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Teaching in the Art Museum

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Elizabeth Miron

on 13 December 2014

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Transcript of Teaching in the Art Museum

Chapter 10: The Last Temptation: Teaching toward Peak Experiences
Chapter 1: The Art of Teaching a New Work of Art
Chapter 3: Gallery Teaching as Guided Interpretation
Chapter 2: History of Education in Art Museums
Chapter 4: Intense Looks: Solitude, Scholarship, and a Teacher's Transformative Experience
Chapter 8: Gallery Teaching as Interpretive Play
Chapter 9: The Barnes Foundations as a Place for Teaching
Chapter 5: Conversation, Discussion, and Dialogue
Every art educator, either classroom or museum, brings unique gifts to teaching works of art.
Teaching art history requires preparation, knowledge, and planning, motivated by a love and knowledge of artwork, with an appreciation of the infinite possibilities of meanings around them.
The first task is engaging attention. Asking students to gather around the artwork either through printed materials or through an overhead projector will allow students to focus and concentrate.
Begin by asking students to look. This allows your students to for his or her own first impressions and ideas.
Instructors should spend time with the artworks ,looking closely for extended periods of time both close and far.
Next, instructors should do research. This research is to leverage possibilities, not to establish conclusive interpretations that you will impose on their students.
The Art of Teaching a New Work of Art
John Dewey is the author of Art as an Experience, American philosopher, and educational theorist. He describes experience as occurring continuously when we interact with our environment.
Dewey proposed that experiences with artworks are separate from everyday experiences. When asked to engage in it, you ask students to set aside daily concerns and enter into a relation with a work of art.
Dewey suggests that "an experience" is shaped in a certain way, with a beginning, development, and culmination, running its course to a fulfillment "so rounded out that its close is a consummation not a cessation."
Art as an Experience
Teaching in the Art Museum
Teaching in the Art Museum
Teaching in the Art Museum is written by Rika Burnham, Head of Education at The Frick Collection in New York City, and Eliott Kai-Kee, Education Specialist at J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angles.
This book investigates the mission, history, theory, practice, and future prospects of education in museums and best practices of teaching works of art to students and adults.
This presentation highlights the best practices from Teaching in the Art Museum and how you can utilize this information when giving tours.
Museum teaching as interpretation led to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is derived from the name of the Greek god Hermes, one of whose tasks was to interpret the sayings of the gods to mortals.
In the 20th century, hermeneutic theory was dominated by the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, who wrote extensively on aesthetics and whose writings have provided us with philosophical context and inspiration.
Gadamer states, "An encounter with a great work of art has always been like a fruitful conversation." When we state in words what we see and understand, we create a common language for the exploration of the artwork.
Spoken words allow students to build upon each other's thoughts and observations. As students discuss, the dialog is continually revised. The constant revisions is what Gadamer calls the "hermeneutic circle."
Suggestions & Flexibility
Suggest relationships between a work and the circumstances of its creation and reception. This supplies your students with information that indicate how and why a work came to be, how it was made, and how it was viewed in its original social and artistic context.
The best teaching requires flexibility and the ability to balance the desire to share our understandings against an openness to interpretations from new places.
What relationships can be suggested with Aizan, Velekete, Govis?
Early Beginnings
The 20s & 30s
The 40s & 50s
In 1892, architect J. Randolph Coolidge Jr. proposed in a letter to a friend that museums provide some systems of guidance in the galleries.
In 1907, the founding position of "docent" was established at the Museum of Fine Art Boston.
Soon after, the Metropolitan appointed its own paid "museum instructor", called "Expert Guidance".
The first docents were asked to keep themselves as far as possible in the background and arouse visitors' own sense of appreciation and criticism.
In the 20s, and 30s, private foundations and the federal government began to provide support for museums, including museum educational programs.
By the late 1930s, the work of education departments in major museums increased around children.
Aesthetic and educational goals took divergent paths, with museum teachers asked to illustrate and supplement what students were learning in their classrooms.
The federal government's WPA Museum Projects in some cases paid docent services.
