Inspiring Creativity through Embodied Aesthetic Pedagogic Design

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Inspiring Creativity through Embodied Aesthetic Pedagogic Design

Pauline Sameshima
Washington State University, USA


Embodied aesthetic pedagogic design is a means of approaching teaching that intentionally attends to holistic embodied aesthetic considerations, reconceptualizes and destabilizes the teacher role, and develops complicit learning environments. To teach creatively, the teacher must develop an artful relationship between the self and the curriculum, and open avenues for the student to personally engage with, thoughtfully reflect on, and meaningfully organize that curriculum. An arts-based research and learning methodology called performative inquiry is explicated in depth to provide the reader with an understanding of how a teacher can transform curriculum goals into a problem-based learning framework, seek an instructional form that attends to these three design tenets, and thereby develop a creative learning environment that allows access to a multiplicity of possible answers for solving the problem at hand while deeply engaging the learner.


The world has changed from a manufacturing engine to a services-driven enterprise. To adapt, we need to change our educational approach to developing not only skills and knowledge bases but also lifelong learning skills in order to prepare young people for a complex future. We need an education system that dynamically nurtures and honors imagination, creativity, flexibility, novelty, interdisciplinary perspectives, and deep reflexive thinking. Young people need to develop the skills for learning how to learn. They need to interact with multiple modes of learning and engage with creative people to help them develop processes of creative thinking and design. They also need to learn how to gather seemingly disparate information, organize it holistically, and refine it mindfully to create elegantly integrated products. This artful design process is the same process for designing engaging curricula. In this chapter, I introduce embodied aesthetic pedagogic design, a means of approaching teaching that (1) intentionally attends to holistic embodied aesthetic considerations, (2) reconceptualizes and destabilizes the teacher role, and (3) develops complicit learning environments.

Worldwide, different countries and their governments have considerably dissimilar views on what constitutes creative thought and how creativity is to be studied (Sternberg, 2006). As far back as 1877, Jevons had described creativity as "divergence from the ordinary grooves of thought" (p. 576). My work draws on creativity research from English-speaking countries that is based on Guilford's seminal creativity work in the 1950s and onward, which has led to creativity being understood as meaning divergent thinking (e.g., Baer, 1993; Baer & Kaufman, 2006; Guilford, 1956, 1967; Guilford & Hoepfner, 1971; Torrance & Presbury, 1984). Sternberg notes that "a wide variety of personality traits have been associated with creativity, including independence of judgment, self-confidence, attraction to complexity, aesthetic orientation, tolerance for ambiguity, openness to experience, psychoticism, risk taking, androgyny, perfectionism, persistence, resilience, and self-efficacy" (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2006, pp. 17–18). Evidenced creativity is the ability to conceive of the unlikely being systematically and gracefully integrated as if it should have always been the most likely response to the problem at hand.

To teach creatively, the teacher must develop an artful relationship between the self and the curriculum, and open avenues for the student to personally engage with, thoughtfully reflect on, and meaningfully organize that curriculum. To explain this concept, I will briefly introduce each of the three aspects of embodied aesthetic pedagogic design and then demonstrate how these three tenets can generate creativity and deep transformative learning through an arts-based research methodology called performative inquiry. The development of creative learning spaces does not necessarily have to take place in performative role spaces as in the example I will provide; but rather the focus should be on how the teacher can attend to these tenets in a variety of particular contexts in relation to the considered curriculum. The example is explicated in depth to provide the reader with an understanding of how the three tenets work together in pedagogic design. If the teacher transforms curriculum goals into a problem-based learning framework and then seeks a form that attends to the tenets, the number of possible answers for solving the problem inherently increases.

The example I use stemmed from questions I had as a practicing teacher concerning perceptions of the teacher–parent relationship. I translated the questions into a problem-based "playshop" where participants attempted to shed light on the issues of concern through a performance-based research inquiry. This project, named "Performing outside the parameters of pedagogy: A performative inquiry into the teacher–parent relationship," developed into an international performative inquiry study that included not only elementary-aged students but also teacher educators, practicing teachers, parents, and university faculty members from multiple fields of study.

