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.

No comments: