Notes after PLB tutorial 7.11

Today’s tutorial with Pras and AC was both interesting and productive, thinking about the overlaps between what AC is doing with tutorials and what I am doing with crits. We talked a bit about focus groups and the issues around peer observation, agreeing that in both our cases the latter would likely raise too many other issues and complicate the studies. We discussed the role of tutor as a facilitator rather than a ‘teacher’ and Pras passed on a text for us both to think about.

AC brought up the time issues in my upcoming planned crit session. My outline of there being 5 minutes per art work for silent consideration- focused on observation without evaluation- to him seemed to be too short. I will bear that in mind and attempt to alter the schedule to suit.

Other points:

  • Need to make an info sheet for students to pre- read on the day.
  • Consent forms for the focus group
  • Key questions for the focus group
  • Session plan
  • Read the text about facilitation

Key points on Contemplative Pedagogy

Notes taken from chapter on Contemplative Pedagogy, in book ‘Contemplative Studies’ by Louis Komjathy

Relationship to critical pedagogy, awareness of what our own context brings to the classroom. Contemplative pedagogy offers one potential methodology for addressing these and similar issues. It raises the questions of what it means to be a critically aware teacher, one who is attentive to the actual needs of his or her students.

p166 (all quotes)

Contemplative pedagogy usually includes the three primary characteristics of of Contemplative studies, namely, practice commitment, critical subjectivity, and character development. This educational model is particularly interested in the employment of critical first-person discourse in academic enquiry and the educational project as a whole. Cp allows space for critical subjectivity and the exploration of a given topic through direct, personal and lived experience.

– challenges the denial of lived experience.

Ways of incorporating;

– The teaching can be informed by personal contemplative practice, therefore not directly used in the syllabus but creates a different atmosphere, values in the classroom.

– Incorporating practice into almost any course, i.e. by observing 5 minutes silence at the beginning of each class.

– Actual course in contemplative studies.

p169 KEY

Critical subjectivity, as being critically aware of our own subjective experiences, how they are our own, and one of many different viewpoints- a pluralistic and multi perspectival approach to philosophical engagement.

Reflecting on unquestioned assumptions, ingrained opinions, and unrecognised biases.

Complex negotiation between personal interiority, interpersonal engagement and transpersonal concerns.

Key points from ‘Non Violent Communication’ by Marshall Rosenburg

Notes on key points from Non Violent Communication:

‘NVC trains us to observe carefully, and to be able to specify behaviours and conditions that are affecting us. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are concretely wanting in any given situation (…) As NVC replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgement and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light’. P3

based on deep listening. Fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy.

For the first part of the crit:

Think simply about what you observe, the materials, the physicality of the object, the way it has been made etc… and pay attention to how you feel in relation to the work. The key to this time before the main crit is to observe without evaluating. 

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” ―Jiddu Krishnamurti

Communication that blocks compassion:

– Moralistic judgements… blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons, and diagnosis are all forms of judgement (in context of NVC).


100 -200 words to summarise the main points of each persons crit, including your own. These will be shared with the group afterwards- it is intended to encourage listening, while offering some insight into each persons interpretation of the discussion.

What is the work of the tutor/s as mediators: encouraging compassionate communication through example.

– chap 8 NVC book 

SIP preliminary research notes

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about how I can draw on a range of sources when considering a more holistic approach to group critique. The notes that follow are rough thoughts, which began with considering Susan Orr’s study ‘Critiquing the Crit’. This has been extremely useful for me, not least as this study takes a broad look at what the crit is in all forms, and presents a wide range of findings as to the problems with crits according to student and staff interviews. I had thought I would build on this study, however it rather helped me realise that my study looks into a more specific aspect of the crit, namely the emotional aspect which ‘Critiquing the Crit’ only briefly points at. Below I outline some problems with the crit structure, then (in italics) have taken the relevant points from Orr’s study, and finally some thoughts as to how I can re- structure my own crit session; thinking about observing without evaluating. 

Problems with the current crit structure.

The crit too often exists as an aspect of the Fine Art curriculum which escapes the scrutiny and responsibility in terms of teaching methodology. Though common factors are established; a group of students with one or two tutors engaging in discussion of one or two pieces of each students work, how this dialogue is structured is too often lacking – resulting in negative student experiences.

There are many formats of of crits, though this study specifically looks at the Group critique. Building on the research done by Susan Orr ‘critiquing the crit’ and my research conducted in the form of questionnaires with my own students, I am looking for ways to improve student experience by taking a more holistic approach. I begin this study with identifying some key aspects of the group critique which need to be addressed:

– Confusion as to the purpose of the crit, and of how to begin to think about works critically.

