In our rapidly changing society, the analysis of images is not a skill only required by art professionals. Visual literacy is crucial for both art and non-art majors; as a result, many places of higher education require that all students take an art history or art appreciation class. These classes must prepare art majors for the next level of coursework and introduce non-art majors to the field. My courses include both traditional art historical analysis and in-class activities designed to teach students how the skills learned in art history can be transferred to other disciplines. I also highlight the regional art and cultural resources that are available to the students.
One of my goals as a professor is to prepare art and art history majors for a higher level of coursework in their field. A major part of this is helping them to become comfortable discussing art. This means that I must acquaint my students with the vocabulary and concepts necessary for the discussion of art. In order to do this, I first introduce a term or concept and then model its usage. After I discuss a few works of art, I then ask my students questions that direct them to use the concept I have just taught. I will do this throughout the semester building on ideas and terms discussed previously. At the end of the semester, my students will be assigned a comparison essay where they can practice the skills they have learned in class.
Skills that are learned in the art history lecture hall, such as verbal and written communication and visual observation and analysis, do not exist in a vacuum. These skills are necessary for students who work in all disciplines. I focus on these skills throughout the semester; however, it is through in-class activities that I demonstrate how they are relevant to non-art majors.
In one such activity that I have used in the past, I divided the class into teams and assigned each group a different article written about the long-standing debate on the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles. Each article represented a slightly different view of the debate and some authors were in favor of returning the antiquities back to Greece and others were not. Each student group found the main thesis of the article and summarized it for the class. Afterwards, the class opened for discussion about cultural ownership issues and art repatriation. I found this to be a very successful class. Students that were seemingly uninterested in the previous class that focused on the introduction and memorization of the different parts of the Ionic and Doric columns were actively participating in the debate. Dividing the class into parts that included lecture, teamwork, and debate, along with bridging an ancient artwork to a modern-day dispute, created greater class participation.
As a student, I succeed in classes where I was given the opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with my professors. Not only did these relationships encourage me to seek out help when it was needed, they also inspired me to work harder. Because of this I make every attempt to foster relationships with my students. I have an open-door policy, inviting my student to come by my office. These interactions have proven to be mutually beneficial, as it gives my students one-on-one feedback and reminds me to be reflexive in my teaching in order to improve as an educator.