Question 1: What are ‘The Arts’ and how are they conceptualised in the Australian Curriculum?

The Arts are difficult things to conceptualise. Is it a process? Or is it a product?

thomas-merton-art-quote

pablo-picasso-quote-every-chld-is-an-artist

Both quotes capture for me the process of what The Arts does and how education and society can hinder this process. I believe The Arts are an expression of ourselves and also a way to look at ourselves and it is the teacher’s duty to develop the artist in every child.

The Arts in the Australian Curriculum

The Arts in the Australian Curriculum have been informed by the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians (MCEECTYA, 2008), Goal 2, which highlights the importance of students being confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens (MCEECTYA, 2008, p 8). The importance of this is seen in the development of the General Capability: ‘Critical and Creative Thinking’, which focuses on the importance of critically analysing information, working with this information, applying it in different ways and creatively producing an object in the real or digital worlds (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2014a). The focus of creativity within the curriculum attests to the importance of creativity in the modern world, as characterised by its inclusion of the 4Cs in 21st Century Learning Skills alongside Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration (Partnership for 21st Century Learning [P21](2007)). The development of this framework was in response to the idea that jobs of the future do not necessarily exist today, so students must be adaptable in pursuing unknown careers into the future.

The Arts within the Australian curriculum are subjects which are collected together as they largely reflect the artistic pursuit of creativity, self-expression and communication (Dinham, 2017, p. 3). It consists of five arts subjects:

Dance “students use the body to communicate and express meaning through purposeful movement. Dance practice integrates choreography, performance, and appreciation of and responses to dance and dance making.”
Drama “students explore and depict real and fictional worlds through use of body language, gesture and space to make meaning as performers and audience. They create, rehearse, perform and respond to drama.”
Media Arts “students use communications technologies to creatively explore, make and interpret stories about people, ideas and the world around them. They engage their senses, imagination and intellect through media artworks that respond to diverse cultural, social and organisational influences on communications practices today.”
Music “students listen to, compose and perform music from a diverse range of styles, traditions and contexts. They create, shape and share sounds in time and space and critically analyse music. Music practice is aurally based and focuses on acquiring and using knowledge, understanding and skills about music and musicians.”
Visual Arts “students experience and explore the concepts of artists, artworks, world and audience. Students learn in, through and about visual arts practices, including the fields of art, craft and design. Students develop practical skills and critical thinking which inform their work as artists and audience.”

Table 1.0 Structure of The Arts in the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2014b).

ACARA - Wordle

Figure 1.0 Wordle created from Structure of The Arts in the Australian Curriculum

Table 1.0 can be represented as a Wordle (2014), where the size of the word represents how often it appears. As can be seen in Figure 1.0, students are expected to make, explore, respond, create, communicate, perform and practice. But they are also expected to focus on artists, the audience and the world itself. These words relate to three aspects central to The Arts in the Australian Curriculum – Making, Responding and Viewpoints.

Making, Responding and Viewpoints

In each subject, there is a focus on students making and responding to the arts (ACARA, 2014c).

Making is where

“Students develop knowledge, understanding and skills to design, produce, present and perform artworks.” (ACARA, 2014c, para 3).

For example, within the context of Dance, F-year 2 students are required to present dance to communicate ideas relevant to cultural groups within their community, and as they develop their skills, they are required to incorporate their own expressive skills to communicate their ideas, including the development of stories relevant to cultural groups and their community, and eventually the choreographer’s ideas (ACARA, 2014d).

Responding is where

“Students learn to understand, appreciate and critique the arts through the critical and contextual study of artworks and by making their own artworks.” (ACARA 2014c, para 6).

For example, within the context of Visual Arts, through design and inquiry processes, students learn about the skills and techniques that artists use in creating visual art, and critically reflect on their own ideas and experiences in relation to the visual imagery and representations that artists used in their work. Students would then take this knowledge (e.g. Aboriginal dot painting) and create their own art work as expression of themselves, their ideas and emotions (ACARA, 2014e).

The above quote highlights the cyclical nature of Making and Responding. Not only do students learn to appreciate and understand artwork, but they take this knowledge and use it to inform their own artwork. For example, within Media Arts, they might take the knowledge they gathered from any of the arts subjects (including media arts) and create representations, communicate and tell stories using modern technologies such as television, newspapers, the internet and mobile media such as smart phones and ipads (ACARA, 2014f). This created art form would then be critically appreciated and evaluated, allowing students to respond to it and make new artwork, thus continuing the cycle of making and responding.

Finally, an important aspect of The Arts is the idea of Viewpoints. This would involve students understanding the perspective of the artist via cultural, historical and societal perspectives, but also takes into account the techniques and processes involved. Similarly, the audience’s perspective is examined, again, via cultural, historical and societal perspectives, and how the audience makes meaning from, and interprets the artwork (ACARA, 2014c). For example, in Music would be able to examine the intent and purpose of African drums, how the artist would have created sounds with them and what ideas were to be communicated. They would then seek to understand how audiences in the past would have interpreted its function compared to modern and non-African cultures might interpret it today.

Reflection: The previous sections position The Arts within the Australian Curriculum as a learning area that situates the student as both audience and creator. It focuses on the idea of praxis (Dinham, 2017b, p. 25) and the importance of students creating their own art, but always with an understanding of audience. How do they respond to the artwork of other artists? What did they intend? Taking these ideas, they then have to take into consideration how others (and themselves) respond to the art work they create. At the early years of the curriculum, the ideas and understandings they take as audience and creators are elementary, but gradually through constructivism principles such as spiral learning (Dinham, 2017c, p. 92), they are built upon with a more sophisticated understanding of the concepts, ideas and techniques of the arts into higher year levels.

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