– Students taking criticism personally.

– Students lacking the skills to give critical feedback constructively, being scared of upsetting other students.

From Critiquing the Crit 

Emotional impact of the crit

q  Many contributors talked about the emotional side of crits.

q  There was a feeling that there is already a lot of stress in A&D students for variety of reasons including dyslexia and crits can add to stress.

q  Some staff had the feeling that students who feel uncomfortable with the crit format do not turn up and this has negative impact on their work. Lack of participation could be a self protective strategy on the part of some students.

q   However others report that there is no evidence that students mind the public nature.  There is also an unexplored question of gender difference.  

q  Others questioned the extent to which quiet students benefit  from crits and also pointed out that crits are difficult for shy students.

q  It was suggested that in year one students are nervous about crits at the start, then at level two this eases off and by level three they get very nervous again.

q  If the crit is summative rather than formative, then it can have a judgemental tone which students find difficult.  The crit can also become about  the student rather than the work and the two can get confused.  This relates to ipsative nature of much A&D feedback/assessment and, as indicated below, this is the kind of feedback students regard as legitimate.

q  Many talked about a tradition in art and design of what they saw as the bad crit where staff behave like prima donnas and indulge in fairly personalised criticisms of students’ work. This was often combined with a lack of concrete advice/help.  ‘I wonder what we learn from a tutor who provides only undefended opinions? ‘  

q  Some felt that, in the past in this tradition, the vast majority of crits did not comprise constructive critique that was well-argued.  More often it was vague or self-absorbed: comments such as: ‘I like it – don’t change it’, ‘I don’t like it – do it again’, ‘that’s crap’, ‘I can’t visualise it, so you probably shouldn’t do it’, ‘Can you resolve it more – more or less?’  ‘There’s something in there, but it’s not what I thought’. These were perceived as comments that helped no one understand what was good or bad, or what needed to be learnt in order to improve. This can leave students feeling helpless.

q  Some felt this unproductive tradition was in decline while others felt it still operated on some courses.

q  This did not preclude a belief in being challenging but one contributor pointed out that teachers need to understand difference between good and bad stress.

Language and feedback

q  Many contributors referred to the danger of using difficult language that students do not understand.  These are often words with a specific meaning in the context of the discipline.  Our glossary and the related staff development material in section 3 aim to address this issue.

q  Another criticism was of comments like ‘needs to be better’ rather than advice.  This was felt to be exacerbated by shortage of time.

q  The term ‘crit’ is a problem since it easily gets confused (by both staff and students) between critique and criticism in the exclusively  negative meaning of the word.

q  Staff often use norm referencing vocabulary by comparing one piece of work with another student.  There was some feeling amongst students that this is not fair. They expect ipsative comments based on their own previous achievement, personal circumstances etc.

q  Some contributors felt that students are often not encouraged to question accepted dogma, although this seems to vary with level of course.

q  Another issue raised was an ideology of teachers not wanting to interfere with the creative process therefore not saying much at all. 

Organisational challenges

Two key organisational challenges faced by crits were management of time and management of student involvement.

q  Crits often become atomised to one student at a time, even if the original intention was to discuss over-arching issues, so there is a danger that it becomes a series of mini-tutorials

q  Strong students dominate. The overtalker is as much of a problem as the undertalker. 

q  Questions to the whole group don’t get very good responses.

q  Some crits are completely teacher dominated. Sometimes the problem of the strong dominating applies to teachers as well as students.

q  Poor organisation combined with lack of time can lead to teachers barely looking at some work, whilst  spending large amounts of time over others. 

q  Crits improve student confidence and get students used to critical judgements on their work.  This helps develop skills in critical thinking.

The student perspective

 Findings from our student focus groups suggest:

q  Students can feel that the lecturers don’t tell them what they want and if they do, they often change their minds.  Students sometimes feel they get mixed messages. Staff might say one thing in a tutorial and then say something else in a crit.

q  Students dislike crits that feel negative, where there are no compliments, where students do not give their ideas and are not asked to contribute. ‘Taking part is what makes it fair…giving and taking feedback’.

q  They like feedback  to start with the positive.  They don’t like lecturers to use shock tactics. They shouldn’t ‘diss you to your face’.   Some crits feel like an emotional attack.

q  Some students feel that when asked to write the crit self evaluation during the crit, they switched off. 

q  Students often can’t remember a lot of their feedback. But they remember the feeling it gave them.  ‘They are saying blah blah blah and you’re hearing  ‘that is shit, you’re shit ’

q  Students do not like it when all the time and effort that goes into the work is not recognized.

q  Silence by teachers is taken as negative feedback.

q  The students like passing around of sketch-books/research-books to get everyone involved. 

q  Students would like to have more peer feedback. Students feel this allowed them to gain even more ideas as to how their work is viewed by others and thus other interpretations. However, there was recognition that getting different views of one’s work can be hard to cope with.

q  Students felt that student involvement could be an issue.  ‘the main problem [with the crit] is the part of students involved.  If they are unwilling or unable to take part fully then the process is very undermined’

q  Feedback helps students to get through ‘the stuck moment’.

q  Some students felt that crits helped them overcome shyness.

