The politics of knowledge: Re-positioning transdisciplinary artscience learning

Year: 2017

Author: Grushka, Kathryn, Lawry, Miranda, Chand, Ari

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Education has entered an age where learning is seen as a complex sensory interplay and an enactive relationship framed by our understanding of the plasticity and creative capacity of the brain. It is a time when ideologies surrounding knowledge beliefs and existing curriculum constructs dissolve and trans-disciplinary knowledge is expanding. Visual cognition and art/science imagery have both contributed to our knowledge societies (Stafford, 1999, 2009). Enhanced by digital new media images are shaping knowledge across many areas and are now central to how we communicate the scientific, social, cultural and natural world. With both artists and scientists acknowledging the cognitive-affective work images do in embodied learning (Tversky, 2011, 2015) we are poised to enter a new trans-disciplinary learning space.

Government policy however continues to prioritise Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning across all levels of education in Australia echoing a global trend. A STEM-STEAM discourse has now emerged calling for a move beyond previously defined disciplinary boundaries (Hausman, Ploof, Duignan, Brown, and Hostert, 2010) with Marshall (2014) arguing that with the educational turn to the "conceptual/procedural" the arts are well-placed to contribute to trans-disciplinary practice because of their emphasis on the metacognitive and their ability to break down established aesthetic and semiotic boundaries.

This paper presents the longitudinal research findings of a High Performing Students Program (HPSP) at the University of Newcastle, designed to give students the opportunity to get a 'taste' of university, gain credit towards their university studies and carry out student-centred arts based inquiry.
Since 2015 the project has focused an ArtScience reflected in the titles of their exhibitions: Depth 2015, Artchemy, 2016.

The study embeds artful inquiry an approach that sees the visual education researchers considering the entanglement of flows between and across the classroom spaces, teachers, students, and their personal, collective and critical narratives. It analyses the qualitative data of student visual diaries, artworks, student surveys, student focus group interviews and audience feedback to reveal the conceptual complexity, aesthetic, semiotic, relational and metaphoric reasoning about science present in the students' visual art learning. The case studies of Paris, Charlotte and Lindsey reveal the commonalities between art and science reasoning extending the debate about art and science communities of practice, learning and producing new knowledge. The findings provoke discussion about the opportunities for the visual arts in STEAM learning for epistemological boundary crossings opening new transdisciplinary learning spaces.