Art could be considered as a uniquely human tradition; as essential as the human language.
More specifically, it can be used as a vital tool to allow children to develop themselves and express their feelings; especially those with a limited vocabulary who do not know how to communicate verbally. Part of this thesis is to consider that the teaching of art has suffered because of the recent emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). This dissertation will argue the basis for a return to STEAM; giving art an equal weighting to the other four disciplines.
I shall begin by examining The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence which, whilst not neglecting art education entirely, can be criticised for overly adhering to the standards and guidelines enforced; therefore, quashing creativity. Followed by an a brief insight into Waldorf Education; an alternative teaching method created by Rudolf Steiner which focusses on encouraging creative thinking to build a child’s confidence and knowledge. This creative thinking is suggested to form the basis of fundamental skill development, and the consideration that this could perhaps be adopted into mainstream education further, shall be raised within this study.
Thus, I have identified four important personality characteristics which may benefit from activities implemented in this form of schooling -mainly through creative art practice- that the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence could be suggested as overlooking. These are as follows: Independence, Creativity, Self-motivation, Resilience , (Bertram and Pascal 2002).
I shall endeavour to establish the basic fundamentals of each curriculum and consequentially, arrive at a considered outcome for how STEAM should be applied if we are to support innovative thinking within Twenty-First education.
Chapter 1: Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.
A short investigation into Scottish Primary Education, in conjunction with the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, specifically in regards to art education.
Firstly, it is important to clarify and outline the current expectations of the Scottish Educational System in regard to art practice within Primary Education (age typically from three to twelve years). This allows for an equal comparison with the alternative Rudolf Steiner method (Waldorf Education) to be made.
The key principles for the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence are defined by four objectives/capacities. Creating: Successful learners, Confident individuals, Responsible citizens, and Effective contributors.
In Scotland, from the moment a child begins their school career at approximately the age of four, it is bound by the constraints of the Curriculum for Excellence. Their experience of a creative curriculum is fixed in place and measured by what is referred to as “experiences” and “outcomes”. “Experience” is summarised with fairly general statements of “active engagement, motivation and depth of learning” whilst the “Outcome” is simply a demonstration of work to support these statements. For further explanation, the Curriculum for Excellence Scotland explains:
"The title ‘experiences and outcomes’ recognises the importance of the quality and nature of the learning experience in developing attributes and capabilities and in achieving active engagement, motivation and depth of learning. An outcome represents what is to be achieved.
Taken as a whole, the experiences and outcomes embody the attributes and capabilities of the four capacities. They apply to the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people, including the ethos and life of the school and interdisciplinary studies as well as learning within curriculum areas and subjects. This means that they apply beyond timetabled classes and into, for example, enterprise and health activities and special events.”
However, whilst this approach may work for a broad range of subjects, it has been observed that art – specifically within Primary Education- has suffered as a result of these stricter guidelines and expectations that state schools now have to adhere to.
Does the Curriculum for Excellence encourage creative thinking?
The strict mandates and learning outcomes now in place, claim to allow students to “flourish in life” . However, over the past few years, most notably since the implementation of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in August 2010 , major educational cuts have been made to the education budget and specialist teacher roles. These roles were targeted to teach the arts within the Primary School but have been reduced dramatically as a result. The public over-spending on education which “over the decade between 1999/00 and 2009/10, grew by 5.1%” eventually peaking at 6.4% in 2010 , meant that by 2011, 12,000 teaching posts had been lost throughout the UK.
Therefore, fewer specialist jobs were funded and a void has been left for class teachers to attempt to compensate for. The evidence supporting the theory that art is suffering because of this void created is discussed by Jessica Shepherd, the educational writer for the Guardian stating that:
“The National Society for Education in Art and Design says the subject is "staring into the abyss". The reason is a combination of constrained school budgets and the perception that art is no longer important to the government”
Recently The National Foundation for Educational Research have also “pointed to the need to improve aspects of primary teacher education in relation to the arts” . Reviewing the original statement that the Scottish Curriculum intends to create; successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. How does the Scottish Government propose to do this without significant re-implementation of specialised art education which could be considered as an essential tool in these developmental strategies? The standard hierarchy within this curriculum seems to have “experience” at the forefront with an emphasis on planned learning. This leaves the teacher to build a structured lesson plan that should form the foundation of a strong work ethic , one which ensures all central fundamentals are covered. Yet, perhaps more of this emphasis should be placed on creative outlets which allow more freedom of thought for children.
Author of Art learning and Teaching, P.Larkin, suggests that:
“Children who are exposed to a wide range of sensory experience are more likely to be self-assured. Through regular repetition and reinforcement of the child’s natural experiences, he builds concepts about himself and his environment, and the relationships between the concepts of art are realized.”
