Artful collaborations: facilitating participatory arts-based communities of practice

Year: 2013

Author: Sinclair, Christine, Watkins, Marnee, Sallis, Richard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The application of arts rich practice in the primary classroom can present many challenges to the generalist teacher. Not the least of these challenges being confidence with the arts and access to mentoring within and beyond schools, and the availability of appropriate models of arts practice.  How to support classroom teachers in their take up of the arts in their classrooms and what role professional development programs might have in enhancing and enriching the teaching of the arts in the primary classroom is the question situated at the heart of this paper.
The paper focuses on a three-way exchange between artists, teachers and program facilitators (arts educators), initiated when teacher educators facilitate a professional development event. In the program generalist primary teachers and practising artists collaborate in a series of transformative art making experiences designed to engender confidence and an enhanced desire to bring the arts into classrooms.
Drawing on the professional development event and follow-up school based mentoring, the authors further develop the notion of  ‘trialogue’– the three-way interaction between artists, teachers and program facilitators (arts educators). The trialogue establishes a dynamic and collaborative model of learning and exchange and supports the evolution of purposeful and playful encounters with the arts through which teachers are invited to embrace their potential role as artists in their classrooms, rather than merely facilitators of the artistic practice of their students. In this model of professional development, the role of the program facilitators (arts educators) as capacity builders is central. This paper examines the steps taken by program facilitators in generating this capacity building approach to the professional development of teachers and development of learning relationships between participants, artists and teacher educations
Through this model, the authors seek to understand how a highly participatory engagement with artistic practice, which invites exploration, creative risk taking, collaborative endeavour and the privileging of individual and collective voice, can contribute firstly to the evolution of a community of arts-based practice amongst the participants, and also to the implementation of confident arts practices by the teachers in their own lives and their classrooms.
The paper draws on emerging findings from a research project currently underway at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in which one theatre artist and two contemporary visual artists have been invited to engage in immersive, playful explorations in art making alongside the participating teachers, in parallel drama and visual arts workshops.