Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Postmodernism and Bringing it All Home

This is the last week of classes and I felt like it was important to bring together all of the things we had been talking about all semester long into a context that hits them directly and leaves them with skills to tackle images in their own world! We started with talking about postmodernism and identity. They very quickly began to jump on the idea that interpreting art and visual images is really about building identity. Although it took us a little while to talk about identity in terms bigger than like and dislikes. This week we looked at images dealing with power from the Art 21 series by PBS. The slide show was done for me (bonus) and the images were great. The students had a chance to try out their interpretation skills and then we reflected on those interpretations and tried to locate places where their identity played a role. This was a good activity but as it turns out a little boring. So today we tried a number of photographs dealing with gas prices, immigration, and Iraq. ( I chose these as they represented the first three news stories I saw this morning) We then took a quote from Coco Fusco about the importance of photography in building American Identity and pulled it apart and in a large group discussion answered or reflected on the following questions:
1) Do you agree/disagree with Coco Fusco that photographs build identity?
2) How do we see or not see ourselves in images popular media creates?
3) Do you see yourself/generation/culture represented in the images given?
4) If images make, "cultural classifications visible, understandable, and useful" then what cultural classifications are visible.... in these images?

The response was good overall and students seemed to like discussing something they know alot about, themselves and popular culture. They were able to discuss without me the ways they are portrayed and what images are harmful helpful to that portrayal. They also made statements about not just believing the images they see but asking questions about them!!!!! I was worried that since this is the last class they would be distracted and antsy but I think by challenging them with a difficult quote to digest as well as issue that directly effect them, that they were willing to stay focused and almost spend an hour talking about these things.

I feel more confident now about not leading with critical pedagogy but easing into it. It has lead to wonderful discussion and allowed students in on the process of learning. I also feel like I need to make a bigger effort sooner to engage the students in more challenging reading and ideas. Today was the first day that I really handed them a challenging quote and they did well with it. I am still wary of work that is academically privledged with jargon and big confusing words. However, there are plenty of artists and theorists out there who have conversations about visual images that speak in understandble terms. I think the class would benefit from some of these harder to chew on quotes. There needs to be a mix of down to earth, everyday language as well as the academically challenging. Stricking that balance will make for a stronger class and I think a really interesting exchange of ideas.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I'm a Mess But They Had Fun

A teacher once told me that what makes a teacher great is being able to salvage the greatest lesson plan they have ever written after a fire drill.

Not so sure that I am great but I am working on it. Today in class I had this really great intention of talking about postmodernism so that we can next week discuss contemporary art in the context of postmodernism. To do this I borrowed and created and I really think I put together a good lesson.

My agenda was:

  • Assign the final essay ( A reflection paper on the semester)
  • Introduce Post Modernism ( As a set of ideas, a changing theory, and also to focus onto he aspects of identity formation and adaptation as well as isolationism versus community and understanding ones past through multiple lenses)
  • Imagined History (As a group we created a few imagined histories for random objects brought from home. We based these stories off of known information ie its a keychain, visual clues ie tag from China, broken compass, and whatever we could make up ie used to store drugs, a secret code to smuggle people into the country)
  • Bio Poems - Thanks Sue and the I AM Culture Project! (Since Post Modernism is about identity this short poem asks students to think about how they identify themselves beyond what can be seen)
  • Chicano Park (In response to the recent popularity in the media on the subject of Latino workers and fair wages, show images from Chicano Park San Diego, CA and look at them as images of Latinos, by Latinos, for Latinos as well as showing a history through the lens of civil disobedience)

The essay was well received (probably because it is not a research paper). The Imagined History activity went really well. They were creative and active and responsive to how this connected to an actual theory. It was suggested to me that I play slow sad music while working on the Bio Poems and we should all click instead of clap for each other :) However they did get into the poems and will be working with them again to create their final art work. They also appreciated that I let them read mine later.