In 1934, the direct of the Atkins Museum in Kansas City Missouri suggested that the Junior League members would be interested in giving tours of the museum. By 1953, the Junior League "docents" took over 46,000 students on tours.
Otto Wittmann, associate director of the Toledo Museum of Art, recommended that museums use volunteers to expand its educational programs. He organized a similar program to the Kansas City. This resulted in a "best volunteer"
Married woman, 30-40 years old with one or two children
Husband in executive position
Attends museums functions
Has a college education, but not necessarily a graduate
Works well with her hands
Likes people, especially children
Has useful skills in other activites
Has curiosity, imagination, and enthusiasm
The Museum of Fine Art Boston established the first "docent."
The 60s & 70s
In the 60s, new museums were opening up everywhere, with a reported 700 million people attending by 1970.
One of the best known museum programs instituted was Arts Awareness, started in 1972 by the Metropolitan. Arts Awareness was an attempt to "break down the barriers between high school students and art objects and the museums."
The process of "breaking down" involved non-verbal and non-information approaches. With the guidance of dancers and musicians, students "performed" their interpretations of the artworks.
The 80s
The 90s & 00s
Chapter 7: Information in Gallery Teaching: Charles le Brun's Water Tapestry

The 80s would be characterized by a feeling on the part of many museum educators that the field was in dire need of firmer intellectual grounding.
In 1987, a meeting with the Education Committee of AAM and the Museum Division of NAEA met to discuss and define museum education.
Participants in the meeting considered the new concept of visual literacy, which was commonly taken to entail "reading" the elements of art, more or less as a reader interprets the words of a sentence. Museums can partner with schools, but are not to be accepted to teach visual literacy by themselves.
The 80s turned out to be a decade of uncertainty for museum education. Commentators from both inside and outside the field raised questions about the goals, subject, and methods of museum teaching, and educators would continue to struggle to answer them, and to formulate a theoretical framework to contain them.
In the 90s, museums began to study their audiences and emphasized "visitor centered" learning.
In 1995, Lois Silverman, professor and director of the Center on History Making in America at Indiana University, observed that the last ten years had "witnessed a new age in human science: a shift to a broad academic and political perspective referred to in various circles as post-modernism, constructivism, and contemporary literary theory.
Constructivism is a theory about knowledge and learning. The theory describes knowledge as comprising not truths about an independent reality to be discovered and transmitted, but explanations constructed by humans engaged in meaning making in cultural and social communities of discourse.
Constructivism proposed that when viewing works of art, they should feel empowered to interpret the works of art.
Questions in the Classroom
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom proposed "Bloom's Taxonomy". Taxonomies of questions quickly proliferated in Bloom's wake: by the 70s there were 21 classifications for classroom questions.
Art educators turned to two main sources for questioning strategies. The first from Edmund Feldman. Feldman suggested that teachers should ask questions designed to elicit what he had proposed as the main forms of intellectual activity comprised by the discipline of art criticism.
He recommended a questioning technique "in which children are obliged to reply, such that their answers take the form of describing, analyzing, and explaining what they see."
Hans-Georg Gadamer
John Dewey
Conversation, Discussion, and Dialogue
Viewing works of art an area where social occasion, experience, and learning take place. Educators seek talk that yields knowledge and understanding.
Talking about works of art rests on the shared belief that we are able to make sense of them, and that making sense of the artwork is invited.
As a pedagogical strategy, talking takes many forms and may be described in different ways.
Conversation, discussion, and dialogue may be understood as separate modes of teaching, each different in purpose, structure, and tone.
Conversation is the most loosely structured of the three modes of talk. Conversation is something we share in everyday life.
Conversation about art occurs constantly in museum galleries or in the classrooms when viewers come together in groups to look, point out something, share reminders, or ask questions. Teacher and viewers enter a world of creative speculation about the works of art they are considering.
When artwork teaching is constructed as conversation, the teacher's priority is to create an atmosphere in which everyone is comfortable speaking and exchanges are friendly.
