Research

Creative Inquiry: Student Initiated Investigations in the Artroom

Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of requirements for Master's of Art + Design Education

We live in a world in which creativity is touted as the pathway to innovation and to the solutions that will equip this generation to solve the world’s problems. However, what does this mean in the art classroom? Is this yet another way to justify the place of the arts in school curriculum through vocational validation?What is of value of solving a problem in an art studio setting that allows students the opportunity to develop understanding in a unique way? How does studio practice shape a mindset that is intrinsically interdisciplinary and integrated? In what ways do student-initiated studio investigations lead to higher-order, critical thinking? 

In this thesis, I build an argument for student-initiated inquiry in the artroom, which places teachers alongside young artists as guides and facilitators of learning. I situate current art education practices within a historical framework of teaching pedagogies, and I examine current trends in arts integration and studio practice as arts-based research. I explore the investigative nature of the studio setting and the unique inquiry that opens the door to multiple, self-driven answers. I consider the opportunities to ask questions in high school courses through studio prompts, opportunities for reflection, and critique. The thesis also highlights examples of alternative learning spaces such as Fablabs, Hackerspaces, and Makerspaces as models of teaching and learning environments that allow for studio practice as research. With a focus on inquiry that leads to a strong sense of self and engages young students through the trajectory of curiosity, I present ways in which the art studio, as a place of deep personal research, makes space for the layering of knowledge, and fosters in students the development of deeper understandings and insights about the world.


Creating the Transdisciplinary Individual: Guiding Principles Rooted in Studio Pedagogy

(manuscript in revision for peer review submission)

Affiliation: The Nature Lab, Rhode Island School of Design

It is widely recognized that the great challenges of the 21st Century cannot be understood or adequately addressed through one discipline that operates in a silo of research. Solutions to these grand scale problems require varied expertise and multiple disciplinary methodologies to generate plausible solution strategies. The individuals involved in collaborative, transdisciplinary projects must be capable of multiple modes of inquiry, employing not only scientific methods and traditional research skills, but also engaging additional methods of inquiry and understandings such as those used in the an art or design studio. This paper first looks at literature on transdisciplinarity and notes within this literature the pattern of importance placed on the transdisciplinary individual. Secondly, it is argued that studio pedagogy and the practice of studio inquiry are integral to fostering the growth of the transdisciplinary individual capable of multi-modal inquiry practices. Finally, acknowledging the growth of literature on STEAM pedagogy as a model for integrated curriculum, it is established that foundational to an effective STEAM framework are the principles and practices of studio pedagogy and studio-based research. 


Artists using metrics: Reaching Across Disciplinary Boundaries

(manuscript in revision for peer review submission)

Affiliation: The Nature Lab, Rhode Island School of Design

As a society, we have come to rely on the scientific method to advance our understanding of how the world works, using quantitative data to reveal viable causal relationships. Conversely, much of what we know about the impact of studio research resides in qualitative narratives, stories of transformation and inspiration that shift perspectives about the world. In the last decade, much attention has been given to the creative art and design fields for building a capacity to communicate ideas, engage and pronounce public voice, promote dialogue, demonstrate cultural relevance, see patterns in data, and bring unique and applicable ideas to a problem. Interdisciplinary teams that consist of artists and scientists addressing real world issues are being supported for their potential to have greater innovative outcomes than a homogenous team all from one field (Leavy, 2011).  A new challenge becomes one of evaluating the effectiveness of the outcomes of such teamwork in a way that can grow and evolve our capacity to address pressing world problems that are systemic versus isolated and involve both theoretical and applied knowledge.


Discovery Through Juxtaposition

Project Credits: Rhode Island School of Design | STEAM

Developed collaboratively with Tracie Costantino, Neal Overstrom, Sarah Ganz Blythe, Mariani Lefas-Tetenes, and Rachel Atlas.

The way we choose to group and categorize objects can reveal how we process information and create meaning. Prior knowledge, context, memories, and our particular interests all influence the types of information we are each able or not able to see. By looking at the similarities and differences between objects either found in nature or fabricated, we can reveal information that adds nuance and complexity to our understanding and exercises our abilities of perception. Careful study of an object out of its original context can reveal previously unnoticed details of form and function.

In Part One, students will group and regroup natural specimens thematically. In Part Two, they will do the same with works of art. The goal is to help students recognize how information is revealed through the relationships and systems that underlie the natural sciences and the art world. They will articulate their reasons for grouping different works of art together with a written curatorial statement. 

 

Guiding Questions
What can you learn about an object by putting it in relationship to something else?
How can taxonomies or categories be informative? How can they be limiting?
What is implied by putting objects into systems of classification?
How do we derive meaning from visual evidence?
How does an artist organize and reveal information within a work of art?
What does a work of art tell you about the artist’s relationship with the natural world?


Attention and Perception

Project Credits: Rhode Island School of Design | STEAM

Developed collaboratively with Tracie Costantino, Neal Overstrom, Sarah Ganz Blythe, Mariani Lefas-Tetenes, and Rachel Atlas.

Novel representations and diverse perspectives can reveal new insights into complex systems, and can support rich understandings of the world. In this activity, students will identify and analyze the choices artists and scientists make when creating representations of living or non-living natural objects. This process will help students recognize the potential and place for their own articulation of how the world works.

After drawing from nature, students will reflect on the process of representing information, then compare their drawings with that of a 16th-century artist. Students will consider what is included and what is excluded, and hypothesize about larger contexts and systems.

 

Guiding Questions
What are some similarities and differences in the ways scientists and artists make choices about what they study?
How do the ways you take in information affect what you “see” in the world around you?
How does what you perceive affect the way you look at the whole system of which it is a part?
How does categorizing organisms based on their physical attributes and original environments yield different knowledge than categorizing them based on observable patterns or hidden structures?