Aesthetic Decisions of Instructors and Instructional Designers

Aesthetic Decisions of Instructors and Instructional Designers

Patrick Parrish (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-985-9.ch014
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The same qualities that make works of art beautiful, meaningful, or at times even transformative in our lives also underlie our best learning experiences. This study sought to better understand the relationship between art and instruction by looking at how aesthetics underlie the design decisions of teachers and instructional designers. Five instructional designers and teachers were interviewed about a course or online learning product they had recently designed. The interviews explored the design decisions they had made based on how they imagined learners would experience the instruction at its beginning, middle, and ending. Participants discussed the introduction of tension to enhance engagement, worked to achieve a coherent experience for learners through narrative qualities, and demonstrated concern for the immediacy of their learners’ experiences, discussing the expected thoughts and feelings of learners at each stage of the course or module.
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Aesthetic Experience

In common parlance, aesthetics describes our experience of and passion for creating art, but John Dewey saw it as applying more broadly as a kind of everyday experience (1934/1989). Dewey argued that aesthetics described a prevalent and essential kind of experience, one that is particularly heightened and felt to be especially meaningful—one flush with transformative potential. It is this kind of experience that artists seek to create or recreate in their work. In this sense, aesthetic experience can exist not only in our engagement with the arts, but in all activity, perhaps especially in activities involving learning. But the concept of aesthetics has had many interpretations, and Dewey’s is by no means representative. This section will first briefly describe some competing aesthetic theories before outlining his Pragmatist theory. This theory is worth significant discussion because it is important to move beyond clichéd and superficial conceptions of art and aesthetics in order to see its application to learning and instruction.

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