Aesthetic Learning About, In, With and Through the Arts: A Curriculum Study. Internationla Journal of Art & Design education. Volume 31, Issue 2, pp. 166-179, June 2012.
Aesthetic learning is a major issue in arts education. The ‘method of art’ is often expected to facilitate in-depth learning not only in the arts but across the curriculum. This article defines aesthetic learning in terms of a conceptual framework based on two dimensions, one representing the goal and the other the means of aesthetic learning. The goal is described as convergent or divergent. Convergent learning is goal-directed, focused and rational, while divergent learning is explorative, open-ended and intuitive. The means are described as medium-specific or medium-neutral. Medium-specific learning emphasises the forms of representation, for example words, pictures, algebra, dance. Medium-neutral learning emphasises instrumental aspects of learning, such as academic achievement or personal development. Combining these dimensions two-by-two, the author arrives at a suggested definition of what is meant by learning about, learning in, learning with and learning through the arts. The rest of the article investigates the potential utility of this framework in various contexts and for different purposes. First, the author presents two temporary ‘Culture-in-School’ projects. Secondly, the framework is used to study aesthetic learning processes in sloyd (art & craft), based on student teachers’ portfolios in metalwork. Thirdly, the four modes of learning are compared to equivalent modes of teaching: the instructor, the facilitator, the advisor and the educator. Fourthly, there is a discussion on the role of aesthetics in a ‘balanced’ curriculum. Finally, there is an argument on the need for a variety of assessment tools based on the four modes of learning and teaching, such as copying, portfolios, projects and the repertory grid technique.