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Mapping Holistic Learning

An Introductory Guide to Aesthetigrams

Boyd White and Amélie Lemieux

Mapping Holistic Learning: An Introductory Guide to Aesthetigrams introduces the concept of aesthetigrams. These are participant-produced visual maps of aesthetic engagement. The map-making strategy was originally developed by one of the authors, Boyd White, to assist him in understanding what his university-level students were experiencing as they interacted with artworks. Such interactions are, after all, private, individualistic, and fleeting. How can a teacher foster student/teacher dialogue that might lead to enhanced engagement, much less do research, without a concrete record of such engagement? Aesthetigrams provide that record.

Recently, the strategy has been adapted to other fields of study—the teaching of literature, and philosophy for children, as well as the writing of poetry. Boyd White and Amélie Lemieux are persuaded that the strategy could be expanded into other disciplines. For example, might it not be useful for a teacher to know what a student is feeling and thinking as she struggles with a mathematical concept?

Mapping Holistic Learning is divided into three sections. Chapter 1 addresses the theoretical framework that underpins the authors’ research. The second section, Chapters 2 to 5, provides examples of aesthetigram usage within the formal education environment, in art and literature classrooms. The third section, Chapters 6 and 7, introduces two recent experiments in informal settings—one in an adult poetry workshop, the other in a philosophy-for-children workshop. It is not necessary to follow the book in chronological order. Readers are invited to attend to the chapters that most closely address their individual interests.


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Chapter Two: Putting Theory into Practice: Aesthetigrams: Mapping Aesthetic Experiences (Boyd White)


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Putting Theory into Practice

Aesthetigrams: Mapping Aesthetic Experiences


In Chapter 1 our discussion of theory was oriented largely towards students’ responses to reading. In this chapter, we concentrate on interactions with visual artworks, because this is where the idea of aesthetigrams first developed. Thus, this chapter provides a little historical context and some concrete examples of students’ efforts to record their encounters with artworks. To provide the historical context we begin with an article I (White) wrote in 1998. Of course, refinements in the procedure have developed over the years, so we will follow that article with a description of those refinements, a list of the categories of experiential moments to date, some more recent examples of student interactions with artworks and the dialogues they engendered.

Adapted from “Aesthetigrams: Mapping Aesthetic Experiences,” first published in Studies in Art Education, 39(4). © 1998. Used with permission of the National Art Education Association.

Abstract: This paper describes a strategy for heightening university students’ awareness within aesthetic encounters. The strategy, called aesthetigrams, is the focus of ongoing qualitative research, the purpose of which is to improve teaching and learning in regard to aesthetics-in-the-classroom A more long-term research goal is discussed briefly. It addresses the possibility for a definition of aesthetic experience to be derived from student-produced records of their encounters.

This paper describes an ongoing qualitative investigation into university-level student...

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