EXAMINING TRANS-SYMBOLIC AND SYMBOL-SPECIFIC PROCESSES IN POETRY AND PAINTING
Alexander, Patricia A
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There is a growing interest in multiliteracies and the processes by which nonlinguistic and multisymbolic compositions are understood. However, as indicated by Unsworth (2008), there is currently no "trans-disciplinary" theoretical framework robust to these examinations. This study investigated the degree to which the Trans-Symbolic Comprehension framework (TSC; Loughlin & Alexander, 2012; Loughlin et al., 2013) might serve this purpose. The TSC posits that every act of comprehension, text or otherwise, entails both trans-symbolic and symbol-specific processes. Trans-symbolic comprehension processes are general processes that are necessary for understanding information encoded in a variety of compositional forms (e.g., text, paintings, musical score, physical formula), while symbol-specific processes are particular to a given symbol-system (e.g., text-specific processes). This study used the symbol systems of language and visual array to determine the viability of the TSC framework. Offline and online comprehension processes measures were administered before, during, and after studying a poem and a painting to capture the comprehension processes used by 12 English and 12 Art education majors. Verbal protocol analyses of these data resulted in the identification of 7 poem and 8 painting comprehension processes, which manifested in 48 associated subprocesses. The 48 comprehension subprocesses were then compared to determine degree of trans-symbolism. It was determined that a significant portion of the comprehension processes and subprocesses were shared; that is, iterative manifestations applied to both poem and painting. However, processes that did not appear to iterate were also identified (e.g., inferring mood). The discovery of these apparent trans-symbolic processes and symbol-specific processes is in line with the predictions of the TSC framework. Implications of this study for education research are discussed, specifically with respect to the burgeoning literature on nonlinguistic literacies. Preliminary implications for educational practice are also drawn in relation to the growing praxis of teaching literature, including poetry, through visual art in middle and high schools, and ongoing policy efforts to expand this type of instruction.