Thursday, December 22, 2005

Next Steps

I have completed the first phase of my fieldwork and am now looking forward to reflecting on the semester and preparing for the next one.

I will be teaching two sections of art appreciation next semester. This will be an opportunity to practice my pedagogy, put some theories into play, and hopefully develop some new ones from my experiences, or at least new insights. I will be working on how to incorporate art history, art making, visual culture and principles and elements into one course. this is a hefty amount of material to squeeze in but I am looking forward to the challenge and new experience.

I am going to continue bloggin for my own reflections on what happens in that class and hopefully getting feedback on what was effective and how to incorporate this all into my thesis.

Exciting times...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What I Got Away From

I received some questions from a fellow classmate who thankfully reminded me of something I said at the very beginning of the formulation of this project. I have gotten away from it and would like to bring it back but am truly unsure how to do this.

In my last post and previously to blogging I had defined patriarchal historical record as history defined by wars and political victories. I imagine a kind of celebratory history, one written by the victors and only includes those who follow or fit onto a specific timeline of events.

I really look a lot to Howard Zinn and his efforts to relate history in a different way. His method of revisionism seems to center around including voices that were previously left out as well as defining history as a series of actions and reactions by those marginalized and fighting for social justice. While I admire Zinn's methods I feel that many people are still excluded from this type of history. Social justice is simply not at the center of all cultures in the past and present.

Then how do I organize history? Or, how do I code what events/experiences are necessary to present in my art history pedagogy?

Moments that display the human spirit
That was my answer. Hearing it again from my classmate brought back a lot of thoughts and ideas that I have been trying to resurrect and somehow felt I could not.
This is not meant to romanticize history or to make this art history something like the Oprah show where we all come together to celebrate this ambiguously but oddly Christian notion of spirit.
It is true that my background and current beliefs in Christianity led me to this notion of history defined by moments of the human spirit but it is in no way to suggest that this is the only context human spirit can exist in. Many people from many cultures are spiritual in a multiplicity of ways. How do we see this play out in history? In my personal work...
How does the human spirit and experience of the human spirit play out in an art historical context?
I do not have an answer to this nor do I even really know where to begin this type of research but I do know that I am grateful to be asking this question again.
As I prepare my art appreciation courses for next semester I will be working this idea out on paper and attempting to make it more clear and apparent in my writing and work.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Not Hiding my Political Agenda

In preparing to teach my own class for the first time next semester and attempting to truly engage in praxis (practice informed by theory, and theory informed by practice) I am really looking at my choices and attempting to define or uncover bias and politicals.

In a reading by Elizabeth Ellsworth, Why Doesn't this Feel Empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy, she suggests that we must always question those who are producing power. In my mind a critical educator does this. But what does it mean then to be a critical educator. The definition is not static, it continues to revise itself. This is helpful for me because I believe that history and art history do the same.

But as I begin to plan out the next semester and my art appreciation class I find terms like empowering, critical, and even my own term revisionist to be troublesome. This is not meant to be a look at only language and fight for the use of one word over another. It is an exploration of why I choose the methods I choose and what it reveals about me as a teacher. In this way I am mining my choices in the classroom. I like the way Fred Wilson describes mining in his Mining the Museum Exhibit. He says mining like uncovering something and mining like making it mine.

So I begin with "revisionist" art history: Here I am rejecting traditional celebratory history as well as eurocentric historical understanding as the only way of knowing. I then place emphasis on experience of myself, my students, and the art itself. Experience as an epistemology can still be abstract. In the school I attend it is believed that experience matters and is important and yet in the thesis I will produce to earn my masters degree my past experience will consist of 5 pages or so while the review of scholarly information in my field will take up 20 at the least. This practice seems to speak louder than theory. So how will I truly act in the classroom to show that experience is of importance and not compare it to other ways of knowing???? I don't have a pretty answer but I know that the students will need to be involved in this process because I cannot make experience important on my own.

The use of hermeneutics as one way of interpreting: This is one way in which I support my claim to the importance of experience. Hermeneutics depends on experience and context. Both are present and vital in art history. I do believe that looking back on history and understanding experience will lead to a new understanding of the present and future. Here I uncover a political agenda, I want art history and appreciation to not only appeal to students but also give them a way to understand their contemporary world. Not to just enjoy or fall into categories created by technology and consumerism but to see an alternative to mainstream life. Will all of my students see this? No. Will they think about contemporary issues differently? Maybe. Will they have a new tool in their toolbox to understand the world in another way? That is the goal.

feminist theory: I believe that history is written by the victors, men. History can be understood outside of its patriarchal constructs. It can be in the romanticized words of O'Donahue, "[Art] History is an amazing presence. It is the place where vanished time gathers." Art history can exist outside the timeline and off the geopolitical map. Art history is cyclical as Arthur Efland claims. Thereforeore, it can be studied in cyclicalcal manner.

Use of contemporary and local art: I am furthering the belief that art must include not just what is in the history books but also what is around. Perhaps this a nod to visual culture studies. Education happens in community as does much art making. The community of learners needs to understand and recognize the art forms around it. At McHenry County College this includes the protrait collection in the library of some big art names as well as the red barn across the street and the 24 hour news streaming through its lounge TVs. I will not be comparinging to make value judgments of past and present art. Instead students will learn that there are artforms and artists left out of their textbook and that these art forms are significant but not outside of art historical understanding.

rhizome: One day I would like to have a website. Somethinging maybe like a Wiki that has multiple starting points. This is because I believe that any art has multiple ways of thinking about it. Again this points to the importance of experience brought in by the students and myself.

I talk in my educational statement of an art history critical pedagogy. I am trying to create one. I will not however, let the word critical go undefined. I will not let critical hide my political agenda or bias.

Works Cited

Efland, Arthur. (1990) A history of Art Education. New York. Teachers College Press

Ellsworth, Elizabeth. (Aug 1989) Why doesn't this feel empowerinWorkinging through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review. v 59 n3.

O'Donahue. Anam Cara

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another Attempt

My father was a sailor and taught me at a young age that when sailing one never goes in a straight line when the winds are blowing. You have to go back and forth to make progress from one point to another. I like to think of my thesis process and specifically my attempt to write my educational philosophy as sailing. To keep moving through I have to go back and forth and never in a straight line.

With that in mind I try my philosophy again with a much different tone this time. I feel like my first attempt was to general and broad and my secong attmept to loaded with jargon and theory. This time around I have a new perspective. Not to beat the analogy I drew to death but it is like a new wind is blowing my sails and so I must move differently to make progress.

Today I got job, another one anyway, teaching two sections of art appreciation in the Spring semester at McHenry County College. This philosophy draft was written in direct response to this. What do I want the students to do? Or better, how do I want them to engage the course? How will I engage the course? What theory or methods will I employ and why? There is still more writing to do and I must in a concise way find a way to operationalize my terms but I still feel like this is the most clear attempt I have made yet.

Your feedaback is much appreciated.

