Creative and body-based learning: Growing a professional learning program for teachers and students in disadvantaged schools

Year: 2016

Author: Garrett, Robyne, Rankin, Joss, Rigney, Lester - Irabinna, Dawson, Katie, Paige, Kathy, Wrench, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In neoliberal times, accountability measures and high-stakes testing further contribute to differentiated outcomes for young people. The way that knowledge is conceptualised in tests regularly fails to recognize the embodied knowledge and abilities of many young people. Significantly, testing restricts pedagogic possibilities. Teachers revert to traditional and didactic approaches that are tightly controlled and teacher-directed. Children become passive receivers of knowledge, and are mostly required to keep still. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds who historically have both ‘rejected and been rejected by education’ overwhelmingly continue to be least successful. In confronting these traditions, focus is drawn to pedagogies that appreciate bodies as agents of knowledge production and creativity as cultural capital. Through creative and embodied pedagogies, young people are positioned as creators of knowledge and bodies as agents of knowledge production. Based in theories of critical pedagogy, creative and body–based learning (CBL) draws on the work of Dawson’s (2011) drama based pedagogy as well as embodied pedagogies and translates them into the local context in South Australian schools. This paper documents the process of growing a creative and body-based professional learning program, from 2 schools, 5 teachers and 2 artists in 2015, to 9 schools, 25 teachers and 10 artists in 2016 leading to a critical mass of teachers using the approach as well as evidence of its effects. This paper reports on research that sought to investigate the impact of CBL approaches on engagement, dispositions and conceptual understandings in mathematics for students from aboriginal and disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, researchers were interested in ways that teachers used CBL to broaden their suite of pedagogical practices. The paper first describes the professional learning program that invited teachers, students and artists into collaborative inquiry. We then describe the action research model and data collection approaches, including the use of an engagement framework based on affective, cognitive and operative engagement (Munns, Sawyer & Cole, 2013). In conclusion, we argue the value of creative and body-based learning and discuss the challenges of sustaining professional learning programs that might contribute to a transformation of pedagogy. References Cawthon, S., Dawson, K., & Ihorn, S. (2011). Activating student engagement through drama-based instruction. Journal for Learning Through the Arts, 7(1): 1-27.Munns, G., Sawyer, W., & Cole, C. (2013). Exemplary Teachers of Students in Poverty New York: Routledge.