Deborah J. Haynes

Art and Art History / Libby RAP


Course context:
In Spring 2011, I taught ARTH 1400–World Art 2, which dealt with global art from 1400 tothe present. There were 350 students, with 6 TAs. We met twice per week for lectures, withone recitation each week with a TA. This semester the course had about 80% art majors,most 1st‐year students and sophomores.

Target of improvement/evidence:

  1. To increase student engagement through incorporating new strategies during
    lectures
  2. To gain a more nuanced understanding of students’ expectations at the outset and of what they gained at the end.
  3. To enhance students’ visual literacy, a key threshold concept in art history
  4. To improve students’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge on exams and
    assignments

What I did:
A. Instituted 3 new pedagogical strategies in the large lecture course

  1. For the first time, I used online journal entries on CU Learn 4 times during the
    semester. Topics included: What is art and who can be an artist? How do you makesense of the development of abstract art? How do you understand the role of
    collaboration in creative work? Describe what the interrelationship of religion and
    art means to you.
  2. I encouraged student discussion during lecture nearly every class session.
  3. I taught 3 contemplative practices, which I used at the beginning and/or end of
    each class: The Bow, sitting quietly for 1 minute, and “beholding practice.”

B. Used 4 new strategies related to assessment and evidence gathering

  1. I instituted “minute papers” (which I called “inksheddings”) on a variety of topics 5 times during the semester. On the first day, I asked students to write “A Thought
    Experiment: What do you imagine could be the greatest value or promise of this
    course?” Because so many had raised hands when I asked if they had traveled
    abroad, I also asked them to list favorite places they had been. After 3 weeks, I askedthem to write an index card on the muddiest issue to that point in the course (atbeginning of class session) and on the most engaging content (at end of class). At 7 weeks, I asked for feedback about their experience of our primary contemplative practice thus far, The Bow. After their 3rd exam, I asked a series of questions abouttheir exam study habits. At the end of semester, I posed the first question again
  2. After reading the inksheddings, I created word clouds using student input on each
    topic, and I shared these during the subsequent lecture.
  3. I introduced exam strategies to help students improve their performance. These
    included specific suggestions about how to memorize works of art, setting realistic
    expectations about how long they need to study, and preparing detailed Study
    Guides for each of 5 exams.
  4. I developed a series of graduated visual literacy exercises for helping students
    enhance their skills. Beginning with basic identification, I repeatedly modeled visual description and critical analysis while talking about particular works of art. I talked about interpretation as a more complex theoretical enterprise, but encouraged students at the end of class to offer their own comparative interpretation of two artworks.

What difference did it make?


The new pedagogical strategies ‐‐ online journal entries, student discussion and more
questions during lecture, and contemplative practices ‐‐ were primarily designed to
increase student engagement throughout the course. Overall these were successful, which Iknow because of student, auditor, and TA comments, as well as feedback from visiting faculty who lectured during the semester. In addition, there was an often intangible but palpable energy of the lecture hall.
  The use of journal entries on CU Learn was a mixed success, as many students did
not do these assignments, even though I announced several times that they would be
counted as part of the participation grade. Because the TAs varied so much in their use of the student writing during recitation, there was a lack of consistency.
Creating occasions during each lecture for student discussion and questions was
highly effective at engaging their interest. Quite a few students commented to me that they enjoyed the interchanges, and even our guest lectures noted that the large class seemed unusually responsive.
  Introducing contemplative practices in the class was an experiment that I would
definitely like to adjust and repeat. Student feedback was dominantly positive (minute
paper results are included at the end of this report), though I was constantly cognizant of the fact that a minority of students found them too contrived and/or religious.

How did the classroom assessment and gathering feedback help me make
adjustments throughout the course?


The new assessment strategies ‐‐ minute papers/inksheddings, word clouds, exam
strategies, and visual literacy exercises – were highly effective in helping me to meet my goals for the course. Without exaggeration, I can say that introducing these forms of
assessment has changed my teaching.
  The first and last minute papers/inksheddings gave me a clear sense of what
students hoped to gain from the course and what they did, in fact, gain in the end. I found remarkable consistency in the results of these two inksheddings. The course met their expectations especially in terms of expanding their knowledge and appreciation of art from diverse world cultures. Because there were many art majors, I was also pleased that so many found inspiration for their own art practice. The results of the last inkshedding also demonstrated that I had met some of my own goals related to helping students develop the skills associated with visual literacy.
  I created word clouds 4 times to give feedback to the students about their responses
to inksheddings. Students were always eager to see these. Examples are included at the endof this report.
  I employed a number of strategies for helping students learn to prepare for exams,
ranging from detailed Study Guides for each of the 5 exams and posting advice on CU Learn prior to exams, to soliciting information from the students after one particularly difficult text. (The prompt and visuals for this last exercise are included in the Resources below.) I adapted the content of the Study Guides and of the exams themselves based on the feedback I received from students. I also repeatedly encouraged them to study harder and longer. Though the final exam contained comprehensive and challenging questions, the results were excellent and demonstrated that students had indeed studied well.
  The exams also contained a series of graduated exercises in visual analysis (learning
to describe a work of art using a specific vocabulary of 10 terms), in critical analysis
(considering the context of a work and a range of issues from patronage to the artist’s role in different historical cultures), and in interpretation. A separate essay assignment focused on a comparative visual analysis of 2 works of art from different cultures. Feedback on the last inkshedding showed that many students felt they had gained skills in both visual analysis and visual literacy. On the final exam, I also offered students the opportunity to write about two works of art they had never seen.