As an educator I am committed to considering art history and education as they intersect with each other at the college level. Identifying the purpose of art history in education is where this art history pedagogy begins. It seems to me through my own art history courses and current research that art history taught in its traditional “art in the dark” methods does not reach student’s current educational needs or those of the institution. Instead, a pedagogy grounded in the use of student’s experiences and responsive to changing historical and interpretive methods is key to making art history meaningful and purposeful.
One aspect of this art history pedagogy is the role students adopt while studying art history. Students in this context are the producers of knowledge. Through the use of their own experiences and previous education, learners bring with them a context to understand historical events and lived experiences of artists. College students, whether continuing education or beginning freshman, have a voice within this art history pedagogy. They will look at past images and objects in conjunction with their experiences and project forward meanings and contexts that are applicable to their lives as students.
Tied directly to student roles in this art history pedagogy, is the role of the educator. Just as the learners, the educator must mine his or her past experiences to use them as a way to understand the complex subject of art history. This pedagogy requires that educators be aware of their personal bias as well as values that will influence interpretation. This is not to deny bias or values but to openly display them and see them as valid ways of knowing. Educators in this art history pedagogy are presented with the challenge of balancing art historical knowledge with personal experience to interpret works and experiences.
Methods and theories enacted in this art historical pedagogy are paramount as they enable educators and learners to take on the roles described above. Art history in the college classroom setting is seen as being in flux with multiple voices contributing to the works. Voices like that of the artist, scholar, audience, and culture combine to create a revisionist version of art history. It is an art history liberated from the constructs of a timeline and map. Images and objects are understood and studied together through a process of understanding the ideas they convey as well as issues they address. In this context art history pedagogy sees the progression of art not as a rational progression that follows the expanding human mind but cyclical in nature as history is. Ideas, issues, and contexts repeat. To remain relevant to students studying the field works are studied within these cycles where connections can be made to their current context.
This art history pedagogy through its understanding of the roles of learners and educators as well as methods of interpretation and study is meant to bring art history from a static subject studied and taught with the same methods into new and changing trends of critical pedagogy and historical inquiry.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Beginning to Write My New Philosophy

First Attempt in Fall of 2004:
Art Education is paramount to both the learner and the educator. Art is tool to be used to create a climate of understanding and sharing knowledge within any educational arena. A student of any age has the responsibility to be a learner and participant in education. The educator of any age must take on a role similar to that of a cultural worker. An educator must engage in critical thinking about the community they educate in. This is not tied only to the classroom but refers to any educational venue where there is an educator and learner relationship present. The role art education is to provide a catalyst for expression and critical thinking and transformation. In this form education cannot be standardized. It must be adapted to each learning environment and its learners. Art education including its histories and practices must be part of the core curriculum in schools and part of life for learners outside traditional educational venues. In this way learners may see the connections between art and their world and be given the opportunity to engage with a subject critically. Through art education and dialogue between learners and educators the necessary tools are present for understanding the contemporary world as well as the past. Learners and educators will then be able to think critically, respond, and change their life, community, world. – Sarah Ruthven (Educational Statement Fall 2004)

New more focused Version Fall 2005:
New methods for the teaching of art history must be pursued in an attempt to shed its patriarchal contexts and bring forward a relevant and empowering way of learning about art history. What is art history? “[Art] History is an amazing presence. It’s the place where vanished time gathers.” (O’Donahue) It is not a static list of great masters existing on an exclusive timeline or only categorized by a geo-political map. This is how art history is relevant, it is the visualization of many voices and lived experiences, it makes what is invisible and brings it forward to this time through images to make it visible to another time. Art History must also be empowering. The roles of learners and educators must combine to create an atmosphere safe for unsafe discussion. Art History is empowering when all surveyors of it mine their pasts and bring to it their own lived experiences. Art History must not be static but in flux, always adding new voices and new images.
This continually changing art history will recognize that history does not happen in a straight line, one event after another, but it is cyclical. (Efland, iv.) This new methodology for the study of art history must be studied to reflect the nature of history.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Personal Reflection on Methods

As I gear up to meet with my fellow art education fieldwork students I am taking time to reflect on my process thus far and look at what I have done as well as what needs to be done.

Throughout Thesis 1 I looked at people describing their methods and in fact in reading Changing Multiculturalism by Kinchloe and Steinberg I find myself very critical of their methods and also important what methods they leave out. It is much harder to do that to my own work but I do see the value in such reflection.

