Teacher work: Beginnings and Endings
The learning movements do not arise by themselves. The teacher, pedagogue, and/or artist-educator who initiates this process and indicates the playing field and the rules of the game is of great importance. The PIMDI curriculum can be understood as an (arts-) pedagogical dialogue space within which the students create their imaginative dialogues and dialogical spaces. The (arts-) pedagogical space shapes the conditions for their work; it includes and enables all creative group processes. This is the reason why, as a facilitator, you should consciously pay attention to the design of the PIMDI curriculum as a whole beforehand and also, to the way in which students enter and leave it.
As a facilitator, the following points of attention should be taken into account when developing the playing field, or the (art-)pedagogical dialogue space. This concerns the art pedagogical principles, the creative process, the balance between safety and transgression and the composition of the groups.
Arts pedagogical perspective
In the PIMDI project, we explore how artist-educators can develop artistic strategies that contribute to living in plurality, leading to a more world-oriented arts education. The point of departure is that different art disciplines such as dance, music, theatre and the visual arts offer embodied, sensory, performative and imaginative ways to be in the world, and that generic notions attributed to the arts such as ambiguity, contingency and the potential to interrupt, offer possibilities for being and staying in difference. The ambiguous nature of art means that no unequivocal meaning can be identified; a ‘cloud’ of possible interpretations may be conjured. Contingency can be understood as the otherwise possible, the unexpected informing the creative process. Regarding the interruption power of the arts, the known or the ordinary is broken by making new, disparate and sometimes abrasive connections between ideas, events, actions, people and/or things.
More specifically, this link gives an insight into certain specific concepts that appeared to be resonating during the Intensive PIMDI Weeks in relation to the potency of the art pedagogical repertoire that was being developed, such as polyphony, parallax, paradox, dissensus, third space and felt sense.
As a facilitator you are involved in enabling the creative process of the student groups, who explore and create imaginative dialogues and dialogical spaces in an interdisciplinary and embodied way. We consider this process as tentative, open, and experiential and in alignment with Leski’s argument (2015) that it can be likened to a storm as it arises out of disturbance, acting to displace or destabilize, gathering energy and material, force and direction. We take into account that creative processes are non-linear and consist of different subprocesses, such as preparation, incubation, illumination, evaluation, verification, and acceleration (Christophe, 2006). Due to the emphasis on co-creation in the PIMDI project, these processes are not individual, but communal experiences.
Safety and transgression
The arts-pedagogical dialogical space of the PIMDI curriculum is a well-defined ‘other’ space with its own rules and rituals, in which learning can take place. The space offers transformative experiences, which at the same time requires both safety and familiarity, as well as room for the unknown. It thus needs rituals which can be accommodated to the situation and it has explicit rules of the game that relate to those of ‘brave space’: (1) agree to disagree, (2) don’t take things personally; be aware of the gap between intention and impact, (3) challenge by choice: what keeps you from challenging yourself? (4) maintain an increased mindfulness of different (cultural) ways to demonstrate a respectful attitude to one another, (5) distinguish explicitly between a personal attack (don’t do this) and a challenge to an individual’s idea or belief that makes him/her/them uncomfortable (Arao & Clemens, 2013).
There should be room for tender questions, small insecurities, and minor differences, as well as space to respectfully challenge assumptions and to emphasize and confront differences.
In order to make the space feel safe, it should be possible to step out if needed.
The composition of the groups
In the PIMDI approach, we aim to make differences between the participants fruitful in a creative way. This is why it is of vital importance to arrange groups consisting of a great diversity of participants. In the PIMDI project, for example, we worked with master’s students of different nationalities and art (educational) disciplines.
This is also why we work with urgent topics and burning questions that tie into the personal realm and society at large.
Students might do preparatory reading before the module starts. There is interesting background information concerning the role of dialogue. For example, in ‘Building Conversation: The Scripts’ (Aers, van den Berg. Lotker, 2022) there are several kinds of dialogues to be found. Here, there is also inspiration regarding the ways in which one can build dialogical spaces, specifically ‘Preparing for conversation’ (locations, material, catering, preparing conversation space, the role of the guide, the role of the participants, the walk to the conversation space, introduction and preparation in the conversation space). Also interesting in this regard is From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces (Arao & Clemens, 2013) and Revisiting Social Space. Relational thinking about organizational change (Friedman, 2011 p. 241-249).
A continuous line of reflection encircles the learning movements of exploring – inviting – engaging. This line is cumulative and creates a feed forward beyond the scope of the module. In all stages of the process, students integrate reflective documentation in imaginative ways. This involves reflections on the collaboration in their group and on the performative quality of their work in progress, the dialogues, and the dialogical spaces. Towards the end of the module, there will be peer feedback sessions based on participative presentations for others. This is rounded off by a communal and personal reflection on the project. Based on the insights and findings, there will be possibilities to build further on- and sustain the PIMDI community in informal ways, and to formulate potential possibilities for further explorations and to create new beginnings.