It has also been mentioned that no curriculum is complete without a subject that lends itself to human understanding . Creative artistic practice can be argued as helping to develop this human understanding. For example, clay is a medium which can encourage not only the physical an aesthetic creation of an art piece, but also an opportunity for children to examine the wider learning environment, for example, what else in the world is made from it. As Einstein exclaims:
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression"
Further research suggests, and it has been made apparent, that the educational system has been under scrutiny for lack of artistic materials and teaching since 1985. Several reports identified that, “The number of hours allotted to the arts varied and suffered disproportionately from inadequate resources of time, staffing, space, and materials.” Back in 1985 the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation identified the two separate roles of both the classroom teacher and the specialist teacher:
“The Class Teacher should:
a) Have a clear grasp of the educational role of the arts, an understanding of how children learn through the arts, and a knowledge of the different stages of a child’s aesthetic development;
b) Be personally interested in and familiar with at least one or two art forms;
c) Be confident in encouraging creative work;
d) Be able to recognise and evaluate the artistic quality in children’s work.”
“The Specialist Teacher should, in addition to the skills and understandings of the generalist class teacher;
a) Be able to offer practical expertise in one of the major arts disciplines (eg art);
b) Be able to apply that expertise in support of non-specialist colleagues.”
From this we can clearly see the differences between the two roles and one could dispute that for a balanced curriculum both are equally essential, either with or without the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.
To summarise, it seems that there is an extensive lack of government funding specifically within the arts in Primary education. The evidence gathered from various sources including the National Society for Education in Art and Design, claims that art education is suffering and “staring into the abyss” because of these financial limitations. Analysing sources from 2015 -in regards to how the Scottish Government could remedy the funding situation in 2016- it appears no change is on the horizon. Vice president and representative of COSLA (the voice of most Scottish councils) Michael Cook said:
“Not only have we got a huge cash cut, but we have massive additional pressures and all of this boils down to a picture of job losses and services slashed -an assessment has been done in relation to the potential job impact, and that looks like 15,000 jobs.”
Moreover, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale exclaims:
“John Swinney's budget pulled the rug out from under the councils that build our schools and are vital to the education of our children. The reality is that Nicola Sturgeon can't guarantee the SNP government's budget won't result in job losses for our specialist teachers.”
Nicola Sturgeon has very much come under scrutiny for this issue:
“The SNP minister has been butchering school budgets. A few months ago Ms Sturgeon said that even though she’d been in power for eight years, she was just getting started on education. It was, she said, the driving and defining priority of her government. How on earth does cutting the budgets of Scotland’s education authorities count as a good start? Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson Conservative focused on the Scottish government's decision to pass on an extra £440m, available as a result of Westminster increases, to the NHS…”
In light of this evidence we cannot deny the limitations and failures falling upon our specialist teachers, specifically in relation to art. So, why then is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) seemingly deemed more important to the Scottish Government? Before delving into this issue any further and perhaps suggesting a possible answer for this, I shall continue by examining an entirely opposite curriculum to that of the Scottish Primary Education. This is called The Waldorf/Steiner Method by Rudolf Steiner, whose teaching method is founded on, and revolves around, art education.
Chapter 2: Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Education
History of Steiner/Waldorf Schooling.
The founder of Waldorf Education, artist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner led a spiritual movement called Anthroposophy. This movement sought to place the value of a child’s creativity as highly as their intellectualism. Steiner believed that:
“The individual and the universe are essentially spiritual and interwoven, and art can be, and should be an effective way of relating these two spiritual realities ordinarily separated.”
Whilst Steiner never intended to become an artist; receiving no formal training, he did exercise “a profound and direct influence on many arts and artists” . Michael Howard explains further that this was largely because his:
“Artistic work was a by-product of his larger effort to bring spirit into view”
Firstly, it is important to clarify this meaning of “spirituality” in relation to both Steiner and his teaching philosophies and, although Waldorf differs in many ways from state education in the United Kingdom, it shares one substantial commonality. This commonality is that children are educated on a broad spectrum of religions without a particular inclination to any one of them , in fact, so broad is the spectrum that “public Waldorf schools are not even categorized as "Faith schools" . This can be considered as creating a non-denominational setting for children to flourish.
Secondly, the outbreak of World War One intensified Steiner’s urgency for spiritual development amongst the chaos of society which surrounded him. Soon after the end of the First World War in 1919, Steiner opened the first Waldorf School; a name which derived originally from under-privileged children working in the cigarette factories of Waldorf-Astoria . These children became Steiner’s first pupils. This is where he began practicing his spiritual philosophies through artistic practice. Which could perhaps be argued as an attempt to be a catalyst of reform for the next generation.