As a participant observer I find my role to be a precarious one where I must negotiate my personal pedagogy with the pedagogy of another teacher and the needs of the students. I am often conflicted by listening to the often over simplifications given out by the lecturer and the feedback from the students that suggest how effective the lecturer is. In my own lectures in that class I often must balance my subject matter with what the students actually need to know according to pre set art history standards. I even must negotiate my physical space that makes lecture the only effective teaching strategy and makes asking and questions and discussion almost impossible. I realize that as a TA the place where I can practice my pedagogy is in office hours but so few students attend those. Recently I read and returned 48 essays written for the survey class. I realized my use of authority in reading commenting and then grading each paper. I was in an extreme place of power and so while reading I had to balance correcting the students format or incorrect information with encouraging a engagement with the art works and valuing ideas that were contrary to my own. I realized how ingrained student's patterns are. When I asked them write an essay many of them gave me formal analysis of the works, some didn't talk about art at all, and others really strayed from my questions to write an essay on a topic they could engage in. These observations required me to look at how the methods of their past teachers and the students belief that they must write the right answer or what I want to hear took precedent over what they may have wanted to write. As a participant observer I am constantly balancing my power in the classroom. Balancing roles like grader and written discussion leader, lecturer and helpful resource, and most significantly my role as a researcher of a method to art history that is opposite in some ways of what the students are getting.

Recently I have engaged in an unplanned method. I conducted and interview with a local community college art history teacher. It was a good experience and I was able to go back to Thesis 1 materials to look at some strategies for asking questions. However, this turned out to be a very personal experience. I asked the professor an umber of questions regarding the culture of her class and her planning methods and goals. What I discovered was a professor who is rather traditional in her art history practice and less idealistic than myself. While I gained much valuable information, I also saw a professor who negotiated her space as an art historian and the limits of uninterested students and difficult administration. I found that I was very discouraged at the idea that students couldn't handle much more than they were given already and that they come in wanting easy answers not critical thought. That is probably very true. I very much see students today who are not taught to quest for knowledge but instead a good grade or just to get through a class. So will my alternative method of revisionist art history necessarily engage them or will it frustrate and push them away? Will it be too abstract and too different from other ways of learning that students will become lost? I must reflect on these things and then confront them in my own work. Another discouraging moment came when in the interview the idea that freshman cannot really contribute yet to discussion, they have nothing to add. I believe something so contrary to that. It become hard in my interview to continue to avoid bias terms in my questions and I had to rephrase my questions at times to not direct my interviewees response too much. I cannot fight the interviewees view that freshmen do not have much to offer to discussion. I have to realize that in my own pedagogy and within my own personal beliefs that everyone who has experience of any kind has something to contribute to discussion in an art history class. The catch is to find ways to encourage sharing ideas and to create an atmosphere that is open to experience as a way of knowing.

I find myself struggling with a very important issue. One of my own philosophy of education. All of these experiences and even reflections are molding and leading my philosophy. I want this to be a work in progress always, constantly revising and including new viewpoints and experiences into my own philosophy. But to code these experiences better I must begin to develop that philosophy now and allow things to transform it. And so I begin with my educators statement from fist semester:

-Art Education is paramount to both the learner and the educator. Art is tool to be used to create a climate of understanding and sharing knowledge within any educational arena. A student of any age has the responsibility to be a learner and participant in education. The educator of any age must take on a role similar to that of a cultural worker. An educator must engage in critical thinking about the community they educate in. This is not tied only to the classroom but refers to any educational venue where there is an educator and learner relationship present. The role art education is to provide a catalyst for expression and critical thinking and transformation. In this form education cannot be standardized. It must be adapted to each learning environment and its learners. Art education including its histories and practices must be part of the core curriculum in schools and part of life for learners outside traditional educational venues. In this way learners may see the connections between art and their world and be given the opportunity to engage with a subject critically. Through art education and dialogue between learners and educators the necessary tools are present for understanding the contemporary world as well as the past. Learners and educators will then be able to think critically, respond, and change their life, community, world. – Sarah Ruthven (Educational Statement)

While some things have changed this is a good place to begin to revise and edit and bring in new ideas and experiences and to make this statement more specific to my now more defined thesis topic.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Transcendent Only When I Want To Be

I am a little late in getting this up but I have observed something in my TAship that is I think an illustration of bad pedagogy or unfortunate politics within the classroom.

