There is a lack of art and inclusivity in the classroom environment. Tackling the problem of lacking art and creativity in the classroom may serve to reduce the latter problem as well due to the fluidity and room for diversity it encourages. Supported by modern research and the feedback of professionals in the field, we attempt to propose a solution for these problems through an instagram page that encourages and supports teachers in bringing creativity into other subjects such as science, maths, history, et cetera. The hope is that these teachers are able to learn to implement teaching practices that encourage creativity and have a ripple effect to the students by showing them that their diverse experiences can be channelled positively in a fun way that still helps their learning. We propose that creativity and conventionally valued academic subjects can and should be taught hand in hand to allow room for everyone to thrive in the classroom.
From 1996 to 2016 Dutch Education has seen a lack of progression in assignments in arts given to children, because it is not a priority. Performance of children in drawing and music has declined, as shown in music knowledge tests and ratings of qualities of drawings. Finally, flexible interpretation of art gets worse with age, which is a pity because flexible interpretation and expression through art can help to create a safe learning environment (Ministerie van Onderwijs 2017).
The removal of art from children’s learning limits their learning achievements and future opportunities, as they no longer have an outlet to express their emotions (Irshad n.d.). This has a spiralling effect on children’s mental health, as it has been proven that even 20 minutes of colouring or another art form reduces cortisol (Loeuy 2022). We have noticed in our research that most reports from the state, papers, or organisations focus on the improvements rather than the challenges or deteriorations in inclusion in school. However, if you look at individuals with special needs facing the challenges of inclusive education or mental health experts’ concerns, the perspective is very different.
Children and young adults with special needs struggle to get the support they need both in education and after, 25% of young people with disabilities in the Netherlands aren’t getting support (European Commission 2019). Inclusive education is becoming more popular as in 2019-20 63% of officially diagnosed special needs students had been to regular school. However, in inclusive schools many children with special needs or “non-compliant classroom behaviour” face social rejection and teachers struggle to create a learning environment that fits the individual needs of their increasingly diverse classroom (Loeper et al 2022, 922).
Society is becoming more complicated, more focused on IQ, more selective and more literate. People who don’t exactly fit in this system have difficulties adapting in society. Furthermore, as society becomes more literate, IQ and science focused, arts are lost very early in most school environments. Our stakeholders, teachers and art teachers, insisted on the importance of tackling secondary education. The changes of our society become most visible around that time, as thinking dominates playing. This leads to loss of art and increased difficulty of inclusivity.
Our stakeholders insisted on art’s benefits for inclusivity thanks to its ability to be versatile and expressive. Art was seen by them as revolving around personal perspective and creativity, which we think is important for inclusivity. Walter van Peijpe provided us with the interesting insight that art in school is mainly technical instead of creative. Thus, we focused mostly on the problem of lack of creativity, as will be shown below. Bart van Welzenis mentioned that he recently asked his students to create and perform a theatre play based on one of his course topics, which we found very inspiring!
Having our stakeholders by our side proved very helpful and inspiring. One teacher is a special needs teacher, Erin Herold from an international high school. Very enthusiastic about our project, she gave us valuable insight on communication with teachers through our instagram. Apparently familiar with instagram, she highlighted the features to use to reach the maximum number of teachers, with reels and hashtags mainly. We initially started very broad and she suggested to begin with one subject instead of tackling all subjects at once, to make it more doable. Walter van Peijpe was more focused on the artistic side as an arts teacher and he submitted the idea of bringing an arts professional or amateur in school to interact and exchange ideas with teachers. We were disappointed not to be able to include all suggestions, but kept them all in mind to lead us in the direction of our final project.
Considering the research conducted on lack of inclusivity and art within education, we hypothesised a solution to combat this issue. Combining this with research on social media in education, we decided to utilise social media to contribute to this issue. Social media can have a positive influence if used in the correct way. This includes promoting student’s networking and gaining skills like leadership, planning and organising activities as well as promoting change (Raut and Patil 2016, 282-283). We have created an instagram page that will attempt to promote inclusivity and art as an important part of education, through biweekly challenges. This instagram has utilised posts, profile photos, bio, username, reels and stories, comment sections, direct messages to create an interactive profile that is easily accessible and usable for everyone. Each of these aspects of instagram are being used to promote our project’s aim and easily allow followers to join the instagram page and actively participate in the instagram. A deeper analysis of each of these instagram tools will follow and display the ways in which we are utilising this platform to its full potential. A request can be made to view our instagram page yourself by using this link: https://www.instagram.com/inspire_inclusivity/
Figure 1: Profile and highlights
Figure 1 is an overview of our instagram page, including some of the main aspects we have created. Our username for this page is inspire_inclusivity, it was chosen to represent our motive behind this instagram page and reach our target audience. Following the username is a short biography which introduces the three of us and a short welcoming and informing message on the purpose of our page. This allows people who are interested in this page to read a short introduction about the project. A profile picture has been designed that uses aesthetically pleasing colours that are enticing to those who come across the page. Not only that but a specific design has been used on our instagram posts, using pale colours that match with the profile photo that has been selected. On our main page, there are highlights which are composed of our instagram stories, and will be used for a collection of tips and ideas that can be used when completing our challenges.