When it came time to look at slides I showed the first image which in large white letters on the side of a freeway post says Varrios Si, Yonkes No! I explained that this had to do with the land struggle in this area. One student, who asks really great questions, asked if this wasn't reverse discrimination? At which another student stated that if that sign were reversed in her neighborhood it would be racist! This set off other students to suggest that no sign was needed because white people did not have to fight for their land. One student asked if we could go back to the pictures but that person was out voted by a louder member who said no I like this topic and so it went. We did talk about some really great things in an almost all white space. The issue of whiteness actually came up from the students! My slide show was toast and there was no nice wrap up at the end, we simply ran out of time.

I know this was great! Self directed talk of critical issues that we discovered in art work! It is like a critical pedagogy dream. Where can we go next? The possibilities are endless, Critical Pedagogy has triumphed. Oh wait, next week is the last week, and we have one more required chapter to cover. Ok dream interrupted by reality.

It will still work. We can cover contemporary art that is better then the crap in the book and be critical, super fun! But it won't be led by the students! I guess that's another possible page in my possible book, learning to keep up the small baby steps. This class is a stepping stone, a place to begin, hopefully for them the conversation will not end completely once they leave this class!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Possible page for my Possible book

First Day:

  1. Eat a good Breakfast

  2. Getting to know your students

  3. Planning Goals

  4. Setting the tone

I love to see students walk in on the first day. No pencils, no paper and no expectation to stay in class the full duration. Its a stressful time for us to. New names and faces and one million new copies of the class roster. This is a great time to get to know your students and let them get to know you. In the very first class I taught we did a visual response project to a few getting to know you questions. The questions varied from those trying to dig into their previous experiences to ones gauging their interest and desires for the course/semester. These are way better than the standard name, major, and reason for taking the class. I just don't think I could listen to 30+ students tell me that the only reason they are in front of me today is because somewhere in the greater state of Illinois the matriculation gods decided to require art appreciation for their biology major, that's just depressing! Instead I used this time to set the stage for experience, goals and process to play a major role. It also allows for some humor and honesty. In response to the question on biggest fear for the semester I drew a picture of myself ( a stick person of course) on the ground with a dry erase marker stuck in my eye (accompanied with cartoon blood and the standard X where my eye used to be). I told them my biggest fear was falling while lecturing (as I tend to pace a lot) and injuring myself with a blunt object. It helped lighten the mood a little and at the end of the semester I received a congratulations from one of my students on not injuring myself! (A for that student!)

First Day:

  • Eat a Good Breakfast
Really self explanatory

  • Getting to know your students
You need trust among students and between you and them to be critical in the classroom. How do you begin to build that trust? A great opening day activity!


Windows: Ask students to fold paper into four window panes. In each pane they will visually respond to a question you ask. Words may be used only if necessary and should be limited. (Setting the Tone: This is a chance to place visual response in the spotlight and give it some much earned credibility as a way of communicating) Possible questions may be about goals for the semester, hopes and fears for the class, proud moments, a time they used or saw art that was impactful, A meaningful experience that was hard to describe in words. (Setting the Tone: If incorporating experience in the class is important to you ask a questions about it, if a specific issue like gender or race will come up ask a question about that.) Spend some time looking at and sharing each students’ responses.

Imagined History: Any interesting or odd object will do here. I typically use a small rubber fish I call Fred. Sitting in a larger circle if possible, students begin to create the life story of the object and add on to the previous addition from a random starting point to class that day. To challenge students you may ask them to have the object do something they have been through to get to school. For example, “Fred was born in a small pond but knew he would do great things one day.” Pass the object, another student may add, “Early in Fred’s life he was caught in a net and moved to store where he had to make a lot of new friends…” And then on to the next person. (Setting the Tone: While the story may get crazy you are letting students be creative and inventive. They are listening and engaging as a group which is challenging in many classes. It is also a simple step in interpretation and thinking about the history an object may have, significant points in a class covering art historical content) This project can be done as one large group or small groups with multiple objects depending on size and ability to move around.

Round Robin: The old standard of each student sharing their name is not bad with a twist. Give them a few questions and ask them to respond to at least one in their introduction. Questions may be about experiences with art or a significant work they have seen. (Setting the Tone: Students in art appreciation have an odd irrational fear that you will expect them to be good at drawing, asking them to describe their artistic abilities may ease some of those concerns.)

