And here it is, the end of November and my final post as NAEA Monthly Mentor. I had not written or “blogged” prior to this experience, and I must say that I’ve really enjoyed it.
In my previous posts, I’ve argued for the use of “Big” or enduring ideas to focus curriculum planning. I’ve mentioned that this approach is certainly not mine, but is an approach consistent with what many others in our field and in education, writ large, have been promoting.
Leaders within the TETAC project, a project mentioned in an earlier post, developed a diagram to map curriculum planning based on enduring ideas. This can be found on p. 18 of Rethinking Curriculum in Art. The diagram shows how, in planning a unit of instruction, we identify the idea that will ground the unit, along with, 1. a rationale that explains why it is important to understand the enduring idea, 2. a list of artworks, artifacts, artists, and so on that will serve to animate or “bring to life” the idea, 3. three or four key concepts and three or four (essential) questions that are related to and deepen understanding of the enduring idea, and 4. a list of objectives, stated broadly, that capture the understandings that the unit will aim to teach. Note that we also plan what we refer to in the chart as an “end of unit performance task,” for which we designate a plan to assess the extent to which students ultimately come to understand the enduring idea and key concepts.
The TETAC diagram also shows how individual lessons, including various inquiry-based activities, allow students to explore the key concepts and essential questions of the unit. My students and I have found this chart to be very helpful in planning curriculum. This also is the approach that my colleagues and I have embraced in our art education program at Kutztown University.
When my colleague, Eldon Katter, and I developed the middle school textbook program for Davis Publications, we welcomed the opportunity to show how curriculum can be organized around “big” or enduring ideas. We, like some other art educators, had been influenced by the writings of Ernst Boyer, who was commissioner of education under President Jimmy Carter and served for 16 years as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Dr. Boyer presented the notion of developing K-16 curriculum around what he called “Human Commonalities.” http://www.irvingisd.net/curriculum/documents/art/Elementary/D-Human_Comonalities/3-%20Human%20Commonalities.pdf. These commonalities provided the basis for the thematic curriculum in the middle school and then, later, when we also wrote the elementary textbooks, Explorations in Art. http://www.davisart.com/Portal/Commerce/CommerceDefault.aspx
In what follows, I wish to give you a head’s up on some other resources for teaching with enduring ideas, just in case you are unaware of them.
Craft In America
For three seasons, PBS has run the Craft in America series. http://www.craftinamerica.org/ Each segment is based on a theme, and over the years, these big ideas have included Memory, Landscape, Community, Origins, Process, Messages and Family, with more to come in the next year or two. Once on the website, you are able to view the complete video series online. In addition, instructions for purchasing the videos, should you wish to have them in your possession, are available on the site.
I have worked with a team of art educators, Amy Bloom, Dolores Eaton, Lise Dube Scherr, and Kathleen Walck, to create the Educator Guides for the series. The Educator Guides contain suggestions for viewing and discussing the videos and various related topics, as well as suggestions for art making. In addition, each back issue of School Arts magazine for the years 2007-08 and 2008-09 has resources for teaching with the Craft in America series. The magazine is available in digital format, including past issues. Here is an example from 2008: http://www.schoolartsdigital.com/schoolarts/20080809#pg24
CRAFT IN AMERICA, Inc. is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization with a mission to promote and advance original handcrafted work, through educational programs in all media. In addition to information and video clips of the artists featured in the television series, the website has hundreds of images of craft objects and links to many additional craft artists’ websites. This really is a wonderful resource for craft traditions, artists, and processes. http://www.craftinamerica.org/
Looking and Learning
For the last two years, a team of art teachers and I have produced a four-page pullout section, “Looking and Learning,” for School Arts magazine. This is another resource that demonstrates how big or enduring ideas can be brought to life through a consideration of contemporary and traditional art objects from around the world and throughout time. Here’s the October, 2011, Looking and Learning 8-page pullout based on the theme, “Responding to Nature:” http://www.schoolartsdigital.com/schoolarts/201110#pg34
The Dinner Party Curriculum Project
You may know about Judy Chicago’s iconic artwork, The Dinner Party, but you may not know that a team of art educators created a curriculum resource for which the artwork is a catalyst. http://www.throughtheflower.org/dpcp/index.php
This comprehensive curriculum framework contains what we call, “Encounters,” each of which has many different suggestions for exploring such contemporary topics as women’s achievements in history, issues of race, gender and class, art and social activism, and feminism, among others.
In addition to the online curriculum, The Dinner Party Curriculum Project includes a summer institute for teachers, held each year at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. During this institute, we explore the various curricular perspectives and pathways generated through a careful consideration of the artwork. We visit the Brooklyn Museum where we meet up with Judy Chicago to explore The Dinner Party in its new permanent home in the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/
We’ve created a website about the institute to share what we do and provide information for those who would like to join us. www.thedinnerpartyinstitute.com
Thanks to Linda Scott at NAEA for inviting me to serve as the November Mentor. I certainly have enjoyed posting some of my thoughts and hearing from you through the website and through emails. I’m happy to say that Davis Publications has asked me to continue to “blog” on their website. So, look for an announcement on the Davis Publications site, http://www.davisart.com, early in 2012. My best wishes to you as you look around you and find evidence of the human spirit and as you dig deeply for relevant and provocative ideas to ground your curriculum.