Families are in the best position to promote the arts to children.
This is the message delivered by Susan H. Magsamen in The Arts as Part of Our Everyday Lives: Making Visible the Value of the Arts in Learning for Families.
While schools, parents and the community need to work together to reinforce the value of arts education (Magsamen, 2011), Magsamen says parents are the most important part of this effort because a child’s first experience with the arts happens in the home. Magsamen (2011) states parents need help understanding the association between creativity and cognitive development and need help recognizing when normal everyday events can be turned into teachable moments in the arts. For example, she explains that parents would not necessarily view a child’s rap song about a broken heart and a lost love as a lesson in “communications, creativity (and) emotional development” (Magsamen, 2011). Nor would they consider a conversation about Fall colors as a lesson that “art is everywhere and it is through observation we see new things” (Magsamen, 2011). Citing several studies in neuroeducation, Magsamen (2011) provides insight into research about cognitive development and how students learn in the arts. When referring to “the arts”, Magsamen and other researchers are referring to the visual arts, music, architecture (design) and dance (Magsamen, 2011).
One of the research studies Magsamen (2011) cites is a study revealing that listening skills and concentration are enhanced when a person participates in “attention-focusing art forms.” This made me think about what would count as an attention-focusing art form the average person might find themselves doing. Then I thought, well doodling of course!
Doodling for efficiency
I searched the archives for a review of an article about doodling research posted long before this weekly column was launched. I would like to refer to this article again today.
Jackie Andrade of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth in the UK, wanted to know if doodling improves or hinders one’s attention to a primary task. To find out, she created a study in which 40 participants were asked to listen to a rambling telephone message about a planned birthday party. Participants were divided into two groups – a control group and a doodling group. The doodling group was placed into a “doodling condition” (Andrade, 2009) where they were given a pencil to shade squares and circles on a sheet of paper while listening to the phone message. The control group did not receive materials for doodling. All participants were asked to recall information about who would be attending the birthday party.
Andrade’s results show that doodlers recalled 29% more information than the participants in the control group. This study is the first test of the idea that doodling aids concentration. Andrade proposes that doodling may be enough of a stimulus to prevent boredom and reduce the likelihood of daydreaming.
To research these findings further, Andrade (2009) says more research is necessary to understand boredom, daydreaming, and the activities alleviating these conditions.
Continuing the conversation about art and learning
Magsamen (2011) states future discussions about learning and the arts is dependent upon neuroscience researchers and educators clarifying research results so that teachers and parents are no longer confused by conflicting reports. She adds what is also needed are examples of practical ways teachers, parents and the community can integrate the arts and learning in daily life. Examples of successful education and outreach projects can be viewed in Magsamen (2011). Magsamen’s article is available online for free, compliments of the journal Mind, Brain, and Education (see link below).
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