As this class has progressed through the ancient cultures the students have seen some less than typical images. One of those especially is exotic imagery from Greek, Chinese, and Indian cultures. I was not surprised by talk of the Kama Sutra in Hindu culture. Often times in Western centered courses and text books a non western culture will be fetishized. Or as Gardenier, a fellow student in Doing Democracy stated, feminize a culture that is non western. The lecturer of this class did not do this. He showed multiple cultures and their images of exotic imagery not to make it exotic but just as another aspect of the society. He made no apologies for this and did not tell the students that this was not normal practice in the academic art history world.

I suppose this is one place where we might disagree on pedagogies. I think this was a wonderful way of discussing this type of imagery but I think the students needed to be made aware that this was not "normal" subject matter and that there are places, classes, and academic arenas where cultures are not studied in a fair or equal way. However this is not the issue I want to focus on just yet.

The class is now studying religious art including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They are also beginning the so called "Dark Ages" and the crusades. It has been exciting to see the teacher include Japan and China in this religion discussions and so at times we also look at the religions taking place there and compare and contrast them but never make value judgments. Unfortunately this is where the power of the lecturer goes overlooked. In talking only about Christianity the lecturer keeps repeating the phrase, "Remember kids, I am just an alien watching from above and talking to you about what I see, this is not about beliefs." He says this I am sure to avoid arguments or students who do not believe in Christianity taking offense to the subject matter. However, It seems as though this teacher makes very political choices within the classroom, ie the inclusion of exotic materials. However, when it comes to religion, an obviously political and heated topic, specifically Christianity, he is a passive observer on high talking neutrally about a subject so as not to offend anyone.

To quote once again an over quoted title by Howard Zinn, "You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train" In another book Zinn also says, "citizens thinking outside the boundaries and transcending the given wisdom." (Zinn 29) He says this to artists responding to war times but I think it holds true to educators as well. This teacher I think often looks outside the boundaries of conventional art historical wisdom or teaching. And at times I think the teacher looks to transcend the given wisdom of what to teach and how. However when the teacher disregards his political choices in showing images he does what much of academic art history does. He denies power structures, he hides them instead of bringing them to the students and letting them not only see that these issues exist but also as in Paul Friere's method of teaching suggest solutions to the traditional western art history canon.

Now to code this experience in terms of my own pedagogy in the classroom I look at Kinchloe and Steinberg who suggest that teachers, "Must understand where they are located in the web of reality - in relation to the various axes of race, class and gender power. Thus the critical multiculturalist teacher is a scholar who spends a lifetime studying the pedagogical and its concern with the intersection of power, identity and knowledge. Indeed, such a teacher gains the ability to delineate the ways in which knowledge is produced and transmitted." (Kinchloe Steinberg 29) I have, I think, been mostly upfront about religion as my bias. I am a Christian and much of what I do and how I study and think about revisionist art history is tied to that one fact. Any inclusion or exclusion of religious materials or images is for me a political act in the classroom. I know I would not show my students religious image to evangalize them. I think that is what my TA teacher is afraid of. But because I am mining my past and am aware of how this knowledge is produced within the small scope of me and the larger scope of the field of art history I am building a pedagogy where I will not need to be transcendent whenever I want to be to avoid conflict. Instead I will need to work to transmit the knowledge in a way that highlights its political message and allows students to observe the political nature of the subject matter. This is not safe work and as Annette Henry says, "The classroom is not a safe place." (Henry, 2)

Henry, Annette. (1994) There are no safe places: pedagogy as powerful and dangerous terrain. Action in Art Education Vol. XV No. 4 Winter.

