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Arts and Design and Technology Reflection

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Introduction

Harnessing a positive growth mindset through professional learning is an essential skill I continue to develop within my education. Reflecting critically on the beliefs and values I hold in relation to Arts and Design and Technology education has placed my learning on a continuum that accepts my strengths and weaknesses as opportunities, rather than failures or successes. Interacting with making and responding tasks and scholarly literature has cemented my advocacy standpoint, arguing for inclusive, supportive and encouraging classrooms that welcome diversity.

Supporting children’s rights to quality arts and design and technology educationArts and design technologies teach essential 21st century skills that are both relevant and transferable, valuing creativity and innovation (Anderson, 2015; Fleer & Jane, 2014). I firmly believe in the provision of a positive learning environment, inclusive of all student behavioural and learning needs, in an atmosphere that promotes safe risk taking and divergent thinking (Fleer & Jane, 2014; Dinham, 2014).

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Listening to the podcasts of Phil Rolfe (2015), have enriched my understanding and beliefs regarding student access to arts and design education, and Robinson’s article on creativity in schools broadened my perspective of the impact teaching arts and design and technology can have on learners (Robinson, 2006). Exploring cookie-cutter lesson content and teaching pedagogies as unauthentic arts practices has enhanced my self-awareness when planning arts units (Dinham, 2014). I now acknowledge the importance of syncing effective pedagogy and curriculum content to provide quality learning experiences that enrich students’ lives, and harness their potential (Churchill et. al. , 2016).

Creating learning environment that support safe risk-takingIn my first year of secondary school, our visual art teacher instructed us that no erasers would be allowed in her class, as she asserted there were “no mistakes in art”. Despite initially struggling with this idea due to my perfectionist nature, the positive attitude that she modelled inspired me to embrace her edict within my education, and now my own teaching practice.

This core belief has caused me to focus on the learning journey in arts, and the process of reinvention (Arts Tasmania, 2015). The Mountain Heights school project opened my eyes to students’ abilities to think deeply and hold overwhelmingly positive feelings towards their experiences in art making (Arts Tasmania, 2015). I found through researching the theme of mistake making in art that scholarly literature not only supports, but also mimics my beliefs (Miller-Long, 2017). Miller-Long (2017) highlights the important mental processes that occur when recognising mistakes and re-designing personal ideas to accommodate for these. By instilling this in my future students, I am teaching them to see the constructive nature of mistakes, and feel confident to take risks when expressing their creativity.

Modelling positive attitudes and encouraging creativity within the classroom.

Bridge-building activities in STEAM education encourage cooperative and critical thinking skills within a creative class environment (Fleer & Jane, 2015). I completed a similar task to Stoke Bishop primary when I was in year three in primary school, researching bridges and designing a bridge that could withstand a certain weight (EdChat TV, 2013). Revisiting this activity by applying myself to a solution-based challenge introduced in this unit, I discovered a critical area for improvement within my learning and knowledge of design and technology learning areas. The bridge-designing task involving books, coins, plastic straws and masking tape highlighted my inability to visualise an end result (King, 2018). Despite thoroughly enjoying the mental puzzle, I had to change my thinking to focus on the process and technique of experimentation to create solution fluency (Fleer & Jane, 2015; Global Digital Citizen Foundation, 2016).

In my future practice, activities such as tinkering and product deconstruction to understand design and technologies are methods I will adopt to assist students who have similar visualisation issues (Fleer & Jane, 2015). Learning through “making and responding” to arts and design challenges has enabled me to appreciate my opportunities and the opportunities I am able to give my students (Dinham, 2014). Modelling resilience and integrating projects that challenge students’ thinking are key traits I will continue to grow to encourage a positive growth-mindset within my future school. Reflecting, learning and applying constructive feedback in the creative proccessEvaluating and dissecting my teaching beliefs ensures that I am aware of the impact and meaning these will have on students in my future classroom (Farrell & Ives, 2014). My constructivist mindset is intrinsically tied to the inclusion of reflective practice (Dinham, 2014). Being able to link prior knowledge to new learning and self-assess my learning is a skill I continue to develop, posing a challenging but cognitively rich learning environment (Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001; Duchesne & McMaugh, 2016). Both the six-pointed star map for inquiry projects in arts education, and the design process model in design and technology education contain evaluation and reflection stages (Fleer & Jane, 2015; Dinham, 2014). Analysing and utilising both methods in my visual arts unit plan has created a deeper understanding of how each learning area works, and how to best present them to students. Constructive feedback as formative assessment impacts student motivation powerfully, and I have learned to apply this through self-assessment of my learning (Churchill et. al. , 2016).

Completing the dynamic composition task and then deconstructing how I had reached my final product emphasised the learning journey I had undergone and its value (King, 2018a).

Arts advocacy within the education system

The subject of dance in arts education was the one I was most uncertain of entering into this unit, as my knowledge of the pedagogies and theory of dance is minimal. However, embracing an attitude of open-mindedness and willingness to learn allowed me to understand how dance can be integrated into primary school education. The pedagogy used by classroom teachers to break down dance lessons and link literacy to movement, pattern and repetition through poetry demonstrated how these two areas of the curriculum could be integrated in an engaging way (Teaching Channel, n. d. ). Analysing the debate of the place of arts in education has enabled me to recognise my own standpoint on this issue, and how I can promote this. Young (2017) argues that in with an increasingly demanding, time-conscious curriculum, arts funding may be the first to be cut.

In contrast, Ewing (2010) asserts that education through the arts promotes increased academic performance, positively impacting on students’ emotional, social, physical and academic potential. Although I acknowledge the difficulty teachers’ face in endorsing arts learning due to time constraints, my belief is that it is essential to nurture the creative dispositions of children. Encouraging their curiosity, persistence and individuality will enhance their cross-curriculum critical and creative thinking skills and reverberate positivity and excitement through arts learning (Dinham, 2014). Cultural knowledge and sensitivity in a creative environmentA video project on Indigenous Australian history that I completed in year six has continued to influence my actions in relation to cultural sensitivity. Using colour to represent emotion, and music to help tell a story without words were elements of the arts I used in a unit that was history-based, highlighting the crucial connection of arts education to other aspects of the curriculum. Harnessing the cultural diversity of students who live in a multicultural society will encourage them to share their heritage and adopt an attitude of positivity and mindfulness (Bamford, 2006; Donelan, 2012).

Exploring student identity through the lens of the five arts disciplines, and design and technology strands promotes self-expression, compassion, empathy and tolerance (Donelan, 2012). Despite my early introduction to respect and understanding the value of cultures beyond my own, I acknowledge that this is an area I can continue to improve in by broadening my scope and carefully considering how unique cultures can be integrated sensitive to their beliefs and the needs of my students.

Conclusion

Applying reflective thinking strategies to my practice as a future teacher will enrich my learning and consistently alter and merge my Arts and Design and Technology teaching beliefs. Analysing and interpreting my learning experiences within a university setting, and my time in primary and secondary school, will continue to shape the type of educator I hope to be: inclusive, supportive, engaging and able to draw out my students individuality to promote uniqueness and creativity in an age of global connectedness.

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