Embodied Aesthetic Pedagogic Design

Holistic Embodied Aesthetic Considerations

Transformational learning can be significantly deepened through the intentional development of a curriculum system and an educational culture that attend to teaching and learning holistically by incorporating body learning (multisensory arts–infused active learning). Consideration must be given to increasing receptivity and openness to learning; fostering skills for relating between learners, between learner and teacher, and between learner and context; modeling wholeness-in-process (the teacher modeling creative knowledge production behavior); layering multiple strategies for connecting to the experience; and acknowledging ecological and intuitive resonances. (For detailed descriptions of these considerations, see Sameshima, 2007a, 2007b, 2008.) These considerations are essential for developing embodied aesthetic teaching. However, in this chapter, I shall attend to the broader scope of how the three tenets of embodied aesthetic pedagogic design, when integrated, make possible the development of multiple perspectives. The example will show how these considerations are intricately woven into the fabric of the performance framework.

Reconceptualizing and Destabilizing the Teacher Role

The teacher's approach to students' learning is especially important, as creative problem solving in educational settings requires facilitation, yet without suppression of freedom. Thus, the teacher's role in overtly as well as indirectly steering the learning is significant. I agree with Scandinavian notions of creativity, that creativity is "an attitude toward life and a way of dealing with the challenges life poses" (Sternberg, 2006, p. 4). The teacher's perspective and outlook will influence how the curriculum is delivered. In order to be open to other perceptions, the teacher must destabilize self by suspending perceived stereotypical views that are based on socialization and experience. Shapiro (1999) and Boal (1979) consider these views as barriers to moving out of routine views.

Authentic learning experiences occur when the learning situation is spontaneous, open, and seemingly undirected (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Critical to the use of this approach to inspire creativity is the call for intuition to be acknowledged, particularly when encouraging learning that is "messy" or "rhizomatic" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Sameshima, 2007b; Wiebe et al., 2008). Such a learning environment demands a radical reconceptualization of the teacher role as that of co-constructor of learning. When the teacher's being is positioned in a way that is not hierarchical or directive, then the learning "system" will be open to a creative means of learning.

Significant transformative learning occurs through problem-based learning situations (Tan, 2003) when specific consideration is given to relational pedagogy and power, in combination with the teacher's approach to learning. Transformational learning occurs when traditional relationships of power are disrupted (Hytten, 1999). In role drama teaching, also known as Forum Theatre (Boal, 1979), the teacher is no longer the teacher, as the drama becomes co-constructed and the students are empowered. This decentralization of power is also a marked characteristic in inspiring authentic creativity. Finding ways to destabilize identities and redistribute power in the classroom creates the possibilities for students to delve deeper or immerse themselves in learning. Destabilizing the teacher identity and changing the power dynamics are part of the uncertainty principle that Tan (2003) talks about. He explains that problem-based learning projects are strengthened by accepting uncertainty, unsystematic thinking, and nonplanning as part of the learning process. This is the crux of creativity generation.

Complicit Learning Environments

Think of the teaching environment that allows learning to emerge as, metaphorically, a garden with sprinklers spouting water. The water coming out has the freedom to flow in multiple directions. The water (knowledge), while suspended in the air, is "influenced" by the sun, wind, and other environmental (contextual) conditions before falling freely to the ground to be absorbed as needed by the earth (the learner). Cohen and Stewart (1994) explain that complicit systems are not dependent on initial conditions that frame and limit the space of the possible (see also Sumara & Davis, 1997). The word complicit suggests implication, involvement, and commitment. It usually alludes to association or participation in questionable activities. The word is used specifically to remind educators that, to be mindful and progressive, one needs to be "subversive." The subversive educator continually questions the unquestioned and the accepted, disturbing and reconceptualizing the status quo. To teach a complicit curriculum, the teacher must be complicitly involved, be deeply committed to learning, and continually question assumptions and traditional processes. To learn within a complicit curriculum, the learner must be immersed in the learning environment.

