed set of these loops.
To create new ones, and therefore learn and gain new possibilities in the
world, we have to challenge our knowledge of ourselves, our limitations
and possibilities. As it is not “just the brain”, new behavioural learning
benefits from exploitation of new possibilities with our bodies.
Why is it that we cannot tickle ourselves? Students are often
intrigued by this question. We neglect our bodies because we underestimate their intelligence, affirms Claxton (2015). For the author, both
emotional intelligence and even mathematical intelligence are developments of our bodily intelligence. The recent area of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), a branch of medicine that deals with the influence of
emotional states such as stress and nervous system activities on immune
function, says our immune system is a cognitive device in itself. The
motor area of our brains is active whenever we are doing any task. We
see a flip-flop as a “to wear” article and a bone as a “to throw away”
object. A dog may see the first as a “to play” thing and the second as
a “to eat”. That means in seeing a pencil, the motor area in our brain,
which corresponds to our hand, will be activated, even if we are not
going to write at all. Our actions can be divided broadly into two categories. They are either on the world, and then objects are seen in terms
of their worth for our manipulation, or actions that enable us to move
through the world. In this case, for example, when I am walking from
one corner of the room to the other, an object is not necessarily needed,
178 F. Heldal et al.
but our body–brain needs maps in which we can locate ourselves as one
object amongst others. How brilliantly and fast this precise mapping
mechanism does that is illustrated when we, as if we have predicted it,
deviate from an object, such a tennis ball, flying in our direction.
Much of the work of the body does have routine solutions that
require no brain-based decisions. The brain creates mini-loops to save
energy. What is happening inside the glands, and our visceral system
constitutes part of these loops, but not exclusively. When we get into
our cars to drive in a hurry we might perform a series of actions such as
adjusting the belt, looking in all directions, turning the engine and the
lights on, lowering the clutch, moving the gearstick, checking the mirrors without barely being aware of them. And how many times, when
tired, do we get to the bottom of a page of a book having no clue of
what we have read. Mini-loops are of course necessary, but they are the
ones we have to challenge when we want to project a different leadership style or achieve an entrepreneurial behaviour we still have to work
on. Damasio (2008) talked about brain–body loops associated with
Emotions are frequently subject to management behavioural theories. Our thoughts are proved to be rooted in our emotions (Lund and
Chemi 2015), and many techniques for emotional self-management
directly involve the body. The word “emotion” itself is “e-motion”
(Claxton 2012). Our emotional states are deeply connected with how at
ease and creative or flexible we are able to be and they involve our whole
body: muscles, glands, blood, sweat and tears as well as thoughts, memories and imaginings. For example, the change in our insulin level when
we try to stay focused on something we find hard to do may have an
impact on our willpower because of the energy it consumes. Emotional
control via physical tension can be another good example. Keeping a
neutral face even under huge stress may seem good while negotiating,
but it also reduces the resonance that allows us to stay attuned to those
around us. And our skin conductance response can be a reliable sign of
arousal, but a chronically tensed diaphragm can compromise the digestive system. Tucker (2007) says our motor system, guided by sensory
evaluations of the environment, is the one which controls our actions
accounting for our behaviours and experiences. Perceiving, evaluating
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 179
and acting are linked. Music therapy authors contribute a great deal
showing the connection between the musical world and our bodily
human experience (Aigen 2009; Ansdell 2016; Aravinth et al. 2016).
Johnson (2013) affirms that our cognitive, as well as affective, relational,
social and aesthetic, experiences are all founded in our bodily sensorimotor experience.
There seems to be a consensus that engaged students learn more
(Barkley 2010). This is a powerful reason for educators to keep pursuing new ways of building bridges between what has to be learned by the
students, between the students themselves and between these same educators and their work. Experimenting with new ways of teaching can be
at the same time daring and fulfilling. Daring because students might
be uncomfortable, unexpected detours may arise and time keeping can
be a challenge within unknown paths amongst others. But also enriching due to expanded horizons, perceived personal and student growth,
connecting to new domains and ultimately, professional development.
Barkley remembers the importance of using icebreakers at not only
the beginning of term, but also later to “reaffirm, strengthen and deepen
social connections” (Barkley 2010, p. 125). One contribution of body
sound reflexive classes is that they can very well serve both purposes:
connecting theory and creating good opportunities to celebrate the
learning community.
The Explore/Exploit Phenomenon: A Relational
The exercise is, as described, rooted in the classical dilemma of exploit
and explore. The contention originally coined by March et al. (1976)
is at the centre of many organizational challenges. Exploration involves
activities related to search, experimentation, discovery and innovation.
Exploitation entails refinement, efficiency, implementation and execution (March et al. 1976). The concepts require different structures,
strategies, capabilities and cultures (Li et al. 2008). Another application is to relate exploit to incremental innovation and explore to radical or even disruptive innovation (O´Reilly and Tushman 2004). In an
180 F. Heldal et al.
entrepreneurship setting, for instance, new product development, activities earlier in the value chain are by nature more exploratory than those
at the later stages (Li et al. 2008).
While both explore and exploit have been hailed as cornerstones of
businesses success (see, for instance, O´Reilly and Tushman (2004)
and Dyer et al. (2011)), the challenge to achieve or use these abilities together is a significant one. It may for some represent a Janusian
challenge—you may not see backwards at the same time as you look
forward. This has led some researchers to focus on ambidexterity, literally the ability to combine two sides (O´Reilly and Tushman 2004).
The classical idea of ambidextrous organizations conveys the idea that
organizations may organize themselves out of the explore/exploit problem, for instance, by separating business units and have them either
explore (search for new products) or exploit (make use of existing products) (O´Reilly and Tushman 2004). The most successful ambidextrous
designs had leaders who developed a clear vision and common identity, built senior teams that were committed to the ambidextrous strategy and were incensed to both explore and exploit, employed distinct
and aligned subunits to focus on either exploration or exploitation, and
built teams that could deal with the resource allocations and conflicts
associated with exploration and exploitation (O´Reilly and Tushman
The contention of exploring vs. exploiting may also be associated
with the innovator’s dilemma concept of Clayton Christensen (1997).
Although offering a number of nuances, the idea behind the concept is
essentially that companies experiencing success may be too preoccupied
with exploiting it rather than pursuing new opportunities (exploring).
And essentially that it is difficult or even impossible to both explore and
exploit at once. A common denominator is thus the ability to attend to
competing demands flexibly—that is firstly to act (choose and decide)
and then to remain flexible for possible reversing of the original decision (see, for instance, contingency theory and paradox theory (Luscher
and Lewis 2008)). A fundamental insight is that the competing sides are
interrelated and it is important to see them as mutually enhancing and
not exclusive. Flexibility is what enables the exploration of sounds and
then producing a musical piece out of them (exploitation). Since the
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 181
exercise of hand clapping is designed to involve both explore and exploit
and combine these two into a presentation, the students see the need to
be flexible and connect these two modes of activity to achieve a decent
result. Doing just exploring or just exploiting is not possible. The relevance to real-life entrepreneurship is that companies or organizations
that are too static and imbalanced either towards exploring or exploiting
fail to achieve success.
The exercise has team creativity as its basis, involving both explore
and exploit at the team level. There is generally an increasing acknowledgement of teams as the source of innovations (Sung and Choi 2012).
Studies highlight the importance of group composition and supportive climate (Gilson and Shalley 2004), intra-team communication
(Leenders et al. 2003) and conflict (Chen 2006). Researchers have
acknowledged that the ability of a team to generate novel and useful
ideas is inextricably linked to the way team members use both knowledge possessed by individual team members (Sung and Choi 2012) and
information processing (Zaccaro et al. 2009; Salas et al. 2009). It is a
task that requires the utmost of coordination and collaboration, and
preferably with actors that not only “possess” different competencies
but also see things differently. It entails high demands on team dynamics and capabilities and requires creativity as well as structure (Brown
and Duguid 2001) and the ability to adapt to the unknown (Weick and
Sutcliffe 2007). This dynamic is a capability of highly developed teams
and will often require training and team dynamics development (Heldal
The exercise is not only designed to approach the contention at the
team level, but also with the intention that such a flexibility is to be
developed at the intra-team level. The teams may (and should) learn
from each other. Later team research has pointed to development teams
needing to not only explore and exploit, but also export (Ancona and
Bresman 2007). Teams are always in an organizational context, and
external relationships are of the essence to make ideas take a leap. In
fact, Ancona and Bresman (2007) argue that teams that don’t appreciate external focus risk of failing with new ideas developing into
products. However, obtaining the ability to both nurture internal relationships and external relationships at the team level requires much of
182 F. Heldal et al.
its members. This ability at the team level requires that roles are flexible
(all members may be both the explorer and the exploiter), that mental models are shared (communication is continuously task related and
team related) and that leadership is distributed (all members may exert
leadership functions) (Heldal and Antonsen 2014).
Our findings are based on teacher observations performing the exercise,
interviews done with participating students and analyses of social media
discussions. The Brazilian results analysed refer to results obtained over
two years at both undergraduate and executive levels at the Fluminense
Federal University, with the aim to teach entrepreneurial behaviour
skills. Percussion is very significant to the “cariocas”, as Rio’s inhabitants
are known, because of the carnival culture. This interactive live percussion activity attracts the students’ attention immediately in all classes.
Students’ impressions about their own learning were made available in
the debrief process, in their live chat on Facebook and within the conversation exchanges in the class’ Whatsapp groups, and twelve students
from different classes were chosen according to availability to be interviewed. Five of them had the class the previous semester, four of them
attended the course one year before and three of them had the experience a year and a half before the interview. The interviews lasted around
fifteen minutes each and were open. At the end, if it had not been covered already by what they had already said, the students were asked if
they could see any connection between the practice and entrepreneurship concepts such as “drive and energy”, “self-confidence”, “personal
responsibility”, “risk–taking” and “use of resources”.
The exercise in Norway was performed pretty much the same way
as in Brazil. Students were warmed up with some hand-clapping exercises and also taught a basic rhythm by doing body sounds. In all, eight
Norwegian students were interviewed, both individually and in group
interviews. These students were all MBA students from two different
classes, having performed the exercise ½ year and 1 ½ year beforehand,
respectively. Interviews in Norway were executed in the same manner
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 183
as in Brazil, with some follow-up questions after the formal interview
(some of them needed to reflect and think more to remember what they
felt and learned).
In this section, we will present our results. Our first observation in our
analysis is that there are more similarities than differences across the
countries. Many of the same observations and findings produced in
Norway were similar to those of Brazil. We will therefore present findings according to the theme and refer to national differences when they
Explore Vs Exploit
The groups started the exercise with a lot of laughter and some also with
some bewilderedness, in the form of “…what the … are we going to
do… ” and “…this is crazy… ”. However, they soon got to work, uniting
their groups and spurring out ideas. At the start, the groups were very
different in their approaches. Some were quite reluctant, while others
dived into the exercise. Every group, however, did get started, without
the teacher having to interfere by encouraging or pushing.
The start involved a lot of ideas being launched. An interesting
point here was that ideas seemed to need three levels of adoption: at
the first level, some ideas were launched (expressed vocally), but found
not applicable to the rest of the group; at the second level, the vocally
expressed ideas that caught their attention were tried out primarily by
the ideator and then by the rest of the group; at the third level, if the
idea was found appropriate, it was included in the song.
The first phase of the exercise that included this idea generation was
at its most intense in the first half of the exercise time wise. Then, the
groups would gradually turn to exercising their ideas in order to perform it more and more. For most groups, this entailed a focus on the
training of the decided upon program for the song. This second half did
184 F. Heldal et al.
seemingly not involve idea generation, although many groups would
adjust original ideas either because they were too difficult or because
they judged them as not being as good as they thought they were at the
start. In some groups, ideas were discarded because of this.
In the reflection part afterwards, the groups had no problem relating their group work to two phases: one involving creativity and idea
generation and the other involving productivity and exercising. This was
related to the two important headlines of explore and exploit: the first
phase was mainly used to explore new ideas, while the second phase was
used to exploit the ideas into a “deliverance”. Some would also discuss
the importance of showing their ideas to the others, trying it out before
it either would “pass” or be discarded. Although this learning point
seemed too far out for many, there was some reflection around this in
relation to the concept of prototyping.
Should I Stay or Should I Go
In the making part (of the performance), the students were free to stay
in the classroom but also leave if they wanted (neither was encouraged—they were only told to meet up and present at a given time).
In every run, approximately half of the student groups chose to find a
room or space separated from the rest of the class. They offered some of
the same reasons for their departure: firstly, they claimed that there was
too much noise if they stayed with the other groups. Only with silence
and being alone would they develop and deliver (according to their own
accounts). Secondly, they were afraid that their ideas could or would be
stolen from other groups. While noise may have been important reason
to start with, the concern of stolen ideas was what kept them stay in
the rooms apart from the others. The groups that stayed together would
either remain in the classroom, but some also stayed together outside of
the classroom. They gave no apparent reason, other than following others and convenience.
Interestingly, the groups that stayed together developed almost a
kind of collaboration between them (even if some saw it as a competition). They were in no way eager to withhold information from the other
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 185
groups, which resulted in these groups learning from each other. The
songs performed by these groups were departing more from the initial
warm-up exercise presented by the lecturer and also more similar to each
other. As such, it appeared that they had been able to use their creativity in a more productive way than the hidden groups. One of the hidden groups in Norway, for instance, had one of their girls shouting out a
“joik”—an exciting add-on to the song, but not merged into a whole with
other parts. In Brazil, the departing groups developed interesting solutions too. One group chose to use silence as an instrument; another group
emulated nature sounds (birds, rain, wind). The hidden groups worked
more individually, it appeared. It was more a collection of good ideas.
In addition to noise, the groups that were hiding originally had the
idea that this would lead them to rise above the other groups and enable
more creativity (upon questioning why they did so), and in some senses,
it did. However, it remained a question whether this creativity allowed
them to deliver a performance above the other. Sometimes, the creative
solutions appeared more strange than creative, and sometimes, the more
creative parts were not aligned with the rest of the group. The “joik”
group is an example of this. The “joik” emerged as a borderline thing
between strange and innovative and was very different from the rest of
the song. It was either too strange or too uncoordinated with the other
team members.
Learning points here, that they reflected upon, were related to the
idea of Open Innovation (Chesbrough 2003) but also the “x-teams”
argument of Ancona and Bresman (2007). Discussions and reflections
lingered around the point that the sharing of ideas actually leads to the
building of new knowledge, and that closure and secretive behaviour
towards other groups may have an effect also on the internal relationships of the group. The theoretical concepts were introduced after the
classes had discussed the phenomena.
Departing from the “Original”
All groups had the original rhythm, performed with a beat, for
instance, 4/4. This was presented by the teacher in the warm-up as a
186 F. Heldal et al.
sort of basis—it could be recognized in their songs regardless of how
innovative and creative they were with regard to body sounds and other
One thing that was not included in the warm-up exercise, nor asked
for, was the inclusion of dance moves. Despite this, nearly every group
made some sort of performance act out of it. One of the Norwegian
groups went quite far in this regard, making a dance choreography.
Another Norwegian group made one of their performers “come out” of
the group as a flower blooming. On the flip side in Norway, there were
a minority of groups that performed their songs only as instructed—
or in other words solely by performing the sound without any choreographical elements.
A similar departure from the original instructions was their inclination to include either shouting, talking or “joiking”. As instructed, the
main target was to use body sounds and avoid vocal “sounds” such as
singing. The groups that went furthest in these regards were some of
the groups staying together, some even developing a more rap-like song.
Of the groups staying by themselves, only one group explored the possibility of using the voice (it was no encouraged) and even then only
modestly. Here, the Brazilian groups differed somewhat. A more usual
pattern here was that some groups insisted in using vocal sounds and
often combined with body sounds that made a loud impact (such as
striking the chest). An explanation of this was that they tried to make
louder sounds to have a better impact on the listeners (this was not evident in Norway).
In the reflection part, we discussed how their creativity was based on
something (that it does not appear out of nowhere) and needs a basis
from which to be inventive. The students acknowledged that their creativity hinged upon having something to build upon, and that without
any limits for the exercise or priming they would not have been able to
innovate. In Brazil, musical creativity is seen as more intrinsic culturally
and not all the students recognized the need for a structure.
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 187
“Risk-taking” was a common discussion theme for all students. Some
Brazilian students were exposed to a lot of entrepreneurial experiences,
and they realized that trying to do something different and challenging is about taking risks. They needed guidance within the debrief discussions to question themselves on how they experienced the risk, the
failure, not being accepted, not putting forward their own ideas and to
further the reflective questioning. Furthermore, how they were affected
by the general risk-taking options from their group. This discussion
generally ended with whether they would have done it differently
once they saw the results. From the observations (debrief/Facebook/
Whatsapp) right after the practice, it was not easy to spot any particular trends; some of them answered that they would change, some
were happy with the end results, but in the later interviews, most said
that they would have done something differently. We do not know
why when answering at a later date they tend to change their response.
Maybe because they have developed their ideas with time, maybe
because one year later their leadership style has evolved or they have
grown more group conscious. Although we do not have evidence to
back up this finding, other than the emergence of this discrepancy itself,
and cannot attribute the result to the body sound practice exclusively,
the fact that their perception has altered might indicate that something
seemed to have stayed with them.
Use of Resources
When a group had leadership problems, it tended to be a major area
of complaint. Interestingly enough, there were almost never any complaints about the lack of musicality of the participants of their group
although this featured as a main fear for some participants. The perceived leadership problems were more often connected to a non-democratic, overly dominant leader. When leadership took a long time to
arise, it tended to be very participative. Some groups could change their
main leader during the process, either by group demand or as an offer
188 F. Heldal et al.
from the previous leader to step down. These more cooperative processes left the students with the feeling of a better creative process and
Some Brazilian groups had been presented with tango scene from
“The Scent of a Woman” to discuss who was having the most difficulty in that situation (a blind Al Pacino dances with the initially nervous girlfriend of his nephew). These students used the movie to make
comparisons about how they felt. A student made a somewhat funny
statement of them watching the movie is not taken into consideration:
“…I managed to make nice body sounds. I am not blind… ”. The teacher
reminded him that body sounds should not be an area where visually
impaired people have difficulties, since they are keener to pay attention
to different sounds; however, they won’t necessarily reproduce them
with ease.
During the classes in Brazil, there was always an incitement to see if
the students considered their development their own “personal responsibility”. The answers tended to narrow down to “…it is our personal
responsibility but we could use some help… ”. That was normally the time
to talk about learned behaviours and character traits. Since there was no
set sound they were obliged to make, it was difficult for them to sustain
the need for help so the debrief focused on feelings like pride, shame.
It was somewhat surprising that this discussion was absent from their
Whatsapp/Facebook conversation. The main suppositions are that they
could have considered the analysis of these feelings a private exploitation or that it has not stayed with them at all.
Students’ Perceptions of the Class
It was evident just from following the classes that the students entertained themselves. There was a lot of laughter, engagement and energy.
There was apparently some resentment from students who would also
normally be disengaged from classroom discussion. But even these students would loosen up and join in after some minutes into the exercise. In the interviews, the students confirmed that the lecture was very
fun and a welcome “break” from more traditional classes. It made them,
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 189
as one Norwegian student said, “…think and act in a different way… ”.
With regard to engagement, “Drive and energy” was spontaneously
mentioned by the majority of the students. They seem to have positive
memories about the fact that it is quick-paced and dynamic, and also
the bodily and interactive part received positive feedback. One Brazilian
student said:
…Our lives in our businesses will not be like sitting in the classroom.
I imagine it will be much more demanding and alive, so it is good to
have ‘these things’ that make us reflect and quickly create a solution using
group skills…
During the reflection part of the exercise, we discussed their experiences related to theoretical concepts and constructs. It was, however,
hard for many to immediately relate this to important entrepreneurship
ideas. Upon questioning, however, they remembered precisely what it
would take to be both creative and productive, the need to both explore
and exploit (but they didn’t use these words). One of the students said
that he remembered how his group had to both pay meticulous attention to details and spin out a lot of ideas at the same time. Another
student recalled the need for both a firm leader taking control, while
every team member was included and took part in decision-making. It
was no problem for them to relate this to different phases of the process, and some students recalled how the start of the exercise involved
an explosion of different ideas, that eventually needed to be “…micromanaged… ” as they put it. Some of the students also saw the exercise as
an icebreaker, an opportunity to getting to know each other in a different and new way.
All of the interview subjects acknowledged the need to be able to
break out of their comfort zone, and while this was an apparent challenge, none of them signalled any difficulty in doing so. They expressed
some uneasiness in performing the exercise, but contributed this to
fun and getting to know each other better. Self-confidence appeared
mainly positively, “…Finally I could use my musical skills here… ” or “…
It seemed so difficult at the beginning, but I was so happy with myself that
I managed to join the group… ”, but also negatively “…I was afraid every
190 F. Heldal et al.
time someone proposed something new, but then I realized I had to try. I
am embarrassed not to be able to dance… ” and “…The group was nice to
me, but I am sure I made mistakes… ”.While the issue of uneasiness was
evident with some, other students went in the other direction. Some of
them reported to have caught themselves “rehearsing” the movements
while waiting for the elevator or for the bus without noticing they were
doing it.
Overall, the students loved the exercise, because it was fun, different, challenging and built relationships. It is hard to state or measure
any learning effect that can be solely attributed to the lecture, but their
experiences were important and showed learning despite the difficulty
for some to translate their experiences to theoretical constructs. These
students, although they are management students, had mostly no prior
experience in entrepreneurship, so it was for them difficult to relate
to possible experiences. The students with more experience, however,
seemed to be able to translate this more easily.
What do we teach the students and what do we want them to learn? A
major point behind doing the exercise is to enable students to learn. In
this section, we will discuss how and what the students learned, possible
limitations and important inclusions.
In general, we conclude that students have learned from the exercise, and we will firstly argue that it is a more profound and different
kind of knowledge than “ordinary” teaching may provide. Drawing on
the theoretical basis, there are three elements that contribute to learning (and are different from regular education)—making, bodily experience and engagement. Drawing on our findings, we will argue that
the exercise elicits all three elements in a constructive manner. The
first element that we put them through was the making of an artistic
experience. According to Malchiodi (2005) and Dissanayake (2001),
this contributes to an emotional release and/or cathartic effect. Our
students’ laughter demonstrated explicit emotion as did their dancing
and singing. Moreover, the students “catching” themselves doing dance
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 191
moves in the elevator may point to some release of cathartic effects. The
second element is the bodily experience. Claxton (2012) argues that
the body is a cognitive organ, and that it is more involved in learning
than we think. Some students made more of a dance show, while others kept dancing at a minimum. However, the exercise makes it impossible not to move some parts of the body, especially parts of the body
not usually involved in classroom teaching. The third element is that of
engagement. There seems to be a consensus that engaged students learn
more (Barkley 2010). Engagement in classrooms will of course differ
depending on a number of factors (such as teacher engagement, topic
of interest, involvement)—however, involving all at once seems to be
a recurring challenge. We argue that our findings demonstrate an exercise with nearly total involvement and engagement. Even the students
initially thought to be more passive contributed, which demonstrates a
high level of engagement.
Secondly, we argue that our findings demonstrate learning on a
deeper level. The main learning point behind the exercise is the “simple”
contention of explore/exploit. This is learned through the above-mentioned three points, but in addition, our findings demonstrate student
experiences that transcend this point. This is important and interesting, because the contention is not solely an entrepreneurship challenge
but one that is as old as organizations themselves (Brown and Duguid
2001). We will emphasize three elements—the relational factors (essential for team and leadership development), the paradox understanding
(essential for organizational learning) and finally sense-making (essential for organizational development). The relational factors evidenced
themselves through experiences of team dynamics and leadership in
the groups. Some choose to depart and distance themselves from other
groups, which is normally a sign of groups with lesser psychological safety (Ancona and Bresman 2007) and mutual trust (Heldal and
Antonsen 2014). The performance part of the exercise evidenced the
detrimental effects these factors had on creativity—being either too
strange or lesser coordinated within the group. In the same vein, distributed leadership (Kozlowski et al. 2009) emerged as a promoter of group
creativity, experienced positively by the groups following this model and
negatively with the groups organized otherwise. The paradox factor was
192 F. Heldal et al.
mainly experienced through the important timing issue of when to be
inventive (explore) and when to train (exploit), as it was difficult to do
both at once. Learning through paradoxes may involve both choosing
one side over another (seeing them as mutually exclusive) and seeing
both sides as interrelated (seeing them as mutually enhancing) (Luscher
and Lewis 2008). The latter is an important constituent of 2nd loop
learning (Argyris and Schön 1996). Groups experienced the importance of both—that they should invent moves before they practised
them, but also that practice was an important source for inventing new
moves. The third element was not expressed explicitly by the students,
but may be deduced by the apparent “uneasiness” that some of them
experienced, and the breaking out of comfort zones that the majority
experienced: Why are we doing this? Why are we performing a song in
our school class? Why am I dancing and singing when I should be writing down important theory? Such questions involve the ongoing sensemaking, or in other words trying to make sense out of oneself in the
social context (Weick et al. 2005). Interaction through music activity in
a certain space and place is both a social act and a sociocultural phenomenon. This exercise provoked the students to do musicing, “the idea
that music can be treated as a verb and not just a noun” (Stige 2010,
p. 8), and as that is unusual for many of them, they had an out-of-theircomfort-zone, rather enjoyable experience. The pushing of comfort
zones was hailed as a central factor to the exercise, which can be translated to an active enabling of meaning construction. Such a situational
awareness is a central leadership skill (Weick and Sutcliffe 2007).
There are of course challenges with the method, evidenced through
our findings. Firstly, the learning experiences of the students were, as
already mentioned, entangled with their bodies in action. The translation of movements to a conscious reflection of theoretical points
required a theoretical or empirical base that many students did not
have. In other words, there are three important factors that are key for
learning: (1) having read extensively; (2) having extensive experience;
and/or (3) classes facilitated with explicit learning points. In the cases
where this was not present, there was a challenge for students to replicate explicit learning points related to entrepreneurship. Even if they
remembered the previously mentioned learning points related to the
Learning Entrepreneurship by Hand Clapping … 193
exercise itself, the translation to entrepreneurship was difficult. Cultural
challenges also need to be addressed. The most salient feature of the cultural perspective is, however, that the method origins from Brazil, but
has shown to be applicable also in the Norwegian context and importantly, without a lot of local adaptations. There were, of course, differences between how the two nationalities performed the exercise, but it
may be argued that these are not greater than variances between groups
anywhere. In other words, the local adaptations needed here were probably not greater than any local adaptation or adjustment a teacher
needs to do. That being said, it is probable that hand clapping, music
and dance were a shorter step for the Brazilian students than for the
Norwegians—and that there were more issues with the comfort zone
for the Norwegians. Making it a safe environment to leave comfort
ground (although we have not investigated this) should be the role of
the facilitator. This is a trust issue, which consists of more than cultural
In this chapter, we have presented an exercise that elicits bodily actions
related to the entrepreneurship contention of explore vs. exploit. The
exercise has been performed with MBA and management students in
both Brazil and Norway, showing promising results with regard to new
ways of teaching entrepreneurship. Student experiences are very positive, showing both learning and entertaining outcomes.
