In our view, teaching is professional artistry. As such, not only is your work as a science teacher an artistic one, but the way teachers are educated should also embrace professional artistry.
Many years ago, I was working on a book with Joe Abruscato entitled The Whole Cosmos Catalog of Science Activities, and during this period it became clear that teaching science was far from the logical portrayal as seen in the textbooks that we use with students.
I asked Bob Samples if he would be kind enough to write a foreword to our readers, and he did. His foreword helped us all understand how artistry and fun is fundamental to science teaching. Here is part of what he said:
This book is fun. It is fun to read and fun to use and it is fun to write an introduction. With all this fun, does that mean it does not contain serious science. Of course it contains serious science, but this book also contains the courage to be honest. Science is fun. It always has been. In the presence of the joy of creating and discovering, there is always the sense of the antic. Jerome Bruner said it best when he described the act of creativity. He said, “There is something antic about creating, although the enterprise be serious.”
Teaching is creating. Teachers take their experiences and knowledge of science and method, and wed them to new, immediate experiences. Out of this teachers create a way to help students transform their own understanding of science, resulting in “new knowing.”
Teaching is artistry in action. And it is intimately related to human imagination and creativity, and one’s willingness to experiment and play. Jacob Bronowski uses these four concepts to draw similarities between art and science. According to Bronowski, “science uses images, and experiments with imaginary situations, exactly as art does.
For science teachers, Bronowski offers this teaching suggestion:
Many people believe that reasoning, and therefore science, is a different activity from imagining. But this is a fallacy, and you must root it out of your mind. The child that discovers, sometime before the age of ten, that he can make images and move them around in his head has entered a gateway to imagination and to reason. Reasoning is constructed with movable images just as certainly as poetry is. You may have been told, you may still have the feeling that E = mc2 is not an imaginative statement. If so, you are mistaken.
Teachers exhibit their professional artistry in their encounters with students. When you see someone teaching you witness their imagination and creativity unfolding in the classroom with their students. If you return a few days later you see again the process at work, but this time within a different context and activity.
The teacher’s courage to be creative in his or her encounters with students is important in understanding professional artistry. Rollo May notes that a creative act is an encounter. As such, teachers’ professional artistry is exhibited as a creative act in the classroom. According to May, creative courage is the most important kind of courage in that it results in new patterns upon which a society or a profession is built. He says
In our day, technology and engineering, diplomacy, business, and certainly teaching, all of these professions and scores of others are in the midst of radical changes and require courageous persons to appreciate and direct this change. The need for creative courage is in direct proportion to the degree of change the profession is undergoing.
We will explore further on this blog the notion of “professional artistry.” You might want to think about how Bronowski’s four concepts that link science and art play out in your classroom.
- How do you use imagination in the planning of your courses and lesson plans?
- Do you see that creativity is an essential aspect of planning, and classroom activity?
- Do student design their own experiments and activities from time to time?
- In ways do you implement play in your encounters with your students?