Why do we need the arts in education?

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read this. I am extremely excited at the opportunity to share my ideas and have some objective feedback! Secondly, please forgive me for a lack acknowledgement for ‘art’ as a subject in its own right. However, all ‘creative’ subjects’ and the skills I believe they teach learners play an important role in this discussion. Moreover, I would like to set out from the off that I am writing this from a very personal viewpoint and leaving out any references to further research to make the post as short as possible, and to stir up as big a discussion as possible.

I mostly wanted to write this blog to gather feedback from teachers of all subjects about your feelings about the arts in education. So please write from the heart when commenting on this blog! Moreover, in this current educational climate where many subjects are ‘under threat’ I believe it provides us with a fantastic opportunity to assess the merits of all subjects and how and why we teach what we do. Obviously the National Curriculum, GCSEs, BTECs and A levels dictate what we teach, therefore, we have to teach within these ‘restrictions’ (my personal view). I hope to present a slightly different view of the arts and the transferable skills with which they provide our learners.


The process

IDEA – – – – > DEVELOP – – – – > REFINE – – – – > PRESENT

The Idea

This is the point where someone has the confidence to have an original idea or thought and know that they can develop and refine it through the process. In music this could be a small melody and drum pattern, in engineering class it could be an original theory that tests new ways of erecting bridges and in an english lesson it could be a new way of writing narrative that has never been seen before. These original ideas are the most powerful currency we hold as we move our learners into the future. Giving learners the confidence to generate and develop these ideas should be one of our main educational priorities.

The Development

This is where previous knowledge and subject specific skills meet creativity, where ideas are stretched and objectively challenged through confident arguments and judgements. In a school setting this is where we can truly see that learners have understood concepts and how to apply them to new ideas (which is what we hope they will do in their future jobs and vocations?). This is taught in music all the time. We develop melodies by extending, layering and fusing new ideas together. Learners are given the confidence to create individual work and display it to their classmates whilst it is still just a ‘work in progress’. If we can encourage more of this in all our teaching we could see a never ending stream of new and creative ideas flowing through our schools.

The Refinement

Another developmental step, but an important one. It is mostly the same concept as drafting work, but in a creative way. Learners still apply previously learnt knowledge and concepts as they mould and shape their work. This occurs through performance and composition in music lessons where learners use teacher and peer feedback to improve their work. This step is important in breeding the confidence to continually improve concepts and work, a skill that anyone would like to see in any subject and workplace alike!

The Presentation

This area is much talked about and I do not want to repeat the ‘confidence gained through performance argument’ (even if I do wholeheartedly subscribe to it). I feel the ability to present new ideas, information and concepts is an invaluable skill that all learners need to acquire. The ability to confidently present your original ideas and explain their developmental process is the final hurdle in turning abstract concepts into reality. If all learners could deliver their thoughts and ideas as well as the world’s best inspirational public speakers and performers I feel that we would have a huge amount of innovative ideas that will drive our workforces and economy through every test the future holds.

So …

This is a very basic model of the process that I believe the arts teach (it is the process I aim to instill through teaching composition and performance). From an objective viewpoint I can see that these can be taught within other subjects, but I do not feel the ‘process’ would be acknowledged enough when taught away from the arts. To (hopefully) spark some debate I would argue that leaving this invaluable process in the hands of English, Maths and the Sciences would leave too much room for tokenism, much the same way that embedding numeracy in a music lesson would. It is not that the process would not be acknowledge and applied, it is just that I do not think it would be a truly transferable skill for the learner. Therefore, I feel that teaching the arts ‘as they are’ would allow learners to apply this invaluable creative process to all aspects of the curriculum.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this post, please feel to comment and retweet!


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