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Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic
Pedagogical Process: A Cross-Cultural
and Transnational Dialogue Based
on International Experiences of Higher
Education Across Global Continents
Lilian Ucker Perotto and Meeri Hellstén
The international education research field encompasses a broad range
of approaches, methods and paradigms (Hellstén and Reid 2008).
After more than four expansive decades in higher education, the field
has entered into its midlife transition phase which calls for rethinking
of perspectives to bring about renewal and progression (Hellstén and
Ucker Perotto, in print). Like any life-changing event, the successful
transformation of international education also requires creativity and
openness of mind. Two decades ago the UNESCO World Declaration
on Higher Education (1998) called for incentives to bring about
anaesthetic imaginary in advancing higher knowledge by integrating
L. Ucker Perotto (*) 
Federal University of Goiás, Goiania, Brazil
M. Hellstén 
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
198 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
creativity with critical thinking to accomplish societal change. While
the sector has experienced immense expansion within and across all academic levels, it has not culminated in a holistically sustainable concept.
Too much fragmentation remains which leaves internationalisation of
higher education in concealed vulnerability.
In this chapter, we offer our contribution to the creative reconceptualisation of internationalisation of higher education. We do this by
blending conventional research with creative academic expression to
make meaning of our experiences within the international education
research field. Our global community of international scholars engaging
in this field of research have identified both fragmentation and stagnation (Hellstén and Reid 2008) that is halting the pedagogical and academic development by causing constraints where it should be evolving.
Our conviction is that the embracing of change and transformation
requires boldness in breaking conventionality and boundaries that are
set a priori, and allowing instead, for an organic evolving of new ways
to entirely alternate pathways. In this chapter, we therefore appeal to
the challenging of unconventional conceptualisations and unexpected
structural patterns in presenting scholarly work, as we believe it is one
of many possible ways forward in reshaping international scholarly
Internationalisation of higher education can be approached in
many ways, some of which can be storied by members of the scholarly community. Stories are a way of defining the international. Our
aim in this chapter is to expand on knowledge of international education through the use of narratives as theory, methodology and method
allowing us to move between the what, why and how of narrative
research. In this chapter, we put into practice the case example of a
storied life and therefore apply narration also as tacit knowledge to the
way in which we tell our story. In considering how we might approach
this chapter, we arrived at the decision to theorise international narratives and also to narrate the international through our own collegially
evolving story. The entire chapter is therefore composed in the format
of letters from the authors to the readership and between the authors
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 199
Dear readers and colleagues,
Our transnational scholarly dialogue began before the first letter was sent. When we met each other ten years ago, Meeri Hellstén
was a senior academic and researcher at Macquarie University and
Lilian Ucker Perotto was a doctoral student at the Faculty of Fine
Arts of the University of Barcelona. We could not have imagined that
our re-encounter would manifest through a letter. In 2007, we had
become academically acquainted through international collaboration with Professor Fernando Hernández and Professor Juana Maria
Sancho, when a project was established between Macquarie University
in Australia (Hellstén) and Barcelona University in Spain (Sancho and
Hernández). The project involved exchange in comparative and international research on sustainable internationalising of higher education
pedagogy in and through cross-border academic contexts. The project
work also involved a sharing of doctoral and master level research projects in which the researchers were able to work together using both dialogical and workshop formats.
Our next encounter was in June 2015 through a professional letter
upon which we exchanged emails and thought about the possibility that
our experience of transnational dialogue could be meaningfully shared
with the global research communities on international education. The
issue was not only to share experiences about the phenomenon and consequences of internationalisation in the world, but also to think about
the ways in which such experiences could be represented and thus contribute creatively and unconventionally to a collective scholarly dialogue
by way of a case example using letters between international scholars as
creative and performative writing (Pollock 1998).
The reports that follow in this text are results of the social and professional context in which we—Ucker Perotto and Hellstén—form part,
and for this reason, we are not in the footnote as it is usually found
in the academic texts. Our personal learning experiences manifest
themselves as a particular way of “reconstructing the past and future
intentions by placing them in relation to the demands of the present
200 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
situation” (Connelly and Clandinin 1995, p. 25). Precisely for this reason, we decided that each of us would write a part of this text in format
letter exploring auto-ethnographic research accounts to give meaning in
our geographical displacement experiences and the subjectivities produced in international scholarly spaces too.
On the Context of the Narrated Experience
Developed as a Meaningful Qualitative Research
I met Hellstén in person in April 2008. At that time, I was starting to
organise my PhD research in fine arts and education (Ucker Perotto
2015), so the thesis theme was still incipient. Initially, the thesis focus
was exclusively an autobiographical research. The central idea was to
work with the life histories from the perspective of the geographical displacements. At that moment, I was still feeling that I was very much
influenced by the research developed during the achievement of my
master’s degree in visual culture, in Brazil. Such research had the objective of comprehending and to analysing how students of public schools
relate to the scholarly environment and how they imagined it.
With the passing of the weeks and months in the new context, I was
learning many things and an important question was referring to perceiving the changes during my geographical displacements from new
epistemological marks. In Barcelona, I had to search for a job, for an
apartment to share, a new relation with the academic institution and
with the idioms. In all these circumstances, I began not just to believe
in the importance of discussing what Meeri was teaching me in the
texts about “student transition experience” (Prescott and Hellstén 2005,
p. 75), but mainly the importance of knowing what the other students
could say about their own experiences as students in Barcelona.
The first reflections I read about the subject that I later decided to
investigate came from Meeri and presented by my supervisor. Fernando
Hernández had recently returned from Australia, and I remember his
facial expression when handing me the material. Very excited, he told
me about the investigations that Meeri was conducting at her university.
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 201
In July 2008, for the defence of DEA (Advanced Studies Diploma),
I presented fragments of two interviews, with two Brazilian foreign students, which were both taken initially as an attempt of a pilot study.
After presenting the project in my DEA, and considering the contributions of the court, I have elected as the focus of the doctorate thesis’ study a singular experience—being a doctorate Brazilian student in
When I defined the research focus “the experience of being an international student”, it was inevitable to approach the phenomenon that
generated it, the student mobility, as a consequence of the internationalisation of higher education, which has been at the centre of the
debates of higher education institutions in different countries. This phenomenon has provoked discussions about the role of the university in
the world economy today and what are the consequences of thinking
and taking the internationalisation as a goal for the education system.
Although some books, reports and research reinforce the theme of internationalisation through economic statistics, it is through the “Student
mobility” that it takes form and visibility in the world, currently.
Authors such as De Wit (2013) and Lee (2013) have shown some
concern about a possible false aura of internationalisation (Lee 2013)
that through quantitative data can continue to promote “internationalization without regard to its stated purposes and unforeseen consequences” (Lee 2013, p. 85). For De Wit (2013), it is the students who
must (or at least should) lead the internationalisation, not the “international offices”. We need, according to him, to pay attention to students’
qualitative experiences (De Wit 2013, p. 81), because they suffer the
most impact.
These observations evolved into my research inquiries as I immediately asked myself: How can we think about internationalisation of
higher education without taking into account the experience of foreign
students? How can we approach the theme “Internationalization of
Higher Education” without taking into account the foreign students?
Entitled “Back and forth: A biographical—narrative study on the
experiences of being a student at university”, my PhD research aimed
at understanding what Brazilian students said about their experience as
an international student in Spanish universities. This experience turned
202 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
out as lived by a group of nine doctoral students (six women and three
men, between 28 and 46 years old, that I interviewed in 2009, six of
them coming from the south and three from south-east of Brazil). As
method, some Brazilian students were asked to share their experiences
in auto-ethnographically designed interviews. After responding to the
narrative interview, the students shared images and even songs which,
according to their own accounts, were also representative of their international education experience. These formed the content and approach
to my methodology and method of research data.
But in March 2009 while still conducting my PhD research,
I returned to Brazil to assume the job of professor at the Federal
University of Goiás, which was the same place where I had also achieved
my master’s degree. For the following three years, in between the “back
and forth” travels to and from Barcelona, I could not advance my
writing of the thesis and for that reason I felt lost. I returned back to
Barcelona in September 2012 to dedicate some additional months of
work on my thesis writing. Soon I looked for some research strategies
to allow me to advance in my writing. As the first strategy, I approached
the imagery (Fig. 1) to raise an internal dialogue with my experience
and place them in my work office. The images were used as artistic visual stimuli not only to advance my work, but also to welcome reflection about any unwanted incidents of my exhaustive trajectory with
the research. They remained as still images of fragility that recorded my
writing process: from cold spaces to liquid stimuli, from self-images to
Fig. 1 Work office stimuli images
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 203
The second creative strategy was to create a personal blog (“Next
stop” by Ucker Perotto 2012); in this blog, I shared ideas and topics about my research process. It was a way to tell people what I was
researching, but mainly a strategy of dialogue between each other.
Without knowing that this would become a research strategy that I
would apply in the writing of my thesis, the third creative strategy was
to write a letter to my supervisor. In this letter, which was not as yet
part of the thesis, I decided that I must write about the difficulty in
advancing my study. I had been in a situation during my recent years,
when my time had been almost exclusively devoted to my teaching work at the Federal University of Goiás. I had no additional time
to dedicate to my PhD thesis. As the months went by, my concerns
increased, since I needed to finish the thesis. Facing such difficulties, I
decided to write a letter to my supervisor in explaining for him how I
felt and the work I had been developing during the past few months.
The same day I wrote to him and I also sent the letter. To my surprise,
the letter was answered by reply letter. In his letter, there was a part that
grabbed my attention in a special way. Fernando wrote:
But do not lose the Horizon: write a story that tells not only about the
conversations with those who generously gave you their stories, but also
show the plot of your route that is entangled with readings and the reflexivity of your decisions. This is your thesis. Your challenge.
I understood then that my challenge existed in how to represent the
knowledge that was being produced within the thesis, from my trajectory within the research by understanding that the subjectivity “is
inherent in all expression, it can neither be controlled nor stabilized”
(Luce-Kapler 2004, p. 43).
From a position that takes into account elements of the auto-ethnographic perspective (Spry 2001; Brockmeier 2000, Ellingson and Ellis
2008, Hernández and Rifà 2011; Sparkes 2002) and some elements
of the arts-based research, I began to consider the thesis not only as a
narrative that confronts and explicitly “criticizes one’s subjectivity, the
self, as situated in a society and a culture and in relation” (Hernández
and Rifà 2011, p. 30), but mainly as “a vehicle of emancipation that
204 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
promotes new ways of understanding our subjectivity” (Hernández and
Rifà 2011 p. 29). To Ellingson and Ellis (2008 p. 449), the auto-ethnography can be constructed from the most varied narrative formats,
such as: “short stories, poetry, fiction, novels, photographic essays, personal essays, journals, fragmented and layered writing, and social science prose”. However, what is at stake is the work of the self, which
expresses itself not only emotionally, but also physically and cognitively, thus “evoking emotional response from readers” (Ellingson and
Ellis 2008, p. 450).
The use of “Arts Based Research” as an epistemological perspective in the research made it possible to break with a hard science
idea in the thesis allowing “to explore even more varied and creative ways to engage in empirical processes; and to share our questions and findings in more penetrating and widely accessible ways”
(Cahnmann-Taylor 2008, p. 3). Barone and Eisner in “Why Do Arts
Based Research?” say that a better reason to work with such perspective may be this:
to the extent that an arts based research project effectively employs aesthetic dimensions in both its inquiry and representational phases, to that
extent the work may provide an important public service that may be
otherwise unavailable. (2012, p. 13)
The “Arts based Research” focuses not only on the use of visual
methods, but also on “different media with artistic or aesthetic value”
(Hernández 2008, p. 97). This means accepting, as Hernández (2008,
p. 79) explains, “a standardized form, the use not only of different writing formats, but also the combination of several narrative modalities in
a research narrative”. The author highlights, for example, three tendencies with which to work: the literary, the artistic and the performative.
From the contribution of these perspectives, my PhD thesis was constructed through seven letters. The central idea was to create the thesis
into research that is “expressive and affords individuals who see or read
it with the opportunity to participate empathically in events that would
otherwise be beyond their reach” (Barone and Eisner 2012, p. 8). One
of the letters written in the thesis was dedicated to professor Hellstén.
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 205
On Utilising Our Pedagogical Knowledge
as Implications for Forming International
Learning Communities
Dear Lilian,
I was thrilled to read about your doctoral thesis project and the
unusual method with which you approached the research issues. I
was immediately thrown back in time to 2008 and our first meeting at Barcelona University which I remember very visibly. I recall the
research group workshops being dynamic and inquisitive about our
joint and individual research approaches and intellectual challenges in
seeking common ground between our observational dialogues, methods and analytic perspectives. In hindsight, I believe it might have
been where the first idea was germinated which has since culminated
in our scholarly exchange on the international transition experiences in
higher education. I am not sure if you recall a specific conversation we
had with the research team, in which I presented my research project
on international student experiences of transition to their host learning
In the presentation, I brought up interview data which my research
team in Australia had collected over the years containing many excerpts
of interview talk about the cultural and linguistic adaptation, academic
challenges and hurdles and examples of social resourcefulness, skills and
capability of international students as they were facing new learning
spaces in their host institutions. I was challenged to justify the epistemology that guided my research objectives by one of the members in
the research team at the host institute. What ensued was a rather vigorously engaging debate about possible research inquiries validating
my data collection and discursive analyses. The central question I was
asked queried what types of research questions were made relevant by
my approach to data collection. Some of the claims made were even dismissive of the methodology I was applying to my data collection. We
grappled with, what seemed as endless disjointed decrypting sessions
which at times felt even somewhat dismissive. In sheer impatience, I
believe I ended up offering a short demonstration on the white board
206 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
of the conversation analytic machinery being put into work in Harvey
Sack’s (1995) speech exchange systems. My hope was, for this method
to provide a simple systematics to understanding international dialogue,
to borrow the famous expression from Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson
(1974), and through which to make salient the meaning making apparatus within and across the international student accounts about their
lived experiences.
I do not know to this day as to how far I managed to convince the
group of the value I saw in approaching my data from this angle. But
I distinctly recall us labouring, painstakingly so, over the search for a
malleability in the ways in which our data could be made jointly operational. Ten years later, I now understand that what we perhaps intuitively were aiming at back in those days was a transversal of narrative,
ethnographic and discursive paradigms. It is no easy quest, but I think
it accomplished a cultivating of our mind space in the ways that have
been worth pursuing to this day. It is this realisation that makes for my
anticipation in evolving and refining our current work in creative and
auto-ethnographic ways.
Your approach to using narratives as a letter-writing device to reify
the lived experience is really inspiring. I agree with your reference to
Hernández and Rifa (2011) that the letter-writing process is not only
about the writing of text, and I would add that it is inherently intersubjective in a Husserlian ontological tradition. Applied to our letter writing, this intersubjectivity shapes our lived experiences as international
encounters that are inherently transcendental of the self in forming
our understanding of the other. The focus on international narratives
as an intersubjectively cultivating tool is essentially the building pillar
of relationality which I believe would lend itself well to the context of
supervision in higher education. Why not use it as a creative method for
teaching and learning in higher education spaces?
I recall an observation made by Clandinin and Connelly (2000,
p. 34) regarding the three-dimensionality of the narrative space. It holds
the dimensions of temporality (shifting between the past, present and
future); sociality (shifting between the intrinsic and extrinsic sociability of the individual); and the dimension of place (which contain the
narratives). The relational pedagogical place therefore needs to make
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 207
space for narratives to flourish through empowering relational scholarly
communities across disciplinary- and performance-related boundaries. I
believe that your methods of letter writing create the relational narrative
spaces that enabled a cultivation of international pedagogies as our stories emerged through the transversal of the distinct scientific paradigms
of narrativity, ethnography and discourse. As the narrative space dimensions open for an auto-ethnographic telling of stories lived, a telling and
re-telling of discursively nuanced tales begin to emerge. The exchange of
letters may lend itself readily as an empathic and holistic international
supervision method, due to its potential to reduce concern over academic achievement and elaborate formulations of scholarly ideas, which
may otherwise cloud creative and higher order processes. The relational
narrative space dimension is very suitable for supervision as it brings
about closer proximity and opportunity within and across parallel scholarly communities (Bhattacharya and Gillen 2016) that may otherwise
remain inaccessible.
Summary and Implications
Dear Meeri,
I find the issues you bring up in your letter very fitting for thinking about the pedagogical relationship between supervisor and supervisee and hope to take you up on four features which I believe could
be suitably modified into a teaching and learning methods for supervision across borders. The first one is that of enhancing engagement at the
intersection of language, culture, displacement and being in the world
of the international. The second feature touches upon internationalising
the curriculum (Leask 2008) and instruction in the context of supervision, an area which is more or less forgotten in the discourse about
higher education. That is closely related to the third feature, which I
believe could imply the appreciation of the narrative as a teaching and
learning method. Lastly, the culmination of these three features releases
the creativity from which it is possible to generate new ways forward for
internationalising higher education at the postgraduate level.
208 L. Ucker Perotto and M. Hellstén
With regard to the first feature, I think of our decade-long journey
through auto-ethnography and letter writing as process, and as evidence
for layers and layers of boundaries within the world of the international.
I believe that we can create a cultivation of rich and meaningful academic engagement by allowing the intersections of international life to
become rooted in and germinated by the reflexivity of our own experiential affirmations. In auto-ethnographies, writers would be producing
evocative stories that would address issues of self-knowing and self-efficacy. For Sparkes, this method creates “the effect of reality; the celebration of concrete experience and intimate detail; the examination of how
human experience is endowed with meaning; a concern with moral,
ethical, and political consequences; an encouragement of compassion
and empathy […]” (2002, p. 210).
It follows that if we allow for the first feature to take shape, then the
internationalising of curriculum is a natural measure ahead, which is
linked to the second feature. Thinking creatively about instruction as
internationally reflexive may open up for the formation of scholarly
collectives across disciplinary and geographic boundaries and bringing
about debate of a forgotten discourse of higher education. These two
features merge in a rising of an appreciation of narrative as method for
teaching and learning in higher education, as it celebrates self-reflection
shared in the discourse of supervision through letter-writing texts. It
reminds me of a process of the ripples arrangement through reflexive
and self-reflective collectively international practises and makes relevant
the fourth feature by forming an academic climate that is creative, liberating and value adding of internationalised practises of pedagogy. I
imagine that such might assist in nudging into motion the renewal that
is so acutely needed in the field at present. In addition, the use of narrativity would also allow for creating a particular relationship between the
social and daily life elements of the academic work by bringing international students closer to their supervisor. This closeness is highly motivational for PhD candidates as it is framed as a kind of mentoring into
the academic culture.
Letter Writing as a Social and Artistic Pedagogical Process … 209
Concluding Comments and Closing
Dear Readers and Colleagues,
Our letters in this chapter have positioned international postgraduate supervision at the centre of pedagogical developments in a context
where internationalisation of higher education is seeking navigation
towards a holistic and sustainable future. Our understanding is that our
global international experiences demand sustainability in terms of both
pedagogy and practice in the higher education field and that the scholarly innovation must come to fruition upon re-energising the discourses
that supports its germination. In this chapter, we have augmented a
creatively and aesthetically combined paradigm for beginning to think
about how renewal of an internationally engaging pedagogy might be
conceptualised and therefore implemented.
The context of international supervision invites transnational dialogues which is, in many ways, different from localised supervision
encounters. The narrative approach to supervising international postgraduate students which we outline in this chapter has the potential to
offer new and sustainable methods ahead. By sustainability in this sense,
we understand that any implementation begins from a conceptualisation that is developed in concert with others within the international
community of creative and artistic scholar/practitioners. We hope that
by culminating such thinking into practice, we allow for a reification of
doctoral supervision as internationalisation of higher education.
Barone, Tom, and Elliot W. Eisner. 2012. Arts Based Research. London: Sage
Bhattacharya, K., and N. Gillen. 2016. Power, Race, and Higher Education: A
Cross-Cultural Parallel Narrative. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Brockmeier, Jens. 2000. Autobiographical time. Narrative Inquiry 10 (1):
Bruner, Jerome. 1986. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard
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Cahnmann-taylor, Melisa, and Richard Sigismund. 2008. Arts-Based Research
in Education. Foundations for Practice. New York: Routledge.
Clandinin, D. Jean, and Connelly, F. Michael. 2000. Narrative Inquiry:
Experiences and Story in Educational Research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey
Connelly, F. Michael, and D. Jean Clandinin. 1995. Relatos de experiencia e
investigación narrativa. In Déjame que te cuente. Ensayos sobre narrativa y
educación, ed. Jorge Larrosa, 11–59. Barcelona: Laertes.
De Wit, Hans. 2013. Repensando o conceito de internacionalização. Revista
Ensino Superior Unicamp 70: 69–71. https://www.revistaensinosuperior. Accessed 15 March 2014.
Ellingson, L. and Carolyn Ellis. 2008. Autoethnography as Constructionist
Project. In Handbook of Constructionist Research, eds. J.A. Holstein and
J.F. Gubrium, 445–465. New York: The Guilford Press.
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Hellstén, Meeri, and Ucker Perotto, Lilian. In print. Re-thinking internationalisation as social curriculum for generative supervision: Letters from
the International Community of Scholars. European Journal of Higher
Education, Special issue 2018.
Hernández, Fernando. 2008. La investigación basada en las artes. Propuestas
para repensar la investigación en educación. Educatio Siglo XXI, 26:
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Hernández, Fernando, and Montse Rifá. 2011. Investigación autobiográfica y
cambio social. Barcelona: Octaedro.
Leask, Beth. 2008. Internationalisation, Globalisation and Curriculum
Innovation. In Researching International Pedagogies: Sustainable Practice forTeaching and Learning in Higher Education, eds. Meeri Hellstén and Anne
Reid. Dordrecht: Springer.
Lee, Jenny. J. 2013. A falsa aura da internacionalização. Revista de Ensino
Superior Unicamp 72: 85–87. https://www.revistaensinosuperior. Accessed 5 Feb 2014.
Luce-Klaper, Rebecca. 2004. Writing With, Through and Beyond the Text—An
Ecology of Language. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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Pollock, Della. 1998. Performing Writing. In The Ends of Performance, eds.
P. Peggy and J. Lane, 73–103. New York: UP.
Prescott, Anne, and Meeri Hellstén. 2005. Hanging Together Even With
Non-Native Speakers: The International Student Transition Experience. In
Internationalizing Higher Education: Critical Explorations of Pedagogy and
Policy. CERC Studies in Comparative Education 16, eds. Peter Ninnes and
Meeri Hellstén, 75–95. Dordrecht: Springer.
Sacks, Harvey. 1995. Lectures on Conversation Vol I and II. Oxford: Blackwell
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Systematics of Turn-Taking for Conversation. Language 50 (4): 696–735.
Sparkes, Andrew C. 2002. Autoethnography: Self-Indulgence or Something
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CA: Altamira Press.
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Ucker Perotto, Lilian. 2015. De ida y vuelta. Una investigación biográfica-narrativa en torno a las experiencias de ser estudiante internacional en la universidad. (“Back and forth: A biographical – narrative study on the experiences of
being a student at university.”) PhD thesis, University of Barcelona.
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts
and Humanities to Professional Education
Zeina Al Azmeh and Xiangyun Du
The arts (including humanities1) have been a standard, although often
optional, component of most leading undergraduate medical curricula in the USA, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada since the 1990s,
though few medical schools beyond this geographic scope have formally
integrated the medical humanities into the undergraduate curriculum
as a core (compulsory) and assessed provision (Bleakley 2015a). As
focus in this article is specifically on the use of the arts, humanities, and humanitiesoriented social sciences in medical education.
Z.A. Azmeh (*) 
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
X. Du 
Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
X. Du 
Qatar University, Doha, Qatar
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
214 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Scott (p. 4) predicted in 2000, the importance of the humanities has
continued to grow for medical and health care education, and today
their ability to shape better doctors is widely recognized (Banaszek
2011; Bleakley 2015a; Pfeiffer 2016; Kutac 2016; Liao 2016). In North
America, many medical schools have dedicated research centers and a
full range of “arts and medicine” courses, initiatives, and programs.
While incorporating the arts into the medical curriculum is less
prevalent in non-Western educational systems, it is particularly rare in
the Arab world, where medical curricula have traditionally been focused
on approaches that directly address the scientific knowledge and skills
directly applicable to practice. This omission has taken a toll on graduates’ professionalism “due to the lack of emphasis on the moral, spiritual, cultural and societal aspects of medical practice” (Abdel-Halim
and AlKattan 2012). Nevertheless, the link between medicine and the
humanities can be traced back to the golden age of Islamic medicine,
when spirituality, philosophy, ethics, charity, and medicine were inseparable components of the health care tradition. The traditional use of the
word hakim (wise one) to mean physician only goes to show how deeply
rooted this link between medical expertise and humanistic knowledge is
in Arabic culture.
However, in contemporary medical curricula, humanistic values
like empathy, compassion, respect, ethical practice (as it relates to the
Islamic concept of Ihsan), and skills such as interpretive and reflective
thinking, despite being regarded as essential principles and competences
for professionalism in medicine, remain underrepresented in the region
(Abdel-Halim and AlKattan 2012).
This study is based on an educational initiative that addresses the role
of arts education in instilling professionalism as a core competency in
medical education, with a focus on inculcating empathy, ethical practice, critical and interpretative skills, and reflexivity. The suggested
role for arts education in medical training is examined by assessing
the reception of a “Medicine and the Arts” course among second-year
medical students. Through this initiative, we explored how the medical arts and humanities can be integrated into the medical curriculum
in a Middle Eastern context, where the presence of the arts in general
education is particularly recent. The findings of the study may shed
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 215
light on further educational innovation such as integrating the arts into
pedagogic development and accumulating cultural capital as part of the
socialization process.
Intersections between Medicine and the Arts are recognized in literature
and practice alike. As early as the third century AD, Roman physician
Galen’s famous maxim, “the best physician is also a philosopher,” elevated that intersection to a conflation. In Aristotle, science and philosophy were almost integrated, so much so that the Greek philosopher was
said to have essentially “invented biology” (Adamson 2017).
In fact, the distinction between the sciences and the arts is a relatively
modern phenomenon whose origins can be traced as recently as the
seventeenth century with Cartesian Dualism and the suggested separation between the body and the mind, the physical and the mental, the
somatic and the psychological.
Eric Cassell, in his classic work, The Place of the Humanities in
Medicine, claims that the humanities have always been part of medicine and that they “will play an increasingly important, necessary and
specific role as medicine evolves beyond its present romance with
technology towards a more balanced view of the origin and treatment of
illness,” (cited in Scott 2000, p. 4).
The rise of the arts and humanities in medical education, however, is a
more recent phenomenon. The field, often referred to as “Medicine and
the Arts” or the “medical humanities,” emerged in the mid-twentieth
century based on the assumption that arts and humanities “humanize”
while technology and biomedicine “dehumanize” (Bates 2014, pp. 8–9),
a proposition that was itself later contested.