What did I learn? What's next?


1. I learned much about student expectations – not only about how to address those
expectations directly through online postings and lecture material, but also about how to
shape and refine their expectations over the course of the semester through consistent and repetitive feedback to them.
2. Students were challenged by the minute papers/inksheddings, but seemed to enjoy this assessment process. There was a palpable intensity of attention and eagerness to give feedback when I asked them to write to me. Sometimes I did this at the outset and end of class; other times I broke up the lecture mid‐way. It was obviously important to students that I was listening and responding honestly to what they told me. I will continue to use this exercise in both large and small classes.
3. I greatly enjoyed creating word clouds with the feedback I received from students, but I wonder when will they be bored by this technique because it is so ubiquitous.
Nevertheless, I will continue to experiment with word clouds with students.
4. I may not continue to use the online journal entries with such a large class. If I use them again, I will encourage greater involvement and consistency with the Teaching Assistants.
5. When teaching large entry‐level courses such as ARTH 1400: World Art 2, I will
definitely continue to present exam strategies, solicit feedback on how students are
studying, and encourage their hard work. I think this is something my colleagues might
want to do as well.

Sharing with colleagues?


Four members of my department attended the Assessment Institute, and we will share our reports with one another. In addition, I plan to share my experiences, and this report, with particular colleagues who will be teaching this course during the next two years. The Art History area also holds regular faculty seminars, and I will offer to speak about what I have learned in teaching ARTH 1400 this year.


Resources:


A. Description of contemplative practices:


1. THE BOW: An Introduction (posted on CU Learn during 2nd week of class)
  On January 10, 2011, the first day of ARTH 1400 World Art 2, I asked if you were
interested in a little experimenting with the lecture format of our class, and hearing a resounding“ YES,” I introduced "the bow." First, I explained a bit about what the bow is and why I teach it. Nearly all cultures have a form of greeting, from formal waist bows in China and Japan to the familiar namaste in India, as well as various styles of handshakes, hugs, and kisses elsewhere. For the past 8 years in smaller classes, I have regularly taught techniques of mindfulness meditation as an aid to learning and building community in a class. The bow is one of those techniques. Repeatedly, students have told me that this was one of the most significant practices we would do together.
  What does it mean? When we bow at the beginning of a class, we are saying, first, “I
have arrived. No matter what else I was doing, I am here now.” Second, we are saying “I am here with respect -- for myself, for all the others present in the room, for the material that we will study and look at today.”
  How do we bow? I ask everyone to sit up straight, to place your hands on your knees and both feet on the floor, and to soften your gaze toward the center of the room. Sometimes, I demonstrate the bow. After everyone has stopped moving, we simply bow our heads for a moment and sit up again. At the end of class we “bow out.”
  So, I invite you all to be fully present in class, and to cultivate an attitude of respect for others and the material that we will be studying this semester. We will be experimenting with other meditative techniques during the semester, and I look forward to hearing your feedback!


2. “One‐minute arriving”: About 8 weeks into the class, and after receiving considerable
feedback from students, I introduced “One‐minute arriving.” Using a timer, I would
encourage students to come into class, take their seat quietly, and simply breathe.


3. “Beholding practice”: This involved looking at an image on the screen – “beholding it” - for approximately one minute. I talked with students about how we are so used to looking at media images that we do not really know how to look and to see what is before us. Often, following this practice, I would ask students to talk with a person next to them about what they had observed.


B. Inkshedding prompts and screenshots of word clouds and my slides of my
feedback follow.


Inkshedding #1 at outset of course:
What do you see as the greatest promise or value of studying World Art?


Inkshedding #5 at end of course:
What was the greatest value of studying World Art this semester?


(In the narrative above, I noted considerable similarities in the results of these two
inksheddings.)

Inkshedding #2: What is the muddiest point or issue so far in the course? (I showed this slide and talked about each of the issues in depth.)


Inkshedding #3:
What has been the effect on you of our first contemplative practice, “The Bow”?


Inkshedding #4: I asked students to answer a series of questions about the 3rd exam: How much did you study? How did you study? Did you use the Study Guide? Did you practice short answer questions? Any suggestions for Exam 4?


In a subsequent lecture, I showed the following three slides:


An example of a flash card made by a student:


I added the next slide in order to address student questions and reactions to the course exams more generally:

 

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