Note: All of these activities will be more meaningful if you are able to use the information throughout the semester. In one class every single students fear was getting and F. I made a conscious effort to keep them informed of their grades to help dispel this fear.

  • Planning Goals
AKA talking about the syllabus (See Writing the Syllabus)

It is a good idea to read, discuss and clarify the syllabus. This may be the only time students actually go through the entire document. However, you may not have to go verbatim through the entire draft. Some suggestions:
  • Define the overarching goals of the course as described by the school and counter that with your personal goals for the course. (Setting the Tone: from the beginning students will understand that you as a teacher have made decisions on content and structure and that you have goals for them and yourself)

  • Describe grading (for the first time). You will probably do this countless times throughout the semester but think about this first time as an extension of your goals for the class. (Setting the Tone: Placing a point value or percentage of the total grade shows your priorities loud and clear. Be sure that these match your stated goals. Students will notice any discrepancies.)

  • Make your expectation and schedule clear. Being open and honest with students will allow them to decide whether or not this is the class for them.

  • Give Tutorials. If you will be using any type of extra materials like web applications, school systems, blogs, discussion boards, writing centers and libraries show them how to use them. (Setting the Tone: Students given the right tools and time to learn to use them will have more equity in the course and all of these processes are helpful across the board in all of their classes) This includes materials that may come with their textbooks.

  • Setting the tone (Recap)
After the process of writing your syllabus and preparation for the class you are teaching you may have already defined the goals you have for your students. With those in mind use the first day to show them to students in a tangible way through activities. If you plan to do a lot of group work and discussion it does not make sense to lecture about the syllabus the first day. Setting the tone early on will help students to adapt to learning styles they may not be familiar with.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Trying new ways on for size

One week ago I began the art historical section of my art appreciation course. I am excited and anxious about this section as I have a lot of hopes for what it can be but limited time to realize them.

  • We began with prehistoric art and moved through mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures in the first week (Entitled Fun in the Sun) It was a little art in the dark and a little question and answer. I showed a number of slides and often asked them to recall facts and link them to the content. For example when looking at The Stelle of Hammurabi I asked them to think of other law systems carved into stone, etc. I had a few sleepers but that is to be expected in a class after lunch when you turn the lights off and start talking about rocks! I added information about issues of interpretation and race with these works and attempted to make my image choices apparent to the students.
  • We jumped to the Chicago World's Fair as a way of talking about anthropology and how ancient and contemporary works of other cultures are interpreted as having never changed or as pure. For example, Japanese architecture at the Expo was a novelty that Fair goers could not get enough of. It was always described as pure, old, and beautiful because it was so distant from technology. We looked at these aspects as being very western and straight from colonial thinking. At least we began this conversation.
  • Next we looked Nudes throughout art history as a way to look at many different western genres of art through singular theme. We have not completely ditched the timeline but it was interesting to see themes recycled and ideas presented in new ways but all under the topic of the nude figure, which quickly turned into the female nude figure. This was interesting as students compared Eve figures to Venus figures to fetish figures to perfume advertisements in recent years. Unsurprisingly, not as many sleepers through this one!

My students have responded well to these three different attempts. And in fact they seem to enjoy the variety. A few times I have had needed to clarify some points as there is some confusion as to when I am talking about a larger movement of art and when I am talking about a specific work. This is really critical feedback as it helps to be precise and clear when I am lecturing. They like the more academic stuff and with all the practice with critical group discussion they are unafraid to speak up and share opinion and even disagree with me. The don't clamor for more organization and timelines nor do they insist on study guides and slide lists. They take notes sparingly and really engage in the conversations. I think this is really due to the fact that they are active participants in this classroom and even when I am dispensing with knowledge they know that they have something to contribute.

This means that I am at least on the right track. I need to continue to vary my teaching style and delivery to keep them interested and to hit multiple styles of learners. Keeping them on their toes with projects, discussions, lectures, and group projects seems to be a good combination. It also means that I have a lot of work to do before I rewrite art history off the timeline and away from a map. This is a long process of working with new organizational methods that make art history more relevant to the student. There is not one different way to do it but multiple ways that help to get a full 360 view of art historical knowledge.