Arrangement of the syllabus.
Steiner had already established a theory about how civilisation revolved around the framework of ever changing seasons, times and even perspectives . Thus, with Waldorf Education, it encompasses the ever changing scenarios in which the cycles of life can be observed; such as the rhythm of nature. The main reason for placing such importance on realising these changes, is so that teachers and educators can appreciate that children also progress “in their own time” . Dr Cathy Nutbrown (Head of the School of Education in Sheffield) sharing this view of seasonal change, comments that:
“It is the hurry to create children who fit a policy-constructed view of childhood that leads to an unrealistic pressure, not just on young children, but also on their parents and their teachers. So that is why it is important to re-iterate: “To everything there is a season…”
This feels like an important point of interest in an age of technology where childhoods spent outside seem to be on the decline, instead replaced by iPhone, iPad and television. Rodin, despite practicing at least over a century ago, somewhat dramatically expressed his feelings about technological advances:
“The search in modern life is for utility, the endeavour is to improve existence materially…it is no longer a question of spirit, of thought, of dreams. Art is dead”
However, the first Waldorf principle to be mentioned supports Rodin, and states students do not benefit from technology at least from the age of twelve. Brenda Baker an admissions coordinator for Waldorf continues:
“It’s about developing and honing the power of observation. Our students are highly curious and creative. The sensory experience gets to the heart of learning. Bringing in technology at a later age gives them the tools to discern the best times to use it.”
Furthermore, by emulating the seasons, the Waldorf Curriculum differs from that of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence greatly. For example, it does not officially have a time-table instead “the children are guided by a smooth, soothing, flowing, logical quality inherent in the progression of each aspect of the morning, and careful thought will be given to the transition moments between one activity and the following . The manner of this is to promote an optimum rhythm for the children; the result of which is a balanced, co-operative child who can both express themselves and work amongst others.
How is Steiner relevant today?
Whilst the educational ideologies are not all exclusive to Waldorf Education, they share an insight amongst other alternative methods that many believe is “the way forward into the future”
An example of this development is that twenty-seven Steiner Schools are now operating in Britain and other parts of Europe. Yet, those in Europe are publicly funded unlike those in the United Kingdom. Education Editor for the Guardian, Richard Garner, stated in 2007:
“This afternoon the Government faces a crucial stage of its attempt to set up the first state-funded school to follow the education principles of the Steiner movement. Ministers plan to back the setting up of one of Tony Blair's flagship academies in the village of Much Dewchurch in Herefordshire, which would be sponsored by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. It could open as early as September.”
However, this was refused planning permission. The attempt did however lend itself to the notion of adapting mainstream education in conjunction with Steiner’s artistic philosophies, or making Waldorf Education more accessible to the state educational system. This led to the first state- funded Steiner Academy being opened in 2012 in Frome, Dorset . A representative of the school expressed:
“We believe this development is important for 2 main reasons: it acknowledges that other educational models can bring innovative solutions to old problems and that there is a need for different kinds of schools to meet the needs of parents who have different values about the very nature of education itself.”
How is creating thinking encourage in Waldorf Education?
Bertram and Pascal-mentioned previously in chapter one-consider effective learners to be independent, creative, self-motivated and resilient individuals, who are formed from activities implemented through creative education. One of the innovative solutions could be argued to be the significant presence of creative practice during Waldorf Education; where the incorporation of this within a child’s day is not only very important, but also necessary:
“Drawing is practiced daily and painting weekly; in addition, children are taught modelling and sculpture with beeswax or clay. ”
Lynne Oldfield further explains:
“A fundamental principle is that of infusing all areas of the curriculum with an artistic element. Artistic activity is not seen as something separate but, rather, as a quality which should enter into all areas of the learning/teaching situation. The development of an artistic sensibility in every child is viewed as an essential aspect of the humanizing process. Artistic activity enriches the feeling nature of children and thereby helps develop their “emotional intelligence.”
Therefore, we can summarise Steiner and Waldorf Schools with this statement:
“The priority of the Steiner ethos is to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing. The curriculum itself is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child. It gives equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development. The core subjects of the curriculum are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content. Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.”
What are the main principles of Waldorf?
Louis Schiller, a former HMI (Inspector of Schools) and vital promoter of reformist ideals and child-orientated teaching in primary education, wrote the characteristics of what he believed to be a “good” school:
“-The School Conceives of primary education, not as something to follow, but as a fulfilment of stage development.