Creativity is most energized when the learner has the possibility of seeing multiple points of view through being both "in" (absorbed in the moment) and "out" (seeing the immersion from a distance) (Sameshima, 2007b). For example, in performative inquiry, a qualitative arts-based research methodology used as a problem-based learning strategy in role drama situations (Fels, 1999, 2002), creativity is fostered when the learner is able to delve into new transformative spaces yet suspend belief. The ability to move in and out of "reality" is crucial, as this skill provides a safety net or exit point for the learner. The ability to suspend belief but use the "unreal" to negotiate personal positioning is key to this type of creative learning.

Augusto Boal (1995), talking about performance spaces for learning, describes this dual awareness as metaxis, which is when the student or actor "can see himself in the act of seeing, in the act of acting, in the act of feeling, the act of thinking. Feel himself feeling, think himself thinking" (p. 13). To use a metaphor to illustrate this bisociative thinking (Koestler, 1975), imagine Janus, a Roman mythological god who had a face on both sides of his head that allowed him to see the past and the future while always located in the present. The ability to view a situation from various vantage points, diverse standpoints, or multiple references is advantageous for broadening perception (Rothenberg, 1979; Sameshima, 2007b; Stout, 2000). Creativity stems from this ability, the skill of seeing multiple perspectives. Pezeshki (2007) points out that integral thinking will be necessary for twenty-first century education. "Integral thinking is generated when individuals who are strong in their independent disciplines come together with open minds toward the concerns of other disciplinary experts" (p. 9A).

Performance inquiry provides a learning space that implicates the learner, thereby creating complicit involvement. Problem-based learning environments developed in performative inquiry spaces support and validate learning, providing complicit learning environments that destabilize identity and allow transformative learning to occur.

Performative Inquiry Example

This research project demonstrates the use of a holistic embodied aesthetic learning situation, the reconceptualization and destabilization of the teacher role, and the development of a complicit learning environment. A 60-minute multimedia interactive playshop was designed to elicit publicly articulated dialogically constructed undestandings of the teacher–parent relationship from participants. The hope was for participants to come forth with obvious as well as submerged presumptions, notions, and biases of the barriers inhibiting positive teacher– parent relationships. Performative inquiry was a fitting method of research for this interrogation, uniquely allowing and providing a safe forum for voicing commonly unspoken understandings that strongly frame paradigms and ideologies on teacher–parent communication. The playshop was presented in Canada and the United States in 2004 to a broad range of participants, including teacher candidates, beginning teachers, practicing teachers, grade 6–7 students, graduate students and university faculty members from various disciplines, and management conference participants (Sameshima, 2004a–2004e). Many of these participants were parents.

Background to the Project

This qualitative arts-based methodological investigation examined the communication practices and the underlying conceptions of the relationship between teachers and parents. The goal of the participatory playshops was to extend the foundation for emergent research on developing positive teacher–parent partnerships for the purpose of raising student achievement at the elementary level (kindergarten to grade 7). Research has indicated that involving the family in a child's education is an important element in improving the child's learning (DuFour, 2000; Hirsh, 2003; Richardson, 1997; Sameshima et al., 2006). The areas of concern in research are in providing teachers with appropriate guidance on how to be more effective in communicating with parents (Hirsh, 2003) and teaching parents how they can effectively help their children with schoolwork (Epstein, 2001). Understanding preconceptions, perceptions, and conceptions of the teacher–parent relationship is foundational to addressing these concerns.

Teacher–Parent Communication

I get very frustrated … ask [about] my daughter and then the answer I'll get back, "yeah she's doing fine" which isn't really what I want to know. So it is frustrating. (Power & Clark, 2000, p. 42, quoting a parent)

Power and Clark (2000) observed in their research that parents had widespread concerns about both written and oral reporting by teachers. Parents found written reports confusing or overgeneralized. When the information was understood, parents did not feel that the reports sufficiently guided them to assist their children. Teachers, on the other hand, spent considerable time reporting formally and informally to parents, much more frequently than the legally mandated number of times in a Western school year (see also Davidson, 2003; Epstein et al., 2002). To look into these issues, my research was guided by the following questions: Why is it difficult for teachers to openly communicate with parents? What barriers are there between teachers and parents? How can better communication be facilitated between the two groups?