Implications for practice. As I am attempting to focus in on what the new art appreciation teacher needs in the classroom, one of my suggestions has to be try new things and let the students in on your process. It builds relationships and makes process an important aspect in the classroom. It also reinforces that history in general as well as art history is told from different perspectives and through different methods and it is important to seek these different ways out!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Academically Challenging and Critical?

For the past two weeks I have made an attempt to introduce more meaningful content into the group discussions and slide shows. The class has come to the chapter on advertisements and print media and I chose this as a moment to introduce topics of race, gender, age, etc. To the dialogue. I started by bringing in four different examples of print media ( A political poster, a Vitamin Water EL train advertisement, a children's book, and a breast cancer walk T-shirt) I asked them to consider the audience and elements present in the works in small groups. I also asked them to problematize the images and discuss them in small groups. Afterwards we came back to a large group and shared our findings. They were able to spot many stereotypes and themes that bothered them in the images. We discussed then art historical objects that might have those same stereotypes present, ( Manet's Olympia, Cowboy Art, Classroom art timeline) The students spoke very freely and openly about the popular print media. Over the course of the week students worked on their take home test that consisted of finding an advertisement and scanning it for issues as we did in class. Then they were to respond in visual, written or performative media. Their projects were interesting and critical and wonderful. I then assigned the midterm essay which asked them to chose one of two questions involving fine art and popular images and issues present within them. Students response to the project was good but attitude towards the paper was poor. I had multiple complaints and a few attempts at mutiny. The pressure of the paper, even though it was in their syllabus from day one, was too much they said.

I was so thrilled that they caught on to something critical and really ran with it. The discussed key issues in stereotypes and marketing and made comments on the ability of art to hide issues and bring out others. Discussion was at an all time high and getting more and more student led. The project results were great. So great in fact that I got their permission to post them in an online gallery attached to this blog. Then the paper was assigned and moral and attendance went down. WHY? Sure and essay is an academically traditional way of expressing ideas. But they had already begun to develop these ideas. They weren't starting from scratch. They need sources to quote but many of them already had a few from the previous project. My initial explanation as to why this happened is to say that they are students and don't want to work hard. But I don't really believe that. Sure their time is valuable and they are not always willing to devote a lot of it to school work but I would say the majority of them like being in school and have a goal they are working toward. What is it about the stigma of an essay that really grounded an entire classroom. I have no real Why explanation for what happened.

What does it mean? It can't mean do not assign essays. They are an intigral part of the required course content and they are not bad just because they are academic. No they do not show off everyone's learning style the best but they are important in college life. I am not just teaching some things about art and then letting them go. I am also responsible for getting them ready for further academic endevours. So my next steps....

Set up early on some time in class for writing triage to make sure students have some confidence in their writing.

Journal (online discussion board, blog, or on paper) If students are writing every week then they have a great lead in to their paper already with plenty of sources and ideas.

Choices of questions ( I already did this) to answer so that students can pick one they feel confident about.

encouragement ( I hope I did this) that essays are an important and popular way in academia to put forth your ideas and this is just one step towards improving upon this skill.

Process ( I teach students that art and art history are process not finished products. I need to support this belief in the work I assign. Their essays can be in process. Maybe peer advising rough drafts and then turning in final drafts to me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


This past week I gave my first exam on the first six chapters of the textbook and class lectures. It was an in class short answer test based on four slides. The first question was on a work by Kandinsky in which they were to describe the work in terms of elements and principles and then briefly discuss whether they thought the work to be successful or not. They were asked to do the same with Goya's Third of May. For the last question they were asked to compare Da Vinci's Mona Lisa with Barbara Kruger's Your Body is a Battle Ground

These images were similar to images the students saw in class and had already talked about. A week before students gave peer reviews of art work with a very similar question of elements and principles. They had also in small discussion compared works through critique. The students were very nervous before test but during I saw smiles and positive body language (shoulders up, not slouching on the table, confident strides to turn in their papers and mixed comments afterwards about it not being that hard)

Why did it happen? Responses to the test format were mixed. For the most part students seemed to doubt their writing abilities or handwriting abilities. Some wanted something more concrete or a specific outline to study with. I attempted to show in class activities, conversation, and lecture that if I wanted the right answer I could formulate it myself. Instead I wanted a thoughtful answer. They were unsure of this as it was outside their experience. Because it was their thoughts there was no safety net, they had to think! I did however through some scaffolding attempt to model the response with activities which gave them experience in these types of questions and gave them images they had seen before or something close to what they had seen before. I think the positive responses were due to a safe experience where thinking was encouraged but not thrown upon them.

