When asked, any educator can relate with vivid specificity those singular moments when a student alighted on an original idea, considered a new perspective, or discovered a work of art or scientific phenomena that spoke to them. Those moments when a student finds an entry point into a subject or succeeds where they thought they could not are a deep source of personal and professional joy. However, my commitment to teaching the history of art does not derive only from the pleasure of introducing students to the depth and breadth of creative endeavor and cultural production. It stems from a sincere belief that fostering tools to help individuals engage critically with visual culture is vital to every intellectual enterprise and necessary to navigating the diffusion of contemporary media in nearly all aspects of lived experience.
My pedagogy developed teaching students ranging from Kindergarten to post-retirement and across various levels of familiarity with and interest in art history. In addition, I've worked with a spectrum of cognitive, physical, and social abilities and accommodated students who speak English as a second language. Discovering and adapting strategies to connect with students who may feel excluded or disinterested in traditional teaching methods while challenging and mentoring students who thrive in such conditions has been a rewarding challenge that informs my education practices, outlined with examples of course websites and student work below.
- To teach students to translate visual experience into written analysis.
- To help students learn to articulate and substantiate clear arguments.
- Students are required to keep notebooks. Every class begins with a five minute writing session that includes formal analysis, comparing artworks, or reviewing course content. At some point during the class we discuss the prompt. I do this for several reasons.
- Informal writing prepares students for the pressures of exam essays and the rigor of written assignments. This helps students understand and practice what they are expected to know.
- Students who do not like to speaking extemporaneously are often more comfortable talking in class when they have had time to write their thoughts.
- Collecting notebooks periodically allows me to get a sense of each student's writing and what material they are synthesizing from class.
- To impart new information, underscore and assigned books and articles, introduce students to multiple scholarly perspectives
- encourage skills such as note-taking and prompt attendance.
- I believe lectures are essentially dialogic. I welcome student interjections and have found great success when allowing lot's of space to discuss works or field questions.
- I break lectures into sections interjected with short video or audio clips, discussions, etc. in order to keep class flow and accommodate typical attention spans. When appropriate, I use digital media in the classroom which is then made available online.
- Before class, students are asked to submit discussion questions related to course material. I use these not only to asses comprehension, but also to incorporate their questions into lectures and discussions.
- Balance linear history and thematic context. I emphasize socio-political art historical methodologies and spend significant portions of lectures demonstrating how cultures produce images and objects that reflect and inform their contemporary economic, ethical, and epistemological conditions.
- Focus is placed on articles and books published within the decade, supported by scholarship throughout history.
- Depending on the course class may require a textbook. However, we read primary sources as much as possible, which is vital to understanding the historiography of the discipline.
- Every course employs different methods of inquiry. These include feminist, Marxist, queer theory, etc.. I also assign articles that address artworks and artifacts in collaboration with physical or biological sciences and other interdisciplinary approaches.
- I use a digital tools such as videos, podcasts and interactive media in the classroom and on course websites (formerly through lore.com, Cengage, and self-built) to support lectures and seminars. I moderate website discussions and post lecture materials and assigned readings online, expanding the course beyond the physical classroom.
- This digital extension is an integral part of cultivating a collaborate space of learning among all the students. I've been pleasantly surprised by the extent to which students use the website (some students who do not speak in class will actively participate online). Students share relevant links and articles, respond to one another's questions, and use their peers as resources to critique their work.
- Object oriented projects: I take students on tours of one or two museums where they select a work of art. They are then asked to research, write a formal analysis, and situate the work in its historical context. They may also be asked to present their research to their colleagues in the museum and discuss the conditions of its exhibition.
- Media oriented projects (for contemporary art and media courses) is a new assignment structure I've been developing to adapt traditional term papers to contemporary spaces of writing and readership. Students build a website or blog dedicated to interrogating a single topic or theme in its many facets. I am finding this assignment effective in the following ways:
- Students write blog posts throughout the semester, developing a writing discipline and foreclosing the possibility of gross procrastination.
- I read and comment on posts. Unlike a final paper, students get feedback from their peers and myself throughout the semester. The emphasis is thus placed on the process of editing and improving their written work rather than the final product.
- Students are required to research, cite and write with academic rigor, but are also asked to think about how to write engaging short form pieces, a skill that translates into many professional fields.
- Too often term papers lay fallow in a recycling bin or external hard drive. Websites are publicly available and ideally offer a starting point for students to continue writing and growing an audience.
- In upper division media courses, we explore Marshall McLuhan's adage, "The medium is the message." Students are challenged to consider how to support their written content through visual and functional design. They use multimedia tools to support their written work and consider how the presentation of information informs its reception.
- To encourage close readings of texts, democratic and productive discussions, and learning to substantiate verbal arguments through visual and textual analysis.