The Politics of Space: The Environment as Third Teacher in Arts Education

Year: 2017

Author: Wright, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The environment plays a significant role in how students of all ages perceive and use space to create, communicate and interpret meaning. The Reggio Emilia approach to education, for instance, "talks about three educators as being in the classroom at the any one time: the teacher, the child, and the environment" (Strong-Wilson & Ellis, 2007, p. 41). Eight principles that have been identified as key to our understanding of the environment as third teacher are: aesthetics, transparency, active learning, flexibility, collaboration, reciprocity, bringing the outdoors in, and relationships (Fraser, 2006). Similarly, the Quality of Qualities report (Seidel, et al, 2009), which focuses on excellence in arts education, foregrounds three key constructs with regard to the environment: (a) Functional, safe, aesthetic space, materials and resources; (b) A central place for the arts within the physical environment; and (b) Sufficient time for authentic, artist work.

A focus on the role of the environment on learning may be viewed as a social process that occurs when people are engaged in material, embodied, conceptual, semiotic and socially-oriented activities (Wright, S., Watkins, M., & Grant, G., 2017). How space has been designed and is utilised within the arts-based, tertiary learning context of studioFive at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne will be foregrounded to illustrate the underlying epistemology and ontology of studioFive, and the way in which these are interpreted and enacted across five arts disciplines - dance/movement, drama, media, music and the visual arts.