Performative Inquiry as a Methodology

The insights that arise during role drama may encourage the rethinking of personal and societal positionings and beliefs and the choice of the lens through which an individual views his or her life, thus becoming an invitation to each [participant] to imagine alternative ways of being in the world. (Fels, 2002, p. 8)

Tom Barone (2001) asserts that the goal of using arts-based inquiry is

to disturb, to interrogate personal and cultural assumptions that have come to be taken for granted; [and] to do so, [researchers] employ design elements that are appropriate for their intent. These elements (which vary according to art form) are important for their usefulness in recasting the contents of experience into forms with the potential for challenging (sometimes deeply held) beliefs and values. (p. 26)

In 2003, at the University of British Columbia, Canada, I met and studied with Lynn Fels, the pioneer of performative inquiry as a site and action of learning and as an arts-based research methodology. In performative inquiry, the creation of a virtual reality (role drama) becomes a heuristic device that creates a new set of meanings and values for the participant. Through role play, dance, or movement, participants respond to photographs, stories, enacted scenes, or other forms of stimuli proposed by the researcher, teacher, or peer leader. Performative inquiry is based on Boal's (1979) Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal created a number of activities, such as Forum Theatre, that various communities can use to explore social justice issues.

Through the performative inquiry playshop described above, participants publicly revealed assumptions and understandings not previously articulated. Forum Theatre, which enables learners to construct personal understandings of the unfolding scene, is a method of teaching that intrinsically creates complicit, involved learning. I use the word "playshop" instead of "workshop" because, although we are working to seek understanding, the process of play and the unscripted performance excitement generate fresh, bright, and energetic new ways of thinking. Gadamer (1989/1960) speaks of transformation in play:

Something is suddenly and as a whole something else, [and] this other transformed thing that it has become is its true being in comparison with which its earlier being is nil. When we find someone transformed we mean precisely this, that he has become another person, as it were. (p. 111)

The plausibility of role drama is based on "structural corroboration… coherence with the human condition and credible possibility" (Kilbourn, 1999, p. 31). Arts-informed researchers Cole and Knowles contend that clear intellectual and moral purpose, the researcher being present in the moment of research with the participants and in the retelling, a procedural harmony, and "ambiguity and humility to allow for multiple interpretations and… response" are integral to legitimate research (2001, p. 217). Although, according to Cole and Knowles, these defining qualities describe life history research, these and other beliefs support the authenticity of role drama as a means to advance knowledge claims, and offer theoretical and transformative potential.

A virtual reality world has the capacity to pull the person who experiences it into an alternative reality (Barone & Eisner, 1997; Langer, 1957). After the role drama activity, out of role, the participants' views are broadened as they have come to appreciate another point of view after attempting to enact a scenario, or engage with someone, from a different perspective, paradigm, or ideology. Through role drama sessions, participants may reveal assumptions and understandings not previously evident to themselves or to others. Edward and Nancy Kienholz, installation artists who explore oppression, suffering, and societal pathos, talk about using their art to "force the viewer to a position of self-identification" (Harten, 1996, p. 45). Unlike visual art, where the self-identification is internally realized in the mind and perhaps verbally reflected upon, the performance form of art allows embodied hermeneutic comprehension—visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically. Appelbaum (1995) succinctly holds that "Intellect's light sees but is powerless to do. The body's light sees and is able to do" (p. 121). Even a powerful visceral response to an inert visual art piece is generally a private static response. But in role drama, the conversation and understandings are "outside," publicly and dynamically co-constructed in the moment—a living, breathing multidimensional canvas of art in action.

