Rethinking scientific and empirical learning through visual arts

Owing to the recent two years of nationwide shutdown, school learning as we all know transitioned dramatically. Educators from around the globe realized the importance of immersive and interactive learning modules. And as they say, “learning and comprehension vary to all children”, it becomes relevant for educators to ensure a learning model that is easily understandable and accessible for all. Scientific literacy for young learners is vital as it is the study of the physical, biological, and chemical world that can make a significant impact on young minds. For many years, educators have been supporting students with traditional methods like lab experiments and observations to encourage learning. However, a combination of hands-on laboratory experience and visual arts can ramp up the discovery and learning capabilities of young learners.

Confirming the same, a study published in Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching highlighted how children’s mental and physical development was enhanced and stimulated during science learning mainly because of the integration of visual arts. The study also revealed that introduction to visual arts made a positive impact on students’ growth and progress prospects. Integration of arts in scientific concepts gives freedom of choosing a preferred art form to students where they get a chance to freely express their learning inclination towards science. This is more impactful on young students, as they uniquely absorb and develop comprehension of complex concepts.

Envisioning future-ready education

According to The World Economic Forum’s ‘The Future of Jobs’ report, 65% of children entering primary schools today will be working in new job types and functions that currently don’t even exist. Technology is evolving at a faster rate and the shifts are unpredictable. Progressing sectors like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning may create many new cross-functional roles that will demand all technical, social, and analytical skills. Hence, it has become highly important to go beyond old and conventional academic pursuits. By presenting a multi-sensory experience that goes beyond chalk and board, arts integrations can lay the foundation for deeper learning. New age and refined teaching methods can use technology to integrate immersive learning via visual arts. The immersive classrooms will offer students a rich environment to understand the innovative use of technology while becoming proficient in their subject areas.

Implementation of visual arts and techniques

Integration of visual arts follows various integration styles, each with its own goals, pedagogies, and roles. At a primary level, a subservient style of art takes precedence in classroom instruction. At this age, cognitive thinking skills are not yet developed to retain and comprehend complex scientific concepts. Thus, songs, cartoons, visuals, art, craft, and drama serve as effective and impactful learning aids in this style. The activities here may also include songs related to the solar system and the usage of crafts or visuals to demonstrate academic concepts. The subservient technique has been helping many young students memorize the basics of science through learning lyrics and melody in a rhythmic pattern.

On the other hand, co-equal Integration style demands subject-specific domain knowledge and skills. Here, educators with extensive artistic backgrounds or by collaboration with art professionals integrate curriculum with art-specific contents and modes of thinking. The lessons on sound can be taught by inviting a vocalist, a guitarist, or a percussionist, subject knowledge is complemented by live demonstration. This creates a strong association and deep understanding of concepts. Similarly, sculpting organ systems with plasticine clay brings life and enthusiasm to the classroom.

The third type which is ‘affective style’ revolves around humanism and behaviourism. Here, the teacher judges their learners’ moods and preparedness while imparting a lesson. At times, they may also perform mood-altering activities like playing music to uplift and motivate students in the classroom. The social integration style is the fourth type which is an important part of the school community. It focuses on the social functions of school and its role as a community. School events such as cultural evenings, interschool competitions, symposiums, parent-teacher meetings, and conclaves become platforms where artistic work by students is displayed in a social setting.

Educators as agents of change

The new conceptualizations often call for a change in existing structures and suggest collaboration among groups that do not traditionally work together. It may also take a while for an educator to understand the different learning theories such as behaviorism, humanism, connectivism, and constructivism. While teachers are actively working towards adopting these innovative teaching techniques, technology is helping institutions create a roadmap towards sustainable change. With artificial intelligence (AI) becoming integral to teaching and learning, there is an ongoing educational revolution. With tech-driven methodologies and AI integration, the new approach to learning, Education 4.0, is an interdisciplinary method of teaching and learning.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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