Artful Learning: Holistic Curriculum Development for Mind, Body, Heart, and Spirit

Artful Learning: Holistic Curriculum Development for Mind, Body, Heart, and Spirit

Randee Lipson Lawrence (National Louis University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8246-7.ch076
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This chapter begins with a critique of traditional models of curriculum development as overly rigid, fragmented, and disconnected from the true nature of the learner. Holistic learning is described as engaging the mind, body, heart, and spirit of the learner in relationship to the learning environment. Holistic learning is earth-centered, participatory, and inclusive of the cultural context of the learners. These various learning domains and their relationship to curriculum are discussed, including the application of learning from indigenous communities. Several examples of arts-based and creative learning activities are offered along with holistic ways of developing learning objectives and assessing learning.
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The typical curriculum in adult and higher education is based on the acquisition of knowledge, primarily fostering the rational or analytic abilities of the learners to the exclusion of other ways of knowing. Traditional schooling privileges propositional or cognitive epistemologies. We are taught by listening to lectures, reading scholarly writing and engaging in rational discourse. While these ways of learning are valid, they draw on only a part of our human potential, as we are whole, thinking, feeling and sensing human beings. To be fully human, according to Greene (1995) requires accessing our imagination and seeing beyond what is, to what could be. The role of imagination “is to awaken, to disclose the ordinarily unseen, unheard and unexpected.” (p. 28). The intent of this chapter is to describe a holistic, spiritual and imaginal approach to developing curriculum that engages all of who we are.

Integrating affective, somatic and spiritual dimensions along with the cognitive into our curriculum through artistic expression (visual art, drama, music, storytelling and poetry) engages multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2006) freeing learners to fully participate in the learning process and to explore meaningful relationships between the subject and the self, and the self with others, which often leads to lasting change or transformation. Students who are willing to risk stepping out of their comfort zone to embrace these alternative ways of learning tend to discover that they have reawakened an aspect themselves that was there all along but had been dormant. Intentionally inviting creative expression into class activities and assignments makes space for holistic learning to occur.

In 1926, Eduard Lindeman wrote: “Education is life – not merely preparation for an unknown kind of future living. Consequently all static concepts of education which relegate the learning process to the period of youth are abandoned. The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings.” (Lindeman, 1926, pp. 4-5). If as Lindeman passionately declared, the whole of life is learning, then we must consider the ways in which learning occurs as an integrated whole.

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