Scientific advances in the early twentieth century brought a shift
from “generalist” approaches to medicine to a “humanized” approach
and focus. With new specializations emerging, along with new technologies (the microscope in the nineteenth century and X-ray imaging
in the twentieth), the patient was understood in terms of cells, germs,
scans, and images. The trauma of war and the experiments that ensued
216 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
fueled concerns about the destructive potential of “dehumanized”
science—the implications of scientific knowledge without consideration
for human suffering epitomized in barbaric events like Hiroshima, concentration camps, and the instrumentalization of prisoners in scientific
experiments. As a result, the emphasis turned to “humanizing” aspects,
empathy, and holistic approaches, with the arts—in particular medical
ethics, social and behavioral sciences, and, more recently, “narrative
medicine”—becoming a part of the solution. Unlike biomedicine, which by then was seen as reductionist and corporeal, medical
humanities were seen as part of a holistic approach to medicine (ibid.).
In more practical terms, humanistic values like empathy, compassion, respect, and ethical practice (as it relates to the Islamic concept of
Ihsan) have been identified as key domains for medical professionalism
in the Arab region (Abdel-Razig et al. 2016), but the pedagogical tools
by which such values are to be effectively instilled and nurtured among
medical students have yet to be established.
Similarly, skills like critical, interpretive, and reflective thinking,
crucial for doctors (Mann et al. 2009) are left to weakly connected
core curriculum programs with no specific focus on medical themes or
relevance to the medical profession.
It has been established that arts-based methods are important for promoting certain clinical practices (Bleakley 2015a, b; Kutac 2016; Liao
2016). Yet, although the arts are now a standard component in leading
undergraduate medical curricula around the world, the incorporation
of arts-based methods tends to be a subjective and precarious undertaking, very much dependent on the backgrounds, interests, and personal
enthusiasms of individual teachers rather than on strategic design decisions or overarching frameworks (Haidet et al. 2016, p. 321).
By providing insight into the experience of medical students in
an artistically anemic context, this study aims to contribute specific considerations that would be useful in the construction of such
a framework. A list of attributes could be potentially included in it,
and in the current study, we will focus on five: empathy, ethical practice, philosophical reasoning, interpretive and reflective thinking, and
emotion management.
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 217
We explored how students at Qatar University’s College of Medicine
perceived, interacted with, and self-evaluated their own learning in an
arts-based methods course designed specifically for medical students
and within a Middle Eastern context. Specifically, we formulated the
following research question: How do medical students perceive the
connection of humanistic thinking to professional learning in the five
aforementioned areas through pedagogical approaches integrating art
forms (e.g., philosophy, anthropology, music, visual arts, cinema) and
medical themes?
Research Context
To assess the reception and outcomes of contextualized arts education
for medical students, a medical humanities course was designed and
offered to second-year students as an optional part of a medical curriculum at Qatar University’s College of Medicine. The course (for details
see Appendix 1) aimed to provide students with the knowledge, skills,
and attitudes necessary to develop an appreciation for the arts and
humanities and an understanding of their connection to medicine. It
was offered on an elective basis and ran over 15 sessions, at 90 minutes each, divided into two parts. The first part focused on the medical
humanities (philosophy, history, and anthropology), while the second
explored selected materials and genres from visual art, music, poetry,
film, and theater, considering these in the context of medical themes.
Because the themes that cluster around health and disease are also
those that preoccupy artists, there is a wealth of literature and art to
draw from that can inform students about the human response to disease, improve their empathetic abilities, and influence the ways in
which they practice medicine, manage their own emotions, reason, and
In addition to studying a selection of masterpieces in various art
forms, the course included a practical component. By engaging students
218 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
in creative work on medical themes, including activities like drawing
body maps, writing haiku poetry, and watching (and discussing) films,
and in responding to each other’s work, the course aimed to hone students’ reflective thinking, creative aptitudes, and interpretive skills.
Working in small groups, in a collaboration-oriented learning environment, students were expected to apply and further develop their search
techniques and self-learning and presentation skills.
Fifteen medical students in the second year of their MD program participated in the elective course. Thirteen of the participants came from
Arab ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Two participants had Southeast
Asian origins but had both completed their schooling in the Gulf region.
All students were from a Muslim background and were aged between 19
and 23 years old. Two-thirds of the students were male. Approximately
80% had graduated from local public high schools, while the rest had
attended private international schools in Gulf countries.
Data Generation and Analysis
A qualitative approach was employed for data generation and analysis because it allowed for deep inquiry into learners’ insights (Creswell
2013; Punch and Onacea 2014). Toward the end of the course, students
were asked to write a reflective essay describing the role of the arts in
medical education and medical practice, drawing on examples discussed
during the course. Students were not provided with any template or
detailed guiding questions, with the purpose of inviting them to engage
in open reflection.
Empirical data were analyzed based on meaning condensation and
the observation of common patterns among the participants. In particular, the findings are discussed in relation to the framework which in
turn was informed by the literature review (Punch and Onacea 2014).
A critical analysis offers insights not only to deepen understanding, but
also to identify the variation and recognize the complexity of educational settings (Eisner 2017).
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 219
Findings and Discussion
In this section, the findings of the data analysis are presented and discussed in relation to the relevant literature. The section is structured
according to the areas of the framework presented in the literature section, namely empathy, ethical practices, philosophical reasoning, interpretative and reflective thinking. Emotion management is an additional
area which was not revealed by the literature review but emerged repeatedly in the data. Integrating the findings and discussion of each of the
five areas leads to answers to the overall research question.
Empathy is an essential skill for ethical practice and for physician–
patient communication. And while the question of whether empathy
can be taught is still the subject of debate, we contend that by engaging with creative work that communicates emotions like fear, pain,
and relief, on topics such as death, apathy, agency, and depression, students, who are otherwise preoccupied with hard facts about cells and
organ systems, can be made to delve into timeless tropes of the human
condition and the workings of other people’s experiences and emotions.
Interestingly, the notion of empathy was first discussed in 1872 by
Robert Vicher, a German philosopher, in addressing an observer’s
understanding of the feelings perceived from works of art (Hojat et al.
2003, p. 26). It was not until later that the concept was introduced into
medical education literature. As such, it is no surprise that it is through
art that medical students can best delve into the experience of empathy.
As observed during the course, two of the most effective forms used
for delving into the experience of the patient were film and poetry. The
impact of close observation is reflected in a student’s comment on analysis of excerpts from the film The Doctor (Haines 1991) examining the
experience of a physician recently diagnosed with cancer. He says,
Before we were treating patients like subjects. We were treating the disease, not the patient. But when we saw that in films it felt very sad,
because we were putting ourselves in the patient’s shoes.
220 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Only three small but carefully selected and analyzed excerpts of the film
were used in order to bring the students as close as possible to the experience of the doctor-turned patient and the intricate emotional dynamics that the process of coming to terms with the diagnosis entailed.
The same student continues to describe how the film made him appreciate the importance of showing care to the patient:
We took that the doctor needs to show empathy to the patient … he
needs to do everything to the patient in order to show him that he cares.
Similarly, another student expresses how his empathy with patients who
suffer chronic or severe pain developed through studying poetry, and
how he felt that the notion of embracing pain and growing through it
enabled him to experience it differently.
Khalil Gibran’s poetry was something that I can never forget because it opened
my mind and helped me understand many things from many perspectives,
especially when he talked about pain and how it opens and enhances our
minds. I think this is very important in medical practice especially with those
patients who suffer severe or chronic pain … When you talk about something
in a poem, it will have a different taste than if you tell it directly.
Through deep consideration of, interaction with, and analysis of works
of art, music, and poetry, imaginative identification with a pained
human being calls on students to experience the state of consciousness
of another and to empathize with it. This in itself is a valuable and, to
some, demanding exercise in human empathy. For example, reading
poems about illness has been found to “help doctors respond to real-life
situations by developing sensitivity and empathy” (Foster and Freeman
2008, p. 295). One student commented,
It really triggers the future physicians to start thinking about the human
beings that they will be dealing with in the future and to start thinking
about the day when these doctors will be the patients’ hope in life.
Another student reflected on how experiencing someone’s pain through
their poetry made her consider the need to express pain more deeply:
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 221
I started thinking about what could happen if the patient was unable to
communicate the pain or sensation to the doctor in a different context, and
in situations more serious than an inflammation or a headache; in chronic
pain or cancer treatment depression, for example, would he scream his pain
with no one to answer? Would he lock it up inside and let it multiply?
Previous studies reported that while medical humanities courses
have been positively tested for effectiveness in increasing empathy for
patients, they were less effective in increasing empathy for residents
(Shapiro et al. 2006, pp. 33–34). Since participants in the current study
were still in their second year, and had not yet experienced work as (or
with) residents, it was not possible to measure this. However, it is worth
noting that, when stimulated, they could empathize with pain of varying levels, types, and contexts. They expressed empathy not just in its
full capacity in the context of tragedy, for example for the dying, suicidal, or pained, but also empathy in its softer variations, for example
toward patients in a waiting room. To illustrate, we present the following example, in which a student describes her thoughts after an art curator-accompanied tour of a local hospital’s notable art collection, where
the student was able to relate to the potentially anxious experience of
patients in the waiting room of a hospital. One student said:
Hospital art is different from the way I used to see it. Hospital art made
me more empathetic for the patients that are waiting. Empathy in the
sense of knowing how they would feel sitting in a room with pain or
worry and not the slightest joy in the room. Upon working in a hospital
or becoming someone with influence, I would like to add more hospital
art for the clinic. I would like to change the stereotypical view of hospitals… with art in the room, the hospital is a better place and a shared
Similarly, another student wrote,
I feel that the arts and the utilization of human thought offer a vibrant
and vivacious interaction that needs to be present in every hospital setting. The arts have the ability to turn a good doctor into an understanding doctor who heals.
222 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Ethical Practice
Over the past century, ethics have occupied a central place in medicine
and medical practice, with four cardinal principles being commonly
applied: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice (Tosam
2014). The principle of autonomy is linked to Kantian philosophical concepts such as the imperative to treat humanity always as an end
and never merely as a means, respect for persons as the core of moral
theory, and valuing beings’ intrinsic worth and dignity above all (Kant,
1785/1996; 1788/1996; 1797/1996). Since Kant, these principles have
become the core ideals of modern humanism and the root from which
notions like patient autonomy, beneficence, and non-maleficence spring.
Recognizing the importance of ethics, the course examined in this
study included an introduction to ethics in the context of medical
philosophy. Over four sessions, concepts like the meaning of health,
disease, and medicine were thoroughly debated. The notions of reductionism versus holism in medicine were also introduced and discussed.
Two of the four sessions were dedicated to an ethical debate based on
“The Trolley Dilemma,” a classic exercise in ethics education, to urge
students to consider and discuss among themselves critical notions in
Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, divine law ethics and natural law ethics.
Bringing students’ attention to the complicated nature of ethical dilemmas at an early stage of their education triggers important reflective
thinking processes, the applicability of which the students were able to
recognize quickly. As one student put it,
As future physicians, we definitely will face numerous similar problems…
During these situations, philosophical thinking is crucial.
Another student saw the debate on reductionism versus holism through
an ethical lens, inferring a morally critical view of disease-centered
rather than patient-centered approaches:
The topic of philosophy introduced to me the concept of reductionism
versus holism … I think that doctors should be treating a patient as a
whole; to treat the body and soul for this patient. This concept is very
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 223
important in medical education and medical practice because nowadays we have many doctors who are just dealing with diseases but not
In modern medicine, the notion of informed consent is one of the
most common manifestations of patient autonomy. The principles
of beneficence and non-maleficence are mainly employed in the resolution of medical quandaries. And the principle of justice, arguably the one that remains the most problematic today, addresses the
equitable distribution of medical care across various segments of the
With the development of medical science, the indispensable place of justice has become more and more evident. In the 1960s, justice in the medical setting, on the part of the physician, was conceived as acting fairly to
the patient. But as the decades have passed, it has been realized that no
nation, no matter how wealthy it is, can make available all that medicine
has to offer. (Tosam 2014, p. 82)
Ethical practice is also closely connected to empathy. Reflection on ethical medical practice was not only triggered through direct discussions
of ethical dilemmas in a philosophical framework, but also through
exposure to and engagement with patient art. Reflecting on the creative self-expressions of vulnerable and pained human beings brought the
students into direct contact with the notion of the doctor’s responsibility via experiences of empathy. This is captured in several of the students’ statements; the following is illustrative:
[A]s a student at the college of medicine, [the course] had a tremendous
impact on my beliefs and orientations. A look at a drawing by a patient
who suffered pain moved my heart, as it expressed a suffering accompanied by endurance. It made me repulsed by any feelings of contempt and
carelessness [towards a patient]. Furthermore, it filled me with an enthusiasm that springs from a sense of responsibility towards the human being
who entrusts his life to a doctor.2
from Arabic.
224 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Philosophical Reasoning
Philosophy may be the branch of the humanities that links most deeply
and most directly with medicine. Tertullian called it the “sister of medicine” in as much as its various branches have traditionally impacted
the development of medicine. Tosam (2014) identifies four disciplines
in philosophy with the most impact on medicine: ethics, metaphysics,
epistemology, and logic.
In metaphysics, Tosam highlights key debates involving questions like
holism versus reductionism, realism versus anti-realism, causality, and
the definition of health and disease (pp. 78–79); these are questions that
directly impact the way in which a physician practices medicine, communicates with patients, and makes or influences decisions on treatment plans.
Epistemological concerns, he contends, have mostly revolved around
the way physicians classify and prioritize biological and psychosocial
information about a patient, i.e., “a priori assumptions about knowledge that determine which types of clinical data are relevant and which
types are not.” (Evans et al. 2012, p. 15) Epistemology has also had a
significant impact on the question of uncertainty in medical practice,
the rationalism/empiricism debate, and the reliability of medical knowledge (Tosam 2014, p. 80).
Logic is essential to all scientific thinking, but is particularly pertinent to clinical judgment and medical decision-making. In their daily
decision-making practices, “Physicians employ, consciously or unconsciously, different forms of logical reasoning processes: different forms
of propositions, inference, syllogism, dilemma, logical implication,
probability theory, decision analysis, etc.” (Tosam 2014, p. 81). This
is still no less true at an age of advanced medical technology, accurate
imaging, and AI diagnostic tools, where sound medical judgment is
defined by the use of logic and deductive reasoning to make good use
of strong, technologically enabled evidence. Today, as much as ever,
“medicine’s success relies on the physicians’ capacity for clinical judgment” (Montgomery 2006, quoted in Tosam 2014, p. 81). While
technological advancements have certainly provided more solutions,
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 225
the overwhelming abundance of information and refinement of clinical problems increase uncertainty, and the physician is constantly challenged to assess and select the right information for each case and each
individual patient (Montgomery 2006 and Groopman 2007, quoted in
Tosam 2014, p. 81).
To deal with this uncertainty, students were exposed to ways of seeing
and thinking that are not always straightforward, but rather are often
complex and ambiguous. The students not only tapped into philosophical reasoning, but also explored creative arts, where ambiguity and complexity “underpin such feelings of uncertainty, and [lead] to a discovery
process where learners search for meaning and explore various diverging
perspectives” (Haidet et al. 2016, p. 324).
This newfound appreciation for the humanistic and the philosophical, not only in medicine but also in life more broadly, is reflected in the
following student statement:
I feel this course opened my eyes to a vital aspect of the medical career
that I was always concerned about. Seeing the human as a whole…
I managed to develop a more philosophical outlook on life after our discussion that I didn’t previously consider.
In many medical curricula, medical philosophy is a stand-alone course,
not merely one component of a broader course. Such focus permits students to experience the wide range of links described by Tosam and to
develop relevant skills and attitudes. For the purposes of this course,
philosophy was only one of seven components, yet it seemed to have
left the strongest impression on the students. Most significantly, it
moved students away from micro-thinking strategies to macro-strategies
and impelled them to question the very purpose and premise of their
profession. One student said,
Philosophy was very useful to be introduced in the medical field because
I felt that doctors really need to start thinking like philosophers in order
to perceive what is hidden between the lines, to be able to explore further, and to think critically and thus be professional doctors. I will always
remember that the best physician is also a philosopher.
226 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
However, at the micro-reasoning level, as well, students appreciated the
way in which medical philosophy trained them to shift their observation skills and deploy an approach to reasoning that steps outside the
given and challenges the status quo. One student described his experience of medical philosophy as follows:
During this course, I discovered certain aspects of medicine that
I wasn’t paying attention to; these aspects may influence how I will perceive and practice in the medical field in the future. For example, being
introduced to medical philosophy: I felt that the topic really helped me
to start thinking outside the box, which is really helpful in the clinical
reasoning that I will be doing every day in the future. However, I was
also introduced to philosophical dilemmas that I may face in the future
and that really helped me realize how challenging the medical field is and
they taught me that doctors can be biased in lots of cases, which helped
me start thinking that I should really avoid being biased when I practice
medicine in the future.
Experiments in philosophical reasoning also “trigger[ed] some of the
important questions that every doctor should have an answer for.”
One student spoke of the importance of thinking philosophically
about basic definitions otherwise taken for granted, like how we define
health, disease, or medicine, and how discrepancies between personal
definitions inform the nature of one’s future professional practice. This
process helps students understand themselves and their approach to
medicine, or at least begin to consider possible approaches at an early
I am now able to generate my own definitions of these topics… I believe
that knowing this is very important for me in the future because I will
be dealing with patients every day… I think [this] is really important in
medical education and medical practice because it really triggers future
physicians to start thinking about the human beings that they will be
dealing with in the future.
Another student describes how exposure to philosophical reasoning
helped him uncover important and relevant topics and realize the level
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 227
of complexity involved in the medical profession. Such early exposure
can help students ask the right questions and search for the most pressing answers to define not only how they relate to their profession but
also how they approach it:
Philosophy changed me even though I thought it couldn’t. To become a
healer rather than a physician, to value a life over three lives, or the controversial topic of abortion. Philosophy made me think of things that
weren’t clear or didn’t matter that much to me at first. However, after the
course I realized that not everything is a walk in the park. There are many
topics that are still grey matter. Philosophy helped me revisit the way
I used to think of life and what medicine really is.
Arguably, such questions are bound to come up at some point during
an inquisitive medical student’s education. Addressing them in a structured way, early on, and in a team-based setting provides students with
the assurance and diversity of perspectives necessary to enable a healthy
process of self-exploration and self-knowledge, one that embraces rather
than evades such fundamental but difficult questions. One student
explained the benefits of exploring such questions in this way:
Another relevant example … is the role of culture in defining disease,
health, and wellness. I was really interested in this theme as I have always
had questions like what is normal and what is abnormal, why is a particular disease considered to be a deviation from what is normal. As a doctor,
or a medical student, you would every now and then get in your head
questions like this. You need to understand or at least try to think of justified or reasonable answers in order to understand why you are doing
this and your role as a practitioner.
Ultimately, students developed a greater appreciation of philosophy as
a field, and of philosophical reasoning as an important skill for medical
practice. One student concluded his essay with the following remarks.
Everything I wrote in these pages is part of my life philosophy.
Contemplating it, one would realize that philosophy is the basis of all
meaning; it is the essence of life; it is the understanding of life, and the
228 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
consideration of things from various angles, analyzing them to reach a
knowledge that is broad and encompassing. To me, it is the humanness
of thought, and the delicacy of sentiment. Without getting into jargon
or complicated definitions, one could say that philosophy is contemplation, putting reason to work in order to consider life from various angles.
Through it we can reach an understanding of life and achieve a humanness of expression and of sentiment. Thus, it is one of the most important
foundations of the personality of a physician, whose aim is to help the
human being, and its role becomes clear if we contemplate the meaning
of what a doctor owes to his patients and to those around him.3
Interpretative and Reflective Thinking
Interpretive thinking is sharpened by artistic experiences and practices,
such as interpreting paintings or verbalizing the meaning of musical
compositions. It is an essential skill for analytic and deductive reasoning
as well as for effective communication.
The effectiveness of arts-based methods in nurturing interpretative
thinking is linked to the metaphorical and representational nature of
the arts in general. Engaging with such metaphorically communicative
material can “alter the focus of students, effectively pulling them out of
their usual professional sphere” (Haidet et al. 2016, p. 324), and into a
mental space of analytic exploration and active interpretation.
The student essays were rife with examples of how the students discerned not only the role of arts-based education in nurturing interpretive thinking, but also its importance to their professionalism, namely
in terms of patient communication and appreciation of the individuality of each patient:
The studying of visual arts and music is very important in making doctors know that every patient and every human being is different from
the other, and that we –humans – perceive things differently. During
this course I felt that everyone interprets what they see or listen to differently, and this is very crucial for doctors to know: that every patient
from Arabic.
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 229
is different. Even though the diseases, signs, and symptoms are similar
among patients, the way they react to their situation, the way their disease
affects them and has an impact on them, and the way they perceive their
situation is different.
Interpretive thinking is not only nurtured by analyzing art but also by
engagement in philosophical discussions. One student observed, “In
medicine as well as in philosophy, any single phenomenon could have
different meanings and explanations.” From art analysis, on the other
hand, this student took not so much the nurturing of interpretive
thinking but rather the sharpening of visual observation skills. While
the two are connected, training observation skills is quite a different
process. It is the first step in art interpretation, where the observer spots
and detects without necessarily making meaning of what he/she has visually detected and described.
Visual art is an amazing approach as well to develop doctors’ clinical
observational skills. If doctors develop better visual diagnostic skills, they
can reach conclusions that are more accurate and build precise hypotheses.
Other students describe a general sense of horizon-broadening that
came through art interpretation without necessarily pinning down the
nature of that broadening: “Art did not only move me, it also expanded
my cognition and made medicine a different world for me, a world
which I found it my duty to discover.”
Through the interpretation of a celebrated Hirst sculpture, one student found the process insightful in triggering a reconsideration of the
patient/doctor relationship. In the student’s interpretation, the artwork
encourages the doctor to read beyond the patient’s chief complaint and
discern what may be happening under the surface:
Damien Hirst’s Anatomy of an Angel sums up how medicine is made
an art. If you were to look at this sculpture of an angel, a holy creature
and a representative of goodness and obedience, with a portion of its face
displaying its insides, you might realize that there is more to your idea
of the creature in front of you. A rather possessed and evil-looking skeleton tells the story of a personal past too harsh to ignore, and one that
230 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
left only scars. In other words, an angel is a beautiful creature made to
represent the good in the universe, but in reality, it is a creature made
sad about something. How is this in any relation to medicine, you might
ask. Given the default scenario of a patient’s visit to a doctor’s clinic, a
rather superficial patient/doctor relationship exists with intentions to
only solve the problem of the patient. But what if the actual purpose of
a doctor is not just to become a man or woman of science, but instead a
caretaker? I believe it’s the doctor’s duty to utterly attend to the patient’s
needs, regardless of the reason for the patient’s visit. This aspect goes back
to philosophy, where views of reductionism and holism disagree. Holism
is where the physician attends to the whole of the patient rather than the
In another excerpt, the student draws parallels between how music can
change the interpretation of a scene, and how personal interpretation
of a typical scene from the medical profession, can be motivated by
changing attitudes and by seeing beauty in the tedious or joy in the
[T]o clarify, take a look at the sky; observe and try to feel inspired;
only the experienced observers would see the inspiration the sky would
provide. Take a look at the same sky again, but this time with a correspondingly correct piece of music playing; the beauty of all that you see
would emerge, and what lies beyond what you see will begin to appear.
Medicine? Yes, begin to look at it differently. There is a certain beauty to
the sleepless nights and unbearable stress of medical students and doctors.
There is a beauty to providing help to those in need that can and should
be provided if you indulge in and embrace the process without expectation of reward. It is a matter of finding the right motivation, which
evidently is to be found in music due to the stimulation of sound to emotions in ourselves.
The above excerpt can also be linked to the theme of emotion management, to which I will return in the next section.
Interestingly, one student made a connection between creativity
in art and the application of critical thinking in science. She extends
her appreciation of creativity as deviance in art to the idea of critical
questioning in science:
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 231
The arts, from my perspective, are a collection of human novelties that
question the ‘norm’ and embrace ‘deviance’… Having been introduced to
the arts in medicine, I refuse to ever set practice in this field without at
least giving thought to this untamed aspect of science. I was able to identify how not all medically classified diseases should be termed as ‘diseases,’
that sometimes not every deviance from the normal is a negative one
that needs to be healed… My perspective of humans has changed from
viewing them as people to seeing them as intricate biological machines.
Categorizing humans in social circles and clinical categories is a tendency
of medical students that later affects our patient perception, and through
the teachings of this course, I feel I’ve learned to become more conscious
of my perception.
In addition to providing insights into how arts-based methods develop
interpretive and critical thinking, the above paragraph also shows how it
encourages self-reflexivity.
While reflective thinking is not specifically identified in itself as a
distinct competency for medical education, it is understood to be critical to identifying learning needs and to maintaining competence, both
essential for lifelong learning—a key domain in medical professionalism. Reflexivity is also critical to objective observation in as much as it
emphasizes the purposeful critical analysis of one’s own knowledge and
experience to deepen understanding, including the role of emotion in
reflection (Mann et al. 2009, p. 597).
In medicine, the “reflective practitioner” is one who uses reflection as
a tool for learning from experience and for framing complex problems
of professional practice (Schon 1983). This ties directly to the domain
of continuous development, which in turn can be linked to the concept
of itqan (fastidiousness) (Abdel-Razig et al. 2016) as a domain of medical professionalism for the Arab region.
Such self-reflexivity can, for example, help students improve their
patient communication skills, as the author of the next excerpt observes.
As a medical student, sitting down and paying close attention to the details
in some of the scenes in that movie, for example, is an activity I believe is
a criterion for the creation of the ideal physician. This is to be able to see
other doctors’ approaches and analyze what they actually appear as.
232 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Self-reflexivity can inspire self-discovery: “The course helped me discover myself, my viewpoints on different topics and actually reformulate many of my ideas.” It can also promote self-understanding: “[The
course] enriched the way I think about things… I would know the reason why I would chose a specific answer, so you could say I know how
to defend my point of view better.” It can inspire an appreciation of
The role of art is not exclusive to what I have written in the previous paragraphs. Rather they are an expression of the meaning of art for me as a
student and a future doctor who will be working with different patients,
together with whom I share in humanity. What I wrote aims to express
my understanding of the meaning of life at this age, and I am certain that
I only understand very little of it.
In addition to the aspects suggested in the framework, data analysis
revealed two further observations: that students took from the course a
confidence in managing their own psychological pain, stress, and other
negative emotions, and that they experienced an overall transformation
in their outlook on their profession, and on life itself.
Emotion Management
One of the key findings of the study was how medical students perceived the arts as potential tools for managing not only the wellness of
their patients, but also their own emotions as physicians. Most students
included this element as a primary outcome in their essays, focusing on
the need for an outlet for their own negative emotions. One student said,
The doctor whose insides are filled with patients’ secrets and complaints, and
who pledge to protect them with all her power, who does she turn to for
release of this negative energy brought in by the pain that is placed in her
gradually, every day, 15 minutes at a time? I think the refuge for both is art.4
from Arabic.