Suggestions outlined in this study;

– Role playing different roles to see different viewpoints etc

– Glossary of terms

– Recording learning, suggestions of a variety of ways of doing this. Eg paired scribing, students taking notes on their own work before and after the crit…

– managing the crit space – e.g. horseshoe so students can see the work and each other.

– language – ensure everyone understand the terminology used in the group.

– q

Recognise the emotional side of being critiqued and ensure crits deal with the positive as well as negative.  Silence is taken as negative feedback.   Students don’t remember the words but they remember the feeling the words gave them.  More negative comments from teachers lead to less student input.


SIP presentation, ‘The Contemplative Critique’

In today’s session we each presented our preliminary ideas for the self initiated project and received feedback from the group. I had some apprehension presenting my proposal, ‘The Contemplative Critique’ due to my concerns it might seem a bit too abstract or impractical but the response from the group was much more positive than I anticipated.

I outlined my ongoing interest in the group critique as a forum for fostering critical thinking skills, explaining the structured way that I approach crits as detailed in my last blog post. Critical thinking is typically considered as objective and in a sense a step outside of what is being analysed, we talk about ‘critical distance’. As I said in my very first blog post, I am very interested in the relationship between intuition and criticality in studio art practice and how we can share and discuss first person experience critically. This ties in to my long standing interest in contemplative studies, which has emerged from contemplative psychology, the neuroscientific study of contemplative practices and subsequent attempts at integrating quantitive scientific research with first person experiential research.

The field of contemplative studies has fed into pedagogy, now an emerging discipline in itself. In August I will be attending the UK’s first contemplative pedagogy conference, specifically looking at how it can be applied in higher education. My proposal it to take what comes out of this conference and attempt to integrate some element of contemplative teaching practice to the group critique situation.  The aims and purpose of this would be to cultivate attention in the group – where listening, presence, clarity and compassion are married to critical analysis of the art works presented.


The obvious questions were how this may actually manifest as practice, to which I can only at this point discuss contemplative practices such as reading, listening and writing as well as mindfulness meditation. It is not my idea to have students meditating in crits however! So this is all very uncertain. I want to avoid creating an atmosphere that is too ernest, or without fun! There were suggestions that the process could be recorded via a blog and or podcasts which is interesting. Another suggestion was to do sessions before the critique, which relax and or focus students (the raisin exercise being one suggestion). Lindsay suggested that an external observer could comment on the body language of the group in the space. There was a lot of talk about embodiment. I need to clarify my thoughts about this. A very helpful comment was to consider the history of the crit itself, being born of an art school culture that has been very white and patriarchal, so the legacies of the crit.

I am on the whole feeling quite positive and excited about this project. Studying the critique will in itself be rewarding, also if I can bring in the literature from my last blog post concerning the group dynamic along side new learning theory. Whatever comes of it, it feels like a very worthwhile endeavour!

Comments on fellow students post on text from Inclusive Learning and Teaching unit, with reference to the session on June 4th (Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies, References: 2018).

I have chosen to comment on Rebecca Stevenson’s post from her Inclusive Learning and Teaching unit (the person I was paired with did not post a link).  Rebecca posted the youtube video link for “The Room of Silence” with the accompanying question;

What would/could you do in your teaching practise to address the issues raised in this film? Is it possible as an individual practitioner to make a difference or can change only take place at institutional level? 

This video is a twenty minute documentary, interviewing students from RISD about their experience of group critique in relation to issues of race, white privilage, and the silence that their work has met in an educational environment where the majority of the students are white American. Firstly, I think this is a great documentary, each student interviewed gives very personal and honest descriptions of their experiences, it is very clear and affecting. Several students describe ‘the room of silence’ as a space where both fellow students and teachers are scared to comment on their works which deal directly with their own cultural issues for fear of saying the wrong thing and/ or simply not knowing what to say.

