Conversation on Arts in Education

  • Dr. Vivek Benegal: Using Art Training to Rewire the Brain



    Slides from the Talk

    Click here for Slides from Dr. Vivek Benegal

    Synopsis of the Talk

    Vivek Benegal explores ways in which one can identify and predict the behaviours of individuals mostly teenagers and young adults who are more vulnerable than others to high risks behaviors such as drug abuse, addiction, early pregnancy etc. Vivek works collaboratively with teachers and pediatricians to explore ways of providing appropriate interventions to these individuals.

    School teachers have long been witness to what research also suggests: that adolescents at high-risks manifest certain discernible behaviours such as difficulty in sustaining attention, impulsivity, less self-control, difficulty in learning from mistakes, repetition of the same strategy despite failure, difficulty in disengaging from mind-wandering state and engaging in physical tasks. Interestingly, these individuals have also been found to have high level of creativity. Vivek however worries that the unchallenging traditional school system curbs the creativity of these individuals since it provides no opportunities to cultivate their potentials.

    Through research findings, Vivek suggests that adolescent brains are plastic, can be rewired and their potentials enhanced through certain practices, one of them being art. Art, he says can be used as therapeutics to change the pathological states of the brain functioning. Art education especially music, dance and visual art have been found to improve cognitive functions such as learning, memory and attention. Vivek thus contends that art education can be used to provide avenues to individuals at high-risk to not only enhance their creative potentials, but also improve the quality of their brain functioning, thus protecting them from their vulnerabilities.

    Conversations in response to Dr. Vivek Benegal’s thoughts.


    Click here for Slides from Dr. Vivek Benegal



    Dr. Lois Hetland’s thoughts on the relevance of Art in Schools



    Synopsis of the Talk

    Why do we need art in schools? Lois Hetland’s own background as a math and science teacher who always resorted to using art to make math-science learning meaningful informs her work on reinventing the classroom as an atelier or studio. During her talk she introduced her 7 Studio Habits of the Mind, a significant smithereen of her contribution to Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    In her talk, Hetland tells us why art is a way of meaning making and how the inclusion of arts in the academic curriculum offers learners the chance to view the world as artistic minds. She argues against the emphasis of skill centric learning as she believes this methodology to be detrimental to education as it often renders skills inert and meaningless. We have to help students develop a passion and alertness to know when and where skills are required and art, therefore, is a way of finding those personal meanings. Art offers the learner a way of making informed judgments – this is where creativity operates at the edge of the known and unknown enabling the learner to envision an idea. Envisioning an idea is like “seeing in your mind what you cannot see with your eyes”. Hetland extends this thought when she talks about how an idea that is envisioned can be further explored and stretched to give birth to multifarious possibilities. She makes it clear that exploring an idea has a lot to do with play and errors – error is both inevitable and necessary in learning as it allows learners to diagnose ways of approaching a dilemma.

    In the second part of her talk Lois Hetland addresses the relevance of contemporary art in connection with the studio habits of the mind. Contemporary art reveals and addresses issues a global community must confront and resolve. An introduction to contemporary arts practices already in existence and encouragement for learner to build on their own contemporary ways of artistic expression could serve as entry points to personal and collective inquiry. Using examples from her recent visit to the Venice Biennale, Hetland is convincing in her tenet that contemporary art not only employs the studio habits of the mind successfully but more importantly its richness opens up the possibility of discussion, dialogue and deep engagement.

    Conversations in response to Dr. Lois Hetland’s thoughts.



    Dr. Jyoti Sahi’s thoughts on Learning through Patterns



    Synopsis of the Talk

    The understanding of patterns is synonymous to a kind of literacy that is visual in its essence. Using patterns for learning can serve as a beginning point for learners who do not come from typically literate backgrounds as the alphabet too could be seen as a pattern. Patterns need not be restricted to pretty designs. We can see patterns in cultures, and thoughts and patterns are within the ripples of our soul. With succinct examples from mythological stories and mathematical paradoxes where patterns present themselves as metaphors, optical illusions and problems, Jyoti Sahi talks about how patterns can tell stories.

    The decision making process involved in the making or in observing a pattern is one that is informed by the interplay of feeling and experience. In fact, Jyoti Sahi argues that it is patterns that form the link to our outside and inner worlds. He points out how the recognition of patterns can impact learning and allow children to make meanings that are their own and to form their original perceptions about their surroundings.

    Patterns offer us a lens through which ideas can converge and diverge. Historically, Indian culture and the influences of Mughal architecture in Hindu temples lay before us a plethora of patterns at play. Patterns can be dominant in a particular community, they can also be adopted into other communities. Here, Jyoti Sahi is referring to patterns in the literal sense of physical ‘drawn/sculpted’ patterns as well as patterns as practice within communities.

    Conversations in response to Dr. Jyoti Sahi’s thoughts.


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