Ad-liberal Education: Improvisation and Open Curricula
As educators, we might ask how improvisation as a frame could benefit us in the classroom. After all, it is, for the most part, a transient and irreproducible activity. These are characteristics which run counter to common visions of school curricula as the passing on of reliable forms of cumulative knowledge. What improvisational approaches might we be willing to adopt? How could they be integrated with the other activities of the class? Where would one start? In this paper we shall review the ways in which improvisation and creativity have been framed, and explore some of the implications which knowledge-construction-as-improvisation can have in an educational context. To elucidate these points, we use improvisation structures in jazz as our model. It is the form of improvisation about which we are most knowledgeable and we find the scholarly work done on jazz to offer some clear possibilities for relevance and transferability to other educational settings. First we look at improvisation and its connections with creativity, discussing several conceptions of where our creative abilities originate. We then move onto theories of play and cognitive frames for understanding our ability to use open structures. This is followed by a view of degrees of freedom in improvisation, a view which problematizes interpretation, building upon the work of organization scientist and former jazz pianist Michael H. Zack. We conclude with possible alternatives we see in the application of these principles to curricular study and the lived experiences of the classroom.
Keywords: Education, Learning, Improvisation, Knowledge, Creativity, Open Curriculum, Music
Prof. Denise Egéa-Kuehne
Professor, College of Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction , Louisiana State University
Mr. David Ross
Louisiana State University