Humanities and Art History
Target course/course context: ARTH 1400-750 World Art II (16 students, freshmen, taught in Libby RAP on MWF for 50 minutes each), though the ideas ended up being implemented more widely in another Libby RAP class: Dialogue of Art and Religion (17 students, freshmen on TTH for 1hr 15min each)
What did you do?
• Target of improvement/evidence: To make threshold concepts clearer and more explicit to my students: 1) effectively describe an artwork/visual material, using discipline-specific vocabulary 2) learn to link objects/visual material to context and concepts (religious beliefs, gender, race, style, biography, history, patronage, artistic traditions) 3) gain an understanding of the goal of art history: to evaluate visual material using methodological and theoretical tools in order to further understand our own system(s) of knowledge.
• What did you do?
o One of the most impactful realizations I had, as a result of the FTEP Institute, was that students have no idea, going into the semester, what art history is and what purpose it serves. This was made clear to me as a result of a quick, anonymous survey conducted on the first day of class in both the classes listed above. In the World Art class, I had each student fill in an index card in answer to those two questions. In the Dialogue of Art and Religion class, they responded to slightly different questions: what is the purpose of religious art? Why should we study it? From their answers, I quickly realized that I had to keep returning to the threshold concepts of the two classes throughout the course of the semester.
o 1) I implemented the Discussion Board tool on CULearn at two points in the semester of my Dialogue of Art and Religion class: once at the end of our first unit (week 3 of class) and another toward the end of the class (week 12).
o 2) Over the course of the semester I gave a total of ten in-class quizzes related to readings and lectures devoted to the units we covered. In the later quizzes, the last question was of a reflective/assessment nature. It asked students to consider which of the points that we discussed were the most important and why.
o 3) Some of the quizzes were graded by the students (and then, finally, by me). The purpose of this was to get students to understand what constituted a “good answer” and what didn’t.
• What difference did it make?
o 1) Using the Discussion Board tool was very effective:
♣ students were given the opportunity to spell out what they had learned about a given threshold concept and I used their answers to further discussion in subsequent classes and to clear up misconceptions
♣ some students seemed more “talkative” online than in class: it occurred to me that students who didn’t normally speak up in class were much more comfortable sharing their thoughts in the discussion forum. I noticed greater in-class participation across the board following the implementation of this strategy and could tell that they became more invested in what turned into an engaged, participatory intellectual community in the classroom.
o 2) The reflective/assessment questions on the quizzes were useful to me in that they showed me where I was falling short and where bottlenecks were appearing (which I otherwise would have missed without that tool).
o 3) Having students grade other students’ quizzes (sometimes singly and sometimes in pairs) was also very effective. I was surprised to see that they often were harder on their peers than I was! And I was pleased to see that in the exams, questions seemed to be more fully and thoughtfully answered.
What did you learn? What's next?
• What worked? What did you learn?
o What’s really interesting is that it has become apparent to me that the World Art class, as I have been teaching it, needs a major overhaul. The reason that I applied these strategies to the Dialogue of Art and Religion class and not to the World Art class is that I feel my teaching of the World Art content has become stale. The vitality and intellectual curiosity that was a characteristic of the Dialogue of Art and Religion need to be re-introduced in the World Art course. There is no reason that the experiential element that was such a large part of the first class cannot be part of the second. Collaborative learning (discussion board, assessing peers’ assignments/quizzes, small team research projects), getting students to identify, define, and apply threshold concepts, and continuous assessment of students’ understanding and engagement with the class will be my major concerns as I revise the syllabus and content presentation.
• Sharing with colleagues?
o I’m looking forward to getting together with my Art History colleagues, Deborah Haynes and Bob Nauman, to discuss the revision of the World Art class. This is something we all have an interest in and have been talking about for quite some time. Hopefully, we’ll train stronger future art historians as a result!
• Index cards
o What art history? What purpose do you think it serves? (World Art)
o What is the purpose of religious art? Why do you think we should study it? (Dialogue of Art and Religion)
• Discussion Board questions (for Dialogue of Art and Religion)
o 1st set of Questions (week 3): How do the three religions we're studying compare? What are some things you learned about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that struck you? What purpose do you believe the three religious traditions we have studied (and religion in general) serve? Do you consider yourself religious? If so, why is it important to you? If not, why are you not?
o 2nd set of Questions (week 13): [Students were asked to find an article online about the incident in Loveland, CO, concerning the destruction of artist Enrique Chagoya’s artwork.] Check the Discussion board to make sure no one has already posted the URL link to the article. If they have, find a new one. If they haven't, post the article's URL and add a comment addressing ONE of the following, making sure that no one has already made a similar comment:
- something about the story that surprised you
- something that made you think
- something that was well said by the author
- something you agreed with/disagreed with that the author said