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.