Everyone is encouraged, but not required, to participate. The teacher may contribute a bit of information here and there, and may gently offer their own thoughts as well.
Discussions are more purposeful than conversation, being focused on a question or object and characterized by more insistent advocacy of particular viewpoints.
A good discussion is carefully planned and designed. It is the instructor's responsibility to guide the process of inquiry toward reliable conclusions, usually by asking questions. Questions are vital to discussion-based teaching.
Discussion begins a statement or a question that addresses the central issue as defined by the instructor, and it is sustained by further questions that encourage exploration. The instructor tries to anticipate possible answers to her questions and how to use both questions and answers to move the discussion forward.
Discussion-based teaching is often used when explicit connections to a curriculum is desired.
Dialogue proposes a middle way between conversation and discussion. Dialogue shares the open, improvisatory quality of conversation, but with a stronger sense of purpose and is more tightly focused on the artwork.
In dialogue, the teacher deliberately guides and shapes the flow of discourse - but not tower her own predestined goals, as in a discussion. All participants explore the works of art together through the exchange of observations and ideas.
Dialogue is guided by the spirit of discovery and curiosity. Dialogue is an experimental forum in which viewers try their ideas against those of others, constantly changing the process of dialogue.
Dialogical Teaching: A four-sided Model
Business and labor negotiations analyst William Isaacs proposed a model to help understand these dialogues.
Isaacs imagines his models as a four-sided diamond, with participants making active choices among four roles at any point during the course of a dialogue. Teacher and participants may adopt any of the four roles.
The Mover
The mover is responsible for the forward momentum of the dialogue. Everyone can be a mover and push the dialogue. Sometimes participants make the first moves.
The gallery teacher also closes the dialogue. But within the space created between first and last moves, many participants shift at various points into the role of mover.
When anyone has the potential to direct the dialogue, the outcome remains necessarily unknowable in advance.
The Follower
The follower's position is less dynamic, but important for maintaining the dialogue as a whole. The follower adopts a stance of general agreement with the flow of the dialogue, following the moves of others, offering supporting evidence.
The follower listens taking time to reflect, to weigh the various opinions and ideas being expressed.
The teacher attends to the general flow, listening closely to the comments and remarks of the other participants, perhaps adding a word of encouragement now and then.
The follower's position builds the foundations of further speculation.
Teachers may use the follower position to cumulate various ideas that arise, and then offer a summary of the dialogue up to a certain point.
The Bystander
The bystander's position is precisely where a certain valuable meta cognitive understanding of the experience of looking at art and engaging in dialogue about it can take place.
Reflections on the process of understanding may be more or less consciously articulated within the participant's mind.
The teacher must always be alert, ready to jump in at any moment as mover, as follower - or even as opposer.
The Opposer
The opposer is the most rarely adopted but the most interesting position available. The opposer actively disagrees with another's point of view.
Opposing precipitates discord among a group whose movers and followers may have been more or less intentionally working to develop a politely shared interpretation.
Teachers should welcome opposition, for opposers create memorable experiences for everyone even if they sometimes make us feel momentarily uncomfortable.
Art Teacher Questioning Strategy
The second strategy derived from Bloom's taxonomies was proposed by Carmen and Nolan Armstrong called "Art Teacher Questioning Strategy". This strategy proposed to "promote student-centered teaching through questions designed to involve the students actively in their types of learning - discrimination, conceptualization and generalization."
In 1984, Karen Hamblen brought these two together, proposing an art criticism model using a questioning strategy within Bloom's taxonomy, "based on research that indicates that questions, when properly formulated with specific attention to levels of thinking, can actively involve the student in the learning process and promote independent critical inquiry."
Questions in Practice
Questions can be used effectively to bring into open aspects of artworks that merit examination. However, teachers have come to use questions for merely "getting people to talk" for the sake of talking.
Well thought out questions can guide people to discover information. But leading questions - questions with predetermined answers - do not lead anywhere. When teachers use questions this way, the results are often exasperating for the teacher and the students. Why? Because the questions do not arise from any genuine desire to know.
