Students as agents in the creation of knowledge:

Incorporating voice and ownership through art-based projects

Author: Becky Beal, Professor of Kinesiology
Developed from many of my colleagues' work and feedback

As I reflect on my teaching and in what ways I can be more culturally inclusive, I have found that I need to be as in tune to my students as possible and to create spaces where I actively pay attention and respond to where they are coming from. For me, this means letting go of some of the faculty-driven structure of courses and allowing for (and expecting) the students to take ownership of the learning process. Incorporating art-based projects has been one successful means of facilitating this type of learning environment.

Below are my main goals for this type of assignment and a few examples from different courses.

Goals and upside:

  1. Encourages students to put their 'self' or voice into the project. They are the ones creating parameters of the art project and negotiating how they do the work.
  2. Enhances students' awareness that creating a position or an argument is a process grounded in thoughtful dialogue with each other but also with "academics" as represented by key concepts of course materials.
  3. Enhances the awareness that their positions are relational and, in turn, that knowledge is relational and political. In short, that knowledge has personal/political significance.


  1. MESSY – process can be frustrating as there is no pre-determined "correct answers." Therefore, it's more "inefficient" and can be more challenging as it opposes the notion that being successful in class is simply "ticking off a box" or "jumping through a hoop."
  2. Also challenging as it requires consistent communication and negotiation with self and others about the logic and implications of one's position
  3. Not all students are comfortable in this environment, which is why in particular courses it is provided as an option to more traditional forms of research.

Two main objectives of this assignment are (1) to ensure that each person in the class can articulate the main objective of the tunnel of oppression, and (2) to ensure that each person knows what role or task they are to complete for the tunnel project

Please word process, single space, and keep to one page. Be sure to list your name and the group you are in (floor, wall, or poster)

We have agreed to use the theme of racism in the NFL. We agreed that the goal is to illustrate how racial ideologies are expressed in the NFL which serve to reinforce white privilege/power.

  1. Identify and describe how the project will demonstrate structural level of racial formation
  2. Identify and describe how the project will demonstrate cultural level of racial formation
  3. Identify and describe your specific task to accomplish
  4. Identify what materials you need to complete task
  5. Identify what support you may need from your group and Dr. Beal or Dr. Atencio

Assessment of the Tunnel of Oppression Project

The main objective of this assignment is to provide feedback to yourself and to me about what worked and what needed improvement on this project.

  1. Identify and describe what you felt was the main theme of our class's project. In what ways did the room deliver that theme well, and in what ways could have it been improved?
  2. Identify one of the other rooms that you feel was most powerful, and explain why it was meaningful to you. In what ways did it convey a powerful message.

This assignment requires you to create a short video or other mediated text that raises awareness or makes commentary on power dynamics within sport. This can be done in many fashions from serious documentary videos to humorous interpretations that provide unexpected ways to illuminate politics in sport and physical activity.

If you make a video, it should be less than 5 minutes. You may also create a static media piece, or if you have other ideas, then be sure to check with me. Whatever form of media you create, you will be asked to include an artists' statement that addresses:

Your propose or message

What is the your main message and who is the audience you are addressing

Explain why you chose the topic

What is the importance of your topic for you and for the audience you are addressing

A synthesis of your critical summaries

What have other researchers identified as crucial with respect to your topic

An explanation of how your critical summaries informed your project

Explain how other's research helped you frame your media project


Need to properly cite within the body of your paper as well as having a complete reference list.

This assignment is a written statement that explains the message you intended to send in the culminating cluster event, "bodies as an instrument of social change." I recommend working on this assignment through the performance worksheet that has been distributed as you and your classmates are creating your performance piece.

The goal of this assignment is for you to reflect on how your performance aims to embody social change. By identifying the problem in relationship to your topic and connecting it to the multiplicity of your own identity, you will show how physical activity can be a transformative tool to help us understand who we are, our communities, and our world.

Your artist statement should be approximately a 2 page paper (single spaced, 12 point font) and address the following:

Identify the problem your group is addressing

Briefly explain why your topic is a social justice issue. You may use your own experiences but you also need to identify and include course materials to provide evidence or concepts that helped you frame your ideas for this performance. You need to cite/include at least four sources of information you have gained from any of the three classes in the cluster.

Identify your message of your performance

What is your main message and who is the audience you are addressing? What do you want your audience to leave thinking about? What kind of dialogue do you want to create with them?

Explain the importance of the topic/message

What is the importance of your message or topic for you and for the audience you are addressing? (Using information and key concepts from your course materials may be helpful in developing this section) How does your piece resist, propose, and/or ignite change from the problem you identified? (Remember change is a process and we’re not looking for exact solutions, but possibilities to begin the process for social change for the purpose of social justice)

A reflection on the performance

Explain what you think went well in the performance and what you might do differently to enhance the storyline or message you were trying to deliver.