I have read some speculation about educational change regarding education’s future, that it will be less creative and the arts will be marginalized. The speculative thought goes something like this — with increased personalization of education increased reliance on technology follows, which will lead to increased narrowing of curriculum and that will lead to students spending less time in areas like dance, drama, music and the visual arts.
I don’t see this happening. I see a future with fewer arts classes but much richer engagement in the arts.
While many point to examples like High Tech High, with its rich integration of subjects and different curriculum areas, in many ways we are challenging traditional classroom learning; an example is the work led by Katherine Tong and her team connected with the Vancouver Biennale — a powerful legacy to the exhibition in the Vancouver area.
The BIG IDEAS Program, which is the educational program that has accompanied the Vancouver Biennale Exhibition, has made its way into seven school districts and 63 schools (including West Vancouver) and reaching more than 4200 students. UBC has now included the program as part of teacher practicums, and the program has been awarded the Arts Champion in Education Award. The program allows students to engage with the art and local artists and share their interpretations to a broad audience.
Here is a recent presentation Katherine Tong shared with me about the program:
And, a recently posted video describing some of the links of the program to self-regulation:
There are a number of things I really like about this program, including:
- Teachers have the opportunity to collaborate within and across schools
- Students interact with practising artists
- There is an emphasis on production and performance
- Classes are not only in schools, but in the community where the art is as well
- Curriculum is organized around ‘big ideas’ and educators have put together thoughtful work which is shared with others
- There is natural integration of outcomes from a variety of disciplines
- The school and the community are true partners in education
- Goals like self-regulation are promoted and activity-based
- Schools reap the benefit of community expertise
We may have fewer stand-alone art classes in five years time than we do today. Hopefully, we will also have fewer stand-alone English, Social Studies, Math and Science classes as well. The move to creating meaningful linkages in curriculum fosters opportunities like those of the Vancouver Biennale Program. While there is no crystal ball to see what the future of teaching and learning looks like, I would like to suggest it looks more like what this program offers, and we need stellar examples like these programs to show and move the way forward.
As the Vancouver Biennale rightfully claims – they are “redefining the experience of art” and in doing so they are contributing to the redefinition of the learning and schooling experience for many of our students.