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'We'll always have Riga': developing community through engagement with the arts

'We'll always have Riga': developing community through engagement with the arts

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'We'll always have Riga': developing community through engagement with the arts

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  1. 'We'll always have Riga': developing community through engagement with the arts Bonnie Meekums SEC3: The Third Annual University of Leeds Student Education Conference 10.1.14

  2. Background • July 2012: Riga Stradins University hosted a 10 day Erasmus funded lifelong learning intensive - arts therapies with different client groups.  • 1 tutor and 6 MA Psychotherapy and Counselling students travelled (the tutor also facilitating some of the learning). • Each student asked to keep a reflective log. • Students also told at the outset that they would be expected to co-operatively plan and deliver a Saturday experiential workshop to all three year groups of the programme in the late autumn of 2012, supported by the tutor.

  3. Preparation for the intensive • Long lead-in: planning and paperwork over ~ 18 month period • Involvement of European Office • Needed to identify student participants – including new starters • Some misunderstandings and budget changes (resulting in personal financial loss) • Staff time commitment at a time when could be doing research – need to feel it is worth it (though also wrote for minor publication)

  4. The intensive • Residential: some students expected to share rooms • Cultural differences – tea breaks non-existent • Long days, very highly structured and little down time – students expected to participate • Lots of time spent on buses (without toilet stops) • Sometimes taken to places without clear planning or communication – e.g. to beach but not told to bring costumes, or to see open air performances without toilet facilities • Leeds students joined by others from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in the UK • Highly experiential workshops in art therapy, dramatherapy, dance movement therapy and music therapy

  5. Art therapy

  6. Dance Movement Therapy

  7. Music therapy

  8. Dramatherapy

  9. An outdoor performance

  10. Student feedback on return • Evidenced learning about self, client work, research and culture, together with increased confidence: • ‘I have more confidence now to be able to offer creative art materials to clients.’ (Isobel) • [I have discovered] ‘how to enable clients to express their voice through where they hold it – in movement and in other forms. I have heard the music of the client’s voice.’ (Jo) • [I have realised that] ‘Movement can be as powerful as reflection.’ (Abi) • [I now have] ‘Lots of ideas … wider possibility for therapeutic work.’ (Abi) • Overall, the experience was deemed to be ‘transformational’ - student evaluations were overwhelmingly positive despite previously expressed reservations re. down time etc. (see above).

  11. The peer workshop Room opened 10 am (Saturday) 10.15– welcome by tutor. Slideshow by Stephen, our official photographer Short personal introductions including expectations/fears/hopes. Reminders re. confidentiality and personal responsibility. 10.30 – Activity 1 [Claire: drama] 11.30 – Activity 2 [Isobel and Madeleine: solution focussed art therapy and body image] 12.30-1.00 – lunch 1.00 – Activity 3 [Stephen: using art images to think about client work] 2.00 - Activity 4 [Abi and Jo: movement] 3.00 – Plenary and final group movement exercise. 3.30 – finish

  12. Gathering feedback following peer workshop Using simple electronic proforma: • Name • Year group   • Three learning points from the day • Three highlights of the day • Three suggestions for development or change in the applications of arts therapies to counselling and psychotherapy training 10 responses – approximately 50% (mostly first years)

  13. Findings: year 1 learning • General (cognitive) learning about the subject • Personal /experiential /affective learning about the body and its role in emotions • Personal /experiential /affective learning about the power of the arts in: making sense of emotions; potentially revealing and hidden connections: allowing a person to express themselves without using language; gaining fresh insights and experimenting with new ways of being (some links also to own client work) • Personal /experiential /affective learning about self and other

  14. Findings: year 2 learning Learning was exclusively personal / experiential: • About the body (more linked to own body) • About self and other: • Taking risks and stepping outside comfort zone (linking this to work with own clients) • New reflective learning on own current situation • Increased awareness self in relation to other people • Learning co-operation and facilitation skill with a peer and evaluating this

  15. Findings: year 3 learning • Personal /experiential /affective learning about the arts, specifically that they can provide a direct route into emotions and meaning-making and that this route is different from / complementary to cognitive approaches. • Personal /experiential /affective learning about self and other, which included an awareness that using the arts to work in relationship with another can give inspiring and unexpected results. • Learning about work with clients, and considerations of new ways for working (NB qualifying at the end of this year).

  16. Highlights identified • Engaging with the arts through experiential learning (a relatively new experience) – and a sense that the experiential nature accelerated learning (years 1 and 2) • Learning about self and other – for second year students, this included seeing how far they had come since they were in year 1 and looking forward with increased confidence to year 3. • Experiencing and building community.

  17. Suggestions made • Overwhelmingly, wanting more! • Develop a specific module. • Incorporate research on the arts therapies. • Acknowledgement that arts therapies do not suit everyone.

  18. Coda: Stephen 2.7.13, Email from Stephen, now preparing his dissertation, to the whole group – message line ‘We’ll always have Riga x’: • A year since our trip to Latvia already and memories of what a special and amazing experience it was are on my mind. Just wanted to get in touch and wish you all well. All the best, Stephen

  19. Coda: Abi Abi (who had now completed the course) responded to Stephen on 3.7.13: • Hi all, I have been thinking about it recently, it was one of the best times I've had in my life- it really expanded my world and my perspective. I'm very grateful for the experience,  the opportunity, and also all of you and the lovely group relationship we all made- and had loads of fun … So also thankful for your thought Stephen.

  20. Coda: Isobel On 7.7.13: • … thanks Stephen for prompting some group reflection on our adventure. I was talking about the trip only 2 weeks ago when we had our annual 'review' at work and shared our highlights of the year.  I found myself sharing with our counsellors, youth workers, young people's group and board members a fondly remembered experience of creative therapy!  … Though I personally found the experience exhausting, I loved it and it clearly sits in my mind as something worth sharing with others, a year on. I may have been the most wooden dance movement participant, but hey, participating at all can be the biggest personal achievement. Isobel x And on 18.11.13, after hearing about her distinction: • I spent some of today writing a report for the Board of Directors at my workplace, after they released me for the scheduled uni days, and I found it a useful exercise to re-engage with the whole experience. As has been said before, Bonnie.... We'll always have Riga!  And yes this certainly stood out as a highlight and privileged opportunity - however exhausting!! Thank you for the opportunity and experience. Best Wishes, Isobel 

  21. Limitations • Small sample • Limited response rate • Limited means of obtaining student feedback: basic, electronic proforma • Just one MA programme: highly motivated, mature students • Not linked to assessment / credits

  22. What can be repeated / applied? • Learning experientially, including through the arts: deepens learning due to affective and embodied engagement. • Community days, where all three year groups come together: helps promote sense of identity within a given programme area. • Peer learning: students appreciate learning from each other, in particular how they overcome difficulties and succeed. • Relevance for broadening? Mind and Body discovery theme – need a module on this?

  23. Conclusions • Experiential learning (e.g. through the arts) offers the opportunity to embed insights within an embodied / affective pedagogy, which can be transformational • Community days with all three year groups offer the opportunity to both build a sense of belonging and confidence in evolving identities • Intensives abroad offer the opportunity to build relationships and provide experiences that are reflected on for some time after the event • Long term effects on employability or personal development require further investigation

  24. My thanks to • Isobel Baker, • Claire Kelly • Stephen Millward • Jo Prowse • Abigail Wilkins. • Madeleine Wood • And the team at Riga Stradins University