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Exploring Social Justice Through Art in a Community Health Nursing Course

By Aliyah Dosani, Jocelyn Lehman and Alexander Cuncannon

Our research team had a shared interest in the potential for arts-based activities to enrich social justice learning. A shift to online delivery of courses added incentive to enhance engagement in learning and strengthen connections among students. Looking back, undertaking this research to better understand a pedagogical change also represented a creative opportunity for us to engage in a reflective process. With the aim of enhanced student engagement in social justice learning, we added a collaborative, visual image to an existing group assignment in an undergraduate community health nursing course.

The co-creation of an original visual representation was designed to add a new facet to social justice learning grounded in a population health issue. To address student uncertainty about co-creating an original image as part of an assignment, the rubric was simplified to highlight the value of art that is open to interpretation. Retaining the existing concept map project was important because the development of concept map connections and a question necessitated the exploration of relevant literature. Thus, picturing social justice in an art piece was a means to synthesize shared learning through a creative process.

Participants provided insights about unique creative processes and unanticipated benefits of co-creating an image. One student recounted the process of internalizing social justice learning:

At first, I was skeptical about how this creative component would contribute to my learning, especially since I do not consider myself to be a very creative person. And it was in my preparation to be creative (e.g., researching symbols) that led me to have unexpected learnings related to the LGBTQ2+ community, learnings that I do not think I would have had from this project without the creative component … engaging in and completing this creative component sparked an interest and curiosity in me that I was not expecting.

Read the TLI article here.

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