“Painting the Way We Learn”

A student's project explores styles of learning

| May 8, 2015

By Sue Seecof

Experts say that no one can exactly track the number of U.S. students who choose to take a gap year, but they agree the trend is on the rise.

Take Alicia Goode-Allen, a 2014 Alexander Dawson school graduate who took a gap year to work as a tutor, only to discover that many of her students did not feel that school mattered. In response, Goode-Allen decided to use the second part of her gap year to launch Painting the Way We Learn (PWWL), an artistic and educational project that will create three teaching methods that can improve education for different learners.



PWWL will interview students and teachers globally and act as a bridge between the different ways of learning based on the diversity of cultures, nationalities, ages, races and classes between learners.

Goode-Allen, whose work has been shown at The Denver Art Museum and Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Exhibition, will photograph, sketch and then paint the people she interviews in Croatia, Slovenia, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Spain. The interviews will be held in whatever environment they choose, whether it be in the classroom, when teaching, sitting in moments of reflection or learning in an untraditional way.

“Conventional education does not offer enough to individuals who are unique and learn in different ways,” says Goode-Allen. ­­­ “If we can shift education to be both individual and universal, schools may be more engaging for those who are falling through the cracks,” says Goode-Allen, winner of two awards in the Colorado Scholastic Art & Writing Award competition.

To engage participants and raise funds, Alicia recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. Some of the perks supporters will receive include either the password to her website containing interviews with learners across the globe, or an original, near-life-size painting and story of one person’s educational experience.

Her first interviewee, Boulder artist William Stoehr, was recently interviewed by Harvard neuroscientist Margaret Livingston about his use of physics to create emotionally powerful paintings.

For Alicia, this work is important for two reasons: it’s an example of how important a gap year can be, and of how students can have an impact and find meaning in work they pursue now — not just learn skills crucial for future success.

“As I began to tutor students of different ages, I recognized a common theme that I’d also heard expressed by my high school classmates. Some of my students were merely going through the motions, getting the grades for their parents or for approval from teachers, but maybe not for themselves. For some, school is just a thing you do, not a gift that can offer you valuable knowledge for the future.

“I would like to shift that attitude, to engage students in the classroom and connect subjects to the outside world, so young people can feel their passions are connected to their education from an early age, and are excited about what class time will bring.”

A project collaborator from Slovenia, Jernej Pangersic, social entrepreneur and a student at Watson University, will introduce Goode-Allen to his educational community. He says, “I was initially intrigued by Painting the Way We Learn because of its uniqueness. It’s approaching an interesting question of “how do we learn,” and works to answer it in a completely new way -– by connecting different communities and various people within them. Looking at the question from this new, unique perspective might just give us answers we otherwise wouldn’t receive.”

“By the end of Painting the Way We Learn, I will create three different teaching methods that schools can easily incorporate to shift the classroom environment and make in-class lessons more accessible to different learners,” says Goode-Allen. “These methods will connect to a student’s work and study habits outside of the classroom, as well as make the in-class experience more appealing to those who are very different.”

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