The Aus­tralian School of the Arts (ASTA) pro­gram at Shel­don Col­lege in Bris­bane sup­ports the school’s thriv­ing Per­form­ing Arts cur­ricu­lum. ASTA Di­rec­tor Dar­ren Har­vey speaks with Emma Davies about the im­por­tance of the Arts in de­vel­op­ing the next generati

The Australian Education Reporter - - PERFORMING ARTS -

Q. Why did you be­come a drama teacher?

I knew from a fairly early age that I learnt differently. What worked best for me was do­ing and demon­strat­ing my un­der­stand­ing, [in­stead of just] writ­ing about it.

I worked bet­ter in class­rooms where there was no ceil­ing to the out­comes, and all par­tic­i­pants in a drama room are only lim­ited by their imag­i­na­tion. I grav­i­tated to­wards arts sub­jects be­cause they ques­tioned my cre­ativ­ity, they cap­i­talised on my con­fi­dence, and they chal­lenged me.

The drama class­room was es­sen­tial for my hap­pi­ness as a stu­dent and it just felt like the nat­u­ral tran­si­tion to move into that at univer­sity.

I knew that I could work with stu­dents who were like me in high school, and I knew that there was a need for it be­cause ev­ery learner is com­pletely and ut­terly dif­fer­ent. And if we’re se­ri­ous about dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing learn­ing and in­di­vid­ual learn­ing then pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of learn­ing and teach­ing method­olo­gies is re­ally im­por­tant.

Q. With a heavy fo­cus on STEM and job-ready skills, what does Per­form­ing Arts ed­u­ca­tion bring to the ta­ble?

STEM pro­grams are af­ter spe­cific out­comes and the irony is that some of those in­clude many of the out­comes the arts chal­lenge stu­dents to pro­duce; lat­er­al­ity of think­ing, prob­lem solv­ing ca­pac­ity, and util­is­ing and em­pow­er­ing the less dom­i­nant side of the brain.

They are ac­tu­ally out­comes STEM is look­ing to pro­duce through their pro­grams, and yet the sub­jects that are best po­si­tioned to de­velop and chal­lenge those skills sets are in fact the arts sub­jects.

This is why we’ve moved to STEAM at Shel­don Col­lege be­cause we see it as an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial com­po­nent of what fu­ture work­places are go­ing to need.

I have a lot of re­spect for what STEM pro­grams are try­ing to de­velop, but in­tel­li­gence quo­tient (IQ) will get you a job but emo­tional quo­tient (EQ) or emo­tional in­tel­li­gence will help you keep a job and move you up the ranks and al­low you to drive change in that work­place.

The very fab­ric of what arts are about is de­vel­op­ing emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, and em­pow­er­ing stu­dents to take what they learn in a STEAM sense and turn it into some­thing spe­cial. There’s no point hav­ing IQ if you don’t have the EQ to go with it and em­power those around you to utilise it.

Q. What are the main chal­lenges and trends fac­ing Per­form­ing Arts ed­u­ca­tion?

It starts with bust­ing the myth that sub­jects like drama and mu­sic and dance are ‘play’ or not re­ally aca­demic.

In our school we see a cor­re­la­tional effect be­tween arts in­volve­ment and our re­sults and per­for­mance mea­sures on in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal test­ing.

We’ve delved deeply into the data that ac­tu­ally sug­gests there is a clear cor­re­la­tion be­tween aca­demic suc­cess and artis­tic en­deav­our, and that comes down to the types of dis­ci­plines and skills those artis­tic en­deav­ours bring out of a child.

Un­less we talk about these sorts of things we’ll never bust the myth. Even the mil­len­ni­als com­ing through have still grown up in schools where the arts have not been given the credit that is nec­es­sary in or­der to change that mythol­ogy. It’s about dis­ci­pline and en­sur­ing that you de­velop the trans­fer­able skills to be able to utilise what you’ve learnt in an arts class­room and ac­tu­ally make that ben­e­fit your­self when it comes to in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal test­ing mea­sures.

Q. What sets Shel­don Col­lege’s Per­form­ing Arts pro­gram apart?

The Aus­tralian School of the Arts is some­thing that we de­vel­oped be­cause we saw a gap be­tween what uni­ver­si­ties wanted to see in their first-year arts and cre­ative in­dus­try course and what high schools were able to pro­duce.

While great stu­dents were able to bridge that gap, our pro­grams weren’t lend­ing them­selves to stu­dent suc­cess so we cre­ated ex­cel­lence pro­grams that al­low stu­dents to do an ex­tra 3-4 hours of arts study each week of au­di­tion or port­fo­lio work to bridge that gap. We’ve been re­ally suc­cess­ful and our alumni suc­cess speaks for it­self.

While that’s the pointy end of our pro­gram, what it’s sat­u­rated in is the fun­da­men­tal be­lief that schools are about the de­vel­op­ment of a whole child. It’s fun­da­men­tally a school’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to not just pro­duce aca­demic re­sults, but to pro­duce peo­ple who know how to utilise those re­sults and en­sure that they set them­selves up for life.

Again, it’s IQ ver­sus EQ.

Schools are not about de­vel­op­ing stu­dents with IQ alone. They have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­duce aca­demic re­sults, which is cer­tainly a pri­or­ity in this school, but for those stu­dents who learn differently and want to know how to use those re­sults to their ad­van­tage, we’ll also work on those skills that de­velop and cre­ate the whole child.

Q. Do you have any ad­vice for schools de­vel­op­ing Per­form­ing Arts pro­grams?

En­sure schools are em­ploy­ing arts ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates, be­cause if the ad­vo­cacy is not there from the ad­min­is­tra­tion down then the growth won’t hap­pen.

Arts pro­grams need to see them­selves as the driv­ers of cul­tural change. They need to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate that their class­rooms will be­come the next gen­er­a­tions of lead­ers. They need to un­der­stand the power of what they pro­duce in those class­rooms could po­ten­tially set stu­dents up for the rest of their lives.

In a school con­text, arts are re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing and de­sign­ing cul­ture within the school. It’s about hav­ing a pres­ence and en­sur­ing that the very na­ture of the arts is demon­strated, and that is giv­ing stu­dents the abil­ity to demon­strate knowl­edge and skills pub­licly.

If you have a pro­gram where peo­ple can’t help but see it be­cause it’s in their face all of the time, then you will start to grow a re­ally strong pro­gram that will not only drive cul­tural change in your school but will also drive cul­tural change be­yond school­ing for those stu­dents.

They will be the next gen­er­a­tion of emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent lead­ers who can drive the change. While IQ might de­cide what sort of change is needed, it’s the EQ that will have to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment it.

Shel­don Col­lege stu­dents per­form­ing the mu­si­cal Le­gally Blonde.

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