This paper describes the rationale, design, methods, and findings of a qualitative research project focused on an experimental university class, “Teaching Therapeutic Language, Literature, and Media,” offered during the Spring semester, 2010, at the University of Missouri. In this graduate course, students created ten projects, each of which integrated visual and verbal processes and products. The participants primarily used writing and imagery as a means of exploring and “healing” personal issues, such as the death of loved ones, physical violence, and anxiety. This paper includes examples of student work and discussion of findings based upon these texts, students’ written reflections, and a series of interviews with students.
The theoretical underpinnings of this new course reside in the work of Lev Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory of mind, which posits that cognition is mediated by the learner’s active participation in tasks, and is especially mediated by language. In this course, students’ learning was mediated by oral and written language, as well as by other media, especially imagery. This project can also be positioned within the “Constructivist” paradigm of teaching and learning (e.g., the work of John Dewey).
More specifically, this project represents a synthesis of five scholarly domains: 1) Second Language Acquisition and Collaborative Learning, especially Merrill Swain’s “Output Hypothesis,” which contends that the process of generating written and spoken language results in language acquisition for L2 learners; here, the roles of collaborative learning are especially important; 2) Fluency in writing and speaking. Peter Elbow and others have articulated many logically and pedagogically sound reasons for why novice writers (L1 and L2) should consistently practice “freewriting” or “intensive practice writing,” in which they are urged to forget about the constraints of grammatical and mechanical correctness and focus their complete attention on generating ideas; 3) Mental imagery in thinking and literacy, especially Allan Paivio’s “Dual Coding Theory” and Stephen Kosslyn’s research on mental imagery; 4) The “New Literacies” (multi-modal) & Media Literacy, spawned by technology, such as the work of Gunther Kress and Cynthia Selfe; the “media literacy” movement (e.g., Postman and Fox) which emphasizes verbal/visual connections, also informs our work; and 5) Writing as a way of “Healing,” (from physical, psychological, and emotional trauma), researched by James Pennebaker and others.
|Keywords:||Images and Words, Visual and Verbal Processes and Products, Media Communication, Teaching and Learning, Imagery, Writing, Healing, Wellness, Critical Thinking, Education, Teaching, Digital Media|
Professor of English Education; Director, Lewis & Clark Center for Integrated Learning, Language, Society, & Culture, Department of Learning, Teaching, & Curriculum, College of Education, University of Missouri, Collumbia, Missouri, USA