A University of Southern Queensland academic will be the Australian lead on an international research project attempting to improve young people’s literacy through engaging with art at local galleries.

Professor Georgina Barton will collaborate with academics from Canada on the project that has won an Insight Development Grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – the equivalent of a prestigious Australian Research Council grant. “The impact that COVID-19 has had on young people and particularly high school students is multi-layered, and one key area where they’ve been at a disadvantage is the limited opportunities to visit exhibitions and be inspired by artwork in galleries,” Professor Barton said.

“Research shows that engagement with the arts can greatly improve literacy learning outcomes, so this is an incredibly timely project, especially for high-risk students who might slip through the cracks of the education system in the current climate.” Professor Barton said the study will work with Year 11 students in vulnerable schools in both Canada and Australia – including a school in Logan – and will teach them how to interact and respond to artworks through creative expression such as InstaPoetry.

“InstaPoetry is a style of poetry that’s written specifically for sharing on social media. The students will also be encouraged to reflect on their work through videos and images, and collaborate and share with each other across international borders,” she said. “Their stimulus will come from local as well as online art galleries and we’ll be tracking their emotional and psychological responses to these opportunities as well”.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the arts can also help with mental health wellbeing as well as literacy outcomes, so it’s important work that will hopefully underpin continued understanding of the critical link between the power of art and positive outcomes for all students.”

The Pathways for the digital economy: Adolescent literacy and InstaPoetry project will be led by Dr Amélie Lemieux from the University of Montreal, a long-time collaborator of Professor Barton. “The University of Southern Queensland is continually engaged and involved in international research and it’s very exciting to be working with global colleagues on a project that will hopefully improve vulnerable students’ literacy learning outcomes and provide recommendations for others to apply around the world,” Professor Barton said.

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