What does it mean? In the preparation of a class like this the teacher, in this case myself) has to truly think ahead to prepare students to think critically, It must be modeled and they must have space to try it out! It is also true that taking away the quest for the right answer is scary for some. Asking them to think is a much harder request and it needs to be supported with resources and time so they feel ready to do this in a test format.

More theoretically, I think it this example helps me to suggest that college and course standards can be met without enforcing right answers and standard responses. These kinds of classes can be impactful for the students in allowing them to take take the lead in learning without throwing them to the wolves with criticality and power issues. This is a process and like I mentioned in may last entry, we are working to get more critical but it does not happen over night. This exam was a huge step and the students really rose to the challenge with great thoughts mixed with correct vocabulary and criticism.

Implications for practice: I will probably never give a multiple choice test again or assume that an essay it the only way to go. Students responded well to short answer in the classroom. They needed guidance to answer the questions but most went beyond the specific question. I once thought if I modeled too much I would be forcing students in a certain direction of planting ideas instead of fostering them. Modeling is a great tool for getting critical thought. It doesn't mean planting ideas but instead inspiring them and allowing for some comfort when trying out new skills.

I also have to continue to look critically at the images I show. I am in the process of teaching with images given to me and then adding some of my own. As I have time after teaching to sit and reflect I will need to question my image choices. These works worked with this group but they may not work with all students. They are kind of heavy hitters in the world of art history and that needs to be looked at carefully as I carry on. But that is another blog for another day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thesis Questions with 10 yards to go

This has been a very challenging topic for me to tackle. To compare my thesis experience to a sports analogy it is like I have the football and am running cross field looking for a place to cut the corner and finding nothing but a wall of really angry defensive linemen ready to knock me down with questions and issues I am not ready for. This may be a little over dramatic but I feel like I have found a place to cut the corner, juke the last blocker and make my way for the 1st down!

I was afraid if I asked a question I would spend my thesis time trying to answer it as if there is one answer to the questions I am concerned with. This is not true. It is a just a place to begin to focus the inquiry a bit and get a handle on the specific areas I want to take on. With that said here is my first draft of my thesis question.

Remember it is in progress...

Thesis Question:
What can be done in the Art Appreciation classroom to make the class content critical and relative to the students?

sub question one:
Space? What effects does the space of a community college have on the art appreciation classroom, student, and teacher?

sub question two:
methods of inquiry? What methods (art historical, ethnographic, anthropological, revisionist) of inquiry open up the topic of art appreciation and allow current issues and students experience to play a vital role?

sub question three:
What skills does an art appreciation teacher need to create a meaningful and critical classroom experience?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Holding their hands or creating a better environment to learn?

As I built the lesson plans for each day I made an effort to include group discussion into each meeting as a way of getting other voices heard besides my own. In the first two meetings as a group of 18 or 20 students brought in comments or questions to lead discussion. Often these comments revolved around like or dislike if images and their reasoning was in comparison to other images or they weren't sure why they liked it they just knew they did. Often the questions were directed towards me. A few times I tried to turn the questions back out to the class but got very few responses and a few students who got angry because they felt that I was not helping. Few were engaged in the conversations and those who were, guarded their comments and spoke in turn instead of in a discussion.

In the following classes I began by providing questions that I felt were interesting and did not have a single answer but required some thought and connection to the real world. I had the students form small groups to work through whatever questions they wanted. Then we joined together as a larger group and posed a few questions to the group as a whole. The difference in the students response was amazing. Just about everyone was talking and they seemed to like choosing what question interested them and running with them. I circulated around the room and tried to get and idea of what they were talking about and at times asked some more questions if they had run out of comments to make. They need my help less and less now. There are still a few students who join together and pretend to talk about the questions. They have not read the materials so they spend most of their time looking for the answers that are not really in the book.

