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Interdisciplinary Art Education

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Looking beyond the cover and demolishing standards is one of the most effective ways to reach success. Nowadays, much attention is focused on the role of interdisciplinary arts in education and the immense potential this aspect obtains. The crucial value is that interdisciplinary art education is surely relevant and developmentally responsive in modern society, and its role cannot be underestimated. Besides, the implementation of this approach helps to engage and enhance the physical, social, and cognitive needs within the society, and this is certainly important.

The Book and Installation “This is Not a Plate” by Moving Universe and Its Impact on Education

A rather new and famous book and an installation called "This is not a plate" have already attracted much attention and caused numerous discussions due to its preciousness and the actual topics it covers. This book and installation appeared in a result of a truly ambitious objective to show the beauty and unity of the whole world and the interrelation between such aspects as human rights, love, culture, and language that make one large heritage.

This long-expected and original project will take place at St. Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London from 8th till 18th August 2012. As it is known, St Ethelburga's is a rather small church, however, it is going to comprise a very powerful project  with a huge depth. This stimulating installation will be previewed in London and it is going to attract much more attention to the City of London and its community. As every large-scale project, this installation is targeted for a particular audience, however, an interesting detail is that every individual can visit it regardless of the age aspect and absolutely free. NotaPlate is not simply an installation of ceramics. It is an exhibition content of an inspiring project that shows ceramic arts and inscriptions in 35 languages created by 26 Italian ceramic artists. The most distinguished feature of this installation is that every unique plate contains a set of words such as for instance “happy”, “my joy”, “my language is my hope”, and etc. that are translated in 35 languages and decorated. It is meant establishing a responsible and integrated society that realises the value of each and every people's unique heritage. During this installation St. Ethelburga's will look as a mysterious place that is divided into4 separate spaces that are interconnected. Each space will be devoted to a particular problem and discuss such aspects as the environment and its basic components, ceramics and its peculiarities, the importance of human rights, and the expected causes of the installation. Every individual, who will visit this installation will be able not only to learn about the installation and its idea, but also will have an opportunity to touch everything and ask diverse questions. In such a way the organizers hope to make every visitor feel as an active participant of the installation and understand the true value of their language, nation, and their heritage particularly. Moreover, the installation will be accompanied by a set of supporting events such as special musical evenings, and other exciting events.

It is a wonderful opportunity to look at the things people have in common and not the things that separate them as variety and difference are very important in our world. Gastronomic experience is interesting, valuable, and precious to us. Every single language has its "gastronomic" side, tendencies, and heritage. Every recipe is an act of heritage and the execution; the creation of the recipe and preparation of it is a linguistic act, and sharing of the food once put on a plate, whether it is a special occasion or an everyday act, is an act of cultural love, and this is what makes this book and installation so wonderful. This idea makes everyone feel astonished. It is a proactive project rather than a reactive abuse of human rights. The educational part stimulates the growth of a deep personal caring for one another. Everyone has a right to the heritage, to the language, and to the culture. It is befriending everybody around the table, and this is what is surely valuable in our society and the world.

This book and installation have a rather large list of expected outcomes, such as for instance, to promote mindfulness, create new networks, and improve cooperation between all the organizations and individuals involved in the development of this idea. This original project is  going to advance universal education and make an emphasis on the importance of such notions as human rights, unity, and peace that should be regarded as complex unities. Besides, the project aims to attract attention to peace education and also make an emphasis on social responsibility. Three R's represent the basis of the Human Rights Project – Remembering, Reasoning, Responsibility. Educators should teach children how to be responsible citizens with the help of arts. The analysis of the scientific materials showed that the main factors that are essential for the successful art education include an arts-minded philosophy and strong leadership skills. Nowadays there is an extremely large interdisciplinary challenge of dehumanising American education and life. It is important to consider the modern interdisciplinary approaches or challenges in the arts, no matter how important they may be for improving that education. The arts exist in our educational institutions as separate disciplines of art (visual arts), music, dance, and drama, in which concepts and competencies are defined and evaluated by single-disciplinary specialists. The thing is that the practice of the single-disciplinary specialization in art education has resulted in certain complexity and also partial isolation. Such changes are surely harmful for understanding and development of art education. Nowadays, there are many problems with the single-disciplinary structure of arts education. First, single-disciplinary arts education tends to neglect artistic developments outside the West, as well as the impact in general of social, political, and technological influences on artistic production and interpretation. Second, single-disciplinary specialists and courses tend to neglect highly influential art forms that involve cross-disciplinary expression, such as song, drama, opera, and film. Third, in terms of career preparation, single-disciplinary degree programs provide inadequate preparation for students training for careers that involve knowledge of multiple art forms, including careers in arts management, business, law, journalism, and broadcasting. In terms of teacher training, single-disciplinary courses do little to help future teachers integrate the arts into their teaching of social studies, English, Math, or other sciences.