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 233
Being able to release emotions through art does not require one to be an
artist. But the most satisfying and effective cathartic experience arguably
requires some degree of skill in using artistic tools, if only so that technique does not become an obstacle to unbridled self-expression. This is
something that the student quoted in the following excerpt reflects on
not only in the acknowledgement of the value of talent but also in the
noteworthy appreciation for the phenomenological dimension and the
private nature of the experience of artistic creation.
The lucky doctor then is the one who has an artistic talent and dedicates
the time to practice it as a personal refuge. If he is a poet, for example, or
a writer, this could help him escape work pressure and break from routine. Moreover, due to the nature of the physician’s profession, which
requires confidentiality, writing is all the more important to the doctor
because through it he can release what’s inside him … of course, the same
applies to other forms of artistic expression like music, which I personally use as a treatment for stress and depression. It is the fastest way to
transport us from one world to another and from one mood to a different
one. This could be in the form of composing a piece of music to express
one’s inner state and release unwanted emotions in a manner that only
the composer could truly fully understand, because try as we may, we will
never be able to fully capture the meaning of a piece of music exactly as it
was experienced in the moment of its conception.
One student found out during and through the course that he had
poetic talent. It was a remarkable process of self-discovery and of overcoming fear that culminated in him, an otherwise timid young man,
mustering the courage to read his impressive first few poems in front of
the class. Equally important to the provision of an emotional outlet was
the confidence gained from knowing this outlet was there for him. In
his essay, he said,
Philosophy, or thinking about thinking, underlies all arts… All these
methods of expression are used to heal oneself … poetry [is] a tool I
recently used to express my feelings towards a certain aspect. This new
experience allows me to say things I don’t know how to explain. It would
help me when nobody could. I know that once I become a doctor, things
234 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
will only get harder and we as human beings need to find a way to express
our thoughts to put ourselves together. Once I become a doctor I will
have the hard task of sitting with a patient and telling them they only
have three months to live, or telling a mother that her newborn child
couldn’t cope with life, and I can only imagine what I will go through.
Poetry will help me cope with stress and will continue alongside my medical career.
But creating is not necessarily the only mode in which students can
benefit from art. Actively receiving and enjoying other people’s artistic creations is equally important, as this student describes: “Music
has helped me through my medical education so far and I know it will
throughout. Music is my escape, my mood changer, and my friend.”
A transformative element that defies precise description was also noted
in much of the student data. It manifests in several of the quotes already
used in this chapter and is also encapsulated in the following statement:
“To sum up, it is very important to introduce humanities and arts in
medical education and medical practice because these topics trigger the
human mind and make people perceive things differently, and these
topics sharpen the emotional intelligence of medical students.”
This transformative element may be best described as a sense of
revival of the human in medicine and of the care in health care. One
student describes it thus: “Art allows for a human–object interaction
that induces sentiments. An interaction that is exclusive to humans. An
interaction that makes us human.”
Reflection and Further Perspectives
This study aimed to explore how medical students perceive the connection of humanistic thinking to professional learning in a range of areas,
including empathy, ethical practice, philosophical reasoning, interpretive and reflective thinking, and emotion management. The educational
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 235
initiative was a course in medical humanities that was provided with
pedagogical approaches integrating art forms (e.g., philosophy, anthropology, music, visual arts, and cinema) and medical themes. Fifteen
students’ reflective essays were analyzed in order to understand student
perceptions. In this section, we summarize the findings and discussion
of the study and provide a few recommendations for further pedagogical development and research.
An integrated approach was employed in this study to help students
gain understanding and develop awareness of the five areas. A few
points can be summarized from the perspective of the course organizer
and the researchers for further reflection:
1.Although all students in this study demonstrated a positive reception
of the link between the humanities and medicine, and while their
reflections demonstrated their ability to relate a wide range of aspects
to their perceptions of their future profession as doctors, students’
reflections appear to be highly individualized in terms of their interest in specific art forms and the connections they were able to make
to specific aspects of the framework.
2.The study finds that while a single course in the medical arts and
humanities does not necessarily increase students’ interest in the arts,
according to students’ self-assessment, it develops skills that are relevant and important to good medical practice and nurtures an appreciation and an enthusiasm for a humanistic approach to medical
learning. Such a course engenders a strengthened sense of empathy,
a renewed commitment to ethical practice, an enhanced appreciation
for the role of philosophy and philosophical reasoning in medicine,
sharpened interpretive thinking, and reflexivity, and an improved
ability to manage one’s own emotions as a student and a future practitioner. It is important to note at this stage that these skills and
competencies intermix and interact with the students’ experience.
At the intersection of interpretive thinking, empathy, and ethical
practice, for example, this student describes how through poetry he
was able to sharpen his interpretive abilities, experience another’s
pain, and develop a sense of responsibility that is born from intense
236 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
Poetry is an algorithm to me, but once I work my hardest on understanding what is meant by each detail in a poem, I am left speechless and
impacted by feelings. Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath, a poem of absolute
sorrow, left me immersed in the world of Sylvia Plath. I was sucked in by
the emotions generated by her writing, to the extent where I can almost
feel what she felt, I could say. This poem left me in wonder because I
could have come across the name of the poem and that it exists and I
might completely ignore it or I might actually read and understand it.
This translates into the idea that a physician must always expect a story
behind the lady sitting on the other end of the desk, and must be able to
imagine the existence of emotions beyond most people’s understanding.
Once this is achieved, a different and tailored approach to the patient will
be used, making a truly great doctor.
3.Students were divided into two groups in terms of their enthusiasm
toward, connection to, and identification with different components
of the course. One group took deep interest in the first part, which
focused on the humanities. Of particular interest was the topic of
medical philosophy and the ensuing discussions of complex concepts
in ethics, definitions of disease, the application of non-normative
thinking, the role of the physician in relation to divine law ethics,
and the exciting but overwhelming sense of the philosophical and
ethical complexities underlying the medical profession. The second
group was more interested in the second part of the course, which
focused on the creative arts. Within this group, interest in linking the
arts with medicine was somewhat secondary to the interest in the use
of art for self-directed emotion management. Despite this division
in the topic of interest, it is suggested that an integrated approach
that combines the arts (including the humanities) both enriches the
students’ experience and enables better self-understanding through
exposure to diverse topics and experiences.
4.While student interests were clearly divided in terms of course components, the learning outcomes were intermixed. For example, empathy was addressed in all of the students’ essays, though they related
it to very different components of the course, including analyzing
poetry, discussing the meaning of “being alive,” appreciating paintings, discussing hospital art, or watching a film. This further supports
Arts and Medicine: Connecting the Arts and Humanities … 237
the viability of the integrated approach, as it shows how various
humanistic values are reflected through a plethora of arts-related
methods and topics.
5.Despite evidence to support the integrated approach, a key challenge from an instructor’s point of view is fitting very dense material on complicated and sometimes controversial topics with several
interactive or applied exercises into 15 sessions. Another challenge
in teaching the course was the amount of attention necessary to
avoid culturally offensive discussions and art material. This may
be unique to the geographical context of this course but should be
considered in many non-Western contexts to overcome limitations
and self-censorship when discussing topics of a nonconformist or
even transgressive nature, with which the arts are rife. Freethinking
and critical analysis of philosophical topics are important elements for both the humanities and creative arts components of
this course. Careful attention should thus be given to contextually
and delicately balancing uninhibited exploration of questions, with
cultural savviness, and practical concerns such as culturally driven
institutional compliance.
Our recommendations for future educational activities are:
1.An integrated pedagogical approach seems to have an educational
value that courses concentrating on one aspect do not equally
offer. Integrating all aspects of the framework provides students
with opportunities to open their minds to see the interaction
and complexity of a wide and diverse range of ethical and
philosophical questions that they are able to relate to their
education and future practice. This does not rule out the value of
offering individual elective courses focused on specific disciplines
or art forms.
2.Educational activities focusing on humanistic values in medicine
should be offered throughout the medical curriculum until students
enter their profession. These activities can be reinforced by integrating the 5 competencies suggested by this study into the entire medical curriculum not just through the art-based course. By doing so,
238 Z.A. Azmeh and X. Du
the curriculum facilitates and inspires a commitment to lifelong
3.A higher variety of pedagogical approaches may be necessary to meet
the diverse needs of individual preferences for different art forms, as
suggested in this study.
4.Such a course demands certain assessment methods that are constructively aligned to the objectives, which may require a change in the
medical curriculum to embrace a wider range of assessment forms.
Due to the exploratory nature of this study, the findings should be
interpreted with caution. Although this study provided rich data on students’ perceptions with detailed examples, there is also a limit in its generalizability. Despite these limitations, the current study contributed to
the field of integrating arts and humanities into early stages of a medical curriculum in a Middle Eastern context. The experiences and lessons
we learn from the pilot study shed light on the field, not only in terms
of a better understanding of students’ perceptions, but also in terms
of educational implications on how to further reform the curriculum.
Follow-up studies with longitudinal perspectives to examine the transformation and development process of students, or to compare students’
reflection from this course to their performance in other aspects of the
curriculum, might give deeper insights into this topic.
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Developing a Transdisciplinary University
in Finland Through Arts-Based Practices
Kevin Tavin, Juuso Tervo and Teija Löytönen
In the current neoliberal climate, where many universities are decreasing humanities and non-industry or commercially related courses, Aalto
University, in Finland, is engaging in broad university initiatives under
the university element of Art and Creative Practices (ACP). These initiatives include university-wide art studies (UWAS) that offer access to
arts-based inquiry and activities for every discipline through a series
of transdisciplinary courses on creativity and culture, and sharing and
K. Tavin (*) · J. Tervo · T. Löytönen 
Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
J. Tervo
T. Löytönen
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
242 K. Tavin et al.
co-creating transdisciplinary artworks (SCTA) that includes developing
exhibition spaces and art events across Aalto campus, in part as forums
and platforms for transdisciplinary experiences. In this chapter, we
introduce the university element of ACP and the two initiatives. We
examine the history of ACP and the context, development and implementation of the initiatives, as a first of their kind in Finland. We
explore how both of the initiatives are positioned beyond the threshold
and intersection of disciplines, and argue that, ideally, these initiatives
actively work as transdisciplinary projects. Within this framework, we
discuss how university pedagogy functions at the limits of disciplines,
offering an opportunity for activities that might not (yet) be possible
within the traditions of the dominant disciplines, thus enlarging their
area of thinking. We focus our attention on one of these initiatives,
UWAS, and how it might create new pedagogical approaches to higher
education, and encourage experimentation and exploration of new artsbased methods and methodologies. In order, for arts-based pedagogy to
remain critical and self-reflexive, we advocate for a dialogical approach,
where our present understanding of art and design is problematized
and transformed by other disciplines, and the emergence of completely
new areas of inquiry and practice. In the end, instead of simply critiquing the university as a predetermined neoliberal apparatus for the
commodity fetishism of education (with no choice for many critical
academics other than exodus), we discuss how to engage in art and creative practices that work from the inside through a multiplicity of artsbased approaches (Mouffe 2010). Similar to Garoian (2014, 387), we
believe critical arts-based interventions in the university “constitutes a
desire and willingness to work within systems of power in disarticulating their totalized ideological formations into open, differential spaces
where multivalent processes of critical intervention and transformation
of educational practices are ontologically immanent rather than predetermined and prescribed”. We now present the history and implementation process for the arts-based initiatives to provide context for further
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 243
Aalto University’s Transdisciplinary Element: Art
and Creative Practices
Aalto University was established in 2010, when three Finnish universities merged into one, thus creating the second largest university in
Finland. The three existing universities were the University of Art and
Design Helsinki, the Helsinki School of Economics and the Helsinki
University of Technology. After the merge, six separate schools were
established within Aalto University with a strong emphasis on technology, business, art and science: one for science, three for engineering,
one for business and one for art. The newly named school for art is The
School of Arts, Design, and Architecture (ARTS).
Shortly after the merge in 2010, there were movements to integrate
art more fully across all schools. The Dean of ARTS at that time was
given the task to help develop broader thinking about art across campuses (there were three separate campus locations). Between the years
2011 and 2014, there were various movements and projects that took
up this task, but most of them were semi-operative or ad hoc activities
scattered across the university, with little or no synchronization between
them. For example, there were many individuals working on projects
around ARTS on public art, gallery spaces and some at other sites working on art across campus and so on. There were also individuals hired to
help develop festivals and one-time events. There was, however, no real
coordination between them. In addition, there were many requests from
students and faculty from all the schools at Aalto University for activities, such as arts-based courses, but no dedicated university resources,
and no one person or group devoted to implementing them.
In 2014, changes in leadership brought about more direct and concerted efforts to create an Aalto University “element” dealing with
artistic activities, to be on an equal horizon as other core university
elements, such as Research and Education. After numerous discussions and iterations, the core element became Art and Creative Practices
(ACP). The new Dean of ARTS was appointed vice-president of the
ACP and directed its future vision, including its mission, strategic
244 K. Tavin et al.
initiatives, objectives, targets and resourcing. Through ongoing discussion with professors, students and university leadership, the element
continued to evolve. Two steps that were essential in the advancement
of ACP was the forming of a steering group that included representatives from each school, and a forum held with faculty at a professor’s
summit in June 2015, where the vice-president of ACP asked for feedback and desired outcomes. At the summit, two questions were posed
to professors: How can artistic activities and creative practices enhance
and support new ways of your own teaching, learning and research?
And, What are the skills that our graduating students lack in their
future working life that could be improved by arts-based education?
While we interrogate later in this chapter the broader underlying question of what is a university and what knowledge and skills are needed
now and in the future, we register below some of the responses to the
questions at the professor summit to provide more context for the subsequent sections in this chapter and ground the develop of initiatives
from ACP.
Some of the responses to the first question at the summit indicated
that artistic activities and creative practices may give time, space and
freedom for all students to experiment; help motivate people out of
their comfort zone to a more interdisciplinary space with a diversity of
students; be a catalyst for changing attitudes and behaviour; challenge
students and faculty to know themselves better and communicate in
new ways; expose students to the unknown and the surprising; allow
students to explore failure and bad ideas as something important; create
new tensions and points of view; and expose all students to contemporary art and social critique. These responses were somewhat surprising
to us, in a positive way, as most of the professors at the summit were
not from ARTS nor did they have an arts or humanities background
(a majority of faculty are from technical programs). The general interpretation was that there is support for the broader university-wide element, ACP, and a need for integration across schools to help students
explore, experiment and transform teaching, learning and research
through experimenting, questioning, unlearning and meaning making
and so on. The support by the professors for the university-wide Art and
Creative Practices stems partly from the fact that external stakeholders
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 245
have identified the need and desire for design, design thinking and creative practices in their future activities with the different schools at Aalto
University. Several schools wished to respond to this request but the
scaling of the university’s art, design and creative activities was unclear
and limited. In addition, students have also expressed their wishes for a
more broader or inclusive education embracing the wide variety of disciplines, modes of knowing and knowledge creation represented at the
multidisciplinary Aalto University, whose mission is to shape the future
through “science and art together with technology and business” (Aalto
University 2016, 6).
In response to the second question regarding what skills might students gain from their future working life from arts-based education,
the responses varied from learning skills in visualization, design and
special thinking, modelling, and making attractive presentations, to
confidence, storytelling, critical thinking, aesthetics, and of course,
building (all-inclusive) creativity. For the most part, these responses can
be viewed through the discourse inscribed in an instrumental system of
efficiency towards market imperatives. However, the task for the members of ACP was to acknowledge the utilitarian and industry desires
from the faculty and develop new arts-based practices and understandings that might emerge across campus and in classrooms. In other
words, while clearly there was a desire for teaching “skills” there was also
support for creative and intellectual potentialities of students for seeing
the world differently and thinking about learning differently than what
discipline-based educational formulations (in science, engineering, business, etc.) offered. Shortly after the professor summit, the steering group
for ACP met to review and discuss the responses. The group decided to
pursue strategy funding for two initiatives mentioned earlier: SCTA and
Without any guarantee of resourcing, the first initiative, sharing and co-creating transdisciplinary artworks, began with organizing
a large working group of professors from all six schools in Aalto, with
numerous faculties from the Department of Art and field of curating and mediating art, focusing on concepts from an earlier draft for
Aalto University exhibition spaces. The draft concentrated on display
as a medium for research and learning.1 The plan proposed various
246 K. Tavin et al.
exhibition spaces to facilitate different art practices, project spaces and
a performing archive, or collection of art. The main goal was to coordinate places and spaces, platforms and contact zones, for meeting, acting, displaying and making. While there were other considerations, the
working group (which was quite large at the beginning) started planning for the development, production and realization of transdisciplinary artworks and events to be exhibited and shared to the audiences
across Aalto University, and beyond.
After two years in the making, the initiative received considerable
funding from the university and was supported in other ways from
the top levels of leadership. The working group was amended to three
people in order to help get things done, including a Professor in Art
Education, and Lecturer in Curating, and a newly hired full-time Art
Coordinator who helped map existing galleries and exhibition spaces,
as well as created new venues and spaces across the entire Aalto campus. The spaces were divided into three forums: (1) experimental student spaces,2 (2) curated art spaces, and (3) galleries for curated alumni
art and student art. The spaces would be managed by paid curators as
well as students enrolled in a curating and mediating art master’s program. Policy on public art in the university was developed; communication and outreach were engaged, and an art-inventory project
proceeded to identify and archive all work (including non-art objects)
in the six schools at Aalto University. In addition, a one-year artist-in
residence began, where a sound artist worked in the School of Electrical
Engineering (during 2017). All of the work achieved through the
SCTA initiative was undergirded by arts-based transdisciplinary thinking where making and exhibiting art was an assemblage of knowledge
and practices from different fields of study—beyond art. Like Massumi
(2011, 54), members of the SCTA working group believed that in
thinking through the initiative, “care has been taken not only to make
sense but to make semblance, to make the making-sense experientially
appear, in a dynamic form”. One of the remarkable things about SCTA
is the amount of accomplishments in a very short time, with wide support from all levels of the university.
The second initiative, UWAS, also started with a small working
group that initially planned a pilot course, Introduction to Visual Culture
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 247
and Creative Ways of Seeing the World. The course was based on similar class on visual studies that the professor had taught previously to
a broad range of students, in the USA, as a general education course
(see Tavin 2009). In Aalto University, this was the first time there was
a course designed specifically for all students, and especially non-art
students, that addressed the content area of visual studies. In 2016,
the course met for seven weeks, twice a week, for approximately three
hours. Lectures and student-directed and small-group discussions provided opportunities for students from all schools and all fields of study
to apply theories of visual culture and arts-based thinking, including
perspectives on representation, spectacle, spectatorship, surveillance and
voyeurism, to their respective areas, and to a variety of cultural forms
(Sturken and Cartwright 2009).
After the pilot course in the spring of 2016, the working group was
provided funding for continuing the initiative and was given the task to
develop further curriculum for a range of courses that would be possible
for all Aalto students, with no prerequisites in knowledge required, or
passing of difficult entrance examinations. Since then, the development
of UWAS, similar to SCTA, has been swift. In order to find out what
kind of institutional infrastructure does it take to develop and run university-wide arts-based courses, ACP has supported an extensive growth
in the number of UWAS courses organized between 2016 and 2018.
From one above-mentioned course taught in spring 2016, the number
of courses increased to 15 during the academic year 2016–2017, and for
2017–2018 UWAS offers 26 courses, including courses on design, writing, film, site-specific art and arts-based group work.
An important impetus behind this growth is that the course proposal
process has been opened to the entire university, thus encouraging faculty across disciplines to suggest and plan UWAS courses. To keep this
growth sustainable, the UWAS working group was also condensed to
three members (one Professor of Visual Culture, one Post-Doc Project
Manager, and one Study Planner). The group helped develop ways to
keep Aalto students, faculty, and staff informed about UWAS, and
engage them in its advancement. While this rapid and extensive growth
has surfaced a number of challenges relating to variegated degree
requirements, staff resources and funding models within the university,
248 K. Tavin et al.
it has also allowed the UWAS working group to voice some institutional
and ideological suggestions for sustaining a meaningful and bold development of university-wide arts-based education today. Next, we will
articulate some of the grounding philosophical insights behind these
suggestions and examine the role of arts-based activities in reshaping
higher education.
Learning Transdisciplinarity: University-Wide Art
Since UWAS is a brand-new initiative in Aalto University, and nothing similar seems to exist in any other Finnish universities, its development poses continuous organizational, pedagogical, managerial and
philosophical questions that ACP ought to resolve. Rather than seeing
it as an obstacle, this emerging position of university-wide art education
has made it possible to critically approach some of the central tasks that
universities, in general, are facing today, namely the constant demands
to renew and rethink higher education (see e.g. Barnett 2016; Trowler
2008). While the discussion concerning the benefits of applying artsbased education to other academic disciplines is anything but new (c.f.
Sargent 1918), the increasing push towards cross-, inter-, multi- and
transdisciplinary practices in higher education requires that the pedagogical role of the arts has to be articulated within today’s mercurial
conjunctions of differing disciplinary grounds. As educators, we need to
ask: How does transdisciplinarity affect our understanding of learning
and what could a genuinely arts-based transdisciplinary education look
It is important to situate the need for transdisciplinary arts-based
education within its wider social, political and economical context in
Finland, and beyond. Aalto University itself is a product of a specific
historical era that finds its core values in terms such as innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship (e.g. Aalto University 2016). While these
terms remain almost always very loosely defined, they assign a specific
societal role and temporal arrangement for higher education: like businesses, universities, in addition to providing and supporting individual
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 249
prosperity, are responsible for the future economic growth that ought
to increase the competitiveness and welfare of the nation state. This
means that the value of present practices is measured through a possible
future loss: the loss of productivity, loss of profit and loss of the existing socioeconomic hierarchies. Higher education is, to put it differently,
always in debt. It is an investment to the best possible future that, like
all investments, is inherently insecure.
The status of Finnish higher education as a business-like investment
was further affirmed by the reformed university legislation in 2010 that
allowed universities to change their organizational model from public
institutions to private foundations3 (Finlex 2009, Tomperi 2009). This
has not only increased the role of quantitative assessment when evaluating the security of the investment, but it has also built up pressures to
find external funding for all activities within the university, including
education. In this context, education should not merely foster students’
knowledge and skills, but it has to prove that what is learned is applicable beyond the classroom. Here, the possible usefulness and uselessness of learning become a matter of applicability: where, when and how
could this particular skill or knowledge be put in use? In the current
economic climate where the continuity of one’s employment is increasingly measured on a regular basis, educational institutions are expected
to prepare their students for fluid and flexible uses of their knowledge
and skills. The promise of progressive education in the past—to blur
the boundaries between life, work, and education in order to break out
from alienated forms of schooling and labour (c.f. Dewey 1990)—has
been privatized and turned into the rule. Today, one needs to become
a “transdisciplinary individual” (Ausburg 2014) who pays their debt
to the society by being as flexible worker as possible. This is what Gert
Biesta (2011a) calls the “individualisation of lifelong learning” (66) that
turns the right to learn into a demand to learn.
While some scholars have argued that arts-based practices can provide a fruitful ground for adjusting educational institutions to this
flexibility by enhancing students’ cognitive and social capabilities (e.g.
Burton et al. 2000; Eisner 2002; Strokrocki 2005), the focus on future
uses of education, whether it was arts-based or not, has the tendency to
reduce learning into a process that can be effectively compartmentalized
250 K. Tavin et al.
and managed in order to reach a desired goal: an individual that actively
participates in the existing social, political and economic hierarchies
(Tervo 2014). If, then, we are to take Aalto University’s strategy for
2016–2020 seriously, that “[s]uccessful universities in this era will not
be those who replicate old practices but will be the ones who dare to
explore and experiment in new, creative ways”, (Aalto University 2016,
5) there is a need to explore and experiment with education beyond predetermined uses. To paraphrase Spinoza’s famous words concerning the
body, we need to acknowledge that we still do not know what art can
do, whether in higher education or in the society. The danger of omitting this educational dimension of art is that transdisciplinary art education becomes solely reactive. It merely responds to the existing demands
of other disciplines by offering new ways to manage them, but not to
refigure their societal function.
Keeping this in mind, UWAS is an attempt to develop arts-based
transdisciplinary education that is situated in the tension between
autonomy and application. While concurring with Tyson E. Lewis and
Megan J. Laverty (2015, 3) who claim that the arts “teach ‘lessons’ that
perhaps cannot be learned anywhere else and cannot necessarily be efficiently mainstreamed by the mechanisms of the knowledge economy”,
we also see that it is important to situate these lessons in contexts where
the teaching of art puts art itself in question. This requires that the discussion concerning the various uses of university-wide art education
needs to go beyond individual contents and addresses the broad educational implications of art in the university. UWAS does not merely seek
for transdisciplinary applications of art for non-art students (albeit this
is certainly possible), but mobilizes art as an open question towards the
present: What is it that we are doing here at the university, or generally, in the society? What are the limits of our epistemologies and what
does it mean to test their limits? Rather than being a one-directional
path from art (autonomy) to non-art (application), the education of art
comes close what Dennis Atkinson (2011, 13) calls a pedagogy of “that
which is not yet”, that refers to “emerging states of becoming [and]
forms of being that are often present but absent that is to say where
they have no existence, no recognition in the sense that they lie outside
of dominant modes of understanding and value”. Balancing between
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 251
risk-taking (i.e. arts-based education as a step away from old practices)
and risk management (i.e. arts-based education as merely a new way
to manage existing practices), UWAS seeks for arts-based educational
encounters that keep the future of higher education open beyond the
demand for flexibility.
Working within the tension between the autonomy and application
of art demands a revision of the philosophical premises of arts-based
higher education. Following Atkinson’s aforementioned suggestion,
both art and education take up conflating ontologies that are mobile
rather than static and durational rather than mechanical. This means
that learning has to be understood in terms of time and its unfolding: it is something that takes time akin to a performance that cannot
be reduced to a single image. In lieu with recent scholarship that seeks
non-chronological approaches to the time of education (e.g. Atkinson
2011; jagodzinski 2010; Lewis 2013; Simons and Masschelein 2012;
Tervo 2014) as well as with the transitions in modern and contemporary art from representational to processual practices (Lorenz 2014;
Molesworth 2003; Raunig 2007), the task of rethinking higher education through arts-based practices demands an increased attention to
learning as a series of events that open rather than order the time of our
To speak about the time of education may easily turn the discussion towards mere abstractions. This is certainly not our aim. From
an organizational standpoint, universities—like all educational institutions—have to divide their pedagogical activities into separate units
of time (semesters, courses, credit points, etc.) in order to function
properly. Rather than trying to overcome this organizational structure, we are interested in integrating the philosophical basis discussed
above to it, and use arts-based thinking and practices to remind about
the obvious: that the time of learning is never settled and education is
never reducible to mere courses and credits. In the light of the current
political climate that reduces learning into quantifiable outcomes and
turns higher education into mere management of lifelong learners, this
approach is a conscious attempt to bring deep educational questions to
the forefront of the organizational reforms that the universities are constantly facing today.