In role, Clifford (1988) says, "reality is no longer a given, a natural, familiar environment. The self, cut loose from its attachments, must discover meaning where it may" (p. 119). Clifford believes that detachment of the self, when assuming another's role, "is the practice of juxtaposition, a hybrid of ethnography and surrealism, that enables the repositioning of the body within the matrices of culture" (p. 147). In the midst of role play, the individual comes to an understanding of the self in relations because the unarticulated is voiced and participants become aware of holistic themes—seeing the self as an essential piece of the whole puzzle. I believe this concept of seeing oneself as vital in the scheme of the whole is a critical tool that provides powerful agency not only to researchers and individuals in general but also for children to function responsibly in a classroom, whatever their age.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt (1968) further supports the aforesaid. She discourages simple acceptance of the abstract collective perspective, strongly promoting "visiting," which she defines as careful listening to the perspectives of others. By keeping various standpoints in mind while pondering a given issue, one is better able to make a wise judgment. This very action of listening closely and publicly dialoguing within a role drama has wonderfully broad potential for recognizing possibilities for individual and collective agency.

Performative inquiry not only allows the individual "thought struggle" but also affirms multiple voices, realities, and experiences (Paley, 1995). When interacting in a group role-play, the synergy of the group often raises awarenesses that may previously have been unidentified. Paley calls this community voice the "polyphonous voice." To create this individual but harmonious voice, we must speak it aloud. Brownyn Davies tells us, "Collective biography makes visible the liberal humanist myth of oneself as unique and distinct and enables [us] to see the collective (usually discursive) processes through which we become embodied as human" (as cited in McLaren, 2001, p. 70).

Research Inquiry Sessions

The 60-minute inquiry session comprised an introductory interactive activity, a visual information slide presentation, and three short activities followed by a discussion period. The final segment was essential in helping members synthesize and create meaning from the preceding exercises. During this segment, we discussed what happened, what questions emerged about the relationships, and what recommendations we could make as a group to improve communication. I will explain each segment and share the most relevant revelations.

As participants entered the playshop space, each person was instructed to make a simple hat, a stapled circular strip of construction paper, on which they each wrote their name boldly and attached a yellow square to the "front" and a purple square to the "back." Participants drew an icon that represented "teacher" in the yellow square and "parent" in the purple square. For example, on my hat, I drew "sun" for teacher by day and "moon" for parent by night. The wearing of the hat contributed to a sense of "instant community," allowed participants to know each other by name, and ultimately provided a "mask" that promoted freedom of speech. In role, with the "mask" of an alternate persona, participants could more freely contribute to a nonconstricted conversation.

Creating an open, trusting, and secure place for sharing is imperative when attempting to get people to share the unspoken, particularly in a short period of time. As facilitator, I purposely spent time sharing my own location in this landscape. Providing private and personal contexts (photographs of my family and my classroom) and sharing some information wider than "in the moment" are important for opening communication paths. Using the Johari Window leadership personality framework developed by Luft and Ingham (see Hersey et al., 1996) in a slide, I was able to simply frame effective communication based on self-perception, disclosure, and feedback. Simply put, in order to open communication with a group, we have to let the group see each other in alternate contexts, not only the current visible. For example, knowing that the man in the blue sweater loves to sail helps make connections between group members. Laying down a foundational "net" between people is important when beginning this particular type of research, which can be likened to an aerial trapeze act. One never knows where the role drama will lead. Comments may be "caught" by other flyers, or perhaps not.

Following the introductory activity, I briefly shared key research information slides on performance inquiry as a research method.


First drama activity

The first activity involved sharing three photographs that raised issues about role perceptions. Participants were asked to look at the photographs and identify the teacher and the parent.

"The woman on the left is the teacher because she is dressed more professionally."

"The woman on the right looks like a teacher."

"The pad of paper is closer to the woman on the left so she is most likely the teacher."

"The woman on the right looks like she's the teacher because of her body language."

"Both women look closed off. They don't look like they're communicating well."

"If the woman on the left is the teacher, then she looks defensive and the woman on the right looks aggressive."

"The woman on the right is the teacher because she looks like she's in control."