Kinchloe, J & Steinberg, S. (1997). Changing multiculturalism. Buckingham, U.K: Open University Press

Zinn, H. (2003). Artists in times of war. New York: Seven Stories Press

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Is it History or Art History?

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to talk to another one of my students in the survey course I TA in. She asked me some very interesting questions that I realize I need to consider for future classes. On of those questions was why we were moving so slow through the materials? She felt that she had heard much of this before and that we were just dragging things out. She also mentioned that she was already struggling with the need for art history but this survey course includes so much history.

I begin my response with a recognition that this student is not a freshman and that she had been in one survey art history course before, the modern to contemporary class. However in a community college there are many types of learners. Art history classes are at times popular classes for continuing education students as well as adults. These are students who may know much of the historical events covered in an art history course. I may be confronted with many students such as this one. First though I address the issue of so much history in an art history class...

As I continue to struggle with the term revisionist I am again reminded why I chose the term in response to this students questions. If students are learning a celebratory history or a one-sided (only from one person or cultures point of view)then much of what is covered with be repetitious and possibly boring. But if history is a record of past experience from many cultures/points of view and art history is the visualization of that experience then will it get boring and repetitious? I believe that the changing and at times confrontational manner of revisionist history would create an interesting dialogue within the art history classroom. And further, can I or anyone separate history from art history? It seems that historical inquiry is changing. In the field of anthropology many changes have come about in response to changing notions of "other" cultures and how we go about studying them. Possibly this student felt the disconnect between history and art history because the field of art history has not kept up with changing times in relation to how it is taught and studied and interpreted. Obviously this is an area where I need more research. This change in methods is an important one that must be articulated by those in the field of anthropology, art history, and humanities. Thank you to this student who was willing to ask critical questions as it has opened up for me an opportunity to see a gap in my own studies. Now how to engage her in her own question through the course?

Another statement this same student made was that out study of Rome and Greek for two classes was not only too long but not applicable to her. I wonder how many of the other students feel the same way. In fairness, the instructor of this course attempts to draw those connections between the cultures and our contemporary society. He makes reference to many of the things we borrow from Greek and especially Roman culture. We looked at government and civic life, as well as entertainment for the masses, etc. In my American white mind I could not help but draw multiple similarities and usefulness of information. Even seeing the oppression of women in these cultures was something I was able to relate or see the importance of. It is here that the tenents of critical pedagogy seem to jump off the page. One is that as an educator/learner I must think critically of my own experiences and bias when it comes to issues such as these. I cannot assume that all students will see the relevance of a picturesque Western Culture. Two is that students must be able to dialogue and draw their own conclusions. It is not enough for the teacher to impress upon the students what the connections are. The students must explore for themselves if these works matter to them. This does not mean that I don't teach it because they don't like it. Instead I encourage them to make connections and even more to not think of any one culture as being isolated from the others and their own. Again this conflicts with the lecture style of many courses. It also suggests that the typical images of Greece and Rome, and all other cultures may need to be supported by images of daily life, religious practice, and civic duty instead of just roman victory arches or busts of emperors. The instructor for this class does a wonderful job of including such images but without the chance to discuss many of them are lost on the students and seen only as something they must learn that is a symbol of instead of an aspect of a culture. Possibly this is where the local art connection would be strongest, to see how much of art history is still relevant today.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Multiculturalism: Should I be Afraid of it?

As my teachers continue to remind me "Revisionist" is really shorthand for a much larger group of ideas. I am still struggling to define the term or even continue to use the term. I came about the term through reading works by Howard Zinn. What I am hoping to embrace in my teachings from this canon is one, the flux nature of revisionist literature. Revisionist works are constantly engaged in the society they come up in. There are always more voices to include and as history progresses there will be more to add from multiple perspectives. The second aspect of revisionist history I look to embrace is its influence of multiculturalism. In the past I have been afraid to really dig into this term because of its complex and multiple meanings. I do not want to have my curriculum pegged as multicultural without understanding what type of multiculturalism I am actually promoting.