Perhaps, the most important is that single-disciplinary teachers of music, art, drama, or dance are not as effective in explaining the importance of the arts and of arts education as they would be if they had some training in understanding and teaching the arts as a whole. Independently, none of the arts is seen as having comparable importance with history, English, Math, or other subjects. So their representation in many institutions often depends on the presence of extra funding or on the perception of the discipline as providing a service to them, as in the case of football marching bands or parent's night art exhibits.

Representation of the arts is somewhat better at the college level. There, departments of the arts provide academic courses in the histories of the arts, as well as instruction in practice and performance. Still, though most college-level courses in the arts are designed entirely for students majoring in the disciplines, the few general courses are introductory surveys serving large numbers of anonymous student courses unlikely to have a lasting impact on their learning.

It is believed that integrative teaching of history, theory, and performance can improve art understanding. In a fully interdisciplinary contest, integrative teaching can be even more powerful in reaching students with the power of artistic understanding and experience. Recent discoveries in cognitive science about the multiple modes of learning confirm the value of connecting experiential education with intellectual inquiry in the arts and in general. The more connections students have with a concept, the better is their chance of accessing that concept and knowledge about it from their long-term memories, when the need arises.

The integrative, interdisciplinary approach presents a difficult challenge for teachers trained in a single discipline, because they must learn how to integrate historical and theoretical issues with practice in a variety of art forms and cultures. In addition, general teachers of social studies, English, and even science and Math need to learn how to incorporate relevant knowledge and experience of the arts into their courses.

In the future, it will be desirable to develop new courses to help teachers with this challenge, to be taught by new "interdisciplinary specialists". But even the most narrowly trained single-disciplinary specialist can move in the direction of integrative, interdisciplinary education by careful design of readings, assignments, tests, and class activities. For example, the assignment of primary source readings can be more helpful than textbooks in promoting integrative learning because they make subject matter more immediate and more open to philosophical inquiry. Reading the text of a ninth-century lesson in music theory can bring alive the thoughts and worldviews of medieval thinkers in an integrative way that cannot happen with textbook readings, no matter how carefully written. Source readings may also invite students to imagine and even to recreate a historical artistic practice in a way that may be far more memorable than canonical learning through textbooks and lectures.

Integrative teaching methods can be used in a wide variety of courses at every level to improve student learning. In the single-disciplinary arts survey courses offered as a core requirements or options at the college level, integrative teaching methods can be used to bring life to historical canons, helping students understand historical practices in an art form by actually experiencing or creating them and by asking philosophical questions about their significance to their creators and cultures. In drama classes, plays and scenes can serve as a basis for historical research, performance, and philosophical inquiry about issues of meaning and value therein.

In music, students may be assigned to compose melodies, rhythms, or even short compositions as a way of understanding historical or theoretical concepts. History, experience, and philosophical inquiry can also be linked in visual arts and architecture surveys with assignments of simple design projects along with research on historical figures that used similar designs. Obviously, not all artistic practices and experiences lend themselves easily to instruction for nonspecialists. One cannot, for instance, ask an art survey student to read the letters of Vincent Van Gogh in Dear Theo and then paint like him. But with effort, one can find appropriate ways to integrate history, philosophy, and experience at many levels. In architecture, for example, one can assign nonspecialists a walking tour of local architectural sites, followed by reports and discussion of the architectural designs they saw and experienced.

In addition to integrative teaching methods, there is a need for interdisciplinary arts instruction at every level of education, as a complement to single-disciplinary instruction for specialists. With interdisciplinary instruction, all the arts could be represented in every school by the arts specialists and other teachers. Given the availability of interdisciplinary courses and programs, single-disciplinary specialists could begin broaden their perspective and teach their discipline in a more connected manner, covering other art forms, as well as their own when needed. Schools that can only afford to hire one or two specialists would not have to omit the coverage of the other arts and aesthetics, because those subjects would be more fully incorporated into other subjects that are covered.

Interdisciplinary college courses and programs in the arts can also be developed as the means by which future precollege teachers outside the arts and single-disciplinary arts majors learn to incorporate arts issues into their subject. If colleges of education collaborate with arts departments in curricular development, such courses may require preservice teachers, possibly in fulfilment of core university requirements for the arts and humanities. Interdisciplinary arts courses and programs should also be made available as core requirement options for college students in general, who may be more interested in an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to studying the arts than they are in traditional single-disciplinary lecture-surveys.