252 K. Tavin et al.
What does this mean pedagogically? Since UWAS is neither a minor
nor a degree program, but a set of elective courses that students from
every discipline can freely choose from, it becomes possible to offer
courses that do not fit with any degree specifically, thus opening a time
and space for learning without predetermined application. This is not to
say that these courses are totally devoid of application; rather, the point
of UWAS is to show that application is not something that happens
after the student has learned something, but as discussed above, an open
question towards the present. The pedagogical use of art is, then, to
offer a possibility to experiment with the openness of this question and
to explore what learning without specific goals could be. We see that
art enables what Tyson E. Lewis (2014, 203), drawing from Giorgio
Agamben, calls a “studious play”, that denotes education where “the
things and signs of the world are suspended and opened up for free use”
(203). Lewis’s discussion of the Agambenian notion of “study” helps
to further Atkinson’s idea of a pedagogy of “that which is not yet” by
underlining the fact that the education that is to come does not require
a future point of completion that can be found from the logic of investment. Rather than rejecting old models for learning in favour of new
ones, learning qua studious play offers a possibility to suspend the traditional function of words, images and practices in disciplinary education
here and now and open up their applicability to unknown, even strange
uses. What seems new has, in fact, been there all along (Tavin 2014).
Again, this does not require that education becomes mere abstraction. Art’s educational capability to suspend predetermined applicability can be experimented through minor exercises. One example of such
exercise is a small task given to students (n ≈ 40) who participated
in Introduction to Visual Culture and Creative Ways of Seeing the World
course in the academic year 2016–2017. Students were asked to bring
a collection of images that represented the everyday imagery of their
textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts; that is, the visual
stuff that they affiliated with their own studies but had not discussed
separately from their functionality and context. Since most (~ 90%)
of the students were engineering, technology or business majors, their
images consisted mainly of graphs, charts and tables. In addition to
asking students to share them with the rest of the group and explain
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 253
why and how they chose this particular set of images, we explored what
would it mean to look at them aside from their functionality; that is,
as mere images. After all, charts and graphs do not only represent data,
but are representations in themselves. This meant that students had to
look at something they see every day, and by looking they were asked to
suspend the normal function of these images within their disciplinary
knowledge. Art’s function here was to open up a possibility for decontextualization that made graphs and tables non-applicable as containers
of their intended information. As decontextualized, these images took
up another kind of use-value: they helped to point out visual pedagogies
that are present in the university but rarely discussed. This short exercise
sparked a lot of discussion among the students and many of them chose
to explore these questions further in their final papers, writing about the
visuality of disciplines as differing as marketing, chemical engineering
and electrical engineering.
As an example of studious play, this short exercise shows how the suspension of predetermined pedagogical uses of texts, images and practices can turn the implicit events of learning that emerge from students’
formal and informal encounters with their study material explicit. This
is arts-based learning that connects what happens both inside and outside classroom (Tavin 2010). It opens a possibility to experiment with
one’s disciplinary knowledge and practices, which is something that
students can take with them to other classes. For example, a student
who identified themselves as a business major told in the course feedback that they had learned more about marketing and branding in this
course than in their previous business studies combined. It was not that
advertisements which were the main content of the course (other topics
included scientific imagery, popular culture, and social media) or that
this was even what the course was set out to do, but rather that the possibility to rethink one’s relation to them helped this particular student
to approach the entire field of marketing differently. This kind of creative suspension of disciplinary knowledge applies to teachers as well. For
an educator with an art background, shared moments of transdisciplinary dialogue ask for a different approach to arts-based teaching than
with art majors. The application of art in learning and teaching is, then,
a joint exploration between students and teachers, thus putting the very
254 K. Tavin et al.
event of educational encounter in the forefront of an arts-based transdisciplinary curriculum.
University Pedagogy at the Limits of Disciplines
As we discussed in the previous sections, higher education has been a
topic of vibrant discussion and intensive debate during the last decade
in Finland. The discussion within the current sociopolitical and neoliberal climate concerns not only the overall future of higher education,
but especially the curricular question of what particular knowledge
and skills, dispositions and qualities or, indeed, being will be valid in
the rapidly changing environments and for an unknown future (see
e.g. Barnett 2004, 2007, 2009; Löytönen 2015, 2017). In answering
these broad and complex questions, the push in curriculum planning,
as mentioned earlier, has been towards increasing cross-, inter-, multiand transdisciplinary practices in higher education. As arts-based transdisciplinary education, UWAS is intended to raise both epistemological
(what to learn?) and ontological (what learning is?) questions that help
to mobilize learning between various disciplines. Next, we will explore
the possibilities for university pedagogy in general at the limits of disciplines to see what kind of role could arts-based practices play in it.
As can be seen from the diverse concepts used to refer to pedagogical practices that go beyond disciplinary silos (cross-, inter-, multi-, and
trans-), one of the pressing questions that has puzzled us when developing the UWAS program concerns the very foundation of universities,
namely the disciplinary structure that most universities are built on:
the research work as well as teaching and studying are in general organized according to the epistemological structures and social practices of a
particular discipline (in engineering, science, art, business, etc.). Thus,
the two functions of the university, the academic knowledge production and the teaching of university subjects through scientific inquiry,
are organized through established disciplines. Robert Frodeman (2014)
notes that a discipline is typically understood as an epistemological category, consisting of a specific epistemic content (e.g. art education) and
epistemological activity (e.g. research, teaching and learning activities in
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 255
art education). Courtnie Wolfgang (2013, 63) understands the disciplinary categories as “a performance of a refrain (repeated codes or behaviours) or a set of refrains—the more defined the discipline, the more
constraints on variation (performance, objects, or methodology)”.
We are concerned about how the dominant disciplinary practices in
university pedagogy could be challenged to better serve the “students
for the complexities and unpredictability characterizing their future professional, civic and personal lives” (Kreber 2009, 3), and, moreover, to
reconfigure our understanding of learning. Thus, we want to push the
limits of discipline-based thinking and practices, the repeated codes and
behaviours in teaching and learning and think about university pedagogy that might introduce students to new ways of thinking and activities not (yet) possible within the traditions of the established disciplines.
Here, we follow, again, Gert Biesta (2011b) who wanted to see more
“smaller gestures” and “creativity that is political in that it seeks to insert
other ways of being and doing into the university” (45–46). An example
of the “smaller gestures” is the open and unpredictable experiments with
one’s disciplinary knowledge and practices during the arts-based UWAS
course discussed earlier. These experiments and insights are not only
something that students can take with them to other classes but they
could be seen political in the sense that they widen thought about what
might become possible also more broadly in higher education.
In extending the notions of the disciplines, we are not, however,
alone. Paul Trowler (2014, 1721–1722) challenged the strong essentialist notion of academic disciplines, in which “each discipline has particular and essential knowledge properties” and “that these properties
are generative, in a direct and universal way, of specific cultural characteristics among disciplinary practitioners” (see also Trowler 2009).
According to this approach, students are initiated into a specific discipline that not only structures their knowledge resources but also conditions their behavioural practices within and outside of their professional
field. Instead of this conceptually limiting notion of disciplines, often
accompanied by reductionism and determinism, he proposes a moderate essentialist position, which recognizes “impermanence, conditionality and the significance of different ontological strata” (ibid.
2015, 1722). In this view, disciplines are seen as unstable, contextually
256 K. Tavin et al.
contingent and shaped by multiple forces. Thus, disciplines become
articulated differently in different contexts, such as research or teaching
contexts in universities, and in different sites of practice outside universities. The moderate essentialist position offers a more flexible and
open approach to understanding disciplines, yet it retains the recognisability of some characteristics of them, even over time. This position
offers disciplinary practitioners, such as students, the agency to reshape
the disciplines in different practice clusters, for example, into localized
repertoires. As explored and elaborated by Wolfgang (2013), art educators, for example, re-negotiate their disciplinary practices and pedagogies in diverse contexts and encounters each time (at least slightly) anew.
However, even if the moderate essentialist position acknowledges the
heterogeneity and dynamism of a discipline, from our perspective, the
continuous movement is still limited to emerge only within one disciplinary tradition.
Catherine Manathunga and Angela Brew (2012, 45) have likewise
challenged the conceptualizations of the disciplines. They start their
elaborations by noting that the current and “rapid pace of change in
the postmodern world has forced researchers increasingly to venture out
into the quest for interdisciplinary knowledge”. This quest disturbs the
static ways in which disciplines and their understandings of knowledge
and knowledge creation have been traditionally conceived (the strong
essentialist position, if you like). Manathunga and Brew highlight the
complex and quite problematic position of disciplines in universities. As
they state “some academics view the subjects they are researching and
teaching in a nested way with one area being viewed as inside another,
which is, in turn, inside another. Other academics see their work as at
the confluence of two or more disciplinary areas” (47). They even propose the potency of interdisciplinary identity formation, which might
deconstruct and forsake “illusory identifications” with distinct disciplines, and separated and hierarchical communities (ibid., 47). And so,
instead of promoting closed and disciplined “territories” they challenge
and invite us to think about the confluences of different disciplinary
spaces, co-evolutionary processes and the ecology of academia.
While developing the UWAS program for transdisciplinary artsbased education at Aalto University, the confluence of different
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 257
disciplinary spaces was discussed through the concepts of multi-, interand transdisciplinarity. Although, at first, these different concepts might
all seem to refer to similar kind of collaboration across and between
diverse disciplines, knowledge frameworks and communities, they nevertheless are based on different theoretical premises and, thus, guide,
pedagogical practices towards different aims and with different means.
Saija Hollmén (2015) discusses these concepts in detail and provides
insights into the profound differences of the concepts. Based on her literature review, multidisciplinarity could be understood as proximity of
disciplines: multidisciplinary courses use knowledge of more than one
discipline to explain their perspective on a specific topic. Whereas multidisciplinary courses bring different disciplines merely together, interdisciplinary courses “go beyond establishing a common meeting place
to develop new methods and theory crafted to transcend the disciplines
in order to solve problems” (ibid., 6). Thus, interdisciplinary university
pedagogy strives to address complex topics that cannot be dealt with by
a single discipline, and which need processes that are more integrative
in nature. The two former concepts, however, still understand disciplines mostly as distinct knowledge frameworks through which university pedagogy operates: teaching and learning practices are organized in
collaboration between the different disciplines either side by side or by
jointly tackling problems. As for transdisciplinarity in university pedagogy, it approaches the space in-between disciplines. University pedagogy starting in the middle or “in-between-pedagogy” as suggested by
Hollmén (ibid., 13) invites students to explore “real world problems”
and to discover “non-disciplinary and emerging knowledge” (ibid., 6).
Even though UWAS retains some disciplinary differences and facilitates
dialogue between the various and differing disciplinary grounds, the
arts-based transdisciplinary education enhances educational encounters
beyond predetermined knowledge frameworks, goals or applications,
and, thus, it embraces the non-disciplinary and emerging forms of knowing and learning.
In our initiative of developing university pedagogy through arts-based
transdisciplinary education, we want to challenge universities even further and transgress disciplinary thresholds‚ challenge the characteristics and traditions of dominant disciplines, celebrate uncertainty and
258 K. Tavin et al.
unboundedness, and move towards taking explorations and experimentations in university pedagogy seriously. Here, in addition to the aforementioned theoretical frameworks, our approach is supported by the
philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1983, 371). For them,
experimentation is an open-ended process of becoming “without aim or
end”. Through joint explorations and experimentations, a transdisciplinary university pedagogy would then seek to experiment with potentialities and to connect with the unknowable or with the what can be or
become. Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 161) do not offer any clear lines
to follow in processes of experimentation. However, they urge us to:
Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers,
find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by
segment, have a small plot of new land at all times…Connect, conjugate,
continue: a whole “diagram” as opposed to still signifying and subjective
UWAS as an arts-based transdisciplinary education, beyond signifying
disciplinary programs, at its best offers insights into the potentialities of
explorations and experimentations in university pedagogy. By mobilizing art as an open question towards the present and by increasing our
attention to learning as a series of emerging events we might not only
see universities but also art and arts-based practices itself in a new light.
As universities across the globe become more entangled with the neoliberal pursuits of market-driven efficiency and accountability on the
one hand, and the discourse of life long learning, nimbleness and thinking beyond disciplines on the other, it is important to ask what might
a genuinely arts-based transdisciplinary education and exhibition and
display network look like? At Aalto University, we have attempted to
take up this challenge, to provide both a space for learning without
Developing a Transdisciplinary University … 259
predetermined application and a belief that something should happen
for students and faculty that they might take with them and connect to
something else, something not yet known. This has manifested through
the university element of ACP and through two initiatives that focus
on education and exhibitions and events. Using arts-based thinking,
we have attempted to develop not only small transdisciplinary projects,
but aim more broadly at changing university pedagogy. This means, we
ask students, faculty and indeed ourselves to not only cross disciplines,
but also challenge disciplinary boundaries in order to provide a set of
provisional, theoretical and engaging collaborations, that, in Deleuzian
terms, would ask; does it work, how does it work, and how does it work
for you (St. Pierre 2004)?
For some, transdisciplinarity is seen as a gleaning of different
knowledge, ideas and practice from a myriad of disciplines and pushing against and permeating the once-rigid boundaries of those disciplines—to refuses to remain confined to restricted parameters defined
by experts in a given field, including art (Tavin 2003). Yet, transdisciplinarity might go beyond just a political refusal and engage in the
untamed messiness of complexity and contradiction, potential and
experimentation. Transdisciplinarity in the learning spaces of galleries and exhibitions might instigate an improvisational and relational
ontology through an encounter with art and other materials/images.
Transdisciplinarity in the classroom, and spaces between them, might
shift arts-based practices from a powerful and political statement in a
university strategy (e.g. speaking to the creative industries), towards an
avenue for inventiveness of things yet to come: unpredictable events
that are not taught, per se by any one, but through the disarticulated
field of possibility (Garoian 2014).
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260 K. Tavin et al.
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Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty
Training Programmes
Mohammed Saleh Alkathiri
Effective higher education is a cornerstone of a country’s strategy for
development and prosperity. The contemporary system of higher education is more challenging than ever before, and the expectations concerning its outcomes are changing (Austin and Sorcinelli 2013; Cullingford
2002; Elmahdi et al. 2015; Gillespie and Robertson 2010; Lee 2010;
Ouellett 2010). Therefore, professors, as a major stakeholder in higher
education, are required to prepare for new expectations and challenges
(Austin 2002; Austin and McDaniels 2006; Elmahdi et al. 2015; Gappa
et al. 2007; Lee 2010; O’Meara et al. 2008). Many professors today,
as compared to twenty years ago, feel that their role is demanding and
uncertain (Fitzgerald 2014; Gappa et al. 2007; O’Meara et al. 2008;
Ouellett 2010; Schuster and Finkelstein 2006). Therefore, higher education institutions are seeking well-prepared faculty who can teach and
M.S. Alkathiri (*) 
University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
266 M.S. Alkathiri
do research, and are continuing to provide professional training programmes for their faculty members to improve their professional skills,
in general, and teaching skills, in particular (Austin 2002; Austin and
McDaniels 2006; Elmahdi et al. 2015).
The call for taking intentional actions within higher institutions in
order to enhance faculty members’ abilities and skills especially in
teaching was supported by many scholars (Austin 2002; Bieber and
Worley 2006; Cullingford 2002; Elmahdi et al. 2015; Gillespie and
Robertson 2010; Sorcinelli 1994). Many studies addressed the need
for professional development programmes to prepare faculty to teach
at a university level (Cullingford 2002; Gillespie and Robertson 2010;
Sorcinelli et al. 2006). Researchers have contributed to the literature of
faculty professional development by describing the professional training programmes established at their universities that aimed to enhance
faculty teaching skills (Elmahdi et al. 2015; Kamel 2016; Steinert
2000). Others investigated the impact of certain professional training
programmes—faculty development programmes—on faculty teaching practices and students’ achievement (Al-Hattami et al. 2013; Finelli
et al. 2008; Gibbs and Coffey 2004; Postareff et al. 2007, 2008; Steinert
et al. 2006). Various types of professional training activities are offered
by institutions to their faculty members. These include lectures, workshops, competency-based programmes, and others (Al-Hattami et al.
2013; Elmahdi et al. 2015; Hodgson and Wilkerson 2014; Steinert
2000; Steinert et al. 2006). Compared to all the various training
approaches used when conducting such activities, using art-based techniques in professional training programmes receives less attention. Few
studies, if any, have reported on the use of art-based techniques in the
context of faculty training for teaching in higher education. In order to
better assess the impact of adopting an art-based approach in professional training programmes, it was important to investigate the general
perceptions of faculty members on using art-based techniques.
Fletcher and Patrick (1998) wrote that “faculty developers” should
become “change agents”, adopting four activities to promote university’s
efforts to achieve their new objectives. One main activity was to “undertake ongoing research studies to examine the impact of various teaching
strategies and technologies on student learning” (Fletcher and Patrick
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 267
1998, p. 43). Through the study of faculty members’ perceptions, a
new understanding and conceptualisation of faculty development may
evolve. According to Ouellett (2010),
Today, the demands placed upon faculty members and the complexity of
their roles and responsibilities continue to evolve at an astonishing pace.
Consequently, our understanding of what constitutes ‘faculty development’ and our language to articulate these changes in perspective will
continue to evolve to reflect new conceptualizations. (p. 8)
Therefore, this research study aimed to investigate the perceptions of
faculty members relating to the use of art-based techniques (e.g. sketching, drawing, graphic design, and lyric writing) in professional training
programmes at a university in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The
researcher adopted a qualitative approach study by using different methods to collect data: observation, semi-structured interviews, member
checking, and artefacts.
Research Questions
This qualitative research study was guided by the realm of experiential
learning (Kolb et al. 2001). From the perspective of art-based experiential learning, participants develop understanding and meaning based
on the aesthetic processes and experiences that they get exposed to and
involved in (Beck et al. 1994; Dewey 1934). Consistent with those perspectives concerning art-based learning experiences, Ladkin and Taylor
(2010) proposed that
We live in a complex world which cannot be fully understood solely by
reference to scientific forms of logic and sense-making. The arts, and artbased practices, provide different ways of both describing and relating to
that complexity, thereby offering novel ways of responding. (p. 235)
Therefore, the overall goal of this study was to investigate the significance of using art-based techniques in professional training programmes
268 M.S. Alkathiri
to enhance faculty members’ teaching skills. In addition, the other
emerged themes were studied (i.e. the faculty members’ perceived
understanding of arts and art-based techniques; the faculty members’
perspectives about the use of art-based techniques in training; the faculty
members’ perspectives about the factors that may influence the use of
art-based techniques in training; and the variety of the faculty members’
attempts at using art-based techniques). The primary research question
was this: What are faculty members’ perceptions exist concerning the use
of art-based techniques to facilitate faculty development programmes?
To gather more information about the topic being investigated, three
sub-questions were explored:
• How do faculty members understand art and art-based techniques?
•What perceptions do faculty members have of their professional
training experiences using art-based techniques?
• What are the perceived factors influencing the use of art-based techniques from faculty members’ point of view?
Review of the Literature
“Professional training” is a general term that usually refers to the training that one undergoes to develop his/her career abilities and skills
(Gibbs and Coffey 2004). Another term, “faculty training”, was used in
the literature to describe training that is intended for faculty members
at a university level to enhance their abilities and skills related to their
faculty work (Gibbs and Coffey 2004). For the purpose of this study,
the terms “professional training” and “faculty training” were used reciprocally, referring to the same meaning.
Faculty Development
Today, faculty members are expected to perform multiple roles and
responsibilities that include research, teaching, and service (Fitzgerald
2014; Lee 2010; Ouellett 2010). However, in the 1960s and 1970s,
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 269
conducting research was the only work that many professors focused on
as it was the main standard for success in the professoriate (Sorcinelli
et al. 2006). Later, the idea of the professor as a scholar evolved to
include other roles such as teaching and service. Along with the development of faculty work, “faculty development” expanded (Hodgson
and Wilkerson 2014; Sorcinelli et al. 2006). Initially, formal training was provided to faculty members to improve their abilities on one
role: that of a researcher. Then training expanded to include teaching
(Sorcinelli et al. 2006; Ouellett 2010). The need to develop faculty
members in teaching has been of importance for higher institutions
because of the rapid changes in the environment, expectations, and student body (Elmahdi et al. 2015; Gappa et al. 2007; Kamel 2016; Lee
2010; O’Meara et al. 2008; Schuster and Finkelstein 2006). According
to Lee (2010), “higher education has become increasingly global,
exportable, competitive, and tied to national agendas” (p. 22). For professors to succeed in the professoriate, they must be able to communicate with and teach a very diverse student body (Austin and Sorcinelli
2013; Lee 2010; Ouellett 2010; Romero 2014). Universities are facing
“an increasing diversity in terms of students’ backgrounds, expectations,
needs, and motivations” (Austin 2002, p. 121). Consequently, universities have adopted various faculty development programmes to enhance
their faculty teaching skills.
Faculty Training Programmes
Many faculty members, especially newly appointed faculty and recent
graduates, join institutions that have different academic environments
than what they were used to during their previous academic positions
or doctoral studies (Austin 2002; Bieber and Worley 2006; Sorcinelli
1994). When there is a lack of training opportunities for new faculty,
they find themselves forced to hit the ground running just to meet the
expectations of their new positions as professors. For example, professors who have teaching responsibilities are expected to perform other
related work too, such as advising, course preparation, student work
assessment, and academic committee roles.
270 M.S. Alkathiri
The literature on faculty development reflects an interest in studying
faculty experiences related to training programmes as well as the impact
of such training on faculty teaching practices and student achievement
(Al-Hattami et al. 2013; Finelli et al. 2008; Gibbs and Coffey 2004;
Postareff et al. 2007, 2008; Steinert et al. 2006). Faculty development
activities that have been studied and reported in the literature varied.
For example, higher institutions adopted different types of training
activities, some of which were short training sessions such as lectures
and workshops, while others were of a long-period or academic-credit
nature such as courses, programmes, and initiatives (Al-Hattami et al.
2013; Elmahdi et al. 2015; Finelli et al. 2008; Gibbs and Coffey 2004;
Postareff et al. 2007, 2008; Steinert et al. 2006). However, literature
provided seldom includes discussion on the topic of using art-based
techniques in training faculty members in the context of higher education. Therefore, this research study aimed to contribute to the literature
regarding faculty members’ perceptions of using art-based techniques
in a faculty development workshop. This research study focused on
the experiences of faculty members taking a workshop on Creative
Teaching and Active Learning. The workshop was one of a series within
a faculty training programme at a university in the Eastern Province
of Saudi Arabia. Investigating the topic of using art-based techniques
in professional training programmes was important for identifying the
significance of such a training approach to enhance faculty training
Art-Based Research, Inquiry, and Learning
John Dewey (1934), in his work Art as Experience, wrote on aesthetic
experience in education and how art process could enhance learning. Langer (1953) in her philosophy, Feeling and Form: A Theory of
Art, explained the influence of art on the intellect and contended that
the employment of art makes available what words cannot. Using art
to express ideas, experiences, and culture is an old practice by humans
that goes back to prehistory (Rieger and Chernomas 2013). Today, people continue to find new artistic modes and forms of expression. For
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 271
example, people use video, animation, mobile photography, and graphic
design to express ideas, experiences, and emotions. Along with the
evolvement of new artistic forms, the implementation of art in different fields has been prospering (Finley 2011; Kapitan 2010; Leavy 2009;
McNiff 1998, 2013; Savin-Baden and Wimpenny 2014).
Certain terms such as “arts-based education research” (ABER), “artbased research” (ABR), “art-based inquiry” (ABI), and “art-based learning” (ABL) can be noticed when exploring the literature on the concept
of inquiry that is “art-based” and “art-related”. Basically, those terms fall
into six types of art-related approaches. Savin-Baden and Wimpenny
(2014) defined these types in their work A Practical Guide to Arts-related
Research, including (1) Arts-inquiring pedagogy; (2) Arts-based inquiry;
(3) Arts-informed inquiry; (4) Arts-informing inquiry; (5) Artsengaging inquiry; and (6) Arts-related evaluation.
The variety of art-based approaches reflects the development of the
idea of using art for inquiry and its diverse objectives in different contexts (Finley 2011; Kapitan 2010; McNiff 1998, 2013; Savin-Baden
and Wimpenny 2014). According to Savin-Baden and Wimpenny
(2014), “arts-related research remains difficult to define because it
takes distinct forms and is used in diverse contexts” (p. 1). For example, the field of art therapy played a major role in developing the idea
of ABR and transmitting it to other fields (Leavy 2009; McNiff 1998,
2013). Shaun McNiff (1998) presented the term ABR for the first time
in his book, Art-Based Research. McNiff was one of the first people to
articulate and adopt ABR as “the basis for a new tradition of inquiry”
(McNiff 1998, p. 37). According to McNiff (1998), “creative arts therapy has always been my essential mode of inquiry” (p. 68). Ultimately,
ABR as a form of qualitative inquiry aims to reveal and explore new
understandings through the use of arts and artistic processes (Barone
and Eisner 2012; Kapitan 2010; Savin-Baden and Wimpenny 2014).
According to Savin-Baden and Wimpenny (2014), ABR “focuses on
both the end point and final representation, as well as on the process
and expression of the work in a context” (p. 1).
ABR approach was also used in other fields because it serves new
purposes of research. Leavy (2009) indicated that ABR allows “to
address social research questions in holistic and engaged ways in
272 M.S. Alkathiri
which theory and practice are intertwined” (p. 3). In addition, the use
of ABR engages readers in the research and its findings (Barone and
Eisner 2012). Similar to ABR, the other term ABI refers to a mode of
inquiry that includes “artistic methods for data collation, data analysis, and/or presentation of findings” (Hervey 2004, p. 183). ABI is “a
focused, systematic inquiry with the purpose of contributing to a useful body of knowledge” (Hervey 2004, p. 183). Another term that can
be found in the literature is ABER, related to the field of education.
Barone and Eisner (2012) emphasised that the purpose of using ABER
is to enhance educational perspectives rather than to enhance certainty
of findings.
In the context of education, ABL is another term that involves the
use of arts as educational tools to facilitate learning. ABL is a description for “a pedagogical method” and “a teaching strategy in which
there is significant learner engagement with the art form” (Rieger
and Chernomas 2013, p. 2–3). There are many techniques under the
umbrella of ABL “which uses student art-making as a means for promoting learning in non-arts subject areas” (Patteson et al. 2010, p. 4).
ABL was adopted for teaching and learning purposes in different contexts such as education, medicine, engineering, business, management,
and law (Nissley 2010; Rieger and Chernomas 2013; Savin-Baden and
Wimpenny 2014). The use of ABL was proven to assist participants in
developing skills related to teamwork, communication, creative thinking, and leadership (Nissley 2010; Rieger and Chernomas 2013; SavinBaden and Wimpenny 2014).
Rieger and Chernomas (2013) identified—from the literature of
ABL—several art forms that they found more specifically related to
ABL including “quilting, murals, photography, poetry, sculpting, dancing, theatre, drama, drawing, mask making, music, narratives, literature,
and film” (p. 3). According to Perry et al. (2011), there are two methods
of using arts in ABL: (1) participant observation of arts; and (2) participant active involvement in artistic processes. The main goal of using
ABL strategies in education is “to contribute to learning” of participants
(Nissley 2010, p. 13). In this research study, participants were exposed
to art-based techniques where they had opportunities to observe other
projects and get actively involved in the artistic process.
