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Lesson Plans

CURRICULUM ISSUES: Novice & Expert teachers

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mary Erickson (MARY.ERICKSON)
Mon, 07 Apr 1997 09:47:05 -0800

This is a response to a couple of messages Glen Williams has posted
regarding his concerns about inquiry learning as approached in "Our Place
in the World." As I've been thinking about how I want to respond, several
listserv members have joined in the discussion. In his last message Glen
described a wonderful activity he used in his high school humanities class
to generate "home grown" questions. It is clear that Glen establishes an
inquiry environment in their classrooms and models masterful questioning
for their students. Novice teachers or teachers who have less art
knowledge may still be refining these abilities and may benefit from some
structured examples.

One of the great difficulties of designing any curriculum for publication
(in print or electronically) is making it useful to novice and master
teachers who teach diverse students in very different communities in
distinctly different school situations. Karen Palcho wrote earlier in this
seminar that she didn't know why art teachers would consider using "Our
Place in the World," because they will have already devoted much time and
effort in developing their own curricula structured specifically for their
own situations (I am paraphrasing her remarks from memory, so I hope
they're close to her meaning). What sort of curriculum resource can be
useful to novice teachers and master teachers as well?

Stevie Mack (of CRIZMAC publications) very generously advised me for
several years as we worked to prepare "Stories of Art" (the larger
curriculum resource in which "Our Place in the World" is the first thematic
unit) for print publication. She reminded me that whereas master teachers
could use (in fact could not be stopped from using) "Stories of Art" any
way they chose, that novice teachers might need lessons spelled out in
sequence, as a starting point, for developing their own versions and
perhaps ultimately their own quite distinctive units of study. My way of
coping with this problem of providing a useful resource for novice and
expert teachers has been, for the moment, to set aside print publication
plans and to design an electronic curriculum resource with several
navigational systems.

Pat Rogers, of Bemidji State University, in a recent NAEA presentation
analyzed three navigational systems in "Our Place in the World": 1)
NEAR-LINEAR NAVIGATION: The Core Lessons of "Our Place in the World"
provide a step by step path for the teacher; 2) GUIDED NAVIGATION: The
theme and inquiry questions (and icons) provide alternative structures to
guide the teacher's path of exploration through "Our Place in the World"
determined by the specific situation and needs of that teacher; and 3)
SELF-DIRECTED NAVGATION: Experienced teachers can use the key artworks,
inquiry questions, and themes to inspire more in-depth exploration
throughout the world wide web or to inspire their own innovative
alternative plans. I've had the happy experience of presenting themes and
inquiry questions to teachers in the Omaha Public Schools and at the Ohio
Partnership for Visual Art and discovering the marvelous, unpredictable,
completely unanticipated directions and plans that master teachers invented
with their students.

With the advent of national (and in many regions also state) standards,
come increasing calls for assessment. With assessment in visual arts may
well come an increased demand for curriculum resources which provide
guidance for teachers to help their students reach national or state
standards. Even without the pressure of assessment standards, diverse
school structures present diverse needs for curriculum resources. For
example a district that has invested in trained art teachers for
instruction throughout the elementary and secondary grades has quite
different curriculum needs from districts with art specialists whose
responsibility is to assist classroom teachers in delivering art education
at the elementary grades, or from those districts that attempt to provide
art instruction with no trained art personnel at all.

I have always been an advocate for exploiting the professional experience
and judgment of art teachers in building appropriate curricula for their
own classrooms and, working together, for their district. Can published
curricula be useful to art teachers? To other teachers who may have the
responsibility to teach art? To district art or curriculum supervisors?
If publishing art curricula is a worthwhile venture, what features would be
most valuable for those curricula to include? How broad an audience of
teachers can a curriculum developer hope to serve in any meaningful way?

When curricula could only be published in print, there was a necessary
economic pressure to develop curricula for a wide range of teachers. For
example more curricula have been published with a target market of
classroom teachers than for a target market of art teachers. Perhaps as
both curriculum writers and curriculum users/browsers gain fluency and
access to electronic publications, curricula will evolve to match the
distinctive needs and interests of the extraordinary range of teachers who
are responsible for teaching art.