For the last day of the institute, we used the “I Used to Think, Now I Think, Now I Wonder” thinking routine for our final morning reflection. This framework can be extremely useful for reflecting back upon learning across any extended project.
Arts learning experiences are often tacked on to the end of a unit to illustrate core concepts after they have been taught, but in order for arts integration to assume its full power, the arts experiences need to be interwoven throughout the teaching process as integral to the learning itself, informing and generating understanding rather than simply reporting on what has been learned, after the fact.
If literature classes are being taught through “centers” in the classroom addressing different aspects of engaging the text, there can be centers set up for different art forms.
While we are typically only expected to assess student content knowledge and skill acquisition, we may also want to assess the creativity of their expressions. To this end, Kurt introduced us to the TORRANCE TESTS OF CREATIVE THINKING.
The last day of the institute was not conducted at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Instead, as a kind of transforming displacement that allowed us to look at our work in a new way, we convened at the Chicago Art Department community based professional art gallery, where Cynthia and Tommaso had hung our artwork from the week in a stunning installation. We discussed how the special dignity of a beautifully designed exhibition of student artworks, created in response to a text, not only honors the students, but also generates new dialogues between the artworks, with audiences to the work, and with the original texts themselves.
Next, Cynthia provided us with viewing frames for noticing details of both the gallery where we were exhibiting our artworks and of the artworks themselves. This produced further insight into the somewhere places that we all come from, and informed the development of our final Performances of Understanding.
Kurt acted as a conductor, calling on and orchestrating our telling of our “where we came from” pieces.
We then broke into groups to create performances of our written pieces from the week for each other, adjusting them by using feedback principles developed by teachers at High Tech High in San Diego. The eminently sane prime directive of the High Tech High critique methodology is simply this: feedback should be kind, helpful, and specific.
We then shared our groups’ Performances of Understanding, based on the Performance Cycle principle that new knowledge only assumes its full life in learners’ hearts and minds once it is shared with others. All learning is relational.
We concluded with a heart-felt sharing in a circle. We each took a deep breath, and in the time that it took for each of us to exhale, shared a core insight from our time together. While much of the world now seems to be a landscape of division and despair, here we experienced a place “somewhere in La Mancha” of connection and hope.