Tip #531: Art Can Deepen Learning
“I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and allows less room for lies.” LeCorbusier
An art activity can be a useful method to help participants gain a different perspective or deeper understanding. They have to dig deeply to discover the meaning and essence of what it is that they will represent through art.
Art activities work well as long as the participants understand that it is the quality of their ideas that is important, not the quality of their artistry.
There are two types of art activities. In the first, the participants are given complete freedom to create whatever they want. We will call this self-initiated art. In the second, the facilitator models the desired pre-formulated art and the participants copy that. We will call this facilitator-initiated art.
There are also two types of art objects: visual and tactile.
Two examples of self-initiated visual art include:
A picture. If you ask participants to draw themselves as a food, vehicle or animal, they really need to focus in on how they feel about themselves and their lives. That is not an easy task.
First, they have to decide into which category they fit most comfortably. Most people don’t typically think of themselves in these terms. Then they have to decide what characteristics best describe them. If you try it yourself, you will see just how eye opening it can be, once you get past the concern that you are not a great artist.
A cartoon. You can ask participants to draw a cartoon of the type of person with whom they have the most difficulty, exaggerating the person’s negative features. This requires them to do some honest soul-searching and become aware of what that difficult person actually does that makes them uncomfortable for the participants.
You can also have them list on the drawing the reasons why the person might act that way and what the person needs. A good follow up activity is to have the participants practice using their new insight and strategies in a role play to more effectively manage an interaction with this type of difficult person.
An example of facilitator-initiated visual art is:
A windowpane. You first identify up to nine key concepts or nine key steps in a sequence. Next, you have to decide what simple picture will help the participants remember each step or concept. Working with the boxes of the windowpane (three boxes in a line, with two lines or three lines total below them that creates a square with six or nine boxes), fill in each box, explaining what each drawing represents.
As you fill in the windowpane in the front of the room, the participants fill in their own windowpane worksheets. After this, you can check the participants’ comprehension by pointing at different boxes and asking the group to explain what the pictures represent.
Two examples of self-initiated tactile art are:
A clay model. In order to mold a figure of an excellent customer service representative, the participants will need to identify what they consider to be the major characteristics of good customer service. They will then have to translate those characteristics into something more tangible. It might be a listening ear, a helping hand, a smiling face, or legs to go the extra mile.
A collage. You can ask the participants to create a collage of organizational values with pictures and words clipped from magazines. This will require them to analyze what those values are and what would best represent them.
An example of facilitator-initiated tactile art is:
An art construction. First, you need to decide upon a metaphor for the training content based on its key essence or characteristics. For example, teamwork involves working together, relying on individual strengths, and aiming for a shared goal. A tree might be a good metaphor. The roots, trunk, and limbs work together, each doing its own job. The shared goal is leafing out, blossoming and reseeding itself. To accomplish this, the tree needs to be nurtured, as does teamwork.
You could begin a lesson on teamwork by having the participants “construct” a tree while you explain how each component of the tree relates to a key aspect of teamwork. They could “plant” a tiny artificial tree in clay and then add small fruits, berries and flowers onto the tree to construct a representation of what good teamwork means to them.
What is particularly nice about using art to deepen learning is that the participants can (and often do) keep the resulting artwork as a constant and hopefully pleasant reminder. You can also take digital photos of all of the artwork to send to the participants after the class, as another way to reinforce their learning.
How do you use art to deepen learning?
May your learning be sweet.