Why did this happen? I assumed, incorrectly, that from the very beginning giving them the power to discuss and lead their own process to learning would be empowering and natural to them. It wasn't. They did not know what to do with this kind of space and so they resorted to what they know, ask the teacher or find THE right answer. When I introduced some guidelines and let them choose from a few options I gave them a starting place and let them go from there. I also respected them as adults to choose what interested them.

What does it mean? Critical Pedagogy is great and all but it is not always the first step in the classroom. Students at this level of education have at least 12 years of banking method teaching under their belts and introducing something new and liberating is not necessarily empowering right away. As nam Jun Paik once stated in an essay concerning digital media, freedom and liberty are sometimes antagonistic strangers. I have to work harder to meet students where they are at; create a space where students learn to be more critical and learn how to learn from engaging in dialogue. Hopefully it means that as we go we can, as a class, become less and less dependent on my questions and begin to focus on theirs. I have to model the critical responses I would like to get.

Implications for Practice? I recently read a NAEA advisory article on discussion. I know that is was not intended for college level art appreciation classrooms, however its suggestion foe better communication seem really helpful. Or, I should say seemed helpful before this experience. In fact I have read many things on changing the power dynamic in the classroom and allowing the students the power to engage their own learning in a way that works for them. This is great. Let students make up rules for how they want discussion to be and how they will treat each other. Remove yourself (as the teacher) from guiding discussion and allow the students to communicate. And then watch them sit and stare at each other for 10 minutes hoping that someone will say the right thing and I will let them stop doing this.

Why do I initiate the dialogue, because they will not do it on their own. I have to show them that in this space dialogue that is informative and rich in content and experience is appropriate and encouraged. Students for the most part have not seen this type of learning engaged and it does not come natural to them after 12 years of learning one way. I cannot assume that giving them freedom will make them feel liberated. This requires a great deal of thought about myself as an educator and facilitator as well as what are some ways to get to the point where the freedom to discuss does feel liberating. I have know my own agenda in asking questions and what questions I ask. I have to scan my process carefully and constantly to make sure that I am building to independence and not just creating a new dependence by only me asking the questions.

Then there is the realization that I will never get passed this. Each and every semester will bring a process of starting with hand holding and hopefully getting to empowerment. It may not happen every semester but it is worth it to try.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Getting to Know Them

On the first day of class at The Art Institute of Chicago I was asked to participate in this introduction project entitled Windows. It was interesting then as a student as a way to get to know where my classmates were coming from and took the edge off a little of the scary unknown. This experience has stuck with me and I thought it would be nice to incorporate it into my own teaching.

On the first day of class I explained that in this class we would be discussing a wide variety of topics and many of them will not be neutral. To prepare for this it would be nice to get to know each other a little better and hopefully feel a little more comfortable around strangers. I am sure for these students a corny getting to know you exercise is standard fare and what they were expecting although they seemed to engage the project and when talking were very open and honest.

On an 11 by 17 piece of paper folded in fours they answered the following questions..."Something you've accomplished that makes you proud", A challenging moment you have faced in your life", What you would do with all the money and time in the world", and One hope and one fear you have about the next four months". I asked them to respond to these questions visually and if they must use words to limit them to a few key words.

As a student I know how much I enjoyed this introduction activity, as a teacher I found in uniquely helpful and an absolute must for teaching. It was important for me as an instructor to see where my students were coming from. It helped ground the class a little to see students who for the most part were most proud of high school achievements but whose challenging moments ranged from driving cars to the loss of a loved one and all that is in between.

I teach two sections of art appreciation, one consisting of mostly freshman first time college students, the other consisting of working adults, returning students, and enrichment students. Their experiences differed greatly but it was the final question of fears and hopes the became the most intriguing and impactful on my role in these two classrooms.

