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It is my belief that there is no formulaic approach or sequence for
inquiry-based learning in art experiences. I think the approach used
depends on the lesson objectives, the art images incorporated, and the
I personally usually prefer to introduce works of art through
themes and discuss a number of works from a variety of cultures
based on the chosen theme. Students can then develop their own
works using the same theme, but interpreting it in terms of
their own experiences. I also think that when students see a
number of works based on a common theme, it frees them to
develop their own original interpretations. This approach also
tends to eliminate copying of the original exemplars.
There are times when it would be more meaningful to introduce
artworks after student production activities or at other times
within the lesson. I also believe that questioning strategies need to
be embedded in all approaches. It is difficult for me to understand how
inquiry learning "could bleed the soul out of art." Asking
questions encourages critical thinking and challenges students
to find their own meanings and solutions.
> Glen Williams, Mary Jordan and Linda Sleight have expressed ambivalence
> about the inquiry approach they find in "Our Place in the World." I'm not
> quite sure whether they find the problem in the curriculum resource itself
> or in the rather more belabored online seminar activities. Glen writes
> that he is "both stimulated and upset." Mary and Linda write; "on one side
> it [inquiry learning] seems to be a wonderful process for engaging students
> in meaningful thinking about art, while on the other side, the potential
> for this to become the primary focus and bleed the soul out of art is also
> a scary possibility."
> In both their contributions to the discussion, these teachers imply concern
> for sequence. Glen writes: "First I believe that you can find words for
> things TOO EARLY early. Experiences in art, both in viewing and making, can
> be reduced to a discussion thereby killing the awe." Mary and Linda write
> "In our experience with elementary students and classroom teachers, the
> INITIAL EXPERIENCE of a hands-on activity is what creates the excitement
> and the heightened awareness that allows them to identify with artists
> across time. It is the intense personal involvement with the problem
> solving process while creating art that internalizes for them the power of
> art, personally and historically. At this point, questions that they
> personally wrestled with during the production can be generalized to
> artists across time, and their buy-in and excitement in exploring answers
> to those questions is more vital. It is here that an experienced teacher
> can also introduce additional questions to carry them to new areas they may
> not have considered."
> The sequence of core lessons in "Our Place in the World" certainly does
> "find words for things" from the very outset by introducing the theme in
> relationship to the students' own lives and interests. However, the
> sequence has been designed to REVERSE THE USUAL SEQUENCE of presenting art
> works as a motivation or examples for art making activities. Instead the
> recommended sequence of core lessons involve students FIRST with art making
> and LATER with art history, for many of the reasons Mary and Linda so
> eloquently outline above.
> I believe that art learning can be achieved with the aid of many different
> sequences of lessons. The sequence outlined in "Our Place in the World"
> moves through these steps: 1) theme introduction, 2) drawing based on
> imaginative fiction which illustrates the theme, 3) hands on collage which
> relates the theme to students' lives, 4) major art making with reflection
> focused on inquiry questions, and 5) inquiry into key artworks. A teacher
> choosing to be guided more by inquiry than by the theme might begin by
> introducing an inquiry question and then move either to a related art
> making activity or to an art history activity.
> As Glen, Mary and Linda point out, what happens first matters. What
> principles or rules of thumb have you found or developed through your
> experience that have helped you determine the sequence of activities and
> lessons in your curriculum? Can thoughtfully planned sequence play a role
> in avoiding the kind of "formulaic" inquiry approach that Glen cautions
> against? I would like to join Glen when he writes that he is "most
> anxious to see what this seminar is going to produce."
Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867