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Lesson Plans

RE: college faculty

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
James Linker (jal19)
Tue, 3 Feb 1998 09:24:19 -0500

>Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 16:09:06 -0700 (MST)
>From: Amy L Pate <apate>

>I am interested in college level faculty development. Specifically I
>would like to know what orientation programs were offered to you when you
>were first hired, if any. I would also like to know of any workshops,
>inservices or seminars offered by your college to help you teach college

I have now taught at a community college (Glendale CC, Glendale, AZ) and
two major universities (Arizona State U. and Penn State U.). In all three
instances the answer to your inquiry is -- nothing, zippo, nada, zilch. By
and large, college art is taught on the master/apprentice model -- you
teach students to do what you do, the way you were taught to do it. You're
an artist (painter, sculptor, ceramist, photographer, whatever) first.
Therefore it is assumed that you know how to transfer your knowledge of
your chosen "craft". In addition it is assumed that the better you are at
your "craft" the more you have to teach. I got my BFA in photo from a
prestigious eastern private school, well endowed by the major corporate
photo powers. Most of the faculty were burned out commercial photographers,
who had quit to go back to "art" school, and then had been hired to teach
by the institution that gave them their teaching credential. Needless to
say, most of these people were LOUSY teachers (it's doubtful that they were
any better photographers in their earlier career incarnations, but that
really isn't a factor). All you have to have to teach college art is an MFA
and a solid exhibition résumé.

At some point during my first stint in grad school, I began to question the
wisdom of this system. I was teaching Photo I as a teaching assistant (but
really on my own, free to write my own curriculum and organize my course as
I saw fit), watching my colleagues do the same, taking classes from
well-known artists and writers in the field, and it became clear that some
of these people were teaching well and others were not. It had little to do
with the work that went in the gallery for their thesis shows or the
pictures that had recently been accquired by *insert prestigious museum
here*. I found that I felt at home in the classroom. Some of that was
admittedly related to taking pleasure in the sound of my own voice, but I
liked the interaction with the students, enjoyed the way they unsettled my
assumptions about life, the universe and everything, and my artwork fed off
the intellectual provocations generated in the classroom. I came to believe
that whatever my styrengths as an artist, teaching was a far more
worthwhile thing to do, and I have identified myself as an educator first,
artist second ever since.

This is why I came back to grad school a second time, this time in Art Ed.
I put a lot of energy into thinking about teaching (aka "Theorizing"). I've
come to be obsessed with questions beyond how to simply be effective in the
classroom. The purposes and goals of education are far from clear and
coherent. Each of us who teaches owes it to our students to be reevaluating
our purposes and goals every time we complete a lesson. While I have
enjoyed advice and encouragement from many excellent teachers over the
years, until now I have never had formal schooling in the craft of
teaching. And that craft cannot be encapsulated in a lesson plan.




Use each man after his desert and who shall `scape whipping?

Shakespeare, *Hamlet*


james alan linker
doctoral candidate, art education
the pennsylvania state university
school of visual arts