Asking questions invites the students to think that they are part of a dialogue in which ideas are exchanged, but they catch on quickly that "what the teacher wants them to say" is what counts.
Questioning Methods
Visual Thinking Strategies "uses art to foster student capacities to observe, think, listen and communicate, promising to develop critical thinking, communication and visual literacy skills."
VTS trained teachers are restricted to three questions:
What's going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What else can you find?
They do not provide any information, correct students' misapprehensions, or add comments of their own.
Using VTS limits the teacher's ability to help students understand the work of art. Viewers are left to reach their own erroneous conclusions about the work of art.
Dialogical Teaching without Questions
The ultimate goal of good teaching draws viewers and teacher into a deep and satisfying understanding of artworks. Stop asking students questions and return to the art, not through lecturing, but through engaging in dialogues about and with the art.
Viewers share their ideas and response to artworks with one another in a dynamic dialogue that has the potential to build into larger understandings. Questions are not needed.
Rethinking Questions in Dialogical Teaching
Questions do have a role in the process of interpretation. As students view a work of art, questions arise because someone needs to know something. Some questions are easily answered with info, but others require interpretation and allow for many answers.
Our first task is to study the artwork an create an environment where questions might prove useful and workable.
Questions generate answers and ideas, which generate more questions. In this exchange among teacher, viewer, and artwork, the artworks come alive to their viewers.
Chapter 6: Questioning the Use of Questions
Gallery Teaching as Interpretive Play
Play is a critical element for art educators. The idea of play helps us to explain openness and freedom in teaching works of art.
Good teaching opens a space in which interpretive play may occur, a space where unexpected insights and interpretations occur.
In that space, teachers encourage the back and forth movement of dialogue among viewers. There is constant movement in dialogue.
When teaching a work of art, we try to keep students' dialogues about artworks focused. We allow for unexpected insights and interpretations.
As teachers, we are always players along with our students. We look and respond to the artwork, but strive to see also through our students eyes, and listen closely to their suggestions.
The idea of play reminds us to value the pleasure of the going - to refrain from arrival at an end point.
If we are unable to play, then we can never share the experience that we hope to make possible for them, and never see the artwork from their point of view.
Playing Along
Ultimate Goal?
The ultimate objective of good teaching is a certain kind of shared experience, an experience that draws visitor and educator into a deep and satisfying relationships with artworks, an experience of being absorbed in looking, and, in the end, of seeing more than we thought we ever could, and in ways that are new to us.
Visual Thinking Strategies...Let's try it out
The Feldman Approach
The formalist model of art criticism, introduced by Feldman, is a favorite among art educators due to its simplicity. There are four phases: describe, analyze, interpret, and judge. Its analytical phases and judging criteria are easy for students to remember, making it easy for them to use on their own.
The four stages of art criticism are:
Description - listing what an art object seems to include
Formal Analysis - describing the relationship among the things that were listed
Interpretation - deciding what all your earlier observations mean
Judgment - deciding the value of an art object
Edmund Feldman
Feldman Method...Let's try it out
Migrant Mother
Dorothea Lange
Migrant mother
Mother's face looks wrinkled and troubled
Hand touching face in despair
Two children lean against her
Children's faces are not seen
Hair looks untidy
Clothes look old and worn out
Nothing visible in the background
Describe the artwork...
Analyze the artwork...
Interpret the artwork...
Evaluate by forming your own judgements...
Black and white picture suggests it was taken in the past
The old worn out clothes suggest hardship
Realistic depiction of suffering
Children's concealed faces suggest that they may not be able to see a brighter future
Artist managed to depict suffering of a migrant community
We sympathize with the family
We empathize with the children in the picture for being deprived of a promising future
Parents can empathize with the mother's helplessness in caring
Background Information
Dorothea Lange's photographs showed the world how people were suffering during the great depression in the 1930s. This photograph was published in a news story which made people aware of the hardships migrant workers suffered. As a result, the US government rushed the workers food and setup relief programs.
What's going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What else can you find?
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