Affect, embodiment and the ‘learning body’

Year: 2021

Author: Garrett, Robyne

Type of paper: Symposium

Academic underachievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds is an ongoing and unresolved problem. Within the context of neo-liberal education policy reform where there is increasing pressure for teachers to ensure measurable outcomes and accountability of practice, education generally comes to be understood as a cognitive process with little attention to the bodily or affective dimensions of learning. While professional responsibilities continue to be compromised it is teachers who are still left with the overwhelming task of addressing structural inequity that continues to be lived, embodied and felt. This paper draws on new theoretical movements in affect and embodiment to build a case for an embodied, affective and creative pedagogy with a focus on how this might unfold in pedagogic settings with students who experience trauma and poverty. Such pedagogies, signal an epistemological and pedagogical shift for public education toward understanding bodies as agents of knowledge production and creativity as cultural capital. They provoke engagement with notions of a 'learning body' with potential to challenge neoliberal practices and address issues of change and transformation in complex classrooms. In this paper, I report on research that investigates how teachers utilise Creative and Body-based (CBL) provocations to create new affective conditions for learning and new ways of being for their students. Findings reveal some of the ways that affective pedagogies enable new forms of communication and learner identities through bodies, senses and imaginings. Outcomes of this work advance understandings of a 'learning body' as well as how young people might be supported to engage more powerfully with school to foster strong connections, hope, imagination and a re-inspired aspiration to learn.