Figure 2: Posts
Aside from the introduction post, which is our first post on our instagram, this is our first challenge post. It consists of two images, the first image is the challenge itself. It has a
description of the challenge which is to include photography in the science class. We have edited this by focusing on the type of art rather than focusing on a topic in science. This image is simple and has instructions of what to do if you are struggling with ideas. Not only that, but it also encourages teachers to communicate in the comments section. The idea behind the comments section is to exchange ideas, provide feedback from each other and get teachers to cooperate and grow together. The second section of this post provides further instruction on how to participate, including specifying that there is a time restriction of two weeks, to submit final results by direct message and that we are happy to give additional help if needed. Our post also has a caption which confirms some of the details and includes hashtags, suggested by a stakeholder, to make our posts more recognised.
Figure 3: Stories and reels
This is an example of one of the types of stories that will be posted on our page. Stories will be used to show small announcements that need little explanation. This one specifically is a
countdown to when the challenge is going to launch. We will also include countdowns for when the challenges will end but also news and announcements that are important for our followers. Depending on how many responses we get from a challenge, our stories can also be utilised to post more examples of peoples creations. Reels will be used for longer videos that give extensive information about techniques and tips. Not just that, reels will be used to share information on the progress made in schools on inclusivity and art. This could be news articles or summaries we believe to be important to the movement. Lastly, our reels will be used to bring awareness to the issue by showing the problems that many students continue to face within school, to highlight what we are trying to battle with our instagram.
Our redesign is supported by three perspectives that we learnt about in class and proceeded to do further research on. These perspectives are that of creativity in education, motivation theory and neuroscience theory. The first perspective centred around the importance of creativity in an educational setting is the centre and connecting piece of our redesign as the goal is to encourage and foster this creativity to promote inclusion. This is because creativity in the classroom can have so many benefits. One main benefit that is highly relevant to our project is that it encourages unique thought (Sowden et al 2015, 129). This is because it leaves room for individual interpretation to guide how students learn which is greatly determined by their own lived experiences (Roncaglia 2018, 1). Therefore, by allowing room for creativity and divergent thinking in the classroom, it allows students who have a harder time conforming to conventional classroom expectations to be included and can prevent marginalisation from both curriculum and students. Therefore, art forms such as dance, music, drawing, et cetera – if used in a way that focuses on creativity instead of criteria – encourages inclusion and cultural exchange which all students can benefit from (Roncaglia 2018, 4).
Another theory that supports the effect this redesign can have on both the teachers it targets and hopefully spillover to the students is the motivation theory. The motivation theory claims that there are three psychological needs humans aim to fulfil and that is their need for autonomy, belonging, and competence (Roncaglia 2018, 2). Using the arts as a tool alongside more conventional subjects helps to do this because of how flexible the arts are. Having a choice in how to interpret and express that interpretation of classroom learning in a creative way allows for children to feel autonomous in their decision making. While the classroom can often be competitive as students strive for academic merit, the arts can encourage further working together in forms such as the performing arts. It allows for students to bond in their creative expression, even more individual art forms can encourage a feeling of belonging because the diversity in expression makes for interesting art and conversation instead of ostracization (Irshad n.d.). Lastly, the arts allow students to create something, and that alone fosters their feelings of competence as they can expand what they believe themselves capable of. Moreover, this theory also works for our direct audience which is teachers. The instagram serves to prompt their creativity classroom lessons while allowing them full autonomy in how they are executed. The success of attempting this new form of teaching as well as having a chance to be highlighted on the instagram page appeals to the need for competence. The platform itself allows for a sense of belonging as it is meant to foster a supportive community for the teachers. This is partly why the platform of instagram was chosen because it is easily accessible and allows for a wider international teacher community than other platforms such as the EU platform suggested to us which was more exclusive.
The last perspective we used is neuroscience. This was mainly to justify our choice of target group. As explained above, our target audience is teachers of middle school or early secondary school. This is because this is a time when art begins to be less emphasised within school and a developmental stage where value and reward become increasingly important in decision making – especially from peers (Hartley and Somerville 2015, 112-113). Therefore, a time when in a conventional classroom bullying and othering might be strife. Encouraging teachers to allow for more creativity in their classrooms can help students maintain connections with a very useful tool for regulation and management during this time by connecting it to something as high value as academic learning. It may also discourage self fulfilling prophecy for students that do not fit into the academic norm by allowing diverse ways of learning and therefore, increased chances of success without measurements as binary as right and wrong (Francis et al 2020, 629).
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