Interdisciplinary Meaning Making: Linking Literacies and the Arts
Individuals navigate the world through the senses and textures of life, grounding us in our common humanity. Linking literacies and the arts encourages fluidity between disciplines, creates space for multiple forms of meaning making and prompts flexible thinking across disciplines.
In line with the Arts Education Partnership’s Arts and Literacies resource, we consider both arts and literacies to be pluralistic with multiple ways to interpret, create, share and represent ideas. Literacies are more than skills; they are meaning making interactions purposefully embedded in social goals and cultural practices.
Arts and literacies foster authentic and creative expression
Making and discussing multi-media arts enables learners to gain confidence in their creative and interpretive abilities. Through sharing, learners come to know themselves and each other. The Creator’s Co-Space, hosted by the University of Arizona, is an open collaborative community that supports learning with, from and alongside others — centering equity and inclusion and generating Principles for Equity-Centered Design In STEAM Makerspaces. Discussions that occur throughout the creative process help learners feel empowered to embrace cultural and social experiences that extend beyond their own.
Through participation in the CRAFT network, a nationwide consortium of educators, we embrace multiple literacies and creative learning experiences. Our work in Community Making encourages engaging and sharing many literacies through arts-based programming. We incorporate discussion and active listening using semi-structured discussion protocols that make space for everyone’s voices and choices. Teaching active listening helps learners explore multiple perspectives and works to ensure there is not a dominant single narrative or interpretation that stems from instruction.
Arts and literacies anchor relationships
Meaning making is a human endeavor that celebrates creativity and encourages appreciation for different perspectives and interpretations. As humans, we crave spaces to share ideas and talents in ways that are historically, linguistically and culturally affirming. Meaningful engagement stems from an understanding of the many people around us, each of whom brings a unique perspective on our shared world.
As educators, we teach in ways that value learning by doing in collaborative networks to incorporate multiple pathways for inquiry and learning. In addition, we encourage learners to explore multiple modes and literacies to express themselves about socio-scientific issues that are important to them. Sharing broadly helps all learners take part in creative work and encourages them to embrace self-expression. These discussion threads illustrate that creating together involves supporting one another and celebrates learning collaboratively in an open environment that is free from judgment.
Arts and literacies encourage multiple perspectives
When arts and literacies are taught together, they mutually enable learners to make meaning from what they observe, create, engage and interact with, and to discuss and interpret their experiences. Acknowledging and appreciating all perspectives and stories supports learners’ interdisciplinary thought and intentional connection-building. By weaving together artifacts and reflections, learners make connections that cross multiple boundaries and domains of knowledge.
Through the Film School for Global Scientists project, we teach in ways that respect and honor all perspectives and linguistic backgrounds. Linking arts and literacies encourages collaboration and affirms and elevates learners’ multilingual and multicultural identities. Expanding learning through multimodal composition demonstrates that all perspectives, voices and backgrounds matter; every story has a place and space. We embrace critical thinking and self-expression in multiple forms and show learners how to think outside of binary systems to interpret and understand creative expressions and artifacts that are all around us. In the process, we interconnect literacies and the arts.
- Celebrate all literacies; many individual literacies practices may differ from our own.
- Encourage learners to explore all modes of meaning making.
- Be cognizant of different literacies and strive to incorporate them into learning experiences.
- Embrace cultural knowledge to open space for multiple connections.
- Be curious, learn about the world and express yourself.
This post is part of AEP’s Continuing the Arts and Literacies Conversations blog post series. These posts expand on key ideas and topics from our Arts and Literacies Thinkers Meeting Series and from the resulting interactive resource. Through sharing their personal reflections and work experiences, guest authors explore a range of topics that span disciplines, age levels and education environments. You can read the first post in the series here.