This blog is dedicated to exploring issues of pedagogy for Art & Design teachers at the college level.
Graduate programs spend a lot of time helping students become mature artists and learn how to get a teaching job, but often overlook the practicalities of what to do once that job has been attained. A candidate may look great on paper and even interview well, but might not have a clue as to what to do when entering the classroom. K-12 Art Education puts a high emphasis on pedagogy, however Art & Design graduate students are often thrown into a classroom with little or no pedagogical preparation. Few graduate programs have true pedagogy programs embedded within their studio requirements. Many institutions don’t offer teaching-related mentorship, which leaves new teachers struggling in the classroom, unsure of how to maximize their time, take advantage of resources, or provide a quality educational experience to their students.
This blog is meant to address these issues with practical advice for potential and new teachers. Angela Faris Belt, Jane Alden Stevens and Suzanne Szucs, all veteran teachers with over 60 years of experience between them, will discuss issues such as how to put together teaching materials, what and how much to teach, how to effectively engage students in the classroom, what “assessment” really means and what to do to be successful as a teacher. Issues such as different types of positions, from teaching colleges to research institutions, often requiring different strategies within the classroom.
Focus will be on presenting relevant information and resources in a format that will generate discussion from novices to veteran teachers and hopefully, create a forum for mentorship in this vital field.
Preparing to Teach
I believe that it is time to reexamine our approach to teaching by asking, “How do faculty contribute to student learning?” rather than asking, “How can we become better teachers?”
– Chancellor Alan E. Guskin, Antioch University, 1995
Preparing to teach can be a complex task, similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many elements to consider that it is easy to forget that student learning should be the driving force behind all decisions that go into one’s teaching. By remaining focused on student learning, professors can forge their own unique teaching identity and make classrooms far richer learning environments.
There are many questions to be asked and answered when preparing to teach. Some are practical (ex. How do I create a syllabus?), while others pose philosophical challenges (ex. How does my own creative work connect with my teaching?). This section examines many of the questions and issues that arise when preparing to teach a course.
Most professors in higher education learn how to teach simply by doing it, not having received much formal pedagogical training. It is only logical that faculty use their former teachers as models for their own teaching. All too often, this approach becomes so entrenched and comfortable that professors never stop to consider that there might be better, more effective methods for enhancing student learning. Even the most successful teachers must update their coursework for new generations of students with progressively different learning styles.
What happens once one is actually in the classroom and actively teaching a course? The options offered in this section offer a wide variety of approaches to teaching practice.
Evaluating Student Work
As teachers we are facilitators of student learning, but how do we know if students are learning what they need and to what degree? There is a range of methods to evaluate student learning; ideally they are objective and designed to benefit both teachers and students. Successful student evaluation is a cycle that begins alongside developing assignments and is carried through multiple evaluations throughout the course.
This section includes discussions of several evaluation methodologies including development and use of rubrics as a tool for assessing course and curricular effectiveness.
Many graduate students embark on a teaching career without much thought as to the type of job for which they might be best suited. In the midst of studio and thesis work, it is hard to find the time to research schools and the pressure to find a job, any job, might overwhelm a discriminating investigation of the kind of jobs available. Positions vary tremendously at different institutions (ex. a University that emphasizes research will have a much different focus than a Community College that emphasizes classroom learning). Finding the right position, one that is suitable for the candidate’s ambition and temperament, is an important step in building not only a successful, but also an enjoyable teaching career.
Being Successful on the Job
Securing a teaching assignment is only the first step to becoming a successful teacher. This section will explore how to create a comfortable work environment, how to avoid certain pitfalls that come with the academic territory and how to foster a collegial environment. The importance of teaching evaluations, assessment, networking and the value of professional development will be discussed. Because you’ll no longer have the structure of grad school that comes with the automatic prioritization of your art making practice, learning how to manage your life as an artist while working as a teacher will also be included here as well as types of teaching assignments, the job search process and what to expect during the interview process.