The most appropriate response to this seems to me to be equally honest. I am myself familiar with this fear of commenting on art works which deal with racial issues, being myself a white and privileged teacher. However, we all need to learn and for me this happens through dialogue – there is no shame in the teacher learning from the student! As an attempt to answer Rebecca’s question- YES it is absolutely possible for an individual to make a difference. To take this situation of the critique group specifically, I would argue that the teacher’s role here, is to create a democratic space within which each person (teacher included) hold equal ground. The teacher is a mediator, monitoring when certain individuals dominate and encouraging those quieter to feel comfortable contributing. The teacher offers a structure – this is key. The structure is there to foster critical thinking, rather than imposing agenda’s or opinions. Approaching the critique this way, the content becomes something that each student can share with each other and the teacher for a mutual learning. This refers back to the conversation we had in the last session. My own critique groups follow certain rules, rules which enable students to enter into discussion about art works however difficult or alien they may seem. As follows, the person showing their work being silent for the first half:

  • Description. We simply describe the works, it can almost seem idiotic – ‘it is a film, people are talking… its a small blue vase’ etc etc. What this does, is break the ice and gets everyone involved – there is no pressure to say anything clever, and no reason to not contribute.
  • Analysis. We then go on – as far as we are able- to contextualise the work, and to analyse its content. ‘The man being interviewed is South American, he is talking about what it means to be a minority within his peer group’ and so on. We may think of other art works which dialogue with the work we are looking at. As a group, we consider the content, how it has been made, and pool our knowledge of related ideas and art works.
  • Interpretation. Now the students are usually warmed up and comfortable speaking, and invited to give their own interpretation of what the artist may have wanted to make this work, what they might be wanting to say. Emphasis is on interpretation- again, it is not something that can be got wrong. This process will obviously draw out any ignorances, and it is very important that as a teacher I have made students feel comfortable in this, it is akin to saying to the person presenting, ‘tell me about your experience’, which in turn makes the presenting student more comfortable in doing so.
  • Evaluation. We then discuss our various interpretations, and if we think, based on what we think the artist’s intentions could be, if the artist was successful. At this point, we invite the artist to join the conversation and tell us what their intentions actually were. From here conversation tends to flow, the person showing is keen to say what they actually mean, their peers keen to hear if their interpretation was ‘correct’.

Within this structure I have found that students feel much safer opening up and having honest responses to what they are being shown. It is impossible for us all to understand each other’s context to the depth we understand our own, and it is with humility I believe we can learn from each other, be excited to exchange and hear the experiences of other students rather than be scared of what we don’t understand and saying ‘the wrong thing’.

Incidentally, I have just started reading Rogers, On Becoming A Person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy (before Linsday recommended it! ;)). I am also about to start on W.R Bion’s Experiences in Groups after attending an excellent lecture by Julian Kremmer who teaches on the Fine Art program at SUNY College, USA. Kremmer discussed the group critique in relation to the dynamics of group therapy as discussed in Bion’s research. Watch this space!

Notes on Ron Barnett’s ‘Dispositions and Qualities’.

Chapter taken from Ron Barnett’s 2007 book, ‘A Will to Learn’

Ron Barnett’s ‘A Will to Learn’ is broadly a call for an holistic, being- centred approach to learning, over a ‘generic skills’ approach. I should say that although the turn towards developing the person is one which I resonate with, the text itself was really hard to read. It most definitely challenged my will to learn! The argument is teased out at unnecessary length and with language which does not help the ambiguous and often circular thinking.

Simply put, Barnett identifies dispositions as energetic, the factor which is essentially ‘the will to learn’ and qualities being attributes which shape that energy. He further speculates, “Crudely, we can say that dispositions can be encouraged by curricula arrangements and that qualities can be encouraged by pedagogical actions’. (p 109).

Some dispositions:

  • A will to learn
  • A will to engage
  • A preparedness to listen
  • A preparedness to explore
  • A willingness to hold oneself to experiences
  • A determination to keep going forward

Some qualities:

  • Integrity
  • Carefulness
  • Courage
  • resilience
  • self- discipline
  • restraint
  • respect for others
  • openness

Teaching and learning within Fine Art is arguably more dependent on the students disposition that other subject fields due to it being particularly self- directed. The cliche of the art student sat in an empty studio space with no idea of what to do, wracking their brains for a good idea, illustrates this. Students must come to the subject with their own store of curiosity, drive, and determination. It is also a test of students qualities, being both discursive and often reflective of/ drawing on very personal issues; students must be sensitive and respectful of each other, resilient in the face of criticism, courageous and often vulnerable, and highly self – disciplined.

In my own learning, I rely on my curiosity rather than will (which is sadly not one of my  strengths!). If material is presented in a dull, or overly complicated way – like this essay- my will takes quite a beating. Similarly, the curiosity of the teacher is a key for me. Genuine enthusiasm for the subject, and genuine desire to hear the views of students will propel my interest in engaging, other teachers however, who appear to prefer the sound of their own voice or who are overly controlling will have me running for the class room door.

