Understanding artful behavior as a human proclivity
Blatt-Gross, Carolina Eve
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This dissertation proposes that artful behaviors constitute viable means toward making education memorable and meaningful for students. Because students spontaneously exhibit aesthetic and rhythmic acts in the classroom and human beings across the world have been participating in the arts for thousands of years, this study argues that artful behavior represents an inherent and significant human proclivity. In group settings such as the classroom, these artful behaviors often build and sustain social bonds, as they have for much of human history. Recent studies also reveal that the nature of cognition, which has changed very little in the past several thousand years, depends on social and emotional relevance for contextualizing and applying knowledge. As a result, embracing the predisposition to act artfully in the classroom might be understood as a valuable means for facilitating meaningful education. Conversely, outcomes-based education, the current predominant educational model, more often values still, quiet classrooms and individualized academic achievement. Hence, this study further explores the possible ways in which curricular structures and pedagogical methods potentially support or suppress the predisposition to act artfully and, subsequently, its educational benefits. Identifying as one of the prospective causes of the present educational unease the tension between inherent human proclivities and the physical and mental limitations of traditional formal education, this cross-disciplinary study seeks to understand how artful behaviors might represent an intrinsic part of human nature and how such proclivities might inform educational policy and practice. Based on an ethological understanding of art (that is, as a behavior rather than an object), this research employs an interpretivist lens and phenomenological design. Data collection methods include a combination of observation, participant observation (including informal student interviews while interacting with studio materials), and teacher interviews in a pre-kindergarten and third grade classroom of an urban public school system. Ultimately, this study aims to understand artful behaviors as they are embedded in educational contexts with the intent of bridging the gap between our natural inclinations for learning and the methods utilized in mainstream education.