However through further reading within Doing Democracy with Professor Tavin (one of my Fall 05 classes) and readings outside of that course I am finding that I should not be afraid to use the term multicultural as long as I am unpacking that term and concretizing it within my subject. In readings by Kinchloe and Steinberg as well as Takaki and Hooks, I am attempting to engage a type of course that is based in Critical Multiculturalism. Art History cannot be colorblind. I cannot teach a course where race is the only starting point. Should artists of other races be as prominent as white western males? Yes. But this cannot be the only factor. What about class, age, ability? These must also be factors in presenting an Art History that students can engage in personally and critically. I mentioned at one time that I did not want the materials in the course I teach to be "separated or generated by culture" (Ruthven, Thesis Panel Presentation) Hehe, I just quoted myself! I was asked to unpack that statement and I believe with critical multiculturalism I can now do that. One element is that in creating a more rhizomatic course content I do not want culture, meaning Chinese, Greek, etc. to be the only starting point or organizational method. But what I also mean is that only looking at works of art's culture leaves out a discussion of economics, abilities, and age. The art history class that I TA in now is a multicultural course. The professor is very careful to not just present western art. This is important but in doing so is engages in a type of "essentialist multiculturalism" defined by Kinchloe and Steinberg. This type of multiculturalism sees a set of unchanging properties that defines a category of people. (Kinchloe p19) By looking at images that "represent" a culture but only one aspect of that culture, art history misses out on other discussions. For example, this week in the survey course I TA in the lecture was on early Greek works. The images were shown and their location was described and seen. We saw the disc thrower and the spear bearer and many of the heavy hitters in art but also less seen images. The class saw that now many of the works have artists so we know the role of the artist is now more important. This still barely hints at a discussion of art from different economic classes, or from young apprentice artists versus older master artists (the early buddings of the apprentice system). In engaging students in multiple entry points I can allow them to bring in their own experiences as well as help them to avoid making large generalizations about one culture. A critical multiculturalist approach I believe would require art works that address these issues and not essentialize but explore differences in a critical way.

Works cited:
Seinberg, Kinchloe. (1997). Changing Multiculturalism. Buckingham Open University Press

The Limitations of Office Hours

This week students attended my office hours for the first time! I emailed my group of 43 students that I was changing my "office hours" from questions and answer period or tutor time to discussion groups. I informed them that I would be available to answer questions still but wanted to engage in discussion of things that interest them in relation to the subject matter. I also let them know that I would love to use their discussion as the source for their essay questions. This gave them the opportunity to let me know what they found interesting and what they might be interested in writing about. I feel like this is the most critically pedagogically correct thing I have done. I let the mandatory assignment come from the experiences and interests of the students. I feel in this way that I will not be giving them a starting point but that they have decided where they will enter into discussion. I had three students come to the first meeting and 4 come to the second one. I suspect that I will have more next week when the assignment goes out. I am also encouraged that this method brought in the students. They came because they wanted to have a say in their assignments and possibly wanted the opportunity to discuss what they are learning about. I hope that in this way I have in the words of Paulo Friere "demystify" the student TA relationship and brought us all to the point of being learners as opposed to me being the source for all information.

I did learn that this young group of people in their first semester/year are not completely comfortable in dialogue and that they were very quiet. I truly needed to develop more in depth and probing questions so that they could join in as they felt comfortable. I hope that once they have written the first paper they will come to discuss and have a more confident opinion or contribution. I have three students committed to coming to discussion after their papers are turned in. This is helpful in determining the format of a future course. I may be able to do some lecture and present the information required by standards but also engage students in smaller discussion groups to engage the materials in a critical way. This is my attempt to code the observations I am participating in. While it may be simplified I am attempting to code them in terms of teaching methods and course structures.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Practice Observed

As a TA in a freshman art survey course I am required to attend all lectures. I have the opportunity to listen to and critique the lecturer as well as observe my students and their study habits and reactions to the content. These observations are proving to be rather fruitful in thinking of my praxis as well as obstacles that will arise.

