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Learning in the arts is distinct from most other subjects for three reasons. First, the arts are centrally a representational domain and learning in the arts involves becoming aware of how representational choices communicate meaning to different audiences. Second, form and meaning are integrated; artistic representations are saturated with meaning, and subtle variations are consequential to that meaning. Third, work in the arts involves examining identify and culture, because artistic cognition is intertwined with both. This chapter argues that these three distinct features of arts learning have implications for our understanding of learning more generally. The chapter reviews four types of research: (1) how the arts have been studied in educational settings; (2) how learning occurs in different arts including music and visual arts; (3) the key features of arts learning: the role of the audience, critique, authentic assessment, and role taking; (4) how an arts-based perspective can contribute to our understanding of learning in all subjects.
The learning sciences distinguish itself as a field within education research
by their attention to how insights about the cognitive and sociocultural
nature of thinking and learning can be applied to the design of learning
environments. As a learning scientist, an artist, and a digital media
scholar, I am drawn to questions of how to design spaces for young people so
that they can participate successfully in media arts–based production
activities. I call these participatory media spaces, an
extension of Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, and Robison’s
(2007) framing of digital spaces for artistic production and civic
engagement as participatory cultures. The rhetorical shift
from participatory cultures to participatory media spaces means changing our
focus from documenting what happens in these spaces and how people
participate to insights about how to design learning environments with
specific learning goals in mind. While prior work has focused on what people
learn from their engagement in participatory cultures (Gee, 2007; Ito et
al., 2010; Jenkins et al., 2007), I consider design from the perspective of
intentional learning. There is no doubt that learning happens as a result of
engagement in participatory cultures. Learning happens no matter what we do
(Wenger, 1998). However, learning something is an entirely
different matter. In this chapter I shift the focus from an understanding of
learning in participatory media spaces to how to design participatory media
spaces so that young people can engage successfully in artistic production
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