Interdisciplinary arts courses or minor degree programs can also act as a credential for teaching the high school "fine arts survey" courses now mandated in most states. Currently, the absence of interdisciplinary-trained teachers for these courses frequently results in their division between art and music specialists –specialists most often present in schools – while drama, dance, and other art forms are simply not covered at all. Given interdisciplinary arts training, teachers of these courses would no longer be limited to coverage of only one or two art forms. Interdisciplinary-trained arts teachers could also serve as consultants in their schools for integrating the arts into all subjects and for encouraging special arts-oriented events such as festivals celebrating particular cultures and historical periods.

Considering the obvious need for interdisciplinary programs in the arts and aesthetics in American education, it is striking how few important programs have developed. The 1995 edition of the College Blue Book lists three degree programs in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Creative Arts; two programs in Art and Communication; and one in Art and Music Education. Eighty-seven degree programs are listed under Arts, but they are mostly associated degrees at small community colleges. For instance, the College Blue Book lists thousands of degree programs in the individual art disciplines, including programs at virtually all major universities.

Developing interdisciplinary courses and programs, in this kind of vacuum is a very difficult task. Interdisciplinarity is regularly viewed with suspicion by single-disciplinary experts and, sometimes, with a good reason. Some interdisciplinary programs are developed primarily in order to secure funds from granting agencies that favour interdisciplinarity, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some interdisciplinary researches and teachings are superficial – a matter of two disciplinary experts comparing their wares for an interesting change of pace. As Hugh Petrie has pointed out, good interdisciplinary work requires scholars to be well-versed in their own discipline and to be competent to deal with the methodologies of the disciplines. The challenges of interdisciplinary work should not be considered lightly.

Even where interdisciplinary programs do exist, they may fall prey to decline if the participants are not careful. The current absence of interdisciplinary specialists (i.e., scholars with training in interdisciplinary research and teaching) means that interdisciplinary courses are generally team-taught by collaborating single-disciplinary specialists. Such a team teaching can be exhilarating for instructors and students alike, but it also may lead away from true interdisciplinarity if the specialists become lazy and uninvolved in each other’s teaching. Some interdisciplinary programs have faltered as their courses became more and more a matter of separate lectures from different specialists.

Where interdisciplinary courses do not exist, curricular reformers will likely need the support of the single-disciplinary specialists to enact the courses. Concerns that interdisciplinary treatment will water down a subject, and that allowing core arts requirement credit for interdisciplinary courses will "drain" students away from the single-disciplinary courses may lead to strong opposition from existing arts departments. Involving as many single-disciplinary specialists as possible in the design of the new courses is one way to combat those fears. In the process of planning a new course, specialists can become genuinely excited about the possibilities of reaching general students with more imaginative approaches than are possible in single-disciplinary surveys.

Specialists, who become involved in the planning, may later be helpful in addressing concerns of their departmental colleagues, voting for the new course or program, and guest lecturing or teaching in it. Administrators should also be involved in order to get institutional support for interdisciplinary teaching. This may be the hardest challenge of all, because academic institutions have become so dependent on the single-disciplinary structure and on the bottom line that funding for interdisciplinary courses and programs is more and more difficult to find. On the other hand, creative administrators may recognize interdisciplinary programs as potential solutions to financial problems, particularly if one interdisciplinary course can be shown to serve multiple purposes more effectively than separate single-disciplinary courses.

Another way to spread interdisciplinary education in the arts and aesthetics is to offer workshops or regular courses for in-service teachers of general subjects on how to integrate arts teaching into their lesson plans in science, Math, Language Arts, History, and social studies. Arts specialists with interdisciplinary training can offer these workshops and can also act as consultants in their schools, helping their colleagues understand and use arts resources and plan interdisciplinary programs including the arts and aesthetics.

These ideas are ambitious and modest at the same time. They are ambitious because they call for increased coverage of the arts and aesthetics at every level of our educational system. They are modest because they require very little in the way of new courses and instructors; such programs can be taught by available specialists with some interdisciplinary training, in some cases, more economically than under the status quo (given the possibility of covering multiple arts with one or two specialists). Once introductory interdisciplinary courses have been created, additional courses and minor degree programs may be pursued, perhaps, as a means for credentialing social studies and English teachers for teaching fine arts survey courses. Interdisciplinary minors should be relatively cheap and simple too; along with the introductory course and a choice of three or four single-disciplinary arts courses, the addition to the curriculum of a single advanced interdisciplinary colloquium should suffice to complete the program. Interdisciplinary majors are also desirable, especially since they solve the problem of finding funds to pay for interdisciplinary teachers and courses.

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