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 273
This research study aimed to gather information and insights from faculty members at a university in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia
regarding the use of art-based techniques that they had experienced in
a faculty training workshop. Using an interpretive qualitative approach,
the purpose of this research study was to investigate faculty members’
perceptions related to the significance of using art-based techniques in
faculty training programmes. The qualitative research approach allowed
the researcher to investigate “things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them” (Denzin and Lincoln 2005, p. 3). To serve
this purpose, multiple data collection methods were used: observation of participant verbal and non-verbal reactions during the workshop, semi-structured interviews, member checking, and examination
of participant artefacts. Pseudonyms were used to refer to participants
throughout this study.
In Spring 2017, ten female faculty members attended a three-hour
training workshop entitled “Creative Teaching and Active Learning”.
The training took place at a training room that was equipped with
training material, devices, and instruments. At the end of the workshop, participants were granted certificates for their attendance.
Participants were from six different academic colleges: Education (Katie
and Myrna), Applied Studies (Layla), Nursing (Jannette and Jennifer),
Biology (Anna and Amelie), Preparatory Year (Sarah and Laura), and
Design (Kayla).
The workshop was designed to enhance faculty members’ knowledge
and skills in teaching and learning by utilising art-based techniques. The
workshop was intended to define creativity and active learning in the
context of higher education. Participants were exposed to related topics
such as skills of creative thinking and making, art-based teaching, and
obstacles to teaching with active and creative strategies. There were five
main training activities that included art-based techniques (e.g. sketching, drawing, painting, graphic design, mobile photography, one-act
plays, and poem/lyric writing). Participants were given the freedom to
choose how they wanted to do the task. The workshop began with an
274 M.S. Alkathiri
ice-breaking activity. Participants were instructed to write their names
on name tags and draw a symbol that represented something significant to them. After that, participants were asked to explain their symbols to the group. The second activity was to describe active teaching
using an art-based technique. The third activity was to explain creativity
using an art-based technique, preferably a different technique of what
they used previously. The fourth activity included self-evaluation of the
participant’s own practices of active teaching. For the final activity, participants were asked to write or draw on a flip chart at least one thing—
related to the workshop topic—that they learned or found interesting.
Participants were instructed to take a look at what others wrote or drew.
This last activity was the “wrap-up” summary of the workshop. In addition, the training workshop also included activities such as presentation,
group work, and discussion.
The trainer facilitating the session encouraged participants to share
and express their ideas and thoughts using art-based techniques such
as sketching, drawing, painting, graphic design, mobile photography,
one-act plays, and poem/lyric writing. During this phase of study, the
researcher conducted the observation and collected as many artefacts
as possible. After that, participants were individually invited to sit for
an interview. The researcher developed an interview protocol that covered four categories: (a) interviewee background; (b) professional training programmes and attitude towards the use of art-based techniques in
training; (c) description of their artefacts; and (d) The Creative Teaching
and Active Learning workshop. After data collection, the interviews
were transcribed and then analysed. Soon thereafter, member checks
were conducted. Member checking process is intended to assure quality
in qualitative research by allowing participants the opportunity to check
their statements and verify them for accuracy (Glesne 2011; Maxwell
2005). According to Maxwell (2005), member checking is
the single most important way of ruling out the possibility of misinterpreting the meaning of what participants say and do and the perspective they have on what is going on, as well as being an important way of
identifying your own biases and misunderstandings of what you observed.
(p. 111)
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 275
In addition, the use of various data collection methods in qualitative
research allows for “triangulation” which increases the degree of research
validity and reliability (Glesne 2011; Maxwell 2005).
When conducting a qualitative research study, it is impossible for
researchers to isolate their “theories, beliefs, and perceptual ‘lens’”
(Maxwell 2005, p. 108). According to Scott and Morrison (2006), “it
is literally not possible to observe anything without some pre-conceived
schema to understand it” (p. 130). However, researchers can minimise
threats of bias by providing “clarification of research bias” (Glesne 2011,
p. 49). The “pre-conceived schema” and the researcher’s bias in this
research were addressed and considered before the research took place as
well as throughout the process. The researcher was an assistant professor
at Deanship of Academic Development, with a Ph.D. in Teaching and
Learning in Higher Education. He had no background or expertise in
either arts or art creation. He had provided several training workshops
to faculty members on several educational topics. The identification
of the researcher’s beliefs and assumptions concerning the use of artbased techniques to facilitate training and his ability to understand arts
allowed him to be reflexive upon his biases throughout the research process (Creswell 2013; Glesne 2011; Maxwell 2005).
Creswell (2013) mentioned that data collection in qualitative
research is an ongoing process. In this study, the researcher was conducting new research (i.e. new interviews) and simultaneously coding
and then analysing data that had been collected (Glesne 2011; Maxwell
2005). This process could be continued until the occurrence of data saturation (Fusch and Ness 2015). “Data saturation is reached when there
is enough information to replicate the study when the ability to obtain
additional new information has been attained, and when further coding
is no longer feasible” (Fusch and Ness 2015, p. 1408). Thematic analysis technique was used for the raw data analysis. Categories emerged
based on the process of analysis (i.e. coding, recoding, addressing relationships, and data reduction). Next, categories were further reviewed
which resulted in the emergence of themes (Creswell 2013). The
researcher developed four assertions based on the study of the emerging
themes. In Table 1, samples of codes, categories, themes, and assertions
are provided.
Theme 3
Theme 2
Theme 1
Participants had differ- Faculty members defined art
Perceived underArtistic features, artistic
in different ways. However,
ent understandings
standings of art
experiences, talent,
their definitions of art-based
of art and, to less
and art-based techartistic skills, a mode of
techniques were similar, to a
extent, art-based
niques by faculty
expression, artistic teachcertain extent
ing, teaching art, origina- members
tive work
Faculty members perceived the
Participants had
Faculty members’
Enjoyable, active, raise
use of art-based techniques in
positive perspectives
interest in subject matter, perspectives about
training as significant. They
concerning the value
the use of artfun, physical, experience,
perceived that using art-based
based techniques in of using art-based
interaction, adoptable,
techniques in training techniques could be benefitraining
positive impact
cial to them to enhance their
to enhance teaching
teaching skills
Participants perceived Faculty members perceived that
Faculty members’
Time constraints, busy,
using art-based techniques
several trainingperspectives about
lack of awareness,
could be influenced by some
related and traineethe factors that
trainer abilities, artistic
perceived factors that relate
related challenges
may influence the
skills, equipment, ethical
to the training programme
that may influence
use of art-based
(i.e. time constraints, trainthe use of art-based
techniques in
techniques in training ing equipment, and trainer’s
knowledge of art-based techniques) as well as to faculty
members (i.e. busy schedule,
artistic ability, and lack of
awareness about art-based
Table 1 Samples of data analyses
276 M.S. Alkathiri
Theme 4
Participants expressed
Faculty members’
Degrees of abstraction,
attempts to use art- their ideas using
conceptual, physical, skill
different art-based
based techniques
levels, type of art-based
Table 1 (continued)
Faculty members varied in
terms of the preferred artistic
method they used. They were
more comfortable to perform
certain types of art-based
activities more than others
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 277
278 M.S. Alkathiri
The purpose of this research was to investigate faculty members’ perceptions of art-based techniques used in professional training programmes.
The researcher gathered these perceptions from faculty members who
attended a professional training programme and were exposed to artbased techniques during the training. This research aimed to study participant experiences facilitated by art-based techniques. Four themes
emerged that highlighted faculty members’ perceptions and experiences of using art-based techniques in training: (1) Faculty members’
perceived understanding of arts and art-based techniques; (2) Faculty
members’ perspectives about the use of art-based techniques in training;
(3) Faculty members’ perspectives about the factors that may influence
the use of art-based techniques in training; and (4) The variety of faculty members’ attempts at using art-based techniques.
Faculty Members’ Perceived Understandings
of Art and Art-Based Techniques
The first theme that emerged from the data was the perceived understanding of art and art-based techniques. Participants did not agree
on what art is. Some of the participants thought of art as a mode of
expression that included all possible forms despite their artistic features.
Katie, for example, who was an assistant professor in Education, said
“everything can be considered as art … teaching is art. You don’t have to
make beautiful paintings or be a painter to practice art”. On the other
hand, others thought that there are some qualifications that make “real”
art. Myrna, who also was an assistant professor in Education, argued
that the creation of art requires “artistic experiences and talent”. This
idea that art can be created by certain people who have artistic skills
such as artists was proposed by other participants too, from the fields
of Nursing to Biology. Jannette (from College of Nursing) and Anna
(from College of Biology) explained that they had the ability to write,
draw, and perform, but they would not consider their work art because
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 279
they were “not good enough” and “not skilled enough”. They believed
that they had “an aesthetic sense”, but that does not mean they can
create what they believe is art. Kayla, an assistant professor in College
of Design, described art in the light of creativity. “Art can be any creative process-based, product or service given to man by another either
for a purpose or just for pleasure”, she said. In general, participants had
various perceptions regarding what art is, which led to different understandings of art.
Participants had shared perspectives, to an extent, regarding art-based
techniques. Eight participants perceived that art-based techniques could
be utilised to achieve educational purposes regardless of the quality of
art. Those participants thought that the goal of using art-based techniques was to provide opportunities for learners through meaningful
processes to acquire knowledge and skills related to the subject matter
being presented in a workshop or taught in the classroom. Only two
participants (Laura and Layla) had different ideas about art-based techniques. For example, Laura, an assistant professor in Preparatory Year,
described her thoughts in this way: “I think the assumption that using
art or art-based [techniques] will promote learning is questionable, in
my opinion … it can make learning complicated and then may drag
one away from learning the intended outcomes”. Layla, an assistant professor of English, was uncertain about the use of art-based techniques
in teaching. She proposed a question about the ability of a professor
to evaluate student art work. “Do you think all faculty members will
be able to understand art made by students?” Layla asked. Also, Kayla,
who was less opposed to the purpose of art-based techniques, shared
another concern in relation to the small number of professors who
adopt art-based techniques in their teaching, as follows:
The general problem is the teaching methods applied here, that do not
allow the student to think independently but to be spoon-fed, in my
teaching experience. Art-based techniques can enhance learning experience and take students to higher levels– but the problem is that 90% of
the time we are teaching by the traditional methods and anyone does a
new thing is in isolation … unless we all work together in all subjects, no
large impacts on teaching methods can be gained. It requires team effort.
280 M.S. Alkathiri
Faculty Members’ Perspectives on the Use
of Art-Based Techniques in Training
Another theme that emerged in this study revealed participants’ perspectives about using art-based techniques in training. Participants used
different positive words to describe their experiences in using art-based
techniques in the training workshop, such as “enjoyable, active, interesting, and fun”. They appreciated how these techniques made them
engaged in learning. To some participants, art-based techniques made
them think of and evaluate their teaching practices. “I really enjoyed the
activity where we had to reflect on our teaching practices through art
making. This was really helpful to me; to improve my teaching”, Sarah
said. Others appreciated the physical component of creating art. Katie
described that “… performing, writing, drawing and arts in general
make people use their brains and hands. You think in the brain [pointing to her head], use your hands [moving her hands], this integration
is greatly important in training”. Also, participants perceived that using
art-based techniques could help to translate abstract concepts and “theoretical content” into more concrete ones. Anna said, “I attended many
lectures … we only discuss things theoretically”. Participants perceived
the value of using art-based techniques in faculty training programmes.
For example, Amelie, who was teaching Biology, stated that
I think it is a great method for training and teaching as well. I teach cell
and tissue and usually ask my students to draw- now I will ask them to do
more. I think of a class project where they draw and write stories.
Also, many participants found art-based techniques “doable” and
“adoptable”. Jennifer stated that “I’m excited to apply some of the techniques into my class, I believe they will have an impact”. At least one
participant wanted subject-specific art-based techniques which will help
her to teach her subject. Kayla reflected on her experience attending the
workshop as follows:
My thoughts did not undergo any radical changes after this workshop
because I am already applying many of them in dealing with this subject.
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 281
This is not a criticism of the workshop- the workshop was excellent in
every aspect, but my need is more specific as per my subject, Architecture
Perceived Factors Influence the Use of Art-Based
Techniques in Training
A third theme that emerged from the data in this study was related to
faculty members’ perspectives about the factors that may influence the
use of art-based techniques in training. Participants shared some factors
that fall into two categories: training-related and trainee-related challenges. Time constraints, training equipment, and the trainer’s knowledge of art-based techniques were three prominent training-related
challenges to adopt art-based techniques in training. First, participants
perceived that using art-based techniques in training can be challenging
due to time constraints. “Usually you want to cover as much as possible during a workshop. Art-based [techniques] can take a lot of time”,
Laura said. Also, Layla explained how using art-based techniques would
take too much time. “I think it is a time-consuming activity. I see how
it can help faculty development, but the time allowed for one training session is limited and using or making art takes time”, Layla said.
Another training-related challenge was a lack of training equipment.
Many participants emphasised the importance of the availability of art
supplies, material, and other training equipment in the training place.
One perceived reason for not providing training art equipment was
cost. Participants perceived that providing art equipment would be a
high cost to institutions and that would be a barrier to implementation
of art-based techniques. “I am wondering how much it will cost to provide all supplies to 20 or 30 people”, Jannette said. Some participants
perceived that trainers should be knowledgeable and have at least some
artistic skills to be able to use art-based techniques in training. There
was a broad spectrum of ideas on who could use art-based techniques
effectively in training, from only “artists to teach art” to a person who is
“informative about” art-based techniques. However, participants, overall, expected the trainer needed “basic art skills” to be effective.
282 M.S. Alkathiri
In addition, participants perceived other barriers to the use of artbased techniques that were related to trainees (i.e. faculty members):
busy schedules, artistic abilities, and lack of awareness about art-based
techniques. Almost all participants mentioned that they had busy
schedules which forced them to avoid long-period training sessions.
Participants thought that using art-based techniques required more
time, therefore a longer training session. “Faculty members are busy
people. They cannot participate in a workshop for five or six hours”,
Anna said. Another challenge was the artistic abilities of trainees.
Participants perceived that trainees should have some artistic abilities to be able to perform art-based activities. Lack of such skills could
influence the use of art-based techniques in training. Myrna explained
that “faculty members are excellent and super skillful in their fields,
but when it comes to art they may lack the skills to create one”. The
third challenge in relation to the trainee was a lack of awareness about
art-based techniques. Participants agreed on the importance of raising awareness for faculty members about art-based techniques. They
claimed that some faculty members might not know art-based techniques exist. Another point that some participants made was to consider
ethics when using art-based techniques. For example, using or creating
“nude art” would not be appropriate even for educational purposes.
“Nude art will not be acceptable at the university”, Layla stated.
Variety of Faculty Members’ Attempts at Using
Art-Based Techniques
Participants were from different colleges with different academic backgrounds. Only Kayla, who was teaching at College of Design, had
an advanced art experience. Thus, the different levels of participant
skills were apparent. However, each participant completed at least
two art-based activities. Sketching, drawing, and graphic design got
the most attention; eight participants chose these mediums. Only two
participants wrote lyrics. Overall, participants were active during the
training. They showed interest in their work and the work of others.
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 283
“It was interesting just seeing the art made by faculty members. To be
honest, some of them had interesting ideas”, Jannette said. Some participants completed more than one attempt before they shared their
Although the researcher offered many art-based techniques (e.g.
sketching, drawing, painting, graphic design, mobile photography, oneact plays, and poem/lyrics writing), participants were comfortable to do
certain activities more than others. For example, Jennifer believed that
she could not sing, write poems, or do paintings. “I sincerely cannot
do these types of activities. I’m just not comfortable doing so”, Jennifer
said. In addition, participants seemed to prefer using some tools over
others. Although various art supplies were provided, many participants
only used a pen, a pencil, or one kit of the available supplies. Participant
work seemed very simple and partially completed. For example, one of
the participants used pencil only to complete all activities. Also, participants did not mix or use different material together.
Although most participants chose to complete drawings, the actual
drawings varied. Some work was very abstract while other work less
abstract. For example, a participant drew a tree to represent a student
while another one drew a person wearing a square academic cap. Some
other work was easy to understand because it was detailed or had labels
on the drawing. The variety of work allowed for discussion amongst
participants regarding their work and meaning behind it. Samples of the
participants’ work can be seen in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1 Samples of participants’ work
284 M.S. Alkathiri
How Do Faculty Members Understand Art and Art-Based
Faculty members had different perceptions concerning what art is.
Some faculty members thought of art as a mode of expression regardless
of its forms or aesthetic components. Others emphasised that artistic
work should be up to certain standards and qualifications to be considered “real” art. Others perceived that everything can be considered as
art regardless of its objective, such as teaching. These differences on the
view of art suggested that faculty members had different understandings of art. On the other hand, faculty members had shared perceptions,
to an extent, of art-based techniques and its value to their teaching.
Overall, the use of art-based techniques during the workshop assisted
their understanding of using art-based techniques for educational purposes. Attending the workshop allowed them to experience and practise
the techniques.
What Perceptions Do Faculty Members Have of Their
Professional Training Experiences Using Art-Based
Faculty members perceived using art-based techniques in professional
training as significant. Using such techniques in training encouraged
faculty members to try to imitate and apply them in their teaching.
Also, it was important to provide training activities that allowed faculty
members to self-evaluate their teaching practices using art-based techniques. For example, participants appreciated an activity where they
were asked to evaluate their own active teaching practices by using artbased techniques. Although the participants’ perspectives were positive,
overall, more art-based training opportunities were needed to make
an impact. According to Gibbs and Coffey (2004) and Postareff et al.
(2007), change in faculty teaching practices happens after over a year of
instructional training. The current study suggested further research on
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 285
a longer art-based training process to assess change in faculty members’
teaching practices.
What Are the Perceived Factors Influencing the Use
of Art-Based Techniques?
Faculty members perceived that using art-based techniques could be
influenced by several factors in two categories, including factors related
to the training programme (i.e. time constraints, training equipment,
and trainer’s knowledge of art-based techniques) and factors related to
faculty members (i.e. lack of time, lack of artistic ability, and lack of
awareness about art-based techniques). Participants preferred short
training sessions due to their busy schedule. Lack of time is a prominent challenge to many faculty members (O’Meara et al. 2008; Ouellett
2010; Romero 2014). Another training-related challenge was the lack of
equipment. Faculty members perceived that providing training equipment might be costly, especially for a larger number of trainees. Lack
of fiscal support is a current challenge to higher institutions (Romero
2014). Thus, institutions’ fiscal issues would influence their abilities to
provide training equipment. Also, faculty members perceived the typical trainer’s lack of knowledge concerning art-based techniques as significant. Participants perceived that some faculty members lack the
knowledge of art-based techniques; therefore, they would not be able to
deliver effective activities.
Lack of artistic abilities by faculty members was one of the traineerelated challenges. Some faculty members did not have certain skills
that would allow them to succeed in an art-based activity. Some participants were explicit about their lack of skill in certain art-based
techniques such as singing and poem writing. Prior knowledge and
experiences are essential in adult learning (Davis 2009; Merriam
et al. 2007); therefore, trainers are encouraged to give a variety of
activities and to study their learners’ artistic skills before training
takes place. Using art-based techniques requires significant knowledge and preparation (Barone and Eisner 2012; Savin-Baden and
Wimpenny 2014).
286 M.S. Alkathiri
Faculty Artefacts
There were many differences when comparing between faculty members’ work, in terms of quality, explicitly or implicitly, and simplicity of
work. Participants tended to prefer one type of art-based technique over
the others. Drawing, sketching, and graphic design were the most used
techniques by participants. Overall, faculty members’ art work allowed
opportunities for engaging discussion and group learning. It is recommended to conduct a study to measure and compare the impact of two
training workshops on faculty engagement in training, where one workshop uses art-based techniques and another one uses other techniques.
Summary and Implications
“In pursuit of national strategy of excellence, we are convinced that the
enhancement and promotion of learning and teaching must be a priority for all of higher education” (NCIHE 1997, para 8.8). Therefore,
universities offer various types of professional development programmes
to better prepare their faculty members for their responsibilities and
enhance their teaching skills. Although many studies have discussed
various types of training activities and strategies, less research has been
conducted concerning the use of art-based techniques in faculty training programmes. This study aimed to investigate the significance of
using art-based techniques in a faculty training workshop. Based on
the emerging themes, four assertions were developed: (1) Faculty members’ definitions of art and art-based techniques; (2) Faculty members’
perspectives about using art-based techniques in training; (3) Faculty
members’ perspectives about the factors influencing the use of art-based
techniques; and (4) The variety of faculty members’ attempts using artbased techniques.
In terms of implications from this study, the study suggested the
use of art-based techniques in faculty development programmes.
However, “providing some workshops and lectures is not expected to
change faculty members’ way of teaching overnight. It is a continuous
commitment that they have to undertake” (Al-Hattami et al. 2013,
Using Art-Based Techniques in Faculty Training Programmes 287
p. 44). Using art-based techniques in training can be an introduction
for faculty members to the art-based educational approach: to try it,
experience it, and then adopt it. The findings suggest that while there
are some hurdles to overcome, a commitment to incorporating more
art-based techniques is promising.
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Artists and Arts-Based Method Use
in Higher Education: A Living Inquiry
of an Academic Programme in a Faculty
of Education
Pamela Burnard, Carol Holliday, Susanne Jasilek
and Afrodita Nikolova
The performance of teaching and learning in global higher education is
volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, and it needs to transform
(Lemoine et al. 2017). The problems facing contemporary higher education are many. We need to find new ways of delivering an antidote to
the paralysing and prohibiting structures of postmodern political agendas (Green 2001), of rethinking notions of power and the disciplining
P. Burnard (*) · C. Holliday · S. Jasilek · A. Nikolova 
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
C. Holliday
S. Jasilek
A. Nikolova
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
292 P. Burnard et al.
of organisational learning (Braidotti 2014) and high theory (Ellsworth
1997). The ways higher education has been expected to perform its
functions for the benefit of the larger society have been: (a) to emphasise the specialised knowledge and skills necessary for the development
of a modern, technology based society and (b) in the practical application of new discoveries to changes in societal demands. Collectively,
this demonstrates an urgent need for higher education research which
is transformative, participatory, involving academic and non-academic
stakeholders during all parts of the process, and which is socially
responsible, with the power to transform and emancipate. This is where
artists and the application of arts-based methods can find fresh ways of
seeing, understanding and shaping the organisational learning ecologies
in Higher Education (HE) and can lead us to some of the best tools for
a living inquiry.
So, what is ‘organisational learning ’? According to Kijpokin Kasemsap
(2017, p. 29), in an article that investigates the roles of neuroscience
and knowledge management in higher education, it is ‘a social process in which individuals in organisations enhance decision making
and problem solving by improving knowledge and understanding. It is
also an organization-wide process that enhances its collective ability to
accept, make sense of and respond to internal and external change’.
One of the biggest challenges, working in HE, is finding ways of creating and nurturing organisational learning communities committed to
sustained creative futures as global citizens who can work with pluralities, playfulness, possibilities and participatory (research) practices. It
is up to us to develop a vision of organisational learning that plays in
step with the HE system, currently characterised by rising student fees,
increasing student-to-staff ratios and progressive imposed (neoliberal)
performativity targets and learning culture. How should organisational
learning ecologies cultivate a supportive and open space of possibilities
for academics and non-academics co-authoring practices and pedagogies
of possibility that nurture aspiring intellectuals and professionals as they
seek to fulfil their critical and creative potentials?
One of the imperatives at our institution is to develop practices that
actively engage us all in the process of creatively appropriating tools and
resources that help us conceive how emergent practices—afforded by
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 293
arts based methods—might both deviate and affirm, or, put differently,
both critique and create organizational learning ecologies—practices and
pedagogies—that enable us to work as a living system of knowledge creation, shared knowledge and expertise.
In this chapter, we put forward arts-based methods that break from
the idea of art as the knowledge and practice of particular techniques, or
the conceptualisation of art as communication, but rather advance ways
in which art and art making become capable of releasing the potential
of HE.
What Can Art Do as a Research Tool?
What art can do as a research tool, for the construction and acquisition
of knowledge and its representation, is being argued by social science
researchers and scholars across multiple disciplines. What art can do in
pedagogical relations is also guiding new didactics. Arts-based methods
are frequently used by arts educators and researchers. Most arts-based
researchers have expertise as researchers, artists and educators. In her
seminal book Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice, feminist
sociologist Leavy (2009) defines arts-based research practices as:
[…] a set of methodological tools used by researchers across disciplines
during all phases of social research, including data generation, analysis,
interpretation, and representation. These emerging tools adapt the tenets
of the creative arts in order to address social research questions in holistic
and engaged ways in which theory and practice are intertwined. (2009,
p. 2–3)
Leavy’s emphasis on the diverse uses of the arts in social science
research, along with the emergence of arts-based research in higher education as distinct from qualitative research practices, forms the basis
of an emerging research paradigm (Rolling 2010). Eisner’s collaboration with one of his students, Barone, who used arts in his dissertation,
resulted in the seminal book Arts-based Research, expounding the nature,
specificities and scope of embodied arts-based research methods (2011).
294 P. Burnard et al.
The relationship between art and research embodies how the visual is
brought into relation with systems of academic thinking, thought and
action. In a seminal critique of arts-based research, Jagodzinski and
Wallin (2013, p. 5) make the following claim:
This is, perhaps, the most unique contribution of art to education insofar
as it demands of teaching and learning something radically other than the
voluntary movement of memory (reflection), the application of representational matrices (transcendence) or the deployment of laws known prior
to that which they apply (morality).
Not everyone in the academy (i.e., higher education) is open to the
possibility or willing to acknowledge and become ‘wide awake’ to the
urgent ethical and moral questions of our time, nor are they ready to
ask the uncomfortable questions about the ways that we perform and
reproduce knowledge through hegemonic structures of organisational
learning (Greene 1994; Mackinlay 2016). Yet, for some academics,
arts-based methods can offer a way of creating a pedagogical encounter like no other. Stephanie Springgay, Rita Irwin, Carl Leggo and Peter
Gouzouasis’s (2008) ‘Being with A/r/t/ography’, an edited collection of
essays, offers a theoretical grounding of a/r/t/ography as a methodological tool and diverse theoretical lenses in considering ethics in arts-based
research and methodologies. Figure 1 represents arts-based inquiries
located in higher education contexts in which power and knowledge are
produced, reproduced and maintained. The catalysts for rethinking and
theorising space and the ways in which such spaces enable and constrain
in the changing higher education environment include artist-researchers engaged in a/r/t/ographic (Güler 2017; Mackinlay 2015, 2016),
artist–university–school partnerships (Thomson, et al. 2012; Burnard
and Swann 2010) and doctoral students (Stevenson 2017, 2013) as
‘insiders’ in the academy. More often, these artist/researcher/academics can see and position themselves (as do we) as ‘complicit neo-liberal
subjects…subject to the precarity of academic employment and the
increasing time pressures of new managerialism…[in] the contemporary
Westernized university’ (Mackinlay 2016, p. 199).
