Artists made sure the classroom was a highly social and sociable place

Artists made sure the classroom was a highly social and sociable place

Artists had three important practices that led to activities being profoundly ‘social’.

Artists had a different approach to inclusion. Rather than see that some children had special needs that had to be taken into account and therefore that teaching approaches had to be adjusted for them in some way (usually via reduction of difficulty), artists began with the view that all children and young people were capable of having ideas, making meanings, and participating. If they saw that this was not happening, then they generally encouraged and persisted, rather than change what they were doing. Tasks were usually open-ended and artists made explicit that there would be a range of ways in which children could participate -  nothing was either right or wrong , t here was no one way better than another, doing the very best that you could was all that was required. This invitation offered every student the opportunity to act in ways that felt comfortable. The high expectations of practitioners were usually met, and it was often to the surprise of teachers who commented on the ways in which creative pedagogies allowed students who appeared to struggle in other aspects of school to do surprising things.

Artists worked to ensure that students had choice and agency. Many creative practitioners worked on an improvisational basis which required students to contribute ideas. They negotiated activities. This was a direct ‘take’ from their creative practices, where a multitude of ideas were generated before one or a small number were chosen to develop further. These activities offered students real choices not only about what they did individually, but also what a group or the whole class might do. Many creative practitioners saw this as ‘empowerment’. Practitioners believed that arts practice was a way of developing students’ sense of their own capability and agency, of their ability to resist manipulation and make distinctive, autonomous choices about means and purposes.

Artists worked to support students to build a positive sense of identity. A belief in the value of ‘becoming somebody’ was strong among creative practitioners and many of the teachers who worked with them. This was enacted through  commitments to giving students a say in what happened in the name of creative practice, and to building the kind of school ethos in which sociality was central. Arts and creative activities supported children and young people to gain ‘confidence’ – by this we mean that the  events, activities, associations, conversations, processes of making meaning on offer allowed students  to act in ways which allowed them to gain a new embodied understanding of who they were, what they could do now, and what they might do in the future.

Further information

Video materials

A selection of videos from our Vimeo channel on creating a social and sociable place can be viewed below.