Brookfield addresses teaching using the creative arts. As someone interested in adult education and reading this rather academic blog,  I’ll venture that you can relate to the idea of ‘living in your head’. Think about ways to incorporate other expressions beyond the linguistic into your life. “What art offers us is a chance of breaking with the familiar, of inducing in us an awareness of other ways of being in the world” (p. 187). Art encourages us us to slow down, take a deep breath and use our senses to really appreciate the amazing world that we have around us.

I have been fortunate to visit several wonderful art galleries in beautiful cities around the world. In these places I find myself surrounded by beauty, both natural and human-made. The experience for me is the epitome of using the senses to capture artistry in its highest form. The Vancouver Art Gallery is surrounded by a city close to mountains and beaches. The architecture in the city is also stunning. I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy creative arts in many forms and let this infuse your inspiration as you design learning opportunities.

Committing to beauty is perhaps an unusual call to action for adult educators but it can be an effective tool. “Beauty appeals to what is good in us”[i]– not manufactured or superficial beauty focused on the self, but a natural or created beauty that inspires to innovation, creativity, love, generosity, sacrifice and selflessness.  An adult educator can empower and inspire motivation for a common good or shared vision through beauty in language (speech, poetry, literature), the visual and performing arts, music, prayer and ritual.    There is power in art, music, literature and nature that leads to wonder and gives us a clearer vision into the depths of reality.  Those who experience them can become moved towards unity, fullness and community.

Here are a few ways you could incorporate the aesthetic into your training even if, like me, you don’t consider yourself particularly ‘artistic’:

  • play music as students enter the room to set the tone – experiment with various genres of music
  • display an image of a photograph or art piece and ask students to connect the topic of the lesson to it metaphorically
  • image association: say a word related to the lesson and ask what image comes to students’ minds
  • ask students to create a collage using magazine pictures, online images or small objects
  • group collage or ‘quilt’ – gather the individual collages onto a common black background
  • ask students to create found poems summarizing their understanding of material – Found poetry weaves selected words and phrases from  research reports into poetry
  • incorporate role play or theater
  • ask students to take pictures that evoke for them one or more of the concepts studied – these can be made into a slideshow for presentation

As the examples above illustrate, even if you don’t consider yourself particularly ‘artistic’ it is indeed possible to incorporate creative arts in teaching.  Keep in mind that most educators are linguistic learners and, since we tend to teach the way we prefer to learn, it is important for us to break out of our ‘comfort zone’ and try something new from time to time. The effort to relate content in creative ways has the potential to reach students in new and inspiring ways.

[i] Clayton, D., 2015: 18.

Brookfield, S. (2013). Powerful techniques for teaching adults. (Ch.7)

Clayton, D. (2015). The Way of Beauty. Kettering, Ohio: Angelico Press.