Responses to the pictures were consistently similar across all research groups. Most groups became ambivalent as the discussion continued, but it was clear that people were at first quick to make decisions, implying that they had preconceived notions and expectations of what a teacher and a parent look like in a school setting.

In my experience as a long-time classroom teacher and administrator, role perception is one of the most significant barriers between teachers and parents. For many teachers, the classroom is a distinctly separate place from their private lives. Teachers essentially create within themselves boundaries or frames around their school and home lives, which in turn impact their public relationships. Gregory Bateson (1972) likens such framing to "the frame around a picture, as a message intended to order or organize the perception of the viewer.… The message says, 'Attend to what is within and do not attend to what is outside'" (p. 187). Unwittingly, framing the roles and dichotomizing the self, even subconsciously, through choice of clothing, location of home relative to the school, and using colloquial language away from school, for instance, all positively enhance what is in the frame. Thus, the roles become self-generatively strengthened as they are defined, and the frames become barriers discouraging intrapersonal wholeness as well as interpersonal connections.

Second drama activity

The second drama activity required participants to separate into groups. Using a "Lights on! Lights off!" signal, participants were asked to create a soundscape involving teachers and parents. For example, without using words, one group representing teachers muttered in a slow monotone, while the "parents" made urgent ambulance siren sounds. After the soundscape, the group was asked to explain their interpretation of what they observed. In this case, the act was of worried parents pleading for help for their children and teachers being noncommittal, nonchalant, tired, and overworked.

In the soundscape, words, with their encapsulating multi-meaning baggage, did not guide the path of meaning creation. The vagueness, elusiveness, and openness of the performance method of playing in the liminal space (the edge of conscious understanding) allows the learner to invoke an unworded notion and encourages transformation and différance to generate. The word différance was coined by Jacques Derrida (1982) from the French word différer, "to defer" (in the sense of to postpone) and "to differ." Différance generally refers to the belief that words and signs can never pronounce exactly what they mean but can only be defined or explained using more words, which leads to the notion that words and signs are always different from what they mean. Derrida argues that, because the perceiver's mental state is constantly in a state of flux, reading and seeing differs with each rereading. Différance does not imply contradictory understanding upon rereading, but rather a re-arrival of the moment of reading. In performative inquiry, the present moment is always considered the "real" and there is no différance because there is no text to come back to. Even my recollections of the playshops are constructed stories because the role drama was not captured or stilled. I am of the belief that "full" openness may be inhibited if people knew they were being recorded.

My postmodern perspective that knowledge is not truth, that knowledge is partial, and my resistance to constraint and closure, all pull me to search for ways to render understanding in heartfelt, nonsequential, and nonlinear forms. If we can render thoughts in nonwords, we may actually come to deeper understandings. I expect a multiplicity of interpretations and know that the understandings are synchronically produced.

Third drama activity

This activity required the participants to separate themselves on either side of a masking tape strip taped across the floor. The participants took a pose, in role, as parents (purple square on their hats facing forward) or teachers (yellow square visible).

As the facilitator, I then tapped parents and teachers randomly, who then each made a comment from "their side" to the other. They were to say whatever they had always wanted to but could not say to the "other side." Some comments were responses to comments made, while others were independent; but as the comments progressed, general themes began to emerge.

At a preservice teacher conference where I presented this playshop, a theme emerging from the crowd of over 30 teacher candidates was that issues surrounding behavioral management in class arose because of poor parenting skills. Comments such as "Don't you know your child is driving me crazy!" or "He is ruining all my lesson plans!" and "I'm not here to raise your child!" were surprisingly frequent. Naturally, teacher candidates who spent copious time on detailed lesson plans would have much more frustration dealing with the unpredictability of student behavior when trying to adhere to a lesson plan that is often broken down by time schedules. More experienced teachers were more likely to express their insecurity about delivering the curriculum "properly." Deep fears of uncertainty in all adult groups about teaching and parenting "the right way" were a recurrent theme. In a grade 6–7 group, students in role as parents instructed the "teachers" to be stricter with their children but not to give their children as much homework because homework was a family stressor. Lastly, fears about either group "crossing" into the other's space were evident. Some participants in role as teachers felt that parents were challenging their professional skills by asking questions about student learning. Other participants, in role as parents, felt that poor achievement on the part of their child reflected negatively upon the family, allowing teachers a view into the family's private life.

