The Pedagogical Method
Being aware of the needs of communities, across a varied demographic, is necessary in articulating the objectives of your program. The social institution which caters to the needs of a specific community can quite readily tell what the needs of this community are. For example, social isolation is a real issue for adults with special needs and seniors. Social workers from youth and children’s centers will tell you that issues of low self esteem and confidence affect the social circles of their clients and impede on their intellectual growth and abilities. Communities of specific cultural identities, such as ethnic collectives, or other collectives gathered via alliance to particular beliefs and life practices may want to create their own representational forms of aesthetics to convey their identity. Each of these needs suggest that there is a necessary emphasis on one of the dimensions, which could possibly enable the community to grow.
An elaboration of specific pointers to note, for those with special needs, seniors, children and youth at risk and those with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses are detailed in the book.
There are certain ‘Must Haves’ traits that each activity should carry to correspond with each dimension.
The Social Dimension
The activity should be a group activity where participants sit in a way that facilitates collaboration. A circular sitting arrangement, for example, facilitates eye contact and acknowledgement of one another, from those sitting opposite to those sitting beside a participant. For art sessions, the tables should be grouped collectively, even if each participant is working on his or her own piece. This facilitates chatter, which is always helpful to the social dimension!
The Personal Dimension
The activity should provide participants with an avenue to respond from their own instinct and thoughts. Improvisation in the performing arts, for example, is one such activity.
The Cognitive Dimension
The activities of the program should be sequentially more cognitively challenging as the group advances over time. The beginning activity can be a simple one that helps you ascertain what your participants are cognitively comfortable with. Each individual participant may be comfortable at different stages of ability. The next activity set in place should stretch the individual or collective to the next stage of thinking.
The Cultural Dimension
The theme and content of the activities should come from the cultural experiences of the participants. It should not come from the cultural experiences of the artist facilitator. The latter would likely create miscommunication and the participants may feel unheard and unseen, making the program one that is not person-centered but artist-centered instead.
Informal Formative Evaluation With Participants
Pedagogically, formative evaluation includes formal and informal processes that the artist-facilitator and the participants use to gather evidence of their learning and to inform them of their next step (Chappuis, 2015). Again you may ask, “What does this have to do with me? I shouldn’t have to ‘grade’ the work of my participants surely?” While process-based formal formative evaluation approaches do include quizzes and assignments, and are therefore not quite ‘up our alley’ for community-based work, informal formative evaluation is something we actually do all the time with our participants. These include forms of questioning, dialogue, observing and anecdotal note taking (ibid).
For example, we should and likely do pay attention to every one of our participants when we set them a task, however simple. We observe how they attend to the task: Are they evasive? Are they having difficulties with the materials to be used? Are they able to work well with others? These forms of informal evaluation guide us to intervene in support of the participant.
Formal Evaluation of the Participants’ Progress for the Institution
Social institutions that engage a person-centered arts program do look forward to a report about the growth of each of their clients. This is because the report will give the institution a means to articulate the strengths of the program, and in doing so will want to sustain the program for another year. This will help sustain your practice and profession too! Examples of reports for both funders and institutions are available in the book.
Observing Your Facilitation Approach and Participant Responses
Each generation has been schooled in a different way over time. Consider how some of the seniors had not been to school because of the war. Consider young people and the school that they now attend, and how accessible arts programs, much less general education, have become. Consider how the internet has become ‘native’ to the generation of the millennia, while those of us who are older still struggle to get a hold on its speed and seemingly uncontrollable reach to the masses.
Consider then, how you as an artist-facilitator must always meet a group of participants that come from a variety of unpredictable circumstances. Consider how, if you as an artist-facilitator, conducting the same program, from step 1 -20, in the same way, year on year, might be missing out on some enriching experiences that come from the community. Consider how, if we do claim to meet the needs of our participants, we might need to be flexible and reflexive about our practice, always thinking about how to improve and enhance our methods and approaches to meet the ever evolving needs of the community.
This chapter emphasizes and demands that we, practitioners of our community craft, are reflective all the time. It proposes a method of observation which can enable you to be more conscious of your thoughts, actions and speech, and in turn be more aware of how your community response to you. This awareness, through reflection, will then enable you to craft your thoughts, actions and speech to respond better to the community. This again creates a two-way conversation between you and the community. In this way the program becomes a form of co-creation, which is co-owned by the participants. The responsibility of making the program a success becomes a shared endeavor.
Elaboration on approaches to self and peer evaluation, using the 4 dimensions, are provided in Person-centered Arts Practices With Communities: A Pedagogical Guide (https://www.trafford.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001179771).
Chapppius, J.(2015) Seven Strategies Of Assessment For Learning (second edition). Pearson Assessment Training Institute, USA.