First of all the class is a lecture class because of the 175 students enrolled. Group discussion of content is impossible. There is the realization that any survey class I may teach in a community college will have the same problem. The structure of the class is rather important to a truly critical approach to art history. How then will I arrange a course to come from students experiences if they are unable to share with each other? In reading an essay by Bell Hooks she expressed a similar concern in some of her larger classes. She says, "In much of my writing about pedagogy, particularly in classroom setting with great diversity, I have talked about the need to examine critically the way we as teachers conceptualize what the space for learning should be like." (Hooks 39) So I know have the charge of thinking about the space for the future class I would like to teach but also how to manipulate the space I am currently in to help my 40 students dig deeper and get more out of their time in this survey course. For the current situation I have decided to turn my unsuccessful office hours into discussion groups. My students will be invited to come for 30 minutes to an hour and discuss course content and anything else that comes up. They will understand that their essay questions will come straight from their discussion groups. I think this not only allows them to spend some time in dialogue about art but also allows the essays to be more personal about things that interest them and possibly stem from their own experience. As for the future class I would like to teach I realize that to truly create a revisionist and critical course the format may have to stem from the students but I think it would be good to require small group meetings with or without me. It is not necessary to have a safe classroom but my students have to feel comfortable talking about unsafe issues. This is an issue I will need to continue to research and address.

I am also encouraged by Bell Hooks writings as they directly address critical pedagogy as well as mutliculturalism and privledge at the university level.

Works Cited

Embracing Change: Teaching in a multicultural world by bell hooks. In hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom (pp. 35-44). New York: Routledge

Friday, September 16, 2005

Brief Description of my Project and Fieldwork

The purpose of my project is to create a revisionist art history curriculum. The purpose of a revisionist art history survey course in a community college is to reach the changing needs of the institution, as well as to meet the needs of the changing community of learners and teachers. This includes presenting critical pedagogical methods into the teaching of art history. It is meant to reposition art history as a tool to create context for each student as well as to be a lens to see history and experience through. As the community college changes so must the courses it offers. Defining the needs of the community college and those associated with it is important to the understanding of what a class may do as is defining or exploring art history as a field of research as well as a visual form of history. It is important to place art history within the context of new forms or versions of history; this addresses the needs of students as well as reaching out to a globalization and less westernized community of learners. The purpose of this project is a prescriptive one. My fieldwork experience and activities will lead to offering a new way of teaching an old subject.

It is necessary to define what "revisionist" means or how I will be using the term through the course of this project. The following list is meant to provide aspects of "revisionist" history.

Use of Local Art
Not separated or generated by culture
Looks to connect global and local histories
How a work addresses the human spirit
Encourages students to use their experiences to understand works
Approaches work form multiple perspectives
Use of hermeneutics as a method of inquiry
My Fieldwork this semester will include the following:

TAship (6hrs. A week)
Participant observation
Teaching learning as a member of the class
Journaling conflicting and similar methods of the lecturer and myself
Reviewing starting points and type of information presented
Discussing materials with student during my office hours
Creating assignments that involve elements of my ideas of art history education (test for validity)

Writing (6hrs. A week)
Content Analysis (code)
Begin the process of evaluating resources from multiple multicultural and interpretive viewpoints
Use these evaluations to guide where I will focus, understand, and then teach.

Curriculum Writing
Begin writing lesson plans and resource materials that implement hermeneutics and contain multiple
starting points that also meet or exceed state standards.

Research possible test sites for Fall and Spring Semesters (guest speaking?)
Research class proposal process

Evaluation Team
Line up community college students and professors as readers and evaluators of the lessons/class proposal Design a survey for both groups to gain their perspectives and check for validity and generalizability.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


This blog has been created to journal my process through fieldwork for the Fall 2005 semester at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.