Creating the role play as it unfolds allows space for embodied learning. Role drama encourages a freedom to write a story without having to write on the lines, to even ignore lines, to not use words, to connect body learning with head learning, to create artifacts without understanding, to search for meaning without theme, or to play with no record. These are the ways of learning—playing. As mentioned, Gadamer (1989/1960) posits that transformation occurs in play. What is present will emerge in play, for play is a rite of passage to learning. And learning in safe, secure landscapes encourages provocative liberation.

Discussion Period

Following the drama activities, a discussion period is essential. The debriefing, named "mapping-in-exploration" by Fels (2002), is the time and place to begin to unravel the intricacies of reaction and experience. Although the experience of being in a role drama is powerful, very often it is in the reflexive recollections and verbal articulations of the experience where the dialogic synergy of new understanding occurs. The discussion period metaphorically opens the door on the other side of the limen—the metonymic space of the backslash as described by Ted Aoki, which is "the hinge between the imaginary worlds of possibility, and those which we inhabit, that allows us new imagining of possible ways of becoming" (as cited in Fels, 2002, p. 8). Maxine Greene (1978) describes this space as "wide-awakeness." Garoian (1999) asserts that performance art teaching allows critique and challenge of culture in general. Performative inquiry provides a forum for "awakenings" or "coming to understanding" of "reality" or assumptions often unvoiced. Elliot Eisner (1995) agrees that "artistically crafted novels, poems, films and paintings, and photography have the capacity to awaken us from our stock responses" (p. 2). Performative inquiry thus has the capacity to switch our realities with our dream worlds, to take us from the "real," the mundane quotidian of day into the awakened dream state. The "awake" space is a merging of the real and the unlimited potential possibilities of imagination and dreams where wholeness, creativity, invention, freedom, wonder, understanding, peace, and hope reside.

Surprise and deep revelation were consistent responses expressed during all the discussion periods. Many participants were astonished to find that their views, when voiced aloud, were often universal, sometimes irrational and defensive, and surprisingly liberating. Speaking the unsaid across the "tape border" metaphorically released the "stoppers" and dissolved the barrier between the two groups in the discussion period. During that time, participants were able to reflectively chuckle at what they had come to believe as acceptable teacher and parent defensive postures. Many participants who considered themselves shy and quiet found that they were free to express in this forum. This point is especially important because very often in classroom learning situations conversations are generally directed by the most vocal.

There is much work to be done in the area of understanding the teacher–parent relationship. This playshop can be a valuable tool for professional development and for helping preservice teachers come to understand the relationship and barriers to communication between teachers and parents as well as their own underlying values, beliefs, biases, questions, and fears that impact on that relationship. Further work in this area can articulate a set of recommendations to teacher education programs for developing required courses in communication, cultural diversity, and family studies. Improved understanding will result in better communication practices between the two groups, which could subsequently positively impact student achievement.


This performative inquiry into perceptions and conceptions of the teacher–parent relationship can liberate our communication practices by opening bridges of acknowledgment to public dialogues. By stepping outside of parameters of pedagogy, we can then begin to understand and work together toward common goals. From this example, we understand not only that perceptions of role and the particular frames in which learners situate the self can impede dialogue and creative innovation, but also that developing environments that allow for multi-perspective learning opens avenues for creative and transformative learning.

To establish creative learning spaces in curriculum design, teachers must develop an artful relationship between the self, the students, and the curriculum. Mindfully attending to holistic embodied aesthetic considerations, reconceptualizing and destabilizing the teacher role, and developing complicit learning environments are means to construct creative learning spaces that support embodied aesthetic pedagogic design.


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Inspiring Creativity through Embodied Aesthetic Pedagogic Design

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