Friday, September 04, 2009

Importance of observation.

Skilled student observing fellow student completing an observational drawing of a tree as part of a bush study. Involved in such a 'slow' activity who know what thoughts were running through both their minds?

Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.

Such drawing develops qualities of perception and understanding of whatever is drawn. Drawing can be seen as the mind asking question and the hand drawing answers.It involves a simple strategy - look hard- imagine -and then draw, and continue until the drawing is finished.

German philosopher Goethe had thoughts about studying plants through drawing, 'It takes time.You have to slow down.You see and you follow ever detail - of a leaf for example - in your look at a leaf , and you create the shape of the leaf as precisely as possible in your mind. You move around the shape of the leaf in your mind until the leaf becomes an image in your mind.You do this with one leaf, with another leaf, and so on, and suddenly you begin to see dynamic movement.' The mind wonders about how the leaf was created.

Questions will emerge which can lead to intensive study. Thoughts arise that can be shaped into poems. As artists take in what they can see metaphorical thought might come to mind. Imagination can extend images into amazing interpretations.

A few leaves can provide a lot of deep thoughts. Such contemplation, Goethe believed, developed a new ways to see.

For teachers who understand this observation is not a simple task but one that truly develop deeper understanding and sense of wonder.

Until you look you never know what you can't see.

To slow students' looking the first thing is to encourage concentration through focus. To pay attention without judgement. To slow the pace of thought so as to see all there is to see. To think of connections.

Such observation is away to break through our conventional, or conditioned, way of thinking.

Focused observation, and ensuing imagination, may well be the missing 'basics' in our hurried school system.


Anonymous said...

Something as simple as observation is what is missing in our school systen - we rush too quickly into reading and writing.

Jody Hayes said...

Observation is POWERFUL ... yes ... it is literacy too - put that observation into literacy time because this thinking will help understanding of texts, visual representations etc - it is literacy!
If we are teaching reading and writing well surely we should be talking about 'what we notice' and 'detail'.