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


Pastor Stew said...

It appears that the issue at hand is one that all of education is facing. The issue regards the meaning of education. Is the education process one of teaching/regurgicating or one of exploration? All fields of study must ask this question in regards to their subjects. Art is a difficult subject in this whole equation due to the fact that many do not consider art to be an educational subject due to the lack of objectivity in what our society claims as a requirement of education. Due to this, many in the art field have insisted that art can have some objectivity and that art can be taught (as it is taught today) with lectures and survey courses. All this does is equate art restoration and history (a skill and a science) with being able to produce art (a presentation of one's soul that happens to reflect both skills and sciences). In other words, the "problem" of teaching art is the having one's cake and eating it too. By this I mean that as long as art seeks "objective" accreditation it will lose out on the "subjective" dialogue of those who engage in its community. Instead I think art, like philosophy and theology, should seek out its own accreditation from within and not concern itself with the acreditation of others. All of this leads to what you are doing in your revisionist work which is to change the curriculum in such a manor that its standard is that of art and not those of said academies. The other option would be to change the academy or society which is nearly impossible. I am not sure if art will ever achieve the educational accreditation as other academy subjects but it has not slowed down the work of fields like theology and philosophy which thrive in small group dialogue. I think it is a great idea to encourage and require such dialogue in your classes so that students will be able to engage themselves in the subject of art, which I believe is your goal to begin with. I am assuming of course that you are interested in your students to be able to enter into the "community of faith" than to necessarily be able to resite the "articles of faith."

Sarah said...

My struggle then becomes how to meet the standards set forth for survey courses while also engaging in the subject in a meaningful and critical way for them. I am exploring this not to find the answer but an answer. Thanks for your insight from the theological field. i believe we are both a part of academic circles involving changing methods to keep up with the changing world. This requires debate and dialogue to define those methods and outcomes.