Candid Transitions: The Role of Artistic Practice in Improving Post-Secondary Student Engagement
Is it possible to teach motivation to college students? Can artistic practice be incorporated into a First Year Experience college course to facilitate successful transitions to post-secondary education? And how can artistic production at once deepen and accelerate students’ commitment to college life, as well as stimulate reflective practices in ways that standard methodology can not? These are the questions that informed our “Candid Transitions” multi-media assignment, a project designed to help guide first year college students to reflect upon and document their transition to college life and beyond. In addition to a standard critical reading and writing component, students were given complete freedom to choose the medium that best suited their message. The results were impressive: students produced narratives, films and videos, visual art, music, dance, interactive games and mixed-media installations. When given greater latitude to express what they had learned through their strongest intelligences, students were more motivated, more eloquent, more lucid and more confident. But the medium was not just the message; it was also the bridge to many of the standard skill sets (such as formal writing) that students had resisted throughout the semester. From an instructional point of view, this project produced exponential gains in students’ cognitive processing, and analytical and writing skills. The students themselves reported better goal orientation and motivation, as well as an increased sense of connection with classmates and the institution itself. This paper will explore the benefits of applying multiple intelligence theory and artistic practice in a college environment to prompt students to deeper thought and greater engagement, and to participate in creating a profoundly supportive classroom climate.
Keywords: Artistic Practice, Multiple Intelligences, Student Engagement, First Year Experience, Post-secondary Education, Motivation, College Transition
Coordinator and Instructor, Student Success (First Year Experience), Student Development, Douglas College