reflections on trust and sociability

This post is by Emily Pringle

For the last two weeks the films from the project edited by the young people have been on show in Tate Britain. To mark the start of this public showing we held at sharing event in the Taylor Digital Studio for participants, friends, family and colleagues from Tate to come together and present and reflect on the project.

Pat and Emily gave brief introductions then Yasemin, Moira and Julia spoke about their experience of the choreography and editing workshops, drawing attention to those aspects of the project that were particularly significant for them.

Watching the films and hearing the presentations brought several thoughts to mind, a key one being that the social element of the project was vital to its success. In relationship to the choreography workshops all three presenters highlighted that meeting new like-minded people, working closely together as a group over the week and building up relationships with each other and Sara were crucial, not only in making the project enjoyable, but also in enabling them to engage and learn.

This valuing of the social and collaborative aspects is not surprising perhaps, yet it tells us a great deal about what was important to the participants in terms of cultural value, as well as giving insights into the connections between the social and emotional context of the workshops and the nature of the teaching and learning that took place.

This project, like so many involving young people in cultural settings, involved participants working in a group taking risks and trying things out, some of which did not turn out in the ways they had anticipated. To experiment and expose themselves within a peer group in this way, and feel comfortable doing it, required the participants to trust each other and Sara in particular. Equally they needed to feel supported and trusted in order to take those risks within the group.

I have been thinking about how and why this space of mutual trust came about in a relatively short space of time and what we might learn from this. Pat has talked in a previous blog entry about the importance of the warm-up as a non-threatening and inclusive activity that produced a feeling of ‘sustained sociability’ and in addition to considering this, for the moment I have been focusing on three associated issues that also seem relevant:

1.The framing of the project as ‘research’ with an emphasis on investigation, questioning and reflection rather than the realisation of a specific fixed outcome. This appeared to encourage mutual enquiry and open investigation within the group.
2. The specific attention paid by Sara to the participants. This included the language of experimentation she employed (for example ‘you might like to try’, rather than ‘you need to do’) which made explicit her trust in them.
3. The motivations of the participants. These young people elected to do this project and evidenced commitment and desire to take advantage of what was on offer. From the start they appeared willing to trust the project leaders and each other.

These observations are not unique. Other writers and researchers have drawn attention to the importance of personal and social contexts in shaping the museum learning experience (see for example Xanthoudaki, 1997). Similarly in a detailed study on artists working in schools in 2005 John Harland and other colleagues highlighted the value of artist’s pedagogy, the type of content and the artist-pupil relationship as having the most profound affect on students.

However, what this project has reminded me of is that trust, brought about through the creation of a environment committed to collective enquiry is central to engendering positive cultural experiences.

Harland, J., Lord, P., Stott, A., Kinder, K., Lamont, E., Ashworth, M. (2005) ‘The arts-education interface: a mutual learning triangle?. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Xanthoudaki, M (1997) ‘Museum and Gallery Learning Programmes: Learning Processes and Contribution to Art Education’. Journal of Education in Museums. No 18. Pp. 43-46.


One thought on “reflections on trust and sociability

  1. I am really glad to hear that participants returned as part of the opening of the exhibition and that the discoveries from the research period are becoming clear. I am particularly interested in the relations between the social and trust and language.

    I look forwards to sharing more about my experience of the exhibition…


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