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 295
Fig. 1 Sample of the field of HE research utilising artist partnerships and artsbased methods
With each act and experience of inquiry, a common purpose resonating across these studies is the use of narrative inquiry for the telling
and retelling of participants’ stories as they are living them (Connelly
and Clandinin 1990). The storied quality of experience, both personal
and social, involves the description and restorying of the narrative as
co-constructed meanings, understandings and interpretations, as they
are being lived. The experience of performance, the performance of
subjectivities, the performativities of knowledge and the link between
embodiment and the performative lie in the way the physical space of
a room becomes a space of event and encounter. This ‘fact of embodiment’ as Ellsworth (2005, p. 166) puts it is central to arts-based methods. Similarly, Gatens (1996, p. 67) argues:
Emphasis on the body and space allows one to consider not simply how
discourses and practices create ideologically appropriate subjects but also
how these practices construct certain sorts of body with particular kinds
296 P. Burnard et al.
of power and capacity; that is, how bodies are turned into individuals of
various kinds.
How we ensure practices and pedagogies of possibility and arts-based
method underpin enhancement programmes for institutional learning
has to do with: (a) adapting the principles and practices of the arts to
social research projects; (b) tapping into the unique capabilities of the
arts as a way of knowing and doing; and (c) drawing on theories and
practices of embodiment as a critical, reflective and analytical act (Leavy
2017). When HE institutional learning becomes a space of event and
encounter it can be configured, and therefore experienced, in different
ways. The enhancement programme, as with our study of it, aims to
identify the way that the body acts and interacts as an inscriptive and
discursive surface in HE settings. Even the placement of the chairs and
tables in the physical space of a classroom can make it become a space
of event and encounter.
The Programme, the Study and the Method
Funds became available to enhance the experience of Masters students
across the University setting. Our response to this was to invite multimedia artist, Susanne Jasilek, to establish an artist-residency. The artist residency, framed as a living enquiry, took place over five months in
the Faculty of Education. The intention was to enhance the experience
of the Masters students. The concept and name given to the residency
were FACULT-ART-EM. This is a play on the Latin word ‘facultas’
meaning capability, possibility, opportunity, skill and ability. The aim
of FACULT-ART-EM was to create spaces for and by Masters students
and staff at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and for
an artist to facilitate reflective artistic creative engagements with students and staff that would enhance their experience of the Masters programme (
The resident artist, Susanne Jasilek, a distinguished multimedia artist, facilitated a range of workshops, creative reflections, conversations
and explorations that offered opportunities to ‘perform’ within, and
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 297
in response to, a series of diverse art-making activities in the form of a
call for entries, pop-ups, workshops both within lectures as part of the
teaching programme with lecturers, and independent art workshops.
Willing participants were invited to take a moment out of the trajectory
of their day, sometimes just for a minute, sometimes for an hour or so,
to reflect, illustrate and express their journeys of becoming and being
educational researchers, using a variety of media including film, sound,
clay, collage, paint, poetry, sculpture and drawing.
The precise role of the artist was to create an open ended, fluid,
exploratory and non-judgemental space, within a number of different
locations in the faculty building (an in between space) for others to use
artistic forms of self-reflection, self-observation, reflexive investigation
and subjectivity to explore the researcher’s experience and processes.
Susanne, together with students and staff, explored diverse creative
processes and practices, which culminated in creating a vibrant body
of reflective work in the form of a film, a sound piece, sculptures and
reflective research journeying and mapping by students and staff.
These reflective practices explored a range of themes including happiness, research journeying and connections to wider educational and
cultural experiences. The residency was documented on an online
ongoing blog, and culminated in a film installation, open to the faculty community for 2 days, and the launch of the
ANABLOG, a beautiful and impressive eight-metre long scroll featuring the activities and work of the art residency that hangs through three
floors of the faculty building. These artefacts leave a lasting legacy of
this unique and valuable project for future students.
Data generated from the living enquiry programme featured participatory research. This data included collage portraits, happiness
films, transcriptions and photographs from pop-up sessions involving
‘self in place’ and wool winder messages. There was a great deal of art
making as part of lesson plans, art making in response to lectures, art
making in response to research journeys, creative minute taking, field
recordings (Can I have a word?), clay work, end-of-year party mandala
making (Circles of Influence), documenting feedback and collating
material, developing installations, event and pod building, designing the
ANABLOG and engaging in mapping journeys.
298 P. Burnard et al.
The space of the institution itself, a modern 3-floor open-plan building, inspired multiple possibilities. There were, however, certain spaces
which were too disruptive in terms of what could be achieved for the
benefit of all.
We describe this programme-research as ‘a living inquiry ’ because
it makes use of arts-based methods as both methodological and programme/pedagogic tools for promoting reflection through resonance.
We use poetic and photographic enquiry tools to position the self, and
montage/drawing to interpret learning in ways that Maxine Green
(1994) presents as forms of representation which express ‘I am what I
am not yet’. Inspired by Patricia Leavy (2017), our hope for this kind
of programme-enhancement-research-as-living enquiry is that it presents itself as an exploration of arts-based practices for ‘“disrupt[ing]”
stereotypes, “cultivating” empathetic understanding across differences,
promot[ing] reflection through resonance, open[ing] up a multiplicity
of meanings and extending the reach of our scholarship’ (Leavy 2012, p.
258). We also use visual stimuli to position the self, drawing to interpret
learning and film making to make permissible engagement in the borderlands of uncertainty in organisational learning in which we find ourselves. We also develop the use of montage tools which attempt to find
new ways of performing pedagogies in higher education for living an
enquiry; these engage in new forms of active learning using arts-based
forms of research inquiry that playfully and performatively puzzle out
improvement in, and development of, a theory of arts-based practice
enhancement of organisational learning.
It was important to operate as a collaborative team working with the
artist-in-residence. The generation and analysis of observational and verbal data in conjunction with objects have provided rich insight into the
relational nexus formed by an artist-in-residence and how willing participants (both academic and non-academic staff and students) critically
engage and reflect on the enhancement programme as a living inquiry
embedded within the institutional learning contexts.
The data analysis, analytic tools and interpretation developed to
address our research questions addressed themes and categories
that emerged during this process. From interviews, we analysed the
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 299
participants’ perspectives using thematic analysis. Working with field
texts, journal entries, observation and artefacts, our analysis involved
close reading and re-reading, listening and (re-)viewing, dialoguing with
our team about what was being revealed, writing analytic memos, keeping a journal, and moving between thematic and content analysis of
participant voices, objects made, and events as ‘portraits in miniature’
for each of the inquiry methods.
We moved from a descriptive categorisation of the narrative inquiry
forms to a more conceptual and interpretive level using a constant
comparison inquiry of peer collaboration. This offered triangulation
throughout the course-grained (emergent) and then fine-grained (ongoing coding) phases and the categorising of the process in action, identifying the microanalytic themes and metathemes drawn from the entire
body of data (Ely et al. 1997, p. 206) and juxtaposing/comparing narratives. The following (Table 1) provides an overview of the sample and
set of 4 of the arts-based methods we used in this living enquiry.
Data Set Presentations with Findings
DATA SET 1: Visual ‘Happiness’ Narratives with Film Text
The first ‘intervention’ by the artist at the beginning of the residency was to request 30-second of film on the subject of ‘happiness’.
Masters students, as well as staff and other non-academic members of
the Faculty, were invited to take part. A surprising number of willing
participants (26) responded to the invitation. The clips of 30-second
film, shot from their mobile phones, were a mixture of beauty, nature,
calm, humour and the bizarre. This activity opened up possibilities for
the reformulation of the relation between the individual and the social
and organisational/institutional workplace in which each is inherently
involved in the others’ definition. The clips included ones which were
expressions of emotion, cheerfulness, playfulness, belonging, freedom,
struggle and melancholy. The task of making a 30-minute film created a
unique space for possibilities.
Activity name
Can I have a word?
Discover/unveil and share
self-understanding and
orientations as emerging
Inquiry texts
Table 1 Overview of the sample and sample of 4 data sets
•Envisioning conceptions of
•Balancing self
…share one word, on enter- •Charge of energy
•A wrestle with self
ing/leaving the faculty
•Confronting self
building spontaneous
response to being in the
academy/this workplace/
space and time
•Expressing self experienc…responding to and with
ing aspects of self in a
art materials, allowing
different way.
imagery to unfold, evolve
•New perspectives
on the subject of what
•Self disclosure
constitutes doing a masters/becoming a researcher •Relational self
•Inner worlds
•Social worlds
An invitation to:
…share how people, who
are part of the same
workplace, perceive and
experience happiness
300 P. Burnard et al.
Activity name
Draw/express your reflections upon near completion of their masters;
work collaboratively as a
collective on a single piece
of work
Inquiry texts
Mandala (Collage) Circles of
Table 1 (continued)
…tune themselves and look
back on their research
journey, the pattern of
it, the shape, the colours,
the complexity, emotions,
The materials themselves
were intrinsic to the final
work. They did not know
what would come out. It’s
the working expressively
with materials that offers
the ‘something else’ not
viewed, not seen before.
An invitation to:
•Sense of release
•Impetus to change
•Retuning the self
•Writing the self into
•arts as the production of
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 301
302 P. Burnard et al.
Why ‘happiness’? The artist chose ‘happiness’ on the basis of her
assumption that happiness was suitably broad, seemingly straightforward and something that we all share and crave. Not a word she imagined was used much in research and teaching.
The term ‘happiness’ embodies social ideals. It means different things
to different people. How happiness holds its place as people’s ultimate
desire and end point reflects a complex engagement with, and construction of, the world. In this study, with this task, the artist’s invitation was
unexpected and intellectually stimulating. To film/document our own
construction of ‘happiness’ was sure to trigger a great deal of interest.
And it did. This was a task which could potentially provoke members of
the Faculty into considering what to tell or whether to tell the necessary
‘white lies’ people rely on to make their life stories coherent and bearable. Here, we draw on Sara Ahmed’s (2010) bold critique of the consensus that ‘happiness’ is a searching question, an imperative to be happy;
her conception of ‘killing joy’ suggests a way ‘to open a life, to make
room for life, to make room for possibility, for chance, for alternative
ways of living’ (p. 20) and working. Perhaps this is why we received so
many responses.
Following the receipt of 26 films, and before analysis, the artist,
Susanne, collated the individual filmed expressions of ‘Happiness’ into
one seamless film from which to unpack the visual, the metaphorical,
spoken tropes, ideas, objects and beliefs participants associate with happiness. This curated film formed a collective chorus of academic and
non-academic voices sounding their expressions of what ‘happiness’ is
for them. We used Ahmed’s analytic frame of ‘happiness as an horizon
of experience’, using the social ideals of objects and ideas that predicate
it, to make sense of the film. We analysed how ‘happiness’ manifests
in narratives and the extent to which the happiness narrative is or isn’t
ingrained in social norms. We also analysed how considering these relations affords a complex appreciation of happiness as construed through
the subjectivities of voices curated in the collective happiness narrative.
Rather than taking the analytic approach of coding and categorising
each of the separately filmed expressions of ‘happiness’, the artist collated and curated them to produce the ‘Happiness’ film. This screened
as an installation over 2 days within a specially created structure called
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 303
The Happiness Pod, a room (with a unique space) within a room where
between 1 and 6 people at a time were able to sit and view the film. The
pod was a carefully considered (other/or third) space placed in a teaching room. Visitors responded to and acknowledged the changed feeling
of being in The Happiness Pod. That the space itself changed the experience of viewing the film was significant. The Happiness Pod was seen as
a space to come to, to get away from the normal day, to come alone and
watch a number of times, to sit in with a stranger and share viewing
and coming. The Happiness Pod became a space where a known group
could come to enjoy, laugh and talk together in a very carefree way. It
allowed a space within a space that was in but somehow separated from
the Faculty building that it was placed in. It offered the possibility for
new ways of relating to each other and for relating to and with strangers
outside the social norms of the Faculty. It changed the dynamics and
openness of all those who participated.
Themes emerged about how we story aspects of life, institutional
learning and the workplace. By juxtaposing ideas traditionally associated
with ‘happiness’ (emotion in relation to abstract concepts like family)
with ‘unhappiness’ (emotion in relation to inanimate objects like shoes
as less close or valuable to the social ideal), the conception of ‘happiness’
as cultural theorist Sara Ahmed (2010), in her seminal book The Promise
of Happiness contends, raises critical questions about becoming researchers, the workplace, and institutional learning. For example, based on
one of the narrative voices in the ‘Happiness’ film, one can argue, love
for shoes, as one of several objects of affection, is an expression of happiness. Happiness was also expressed as a space for possibilities for being
emotionally and politically evocative, captivating, aesthetically powerful
and moving, even a judgement that one is doing well. Happiness was
expressed as something we are inclined towards (such as, what makes
us happy) but also about what we should be inclined towards (such
as, judgements about how our lives are enriched, or how we live well).
Enabling this space for possibilities, between the individually and
socially valued currency of ideas and objects associated with happiness
(and unhappiness) seemed to afford the ability to shift perspectives—
which is about being-in-relation with regard to the storying of institutional learning.
304 P. Burnard et al.
Table 2 Analysis of the ‘happiness’ curated film viewing: Participant responses
Participants’ voices
‘The laughter and doing something
fun that brought people together. A
sense of community that gave us a
shared identity…Being hugged and
immersed in happiness pod feeling
calm and lost in the moments of the
‘The provision of an entirely novel
space in a familiar building. Seeing
so many different perspectives and
possibilities on peoples ideas of
‘The atmosphere inside the ‘tent’. It
gave me happiness!’
‘This feels different. Taps into emotions. Different perspectives—always
illuminating as it shows the richness
of human response’
‘It was outside my natural comfort
zone, but a very safe way to be
‘Connection with colleagues I wouldn’t
otherwise know anything about. It
allowed a gateway to advocating for
my needs’
•My/our/their being-in-relation
A dialogic space
•A novel space
•A discursive space
•An embodied space
•A space of ‘heart thinking’ where
emotion becomes entangled with
experience and epistemology
(Mackinlay 2016, p. 17)
•A safe space
•A vulnerable space
•An ethical space
•About being-in-relation
•An affective space to rethink dimensions of our learning to become
The Happiness Pod was resurrected for the final celebration day and
launching of the ANABLOG. It was erected for the purpose of showing
Happiness once again. The metathemes embedded in this body of data
generated from students and staff is about ‘being-in-relation’ and drawing us into a ‘space of possibilities’ (Table 2).
It was an audacious move to erect a Pod in the teaching and learning space of this institution and, in doing so, provide further musings
on the whys and wherefores of ‘happiness’. Yet, it was interesting to
note the ways in which academics, non-academics and students dived
quickly into the possibilities of the expression of ‘happiness’ and the
space of possibilities within the Pod, viewing and re-viewing the novel,
discursive, dialogic, heart-thinking, embodied, safe, vulnerable, ethical,
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 305
and affective dimensions of our teaching and learning selves, and the
numerous themes of organisational learning which we unexpectedly
stumbled upon. In response, one of our team, Afrodita Nikolova, composed a generated poem which happens ‘when researchers use their own
words to describe an interpretation discovered in research with others’
(Butler-Kisber 2010, p. 91)
The Promise (a Generated Poem by Co-Author Afrodita
You smiled in the eye of the dove
                                        lips like a needle a song mends
the body begins to know
                                        even itself an ocean wave interstitial
an alarm clock
                                        a glass of water at the night table the past
flickering through the car window we forget
                                        in silence like our tongues
this Friday someone extinguishes
                                        a cigarette for the last time
like a quitter there is a joy                                        killing community of the promise
of happiness their bodies
                                        temples of regret happy
knows of it an empty
                                        ice cream bowl, fingers dipped in licorice
making a gin cocktail
                                        cutting up lemon wedges with the hand
in the air
music like sunlight
                                        stretching across the width of the walls—
as if the horizon ends
here in the living room
                                        remember how happiness is
306 P. Burnard et al.
when it is or
                                        a simple fresh brewed coffee in a white
mug too much
do we ask for too much
                                        —running running my dad went into
remission today
look at me
                                        the boy says eyes glued to the camera of
his smart phone
you arrived here and we were and we were sometimes
                                        inverted shadows on the kitchen table a
hollowed out of the light
                                        beaming through the netted blue windows
is this what it’s supposed to feel like
people say happiness is an abstract concept, I know better look at
these—aaaaaaahhaaaaaahhaaaaaahh—my shoes so many
                                        and just like that a monarch by the chocolate cake
crumble for breakfast
                                        don’t you understand
in other people’s mind
                                        you can be all
and it’s joy and it’s
eat up the last cupcake this heavy custard heart
                                        losing yourself completely in something
you care about—
oh and in the snow
                                        oh no we were in the snow, so happy, oh
dear, can do it
Carl can do it let the body lose in the snow
                                        Monday morning at work ‘ring
ring’— ‘Hello’—
raise my salary raise me—
                                        nature calls out like this and why
People in the faculty came together without realising they were. They
were united by thinking about happiness. And even the people who
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 307
did not take part became part of the happiness as viewers and through
meetings and conversations they had with others about the happiness
film during the installation day. People, overall, were surprised at the
variety, the breadth, the formats of happiness. All these people have
roles they play every day, within the faculty, research they are working
on every day—often without a break or a moment to step outside. The
activity of film making and the viewing of the film in the pod offered a
moment and a pause, a non-thinking space and a non-faculty space, to
be their other selves for a moment before returning to the normal day
and pressures and requirements. It was a humanising moment: remembering to be oneself—out of context in a known context; the familiar
becoming unfamiliar.
The pod became a heterotopia (Foucault 1967), a space in which the
ordinary rules of everyday life become suspended and something different can happen. Neither a utopia nor a dystopia but a different place
bounded by a particular context. In a heterotopia, alternative understandings of self identity and other can become manifest. There is the
possibility of new perceptions, perspectives and thinking. Heterotopias
are liminal spaces that can be transgressive, eliciting multifaceted, multilayered puzzlements. The pod was also a relational space in which
new bonds between people were forged and old bonds rekindled. The
boundaries of time and space contributed to the sense of psychological
safety that in turn contributed to the sense of the heterotopia.
DATA SET 2: ‘Can I have a word’: Poetic enquiry text
This sound piece was a collaboration between Susanne and the Faculty
Audio-Visual team. Susanne invited faculty staff and students to spontaneously speak one word into a microphone as they arrived in the
morning and again when they departed in the evening. This elicited 149
voices and the words recorded are shown below as a word cloud (Fig. 2).
‘Can I have a word’ is sound piece field recording of 149 Masters
staff student’s voices (174 words—some gave more than one) and other
members of the Faculty community: morning voices, evening voices
and middle of the day voices. Everyone entering the building in the
morning and leaving in the evening was asked to give just one word
308 P. Burnard et al.
Fig. 2 The happiness pod
into the voice recorder. In a place where words have such meaning and
weight—but in this project the words did not matter—this was a spontaneous exercise—what we captured was the tonal, rhythmic, intonation, gender, note, texture and timbre of sounds of all those who come
in and out of the Faculty. This piece became a sound piece that was listened to with headphones alongside the Happiness Pod installation and
played aloud to the audience at the Kaleidoscope event (2015 see www. (Fig. 3).
Listeners could relish the sensation of sounded words wrapped
around/presented as a word cloud and sound file (see Our thematic analysis of the poetic text reveals
other forms of expression beyond formal language. Poetic text of teaching and learning selves, as shown in the poem by Afrodita Nikolova,
holds hope for reuniting creativity (through the use of arts-based methods) in philosophy, theory and analysis, while, at the same time, foregrounding the role of generated poetry. The following table shows how
we classified the themes by building a set of categories. The metatheme
is concerned with the process of being-in-relation with organisational
learning (Table 3).
Not surprisingly, changes in the frames of meaning in the figured
worlds where the students and staff enact themselves as teaching and
learning selves are associated with diverse positionings with respect to
the community of reference and being-in-relation with organisational
learning in this specific higher education space. The following sections
describe how the artist-in-residence arts-based programme went on to
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 309
Fig. 3 Sonic-poetic enquiry text displayed as a word cloud
mediate the dizzying array of Masters programmes and the performance
of classroom practices with the enactment of enhancement methods.
DATA SET 3: Photographs: Becoming Researchers/
Learning as Postgraduates
Participants were invited to use paint and paper to represent their
research journeys or maps (or with other materials in any way they
liked) as a break from their research work and thinking.
Susanne presented examples of artists maps, vintage maps, children’s
maps, geological diagrams and other variations on a map theme. She also
showed artists’ work that could be read as a map, such as a landscape or
an abstract map, and showed different forms and foldings. Participants
were asked to imagine a map in the broadest sense of the word.
The students and staff worked with paint and large paper. Their
maps were individual. Beautiful paintings emerged from this activity.
Morning day
love, happiness, confusion, excited,
stress, discombobulated,
joy, inspiration,
sadness, kindness, fabulous,
sorry, rubbish,
blimey, frustration, blah
morning, what’s
going on,
Absolute cool
great, blimey
‘you are playing with
again aren’t
Table 3 A sample of the ‘Sound Piece’ poetic text: the analysis process
Hot chocolate,
banana, noodles, octopus,
thirsty, anxiety, tiredness,
stress, shaking
Octopus, butterfly, spring,
flowers, radio
310 P. Burnard et al.
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 311
Fig. 4 Photographs of paintings made by student researchers
They were mostly abstract, full of colour and shapes and textures. At
the end of the session, the artist Susanne spoke to the participants, who
described how each element, colour and shape had symbolic resonance
directly related to their research (Fig. 4).
The work was extraordinary and powerful in its own right but with
the stories behind them they became journeys and adventures full of
obstacles and direction (Table 4).
This activity illuminated the way that the arts can be a path to accessing the more tacit and implicit dimensions of life and to how the arts
might reveal experience that is non-verbal: ‘drawing became the tool
for thinking’. Reflection on the art making produced new knowledge
and new perspectives that might not otherwise have been elicited.
Participants reported this activity to be helpful in creating community
by bringing people together and sharing experiences and by developing
relationships in a playful and creative manner.
DATA SET 4: Mandala Creation and Inquiry: Circles
of Influence, Ripples of Self
An invitation was disseminated to all involved in the masters’ programme. We pointed out that following the highly effective five-month
artist residency with distinguished specialist Susanne Jasilek in the
Faculty of Education, we were inviting a further participatory reflexive
response to the students’ and staff’s learning journey. We invited all to
individually contribute to a collectively created expression which we
called Circles of Influence. Using a variety of media, including paint,
poetry, collage, drawing, vignettes and other written forms, we invited
312 P. Burnard et al.
Table 4 Visual art participatory methods: Drawings on living the journey
Photographs: Arts-based
Participants’ voices (a sample of quotes)
Themes &
Dialogic interactions and
exchanges occurred with
the resources and art
making process itself…
Drawing became the tool
for thinking’ ‘unstructured
progress through work
responded well with group
I’ve never actually liked
looking at my own drawings; you’re seeing so may
things differently (student)
A super workshop. Creative,
thought provoking and fun.
Excellent to be creative in
art after writing about the
benefits of the arts in my
thesis (student)
It helped me to see how
other students are
engaged in identifying
and re-identifying ourselves, representing our
journey’…rather than staring into the abyss alone at
my desk (student)
Different web of
meanings that
arts-based methods
brings about
Shifts in students
Art based methods
It brings people uniquely
as mediator of stutogether; connecting with
dents engagement;
colleagues; a kind of social
meanings change
portrait of our learning
through the stujourneys and struggles…I
dents’ engagement
love the art making. Such a
in new (arts-based)
fun way to think about my
research…A map to navigate practices
the next few steps: showing connections, turning
points, roundabouts and
cul de sacs…a great way
to re-imagine an everyday
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 313
Table 4 (continued)
Photographs: Arts-based
Participants’ voices (a sample of quotes)
Themes &
Not just simply a
One of the most powerful
learning of addirevelations for me when
tional concepts but
working with the lecturers
a ‘relearning’ that
and the students was the
occurs in the context
way the artwork acted as
of institutional
a short circuit (Third perlearning
son) to things that really
mattered and prompted
realisations and ways to
talk about research fast.
Seemed to bypass reticence and unclear aspects
all to share some of the unique qualities of their Masters experience.
The idea of Circles of Influence was a metaphoric expression of the time,
energy, flow of ideas and fluidity of imagination and feeling in the
thinking that characterised the many versions of the Master’s research
journey. We invited the Masters cohort to respond imaginatively to
three questions which we know they were grappling with and working
hard to clarify. The three questions were: (i) What is your research (mesearch) question? (ii) What does your research design look like? and (iii)
What are you finding? Those unable to attend on the day were invited
to email their response to for inclusion.
Table 5 goes some way to show how the experience of engaging
with arts-based methods reveals something cogent about organisational
There are a lot of different ways you could look at the art work made
here. Is it about the use of arts-based activity or arts-based events—with
active and dynamic contributions from individuals, their social partners,
historical traditions and materials and their transformations—allowing
a reformulation of the relation between individual, social and organisational learning? Is it the emphasis on the body and how it allows one
to consider how arts-based practices create and construct certain types
of learning creatively? Embodiment is performed here. Embodiment is
critical. Embodiment is reflective and analytical. Embodiment reveals
314 P. Burnard et al.
Table 5 A sample of participant voices (students, academics and non-academics)
Focusing on my research interest and depicting it through art was a reflexive,
introspective and creative challenge for me. However, the positioning of my
art among other peoples art making and the borrowing and sharing of materials, enabled a meeting of contexts and spaces that was fluid, open ended
and collaborative. The art task enabled a platform for meeting and engaging
with other students and their interests in a way that seemed truly lateral and
open ended. I would sum up the experience as a textured, interactive and
fluid. Student
At first I struggled to engage, but as I sat there watching others add to the
circles and I reflected on my learning that year and what the future would
hold for me I got the sense of being part of something a bit special. All these
people, their worlds and their experiences combined on these circles, overlapping and interlinking! It was a lovely, collaborative experience. Student
It looks like a kind of pizza-like reflection of collaborating voices which is
what writing the literature looks like. There is an internal logic implicit here.
It felt like we were performing a mutual co-construction, a self-actualisation in
dialogue with others. Academic
For the first time, I felt visible, valued, and connected to more than the people
in the office where I work. Non-academic
When I look at where I started and then look at myself now, reflecting back
and forth like this, I see things differently. Student
the way that the body acts and interacts as an inscriptive surface.
Embodiment is significant in the way human beings use their agency
to interpret their worlds. Here, this is shown to be of great importance.
Sitting around this emerging mandala closes the distance between selves
and others. It makes space in the room for self and other (in this case
the programme) to enter into dialogue. Can we say, then, that using the
materials of art and the affective body as an epistemological site can create space for possibilities in higher education? For, here, we see clearly
and hear the essence of feeling, playing, sensing and being-in-relation.
The perception and sensibility of the student researchers, academics
and non-academics involved in the mandala painting and production
embodied responses to a reflective process, an elicitation for thinking about the influences and ripples (impact) that help conceptualise dimensions and understanding (that were previously unconscious)
about what becoming a researcher means. For Butler-Kisber (2010, p.
