Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interview with Shawn Alyea, Innovators in Education Series

Using art and art therapy to reach at-risk students and to help achieve academic goals is an extremely important strategy. Not only does it allow freedom of expression, it is also motivating and it helps develop self efficacy. Welcome to an interview with Shawn Alyea, who develops approaches using different types of art and expressive media to develop innovative instructional programs. You can see samples of his work by visiting his Flickrstream.

1. What is your name and your relation to education?
Shawn Alyea. I have a Masters in Counseling Psychology, Special Education and a Bachelors in Special Ed. I taught for 10 yrs, grades 1-12 at various times. Both of my parents were educators.

2. What is your philosophy of education for at-risk children and families?
To explore new and innovative ways to access and apply information needed for the task at hand. An at risk child especially needs to see how the activity they are becoming involved in can benefit them.

For some that is escaping a chaotic or hostile home life by concentrating on academics, for some it may be learning skills for employment, or to express themselves in the arts to find their own voice. If you can demonstrate to the parents that you are involved in their children’s life (and theirs) as a positive force not a judgmental one; the student and the teacher are more likely to receive parents support.

If you can help a student find or encourage something they excel at and then attach that to a cause bigger than themselves they are more likely to be motivated to rise above the challenges they may face in the home environment.

3. How does one's advancement in education result in a ripple effect in one's family?
Family systems therapy would compare the advancement to a change or a dance. If the child surpasses the parents in knowledge it may be seen as a threat. You have to work to reframe that in a positive light or you are likely to lose your opportunity to help the student flourish.

If the parents are frustrated because their child has not made the progress they had expected and you can show that progress occurring, then you’ve become an ally to the family and the student. The wise educator will be sensitive to any changes in the family.

The student’s advancement in education may also enable their children to have a higher income
or career choices than their parents or grandparents.

4. What is your view of the relationship between art and one's identity and self-concept?
Art in all of its forms would be a portrait of the soul at a given time and place to me. It is very personal, exposing and honest. Often unconscious, and mystical it reaches into the spiritual realm, and at the best of times God seems to join you in the creation. So I see art as a mirror to observe yourself as you engage in the process. This observation may notice changes, themes and emotions you otherwise might not have noticed about yourself.

Here a few works of art that explore the mystical: (Note that more can be seen at Shawn's Online Gallery /  Flickrstream)

6. How can art projects be used in both online and face to face courses?

Academically various techniques can be taught. Depending on how detailed, or demanding they are you can observe how the student interacts with the media or techniques.

The student really tells you much about themselves if you simply observe them. Are they patient? Do they struggle with being impulsive? Do they typically lack focus except when engaged in something of great interest? What media are they attracted to? How do they organize and then execute the activity?

This is more difficult in on line course unless you can adapt the camera’s to show the student’s work environment. On the other hand on line allows you to interact with people across the globe, and to access cultures and views that you could never dream of in a face to face setting.

7. Who are some of your favorite artists? Why? How?

Rouault , Van Gogh, Matisse, Chagall. George Ohr Potter. I like their free forms of expression and colors.

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