The younger first time students across the board were concerned with grades. Every single one had a fear of getting an F and the hope of getting an A. In my own pedagogy in the classroom I like to get away from grades and focus on participation and seeking knowledge. While this is not ruled out I must as an instructor modify my pedagogy to meet the needs of my students. For this class I make sure that grades and expectations are clearly defined. As the semester progresses they will have a bigger say in what the expectation are and how they can be met. This allows for a better distribution of power in the classroom as well as engages the students to be more involved and a part of each assignment.

The older students and returning students while still concerned with grades were also concerned with the content of the class, Would they understand the readings, Like the art works, See new things, and be ready for the rigors of school (again). For these students I make sure assignments are given far in advance and that there is appropriate class time for projects. I structure discussion time less for them as they tend to have stronger opinions and therefore more lively debate. While I would in my own pedagogy like to move away from right and wrong answers this group often requests them. To work with this and not let them feel everything is abstract I show more examples and turn questions over the class more often.

In my own schooling I find it very easy o get up in the trap that if as an instructor I engage in critical pedagogy in any form my studetns will feel magically free to engage and will prefer this type of teaching. Teaching is a good remedy for this kind of thinking. I cannot undo teaching methodologies learned in 12 years of school and on the job training. While I attempt to deconstruct some habits of looking to me for concrete answers and focusing on grades without knowledge to show for it, I must help them reconstruct something in its place. And so getting to know them better helps to adapt my own pedagogy which helps to make it truly critical.

As I am just beginning to take baby steps to remove power from myself and redistribute it among the studetns I find the process to be a valuable one. There must be relationship building and trust building to truly decenter the power and they (the students) have to be in on it. Is there one process to get us there no, it the process important...YES!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Captains Log: Week 1, Class 1.

I have begun teaching my first college level course, Art Appreciation, at McHenry County College. It was a very interesting process to prepare a syllabus and lesson plans for an unknown group of students. I had originally thought that as I worked through these two classes I would be preparing my plans and documenting my process. I am finding though after only the first class that much of what I will be reflecting on is the limitations of teaching an already structured course as well as how to work within those confines to engage in menaingful pedagogy. I have also been greatly impacted by student responses already to some of the work from class 1 as well as how easy it is to fall into the trap of banking teaching.

The process of creating a syllabus was a challenging one. I had 11 chapters that I had to cover and then I was free to engage in art history chapters. The book I am using, Prebles Artforms by Patrick Frank, 8th edition. teaches art history separatly from the elements and principles and sets up historical information on a timeline. The text therefore slightly dictates the order in which I must teach. My recommendation for the course is to teach the elements and principles concurrently with art history and instead of using a timeline to organize the content I am suggesting themes such as political, identity, ritual, etc. Many works would be overlapping in these themes and that would make for interesting observation by both the teacher and studnets. In my first class I was able to engage this slightly. I began with Chapter 1 The Nature of Art. Here as a class we defined these works as being examples of specific themes and multiple themes. To follow this up in the next class we will be looking at works related to line, color, and form as defined in chapter 2 of the text. In addition to thinking about the elements we will be looking at one themes are present and the studnets will engage in their own art making project where they will be looking at what elements express certain themes. Also assigning readings became very challenging. As this is a freshman class with students who are not used to a rigorous course load or may not have well defined study habits cannot be assigned too many course reading assignments a week. Also, when it comes to the art history chapters they end up reading a chronological account. I have decided however, that this class should not pretend that art history is always taught in this nontraditional manner that I am attempting to present. Therefore the readings will make a good comparison point for myself and the students to see which one allows for the most freedom to understand and incorporate experience into.

While I have made an effort to incorporate art projects, discussion groups and multiple forms of testing to suit and honor multiple learning styles I found it surprisingly difficult to not lecture. Some of this was becuase it was the first day and they had not come to class prepared to really participate (they were there to get the syllabus). But also I found it hard to move away from the model I had been taught with. I do not think this model is effective for most students or does the topic of art any good but was very easy to fall back on what I know. How to overcome this I have no idea, but I think awareness of the power I have as a teacher to direct the class in any way I choose is very improtant. If I am aware of that at all times then I can begin to work responsibly within that structure to shift some of the power over to the students. This will be a process of trial and error I am sure but with reflection hopefully a productive one.