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Lesson Plans


CURRICULUM ISSUES: Knowledge or skills

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mary Erickson (MARY.ERICKSON)
Sun, 13 Apr 1997 18:48:26 -0700


TPower asks:

"Should I be using the term skill building? Should I be saying concept
development or understanding along with skill building. (I hope that we are
not moving toward too much conceptualization because a value of arts
education is the opportunity to manipulate materials and gain more control
over our hands and ideas.)"

Later s/he goes on to say:

"I think that it was determined back in the fifties and sixties that the
experience was worth more than the facts and rules and that is why art went
the way of process oriented lessons."

One easy answer is: If you want to follow the National Standards you need
to do both, since the standards purport to identify what youngsters should
KNOW (understand) and BE ABLE TO DO (skill).

But that's too easy. Philosophers and psychologists can explain better
than I can how knowledge and skills interrelate. Some label what teachers
traditionally call a "skill" as a special kind of knowledge. They call it
"precedural knowledge." On the other hand "understanding" is a term that
implies more than "knowledge." Understanding involves certain abilities,
like the ability to compare or analyze, or hypothesize. I don't think
we're talking about an either-or situation here.

As a teacher-educator and curriculum developer, I find the distinction
between knowledge and skill to be a useful one, as you seem to. You may
have noticed that all the objectives in "Our Place in the World" are
expressed as students learning HOW TO do something (skill) or students
learning THAT something is the case (KNOWLEDGE). This is a helpful
distinction in guiding the planning of appropriate activities and
assessment procedures. However, lessons within "Our Place in the World"
include BOTH knowledge and skill objectives for BOTH art making and for art
history. I believe it is a mistake to see art history as ALL knowledge and
art making as ALL skill (or "process," a term you use in your message).

Let me offer a couple of examples: ART MAKING KNOWLEDGE OBJECTIVE =
Students learn that nails are more likely to split if not predrilled; or
ART HISTORY SKILL OBJECTIVE = Students learn how to ask questions that help
them better imagine an actual artwork based on viewing a reproduction.

Some of my motivation for writing "Our Place in the World" was to offer an
example of how art history is more than "facts and rules" (a couple of
terms you used in your message). When art history is taught as inquiry the
focus is on helping youngsters play with, experiment with, "manipulate,"
ideas in art history.

Thanks for your contibution to the seminar discussion (and for your kind words).

Mary Erickson


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