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EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTIONAL THEMES
The use of the broad themes for studying art in a culturally diverse
society (Chalmers, G.F. . "Why Do We Make Art?" under Broad Themes:
Celebrating Pluralism) structures art learning about "makers" and captures
the essence of human activity in the arts and in societies. The potential
for understanding the nature of humankind in this way is powerful. After
reading Grahame Chalmer's list (ascribers of status, interpreters,
mythmakers, recorders of history, storytellers, etc.), I conclude that this
content for students' acquisition and inquiry presents an interesting and
relevant exploration for studying art and stimulates interdisciplinary
thinking. One can organize themes for sociological purposes. Consider how
art connects across disciplines: within varied social settings/cultures
(social studies/sciences), influenced by political and economical movements
and events (political science/economics), differed within ecosystems--when
and where (environmental), based in historical contexts (history), studied
through anthropology and human behaviors (nature of man/sciences), and
expressed and explained linguistically (languages/philosophy). We can
envision natural connecting patterns and systems because what we learn
about art is most often what we learn about its maker.
To create thematic units across levels of schooling based on the
above proposition, one would design curriculum themes according to stated
art program goals and general education goals within the school. It would
be interesting if one could find that alignment and cohesion. Has anyone
developed thematic units related to the Chalmer's listing or ones like it?
Structuring curriculum around art learning themes is effective for
the following reasons. Educationally powerful themes . . .
1. Raise the conceptual understanding about art beyond acquiring isolated
bits of knowledge and skill.
2. Structure learning experiences that are meaningful and make sense.
3. Arrange the art learning into coherent relationships, not fragmented.
Learning is about something and becomes visible.
4. Take advantage of what we have known all along that our brain has the
capacity to make complex connections to ongoing experiences--that the brain
needs to grasp larger patterns--interconnectedness.
5. Create varied, active experiences that satisfy and appeal to the
student's interest and sense of relevancy, therefore, contributing to long
6. Relate to life outside of the classroom.
7. Hmmm I'll keep thinking . . .
I believe all essential art learning will be understood by students if
connected to generalized statements and "big ideas."
Certainly, Mary Erickson's thematic units do a great modelling of
Eldon, you stated: "I've been looking at the core lessons, especially the
objectives. I want to call attention to the distinctions being made in the
writing of the objectives. The language makes it very clear when one is
teaching skill developoment (Students learn how to...). For the teaching of
facts and generalizations, the language of the objective prompt reads
"Students learn that...", followed by the specific facts students are
expected to learn.
The student activities and the assessment strategies seem to be
characterized and shaped by the language of the objectives. I hope
teachers will find this use of language in writing objectives helpful.
The distinctions are important in the design of instruction, especially
in the approach to assessment."
I have thought about the distinctions you attend to above, namely
the use of skill and knowledge in stating objectives. Is there a common
understanding about the use of the term "objectives?" Tyler and others
refer to instructional objectives as large concepts to be accomplished. In
Illinois, we refer to those as learning outcomes and leave lesson
objectives to those daily, more specific expectations. In general, we say
that learning outcomes are what we want to accomplish over time (students
will learn that ..., students will learn how ...), and lesson objectives
are what we expect within a lesson. I think it's just semantics but
confusing for new Illinois curriculum writers. We will use the objectives
in Our Place in the World and transfer them to assessable learning
outcomes. I think your point is to guide attention to the difference in the
two categories, namely, acquiring knowledge and skills. Thanks.