Arts in education pedagogies at UCC: A history

The exposure to artworks in both real and virtual formats have enabled individuals engaging in teaching and learning qualifications at UCC from across different disciplines to learn from each other, encouraged higher order thinking, helped participants make connections between previously disparate concepts and encouraged a diversity of perspectives (McCarthy, 2010).

UCC has a rich history in terms of the development of various arts in education practices across the university; these developments are punctuated via specific movements and leaders as follows. From 2001—2007 was the establishment of identifying visual practices across the university as Professor Alistair Rowan established the History of Art as an academic discipline at UCC in 2001. James Elkins was then appointed by UCC from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004 as the second professor in History of Art. James Elkins' period coincided with the establishment of Cork as a European City of Culture in 2005 and the 2004 opening of the Glucksman Gallery. Elkins was educated as a studio artist and art historian. Therefore, he was interested in the role of teaching and learning within studio practices. His book, Visual Practices Across the University (Elkins, 2007), highlights his interest in the visual arts as a means to communicate disciplinary ways of seeing and perceiving domains of knowledge. Creative Art, Culture and Inclusion (Disability Studies) was also introduced as a program offered through UCC’s Adult and Continuing Education Centre.

(embedding Project Zero at UCC)

In 2006, as a natural development, lonad Bail re, The Teaching and Learning Centre, was established. The approach of the Centre for almost a decade has been one of scholarly enquiry into teaching and learning practice. The National Academy for the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) was funded by the Higher Education Authority (Ireland) between 2006 and 2012, with UCC as the lead partner in this national collaborative project. The goal of NAIRTL was to enact a series of activities and initiatives to support students, researchers and staff to implement and advance effective research-informed teaching and learning practices throughout the Irish higher education sector. This was achieved through staff development initiatives such as national conferences, small grants, and teaching excellence awards. NAIRTL is currently transitioning from an academy to a national network, linked through contact points in each partner institution.

(establishing visual thinking strategies at UCC)

The Jennings Gallery was established through the leadership of Siobhan Murphy and supported by the then President of UCC, Michael Murphy, to promote and support visual literacy and creative growth among the staff, students and graduates of the College of Medicine and Health.

(visual practices as metacognitive approaches to learning and teaching)

UCC academics Cronin, McMahon and Waldron’s (2009) publication about making explicit the processes of looking in art history, adult and community education and was later critically reviewed in Woolard’s (2011) Psychology for the Classroom: E-Learning.

-12 (documenting uses of Project Zero in higher education)

CIRTL’s promotion of visual literacies and application of the Project Zero Classroom across UCC is documented in Blackshields, et al. eds.), Integrative Learning International Research and Practice.

Research undertaken at UCC by McCarthy (2010) focused on investigating how an arts in education lens could work as a catalyst to inform processes and facilitate integrative learning. For this study, participants from different cohorts undertaking the Certificate and Diploma in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education attended a workshop where they engaged in an exercise involving approaches from project MUSE.

McCarthy’s study collected data from reflections during the session, blog responses and reflective evaluation questions. Her results pointed to the following themes regarding learning in the Glucksman Gallery: how the space itself served as a catalyst for integrative learning, how engaging with artworks fostered making connections between cross-disciplinary concepts (the views of staff members who were engineers contrasting those from anatomy, the realization that ‘we bring our conceptions and background to the problem' (McCarthy, 2010:121). Allowing for multiple perspectives of an artwork highlighted to staff members how students learn in different ways, that each perspective on an artwork might be different but is equally valid (and how this is relevant to students). Imagining a scenario behind an artwork also highlighted higher order thinking and analytical skills.

-2014 (VTS as a tool for professional enhancement)

Professor Tony Ryan was one of the first graduates of the Masters in Teaching and Higher Education at UCC. His awards include the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (2002) and two Irish Health Awards (2009 and 2017) for International Development and Health Systems improvement (Omdurman Maternity Hospital. Sudan) and the Cork-Sudan Helping Babies Breathe Partnership). In 2012, he was awarded a National Teacher Award from the National Academy for the Integration of Research in Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL). In 2013 his TedEx talk: “Using art education to make better doctors” was recorded.

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