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 315
103) mandala or collage creation, as a creative way of making thoughts
concrete, facilitating the thinking, writing and talking about the
enquiry, is not new. Through embodiment, as Ellsworth (2005, p. 166)
puts it, the mandala becomes a space to configure and therefore inhabit
and experience institutional learning in different ways.
This type of collective art making, as illustrated by the mandala in
Fig. 5, holds the potential to produce spaces that are catalysts for
rethinking who we are, how we see ourselves and each other. The performativities of arts-based methods, the materiality of experience and
reflection in relation to becoming researchers on a Masters programme,
for some, seemed essential to how students adopted a mode of being, and
a necessary part of that relationship and enactment of institutional learning. Similarly, as Lisa Zwierzanski (see Fig. 6), the artist-in-residency
administrator in the Higher Degrees Office of the Faculty of Education,
states: ‘Facultartem had a hugely positive response from all involved in
the Faculty—even from those who were initially sceptical about evoking
their creative side! I found the experience fun, thought provoking and
an opportunity to use my creative skills. I thoroughly enjoyed assisting
with all aspects of the residency which brought together a shared sense
of Faculty community’ (Fig. 7).
In photograph 5, we see Lisa with Lieke van Bree the MEd
Administrator in discussion and interacting with the mandala which
is now a permanent display at the entrance to Higher Degree Office.
Lieke’s reflection echoes with a multiplicity of meanings and with the
buzz of extending the reach of organisational learning that this living
inquiry enabled. ‘I really enjoyed Susanne’s Artist in Residency at the
Faculty. It was fascinating and enhancing to see the creation of art move
through different steps in the process, especially when the end product
was not clear from the start. The project also brought together different
people in the Faculty and it was great to interact with students and staff
in an unusual and positive way. I think this is invaluable in an institution where hierarchies, patterns and structures dominate’. The mandala
is a reminder in full recognition that, as Maxine Green (2001) so aptly
expressed, ‘I am what I am not yet’.
316 P. Burnard et al.
Fig. 5 Making the mandala: ‘Ripples of the Self’ and ‘Circles of Influence’
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 317
Fig. 6 Lisa Zwierzanski (Administrator of the Facultartem Project) higher
degrees & PPD office
Before an elaboration of our conclusions, the nature of the findings
is invoked in the following generated poem which incorporates a collective interpretation discovered in research with others.
Ripples on the Selves
Rippling through time
Rippling through space
Rippling through us
Problematising the taken-for-granted
318 P. Burnard et al.
Fig. 7 Lieke van Bree (Master of Education (MEd) Administrator) higher
degrees office
Utilising embodimentEmbodiment, self-knowledge and self-articulation
Sensing inwards: sensing outwards
Ways of understanding and creating community
Recognising concerns
Reflexively engaging with (inter-)culture-bound expectations
A non-linear map
Making visible and invisible ruptures and connections
Writing into new and in-between spaces
Outsider/outlier stance; Insider positioning
Inbetween-ness understandings
Being challenged; Being challenging
A liminal space of competing agendas
Offering hospitality to a multiplicity of perspectives
A collective embodimentEmbodiment
Scrutinizing ourselves; Being scrutinized
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 319
Ideas building on ideas
Conversations building on conversations
Foundations, bricks and mortar, roof
Conversations building on conversations
Being a research: engaging as a me-searcher
Journeying refreshed
Concluding Discussion
Responses from participants in this project were overwhelmingly positive. This is unsurprising because most of the activities involved opting in. Susanne Jasilek, the artist-in-residence, reported that one or two
students found the experience to be exposing and uncomfortable when
activities were introduced as part of a lecture or teaching session. This
needs to be borne in mind when employing ABM in teaching. Working
with the arts is likely to elicit emotion, as several of the responses from
participants demonstrate. This places an ethical demand on the artistteacher or arts-based practitioner. Care must be taken to ensure the
well-being of those for whom such work might elicit painful feelings of,
for example, sorrow, anger, exposure or inadequacy. Practitioners need
to meet such feelings with acceptance, authenticity and empathy. In
particular, they can attempt to establish a working alliance at the outset by clarifying the boundaries of the project and by developing a trust
that leads to a sense of psychological safety.
The impact of arts-based methods as living inquiry in this institution
is still to be fully understood and realised. We have illustrated the generative capacity of arts-based methods. This is about being-in-relation
in classrooms which become spaces for possibilities derived from the
alternative approaches employed. These are subjective, interdisciplinary,
embodied spaces in which a type of translation occurs, where experience
can be deconstructed and where other ways of being can be created;
where boundaries can be dissolved between self and other.
We are very conscious of the crucial question that now concerns how these arts-based methods can be incorporated without an
320 P. Burnard et al.
artist-in-residence or outside experts in an artistic discipline or genre.
Creative practitioners, regardless of whether ‘in residence’ or off-site,
are usually affiliated with an organisation or neighbourhood cultural
institution that can become a formal collaborating or consulting partner. However, the endorsement and determination as to whoever qualifies as an ‘artist’, an ‘artist educator’ or ‘creative practitioner’ does not
have to be an assumed responsibility of an official off-site partnering
organisation or person. To rethink the place of arts-based pedagogies (as
with creative pedagogies and even play-based pedagogies particularly in
higher education settings, as reported recently1), if appropriated as inclusive and democratic practices that can be developed in anyone, posit the
forces that can help shape, develop and connect human creativities; the
process itself has the potential to forge and weld together a relationship
connecting and engendering an end vision of organisational learning.
All academics are potentially artist-educators and leaders in that all can
create arts-based pedagogies and followers by influencing those around
them, whether as academics or heads of department we need to actively
advocate that all academics are leaders in their occupation. We also need
to advocate that all academics can engage students uniquely through the
use of arts-based methods as a form of empowerment that empowers
and tries to resist hegemonic structures and neo-liberal discourses.
There is a need to re-conceptualise and expand notions of organisational learning through the use of arts-based methods (for tuning the
professional self and experiencing happiness as a community narrative in the discourses of organisation learning). The task of characterising oneself as professional, educator, research or artist can cause us to
hold ourselves at bay. To allow these too-often silenced aspects of the
self emerge takes a massive measure of trust as a prerequisite. But it also
takes the use and practice of arts-based methods to emphasise the process of lived enquiry and its relationship to traditional scholarly research
(Fig. 8).
1See the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Research Commission: Reviewing the
potential and challenges of developing STEAM education through creative pedagogies for the
twenty-first-century learning: How can school curricula be broadened towards a more responsive,
dynamic and inclusive form of education?
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 321
Fig. 8 A representation of arts-based methods for enhancing organisation
learning in higher education
We have argued that aspects of arts-based research present as embodiment, polyvocal, discursive, affective, dialogic ‘spaces’ and dimensions
of our teaching and learning selves and are about being-in-relation
in HE classrooms as living inquiry. How this played out in the present study was ‘carried off by a poetic rhythm’, as Cixous (Cixous, in
O’Grady 1996) contends—as practice enhancement of a programme,
informing the relations between institutional learning and higher education (see Fig. 3).
• Spaces for possibilities were characterised as spaces in which a type
of translation occurs, where experience (and situated knowledge)
can be deconstructed and where other ways of being can be created;
boundaries are dissolved between self and other.
• Being-in-relation with organisational learning was how we bring
ourselves into the predominance of patriarchy in the (con)text of
higher education and resonate (or not) with academia in the classroom and how our embodied relationships, between ourselves and
with others, were framed differently.
322 P. Burnard et al.
• The fact of embodiment was critical in terms of creating a more
responsive teaching and learning approach where rethinking/reexperiencing/re-engaging were emphasised through the relationship
between body, knowledge and materiality.
•The artist and artist-residency itself became construed as a heterotopia, interrupting ordinary life and creating a space in which
transcendence and transformation are possible. The present project
facilitated the kinds of changes of perspective that can contribute to
the nurturing of organisational learning in higher education.
• The arts and art making create, unfold and actualise differently.
They produce authentic and situated knowledge of self and one’s own
experience because the images that arise in our minds result from
our feelings, which, in turn, arise through a process of interoception
(Damasio 2012, p. 110). This means privileging stimuli that originate inside the body. Our feelings, therefore, and their accompanying
images, offer us significant information about our internal milieu and
ourselves. They tell us what matters to us.
In the Faculty, the display of the mandala creation of ‘Ripples of the
self and circles of influence’ is a daily reminder about the importance
of embodied ideologies and processes of humanising organisational
learning, and the importance of feeling validated and valued; as we are
reminded by Marcus (2004, p. 47): ‘Physical experience, material conditions…are in no way separate from intellectual and creative life, but
shape its very possibilities’. A recent report on applicants for UK higher
education (UCAS 2017) showed a 5% decline in applications domestically and a further 7% decline from EU countries. If we are to continue
to attract students in an increasingly competitive domestic and international higher education market, it is crucial we listen to and address
student concerns and think innovatively using arts-based methods to
enhance academic programmes for delivering the best possible student
This project was funded by the School of the Humanities and Social
Sciences and Faculty of Education University of Cambridge as an
investment to support postgraduate student experience. The project
report can be found at
Artists and Arts-Based Method Use in Higher … 323
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Accessed 1 Feb 2017.
Future Perspectives for Arts-Based
Methods in Higher Education
Tatiana Chemi and Xiangyun Du
Arts-Based Education—a Journey Forward
The present contribution has traced multiple theoretical, empirical and
practical implications for the arts-based methods in higher education
and organisations. The different chapters shed an original and updated
light on specific practices around the world and on contextual dilemmas about arts-based practices. The presence of strong commonalities
across cultures, however, is striking, for instance, the gap between theoretical conceptualisations and the practitioners’ competence for actualising what is envisioned theoretically. As the epistemologies presented in
the chapters show, arts-based studies have the capacity—typical for the
arts—of anticipating future directions and of suggesting experimental
T. Chemi (*) · X. Du 
Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Aalborg,
X. Du
© The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
328 T. Chemi and X. Du
approaches. On the other hand, not all contexts may be ready to engage
in risk and in disruptive strategies, especially if practitioners in these
contexts are not given the opportunities for learning and teaching the
artistic languages. The chapters collected in the present contribution
offer several examples of educators who wonder about the lack of time
for arts-based practices in formal institutions, who give voice to ethical dilemmas, or who show a clear confusion in the definition of art
but at the same time cannot but submit to the fun and excitement of
arts-based practices. The interest generated around arts-based practices
makes our scientific commitment to this topic even more relevant, but
concrete actions and more methodical—and methodological—research
and dissemination are still needed. Although knowledge about artsbased methods must continue in academia, we perceive a strong need
for collaborative research together with practitioners and learners. This
must happen based on long-term, systematic conversations between
scholars and educators, but also by means of direct experiences with
the arts at all levels of education and organisational development. This
indicates that the artists have a central role in the future developments
of this field. Whether professional or amateur artists is no matter, but
the craft and creativity of art practices in the flesh must lead any future
direction of arts-based methods.
Several approaches in qualitative research seem to suggest some useful trajectories in bringing back to any epistemological project bodies (embodied or visual narratives), affects, memories and even the self
(autoethnography). One example, which encompasses all the elements
mentioned, might be autoethnography (Ellis and Bochner 2000),
an approach to scientific enquiry that brings the researcher’s personal
experiences—literally—on the page or on the stage. Autoethnography
is a reflexive research method that is based on the researcher’s intimate
and personal experiences and aims at using these experiences in order
to problematise given topics. After all, this is what the arts have been
doing forever. Autoethnographic practices, therefore, seem to cherish the arts in their investigations. The liaison between autoethnography and performance (Spry 2016) is of particular interest to us, as it
allows the blurring of methodological boundaries and true experimentation. Its potential is still not fully exploited, but new ways of practicing
Future Perspectives for Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 329
these arts-based reflections are constantly being investigated. One example might be the incursion of the performative body in writing (Harris
and Holman Jones 2016) or the influence of pop culture on ethnography, as in the case of stand-up autoethnography (Hemmingson 2008),
which creates a comic distance from what is no laughing matter at all
(pain, sorrow, trauma). However, what we envision in future directions
is rather the blurring of boundaries of genre, where scientific and artistic text mash, blur, blend into each other, without losing their characteristics, such as comedy and tragedy, stand-up and autoethnography,
together in a new imagined space.
The arts seem to be the places of possibilities. Places that can envision
futures that are not yet here, but that can be imagined and explored. In
this sense, we believe that investigating the concept of artistic places and
spaces might have a great potential for future studies.
In 2016, Ariane Berthoin Antal and Anke Strauß conceptualised
the notion of interspaces, defining them as the “temporary social spaces
within which participants experience new ways of seeing, thinking and
doing things that add value for them personally” (p. 39). When thinking about the future of ABM in higher education and organisational
learning, we envision similar co-creative spaces and time frames. We
believe that the pedagogies implied in the arts-based practices can renew
education by bringing the elements of sense-making (Springborg 2010),
embodiment and emotionality back to where they belong: at the core of
human (and humanistic) learning. Several perspectives can sustain this
educational perspective. Interspaces are one of them. “In the interspace,
doubt and organizational norm are suspended to enable experimentation” (Berthoin Antal and Strauß 2016, p. 39), allowing for values to
emerge out of human interactions and relationships. These interactions
cannot but be of co-creative nature, based on a shared and emerging
dialogue with the not-knowing. Co-creation is here the key word for
future perspectives (Chemi and Krogh 2017). Co-creative interactions
reach beyond teamwork, collaboration and cooperation, by initiating
truly generative processes that are open, creative, inclusive and frightening. Co-creative spaces are the space and time of and for uncertainty, where complexity thrives and can unfold its learning potential.
The arts have a central role in these spaces of ambiguity, because they
330 T. Chemi and X. Du
ontologically rely on complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, inquiry and
open generative processes (creation ).
Therefore, we believe that ABM studies for the future ought to pay
closer attention to spaces of artistic production, in their role as prototypes of co-creative and innovative educational models. One example
of this is in Meisiek and Barry (2016), where they concretely apply
the concept and historical practice of the visual artist’s studio to educational programmes and to managerial theories. Also inspired by the
Renaissance artist’s studio is Chemi (in press), where the studio thinking is extended and compared to a performing art studio: the theatre
laboratory. Here, theatre laboratory is seen as contributing to the ABM’s
conceptualisation with its co-creative learning processes, with its openness and inclusiveness. According to Chemi (in press), theatre laboratories can be seen as third spaces and as critical spaces, in the hybridity of
the studio and workshop dimension.
Participants in theatre laboratory processes meet in a common
enquiry in a third, shared locus. As McMillan (2015) discusses, educational models in these laboratory spaces hold a complex tension
between expertise and intuition. The educator is at the same time a
learner in the workshop, and intuition is part of his or her embodied
expert knowledge: “intuitivity is part of the workshop practitioner’s
decision-making apparatuses” (McMillan 2015, p. 86). ABM can facilitate the ways these spaces are conceived, designed and evaluated, for
instance by offering modelling opportunities, as Sawyer (2007) did
for creative spaces modelled on jazz and theatre improvisation and as
McMillan (2015) does by relying on jazz aesthetics:
Workshop-practitioner practical intuition is not always democratic, however proclaimed the aspiration of collaborative decision-making, because
often rapid decisions have to be made by someone (expert) thinking on
their feet. It is improvisational and innovative and structurally disciplined
like the Jazz aesthetic (p. 87).
All the above perspectives, in their diversity, are especially pertinent to
ABM in adult and higher education and to the applications of artsbased interventions in organisational learning and change.
Future Perspectives for Arts-Based Methods in Higher Education 331
What is significant here are the many different co-creative perspectives for future studies, in the awareness that there are no correct or
single approaches for and to ABM. Our hope is that the present contribution will show a composite “mosaic” (Bolton 2007, p. 45) of activities and approaches.
Berthoin Antal, A., and A. Strauß. 2016. Multistakeholder Perspectives
on searching for Evidence of Values-added in Artistic Interventions in
Organizations. In Artistic Interventions in Organizations: Research, Theory
and Practice, ed. U.J. Sköldberg, J. Woodilla, and A. Berthoin Antal,
pp. 37–59. London: Routledge.
Bolton, G. 2007. A History of Drama Education: A Search for Substance. In
International Handbook of Research in Arts Education, edited by L. Bresler,
pp. 45–62. Dordrecht: Springer.
Chemi, T. in press. A Theatre Laboratory Approach to Pedagogy and Creativity:
Odin Teatret and Group Learning. London: Palgrave.
Chemi, T., and Krogh, L., eds. 2017. Co-creation in Higher Education: Students
and Educators Preparing Creatively and Collaboratively to the Challenges of the
Future. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Ellis, C.S., and A. Bochner. 2000. Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research,
ed. N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln, 733–768. Sage.
Harris, A., and S. Holman Jones. 2016. Writing for Performance. Rotterdam:
Hemmingson, M. 2008. Make Them Giggle: Auto/Ethnography as Stand Up
Comedy-A Response to Denzin’s Call to Performance. Creative Approaches
to Research 1 (2): 9–22.
McMillan, M. 2015. Pedagogy of the Workshop: an ‘Expert-Intuitive’ Practice.
In Towards an Inclusive Arts Education, ed. K. Hatton, 78–96. London:
Institute of Education Press.
Meisiek, S., and D. Barry. 2016. Organizational Studios: Enabling Innovation.
In Artistic Interventions in Organizations: Research, Theory and Practice, ed.
U.J. Sköldberg, J. Woodilla, and A. Berthoin Antal, 225–237. London:
332 T. Chemi and X. Du
Sawyer, R.K. 2007. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. New
York: Basic Books.
Springborg, C. 2010. Leadership as Art-Leaders Coming to Their Senses.
Leadership 6 (3): 243–258.
Spry, T. 2016. Body, Paper, Stage: Writing and Performing Autoethnography.
London: Routledge.
Aalto 241–243, 245–248, 250, 256,
258, 259
ABL 271, 272
Abramović, Marina 67, 70
Action 12, 25, 46, 52, 54–57, 60, 67,
68, 74, 76, 77, 79, 84, 90, 99,
122, 125–128, 134, 153, 158,
177, 178, 192, 193, 266, 294,
299, 328
Afghanistan 44
Agamben, Giorgio 252
American Psychological Association
69, 70
Application 10, 11, 24, 29, 31, 32,
37, 100, 102, 176, 179, 230,
236, 250–253, 257, 259, 292,
294, 322, 330
Arab, Arabic 214, 216, 218, 223,
228, 231, 232
Architecture 21, 243, 281
Ars Poetica 31
Artefact 4, 32, 90, 94, 267, 273, 274,
286, 297, 299
Artfulness 21, 22
methodology 116, 118
A/r/t/ography 294
Arts education
design 3, 4, 33, 37, 100, 117
education 1, 3, 94, 98, 100, 106,
111, 123, 167, 214, 217
integration 19, 98
Art studies 241, 248
Artwork 28, 115, 117, 121, 138,
229, 246, 313
As if 67
Australia 2, 84, 85, 95, 105, 109,
115, 116, 123, 131, 199, 200,
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
T. Chemi and X. Du (eds.), Arts-based Methods and Organizational Learning,
Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities,
334 Index
Autoethnography (or auto-ethnography) 204, 208, 328, 329
Autonomy 20, 23, 24, 30, 162, 222,
223, 250, 251
Avant-Garde 22, 23, 27, 30
Banksy 29
Barba, Eugenio 26, 35
Barcelona 199–202, 205
Berne, Eric 69
Beuys, Joseph 70
Big Five Inventory 72
Bildung 24
Body sound theory 177–179
Bolshevik 30, 31
Boston 70
Brazil 2, 172, 182, 183, 185, 186,
188, 193, 200, 202
Brussels 44
Burden, Chris 67
Cadet 13, 42, 48–54, 56, 57, 61
Canada 2, 12, 160, 213
Cartesian 32, 215
Choreographers 123, 125, 138, 139
practice 118, 124–126, 129, 131,
133, 137
Classicism 31
Co-creation 329
Collaborative learning 91, 92, 158
Confucian 32
Conservatoire 87–89, 95
imagination 72–77, 79
industries 102, 259
Creativity 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 13, 20–22,
25–28, 34, 35, 37, 38, 44,
72–74, 76, 77, 84, 86, 89, 90,
94, 99, 111, 131, 139, 172,
181, 184–186, 191, 197, 198,
207, 230, 241, 245, 248, 255,
273, 274, 279, 308, 328
Critical reflection 93, 107
Cross-cultural dialogue 14
Curriculum 5, 13, 22, 84, 85, 93,
99, 106, 115–121, 123, 128,
131–133, 137–139, 148, 152,
153, 156, 157, 207, 208, 213,
214, 216, 217, 237, 238, 247,
Dada 23, 31
Dadaism 67
education 118, 121, 123, 127–
129, 133, 134, 137
reflective practice in 123
teaching 116, 124, 138
tertiary education 129
Denmark 12, 21, 27
Design 3, 4, 9, 13, 14, 21, 32, 33,
37, 73, 78, 79, 87, 92, 94,
98–100, 106, 109, 115, 117,
120, 122, 123, 125, 135,
155–157, 216, 242, 243, 245,
247, 267, 271, 273, 274, 279,
281–283, 286, 313
social research 205, 296
Display 33, 245, 258, 259, 315, 322
Drozdek, Juli 70
Dystopia 307
Index 335
Embodiment 84, 89, 91, 119, 124,
127, 177, 295, 296, 313–315,
321, 322, 329
Emotion 14, 51, 56, 57, 178, 190,
216, 219, 230, 231, 234, 236,
299, 303, 304, 319
Emotional volatility 77, 79
Empathy 14, 91, 102, 104, 126,
208, 214, 216, 219–221, 223,
234–236, 319
England 151
Entrepreneurship 14, 171, 172, 175,
176, 180–182, 189–193, 248
Exercises 41–49, 60, 61, 156, 159,
182, 237, 252
human 90, 121, 163, 179, 208
Experimental research 65
Experimentation 69, 92, 93, 179,
242, 258, 259, 328, 329
Explore/exploit 172, 180, 191
Faculty 14, 130, 199, 243–245, 247,
259, 265–270, 273, 275–287,
296, 297, 299, 300, 302, 303,
306–308, 311, 315, 322
Finland 2, 14, 147–151, 153, 156,
164, 241–243, 248, 254, 260
Flesh 328
Fluxus 67
Futurist 31
Fyn 21
Galen 215
Gallery 243
Gergen, Mary 69, 70
Goiás 202, 203
Haiku 218
Hakim 214
Happening 28, 67, 148, 178, 229
Happiness 297, 299, 300, 302–308,
310, 320
Healthcare 214, 234
Helsinki 154, 243
Heterotopia 307, 322
Horace 31
Hunger Games 42, 53, 57
Identity 26, 54–56, 58–60, 95, 137,
138, 151, 180, 256, 304, 307
IEA 148, 151, 152
Ihsan 214, 216
Impressionist 35, 36
Innovation 4, 9, 85, 98, 101, 109,
172, 175, 179, 185, 209, 215,
Interdisciplinary practice 86, 101
Internationalization 201
Interspaces 329
Islamic 214, 216
Italy 2, 45
Itqan 231
James, William 32, 162
Jazz 25, 35, 330
JULIET 154, 157
Jyväskylä 154, 157
336 Index
Kant, Immanuel 222
Kelly, George 69
Kindergarten 116
Klein, Julian 70, 71
Kvium, Michael 26, 29
case study 201
Neo-Platonism 31
New South Wales 116
New Zealand 213
NIDA 85, 87, 88, 95–110
Nitsch, Hermann 70
Norway 2, 43, 44, 172, 182, 183,
185, 186, 193
Laboratory 66, 67, 330
Learning ecology 292, 293
Letter writing 206–208
Libya 44
Living enquiry 296–299
Macquarie 199
MBA 172, 174, 182, 193
Meaning-making 20
education 5, 214, 215, 218, 219,
223, 226, 227, 231, 234
humanities 213–217, 221, 234,
philosophy 214, 217, 222,
224–226, 236
Medicine 14, 177, 214–217, 222–
227, 229–231, 234–237, 272
Middle East 173
Military Education 41, 43, 44–45
Mind-body 84
Modernist 22, 27, 32
Moreno, Jacob 69
Multiliteracy 155
Musicing 192
Music theatre 14, 155, 158
Odin Teatret 27
Ono, Yoko 70
OpeArt 148–150, 155–159, 164–167
Orange Suit 70
Oulu 154
Partnership 37
Pedagogy of possibilities 292, 296
Peirce, C. S. 32
art 4, 13, 67–71, 73, 74, 78, 79
examiner-based 78
object-based 78
operationalising 72, 73, 78, 79
body 329
writing 199, 329
PISA 147–149
Plato 30, 31
Play 13, 42, 43, 45–48, 50, 51, 53,
54, 56–60, 69, 70, 93, 101,
Index 337
106, 135, 177, 215, 252–254,
296, 307, 320
Poe, Edgar Allan 101
Postcolonial 28, 38
Postmodern 67, 256, 291
Practice-informed research 84, 90, 99
Primary Arts 116, 131
Professional development 5, 179,
266, 286
education 154
research 65, 66, 68, 69
Puppet 159
Qatar 2, 14, 217
Queensland 116
Reflection 21, 27, 28, 32, 37, 48, 55,
84, 93, 100, 106, 122, 127,
133, 172, 184, 186, 189, 192,
202, 208, 218, 223, 231, 235,
238, 294, 297, 298, 311, 314,
Reflexivity 7, 203, 208, 214, 231,
232, 235, 301
Republic 31
Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy
13, 42, 44, 48, 49
Safe haven 57
Saint Olav 43
Saudi Arabia 2, 14, 267, 270, 273
Savonlinna 148–150, 155–159, 167
Scenario 42, 48, 59, 166, 230
Sehgal, Tino 70
Sense-making 11, 20, 176, 191, 192,
267, 329
Spain 199
Spinoza 250
Stand-up 329
STEAM 20, 320
Stiklestad 43
Studio 2, 86, 96, 97, 100, 102, 103,
106, 117, 123, 253, 330
Tampere 155
Teacher Education 14, 148–150,
152–158, 163–167
Teaching skills 266, 268, 269, 276,
of War 41, 43–46, 48, 58
Therapy 29, 179, 271
Third space 22, 38
Training 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 48, 60,
83–86, 89, 94, 95, 97, 99,
100, 105, 106, 109, 121, 154,
181, 183, 214, 229, 266–270,
273–276, 278, 280–282,
Transdisciplinary 14, 241, 242,
245, 246, 248–250, 253, 254,
Transformative 7, 153, 234, 292
Transgression, transgressive 21–25,
27–30, 32–34, 36–38, 237,
Turku 155
Tzara, Tristan 23
338 Index
UK 2, 12, 213, 322
UN 42, 48, 50, 53, 54, 59, 61
University Pedagogy 157, 242, 254,
255, 257–259
USA 12, 44, 123, 213, 247
Utopia 307
cold 43, 44
Washington 44
What if 87, 230
Wolpe, Joseph 69
Workshop 26, 99, 132, 199, 270, 273,
274, 279–282, 284, 286, 312,
Vancouver 160
Vejle 21
Viennese Actionism 67
Visual Culture 200, 246, 247, 252
Zurich 66, 69, 70
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