Arts based pedagogy: gaining insight through multiple lenses

The idea of expressing ideas and new learning through the arts is embraced by some, questioned by many, and ignored by others. We’re excited by the opportunity to include the multiple lenses the arts provide in our teaching practice. Here are our first thoughts – they might be useful as an introduction to your professional learning conversation about arts based pedagogy.

Arts based pedagogy knows no age limit nor is it confined by a discipline. Arts based pedagogy invites students to use multiple formats to demonstrate what they know, what they are thinking, and what they question. It is a powerful instructional strategy that is accessible to all students. Here’s a reader’s submission to the journal, Teacher:

Using arts-based pedagogies or arts-inquiries goes beyond singing the times-tables or watching a topical DVD, it is about framing learning experiences to connect the cognitive with the emotive, to critically examine assumptions, understandings and beliefs, to view things from different perspectives, and create a space for experimentation where alternative views can be explored. It is about creating a space where self-esteem, identity, voice, compassion and empathy can be developed and expressed. It is student centered, participatory and socially constructed. It can be used within single subjects but is a natural way to integrate or teach across the curriculum and has the greatest pedagogical impact in developing an understanding and potential engagement in social justice” You may wish to share the full article Arts Based Pedagogy, The Natural Partner for Social Justice  with your colleagues.

It’s important to note that arts based pedagogy is not about creating “fine art” to represent content; it’s about representing learning and thinking in an alternate form. That form can include poetry, visual arts, theater, dance – the sky is the limit.

So what does this look like in the classroom? It’s important to know that as the instructor, you don’t need to identify as an artist, but it is important that you feel comfortable exploring information in creative ways and are open to artistic representations. To begin, here’s the simplest possible way to demonstrate how a “squiggle” can lead to deep thinking, questioning, intriguing conversations and new ideas. Before you view this video, take some time to answer the question, “How would you complete this simple line to create an image?”

And what about assessing arts based pedagogy – can you actually assess creativity?  It a great topic for discussion. Grant Wiggins thinks we can and we agree. Check out what Wiggins has to say and his handy rubric Creative.

To conclude this professional learning conversation about arts based pedagogy, break into two groups. Group 1 reads and creates an artistic representation of  “Arts-based inquiry: the natural partner for social justice”  and group two views and represents this TED Talk by astronaut Mae Jemsion, who states that the science and the arts are different manifestations of the same thing and sees “the arts and science as avatars of human creativity”.

Interested? Here’s our simple start point for arts based pedagogy – a poem, some post-its, some thinking, some sketches – the road to learning begins.

For more professional conversations about education, please visit:Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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