-The school seeks to achieve this fulfilment, not by securing certain standards of attainment, but by providing in abundance such experience and activities as will enable all the children to develop to the full at each phase of growth.
-The children are expressing their powers in language, in movement, in music, in painting, and in making things- that is to say, as artists.
-The children are developing their powers in language, in observation, in counting, and in the use of the body- that is to say workmen.
-The children are learning to live together to the best advantage.
-The children’s need for movement and for rest determine the arrangement of experience and activities, and how much the children get out of an experience or activity determines the amount of time given to it.” (Free to Learn, Lynne Oldfield, pg. 12)
Schillers personal account of important characteristics can also be considered to be in conjunction with those of Waldorf principles. These are:
-To provide an experience based upon an understanding of the child’s developmental needs.
-To acknowledge children as having physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual needs.
-To remain aware of the long-term as well as the immediate effect of the educating process.
-To protect the child’s right to a healthy and appropriate childhood.
-To work with, rather than against, the child’s natural inclination to be active.
-To use imitation and example as educational approaches.
-To support the child’s well-being, and his learning experiences with the use of rhythm and repetition.
-To provide sufficient time, space and right equipment for creative play.
-To be aware of the sensory experience in early childhood
-To respond to the specific needs of the child’s social environment and the times in which we live. (Oldfield, pg. 41)
Not only do these principles seem to reflect what Schiller tells us is a “good” school. Together they re-iterate the Steiner ethos that takes “account of the whole child” via creative practice.
In conclusion of this chapter, we have learned the history of Rudolf Steiner and that he thought a child’s creativity was as important as their intellectuality. We have learned that the arrangement of the syllabus is extremely important in order to create rhythm in a child’s day, in a child’s year, in a child’s life. This arrangement, quite possibly an optimum rhythm for learning, is produced by evoking seasonal events and in 1912 Steiner was quoted to say:
“What the universe reveals through the course of time corresponds to the human rhythm which is not temporal in nature. That part of human nature which is directed to the senses and their perceptions can be felt to correspond to the weaving of light and warmth in summer. That part which is grounded in itself alone, and lives in its own realm of thinking and willing, can be felt to correspond to winter. What in nature appears in the course of time as the alternation of summer and winter thus becomes in man the rhythm of outer and inner life. But he can resolve great mysteries of life by bringing his timeless rhythm of thinking and perception into this connection with the temporal rhythm of nature. Thus the year becomes the prototype of human soul activity and therefore a fruitful source of self-knowledge.”
Additionally, throughout this chapter we have learned how integral art practice is to all aspects this type of educational method. Once more, as author Lynne Oldfield tells us, “artistic activity is not seen as something separate but, rather, as a quality which should enter into all areas of the learning/teaching situation”. Bearing this statement in mind, we can maybe ponder if Waldorf Education has been already recognising the importance of S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) which this dissertation is in favour of.
Chapter 3: STEM or S.T.E.A.M?
Innovative thinking: Record from Sir Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools kill Creativity?”
Sir Ken Robinson could be considered as a prominent representative for the concept of S.T.E.A.M. His work is founded upon the certainty that education could and should nurture children’s’ creativity.
After watching Robinson’s 2006 lecture proposing some new and rather revolutionary beliefs, I have outlined fundamental statements of his which support the argument for creative practice within Primary Education. He begins:
“Our education system is based on the idea of academic ability. And there's a reason. The hierarchy is rooted on two ideas-
Number one: that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So, you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice -- now, profoundly mistaken.
The second idea is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence. If you think of it, the whole system of public education is a prolonged process of university entrance. The consequence of this is that many highly-talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not intelligent, because the thing they were good at during school wasn't valued, or was actually stigmatized.”
These proclamations could be used to show possible reasoning for the findings provided early within this dissertation, such as in chapter one. This contains secondary source information to show that the Scottish Government is simply not doing enough to protect creativity; cutting specialist art teachers in a bid to remain within their given budget. Robinson further expresses his concerns for creativity within schools:
“I think the only way we'll progress is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face the future.
Kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they'll have a go. Am I right? They're not frightened of being wrong. I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative but what we do know is, if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.
By the time kids get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. We stigmatize mistakes. We're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make, and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
The reasoning Robinson appears to give -and the Scottish Government seems to demonstrate- is that children are being educated less on artistic and creative practice merely to preserve academic superiority, and ultimately S.T.E.M. Re-iterating Rodin in Chapter two, it seems the societal endeavour is all about materiality by which success is measured by.
Picasso once stated that all children are born artists . The dilemma is whether or not we can remain as an artist into adulthood. Robinson believes this almost single-mindedly, that we don't grow into creativity, we get educated out if it. So why is this?
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