Expressive Arts Enhancing Awareness

Embodied and Spiritual Learning in Adults

Nature Mandala

This mandala was created by a group of 25 students during a mindfulness practice - We walked in silence together. Gently gathered items from the earth that spoke to us and returned to the central hall to place the items in the center of the fabric sheets placed on the floor. We then wrote in silence as we were witnesses of our own sense of being in the world and immersion in nature.

What are Expressive Arts?

The expressive arts combine the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster deep personal growth and community development. IEATA encourages an evolving multimodal approach within psychology, organizational development, community arts and education. By integrating the arts processes and allowing one to flow into another, we gain access to our inner resources for healing, clarity, illumination and creativity.

Integrating Technology into Expressive Arts Classes

What is Embodied Learning?

Embodied learning is an emerging field that blends the learning sciences and human computer interaction. Cognitive scientists have discovered compelling evidence that nearly all of our experiences are in some way grounded in the body. This suggests that the embodied experiences can lead to more effective learning. Researchers who study human computer interaction are developing innovative new interfaces where physical movements can drive interactivity.
James Brown - I Feel Good (Legends of Rock 'n' Roll)

Presentation on Spiritual Learning

Spiritual Learning

Susan Musilli

What is Transformational


.Transformational Learning Theory encompasses three defined

changes in elements related to learning :

.Psychological ( changes in understanding self)

.Belief System (internal)

.Behavioral ( changes in lifestyle- external)

Psychological, Belief System and

Behavioral Aspects of Individuals

are related to Spirituality

The American Educational System

has traditionally approached

learning (and thereby teaching)

without addressing the spiritual

side of the learner

What Does


mean to you?

Definitions of Spirituality:

  • .“The state, quality, or fact of being spiritual, or concerned with the spirit rather than material things”(Zinn)
  • .“Awareness of something greater than ourselves, a sense that we are connected to all human beings and to all of creation” (Hill andJohnston)
  • .“A connection to what is referred to by various names, such as Life Force, God, A HigherPower or Purpose, Great Spirit, or BuddhaNature… A Divine Spark in each person that is central to his or her core essence or Authentic Self” (Hill and Johnston)

The Differences Between

Religion and Spirituality

Religion is an organized community of faith that has written doctrine and codes of regulatory behavior (Merriam et. al, 2007)

Spirituality is a more personal belief and experience of a divine spirit or higher purpose,

about how we construct meaning and what we individually and communally experience

and attend to and honor as sacred in our lives

Tisdell’s Seven Assumptions

about Spirituality

1.Not the same as religion

2.The awareness and honoring of the interconnectedness of all things

3.Fundamentally about meaning-making

4.Always present, though often unacknowledged in the learning


5.Involves moving towards a more authentic self

6.Allows us to construct knowledge through unconscious and symbolic

processes (music, art, image, symbol and ritual)

7.Cannot be planned or forced-spiritual experiences almost always happen by


The Importance of Spirituality

in Adult Education

.Rational Ideas are better understood and learned if they are anchored in one’s entire being instead of as facts stored in one’s short term memory (Tolliver &Tisdell)

.The potential for new knowledge to be transformative comes when a person engages in learning on multiple levels including spirituality

.Spirituality enables learners to reclaim their authenticity by connecting with their core essence ( their values and beliefs)

How to integrate Spirituality in

our Teaching

.Acknowledging influences of religious or personal upbringing in a cultural framework that translates to our teaching

.Creating an environment where spiritual learning can occur; Safe, Supported, Sacred- Free from Judgment, loosely structured to allow for spontaneity to occur

.Conscientious use of language and mindfulness of the emotional power of words

Spiritual Learning Activities

.Dialogue: Recognizes “the other” as an extension of oneself and allows for deeper more meaningful connections to occur (English)

.Mentoring: A reciprocally nurturing practice enhancing spiritual growth (English)

.Creative Activities: Including but not limited to: writing, visualization, story-telling, art, music, dance, & symbols

All of these activities foster quality learning through the

connection of cultural imagination and personal experiences

References for Spiritual Learning in Adults

English, L. M. (2000). Spiritual Dimensions of Informal Learning. New Directions For

Adult & Continuing Education, (85), 29.

English, L. M. (2001). Reclaiming Our Roots: Spirituality as an Integral Part of Adult

Learning. Adult Learning, 12(3), 2.

Groen, J. (2008). Paradoxical tensions in creating a teaching and learning space within a

graduate education course on spirituality. Teaching In Higher Education, 13(2), 193-204.


Hill, L. H., & Johnston, J. D. (2003). Adult education and humanity's relationship with

nature reflected in language, metaphor, and spirituality: A call to action. New

Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (99), 17.

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The larger dance of life- Susan Musilli Digital Story