Aesthetic Representations of Community
This teacher/action-research inquiry investigated awareness and understanding about students’ sense of place (community) through arts-based lessons within a classroom ethnography framework. Two Teacher Candidates used social constructivist pedagogy to plan and teach the same lessons to two groups of elementary students in two different locales, Kamloops (small city) and Ashcroft (rural). Soundscapes, visual imagery maps, role play and reflective writing were the aesthetic media utilized. Interpretation of the data collected (video, audio, observation and field notes, class discussion and informal teacher-student and student-student conversation) were developed and created using autobiographical, reflective narratives by the teacher-researchers involved.
Findings included: (1) shared creative experiences utilizing acoustic awareness and the use of aural representation as a way of expressing understanding was a new and effective learning tool for students in this study; (2) sounds and images, as concrete representations of reality as well as symbolic abstractions, metaphorically reflected broad socio-cultural associations and norms, which were represented as strikingly similar in the two different communities; (3) unexpectedly, community aspects represented on both the map and soundscape were exclusively focused on place, without people; (4) the various art forms permitted students multiple ways to understand, express and communicate understanding that addressed a diversity of learning styles as students built skills in, and made connections between, the art forms and notably, these modalities made learning more accessible and enjoyable for some reluctant learners in both classes; and (5) generative, collaborative decisions about representing ideas had to be negotiated, thereby requiring critical thinking skills of students as they demonstrated personal attitudes, values and beliefs, providing opportunities for peer leadership and scaffolding.