UAL’s creative attributes framework outlines the following;

  • Making things happen; Proactivity, Enterprise and Agility
  • Showcasing abilities and accomplishments with others; communication, connectivity and storytelling.
  • Navigating change; curiosity, self efficacy, resilience.

This all sounds great on paper. I was keen to then read through the guidance, as to how such qualities are practically, or tangibly acquired through teaching. The guidance suggests;

‘Drawing on the learning and teaching activities on your course, reflect on the framework to plan what you do on your course to develop these attributes, not only within a professional industry context, but also within the contexts of personal development and creative practices’.

It goes on to ask a series of questions. These are all questions which should be reflected on, yet this is it- ambitions and questions, nothing in-between or practically applicable which is interesting considering that it is employability focused.

In my own teaching, I approach developing qualities such as self- discipline, resilience and respect for others through the discursive exercise of the critique group, as well as in one to one tutorials. I give students a very clear outline to follow when approaching art works both by other artists and students, and their own work: description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation. By repeatedly returning to these points the students develop a curiosity, learn to look outwards, whilst also gaining the ability to separate themselves from their own work enough to be self reflective. This is turn makes them more resilient to criticism and confident in themselves. The group discussion builds trust, teaches each participant how to listen to each other and build respectful means of communicating. All of this occurs through mindful mediation of the teacher.

Microteaching: Objects and Artefacts as a Pedagogical Practice. 22.03.18

Microteaching: Objects and Artefacts as a Pedagogical Practice. 22.03.18

For this exercise we are using a glass. This glass will act as a the subject of five consecutive drawings which I will ask the group to do, which in turn, reflect on a five stage model of art appreciation.

Learning outcomes: to have a very basic set of tools to begin to analyse art works.

This five stage model is one that I have used in the past with people who are entirely new to art appreciation. It is admittedly a gross over simplification and proposes learning in distinct stages rather than a fluid process, however this model arguably functions as good introductory tool for thinking about the various levels of meaning within art works. Though significantly adapted, my model is built on Michael Parson’s five developmental stages which relate to different levels of response to art works, found by examining the responses of both children and adults to art in the light of developmental psychology. (Parsons, M. (1987) How We Understand Art: A Cognitive Developmental Account of Aesthetic Experience. New York: Cambridge University Press).

Parson’s model reflects on Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development:

For the exercise, we will draw the same glass on the table five times, each adding a new layer of meaning. This is a fast session, so quite likely level 5 will be one to contemplate after the session.

The five stages:

  1. The recognizable glass.

– This is the symbolic level. Simply draw a glass that we can recognize as a glass.

  1. The accurate, skillful glass.

– (time permitting) the aim here is to draw the glass as accurately as possible. Here we can appreciate the skill of the artist.

  1. The expressive glass.

– Draw the glass in a way which conveys some emotion. We should be able to read this aspect in the work, it is the expressive appreciation of an art work.

  1. The historical/ contextual glass.

– Draw the glass in a way which conveys the contextual position of the glass, for example that it is a glass in 2018, we are in London etc. This introduces the contextual/ historical element. The three previous levels of appreciation require no other education, at this level a broader cultural and historical awareness comes into play. For instance, if we know nothing about the Spanish Civil War, we may appreciate the emotion and the skill in Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, but we will entirely miss the social commentary.

  1. The self reflexive glass.

– Draw (or go away and think about) a glass which shows awareness of the history of the glass as an artwork. That is, to make an art work which demonstrates an awareness of and reflects on its own specific art historical context as well as the broader historical/ cultural context. It could for instance directly reference another art work. This level of art appreciation is dependent on knowledge of art history and contemporary positions.

The Session – Evaluation:

I learnt a lot from this session. What I had not at all anticipated was a resistance in several students to the activity of drawing. This became a huge block to engagement with the exercise, which may not have been the case had I more clearly emphasised from the beginning that it was not a test of their drawing skills, but a means for conceptual thinking.

I felt aware during the session that the first drawings were very simple and therefore could be patronising, and that very quickly this became over complicated. I would have helped myself and the participants had I brought some examples to clarify the more complex levels of meaning/ understanding.

Finally was the issue of ‘art history’ in relation to the self reflexive art works. There was quite a bit of debate and confusion around this, challenging the idea of art having any one history. This is something I strongly believe myself, and the proposition that when analysing art works we should consider how the works display an awareness of and dialogue with other art works was not intended to relate to ‘the canon’ specifically, rather to being aware of and critically engaged in a broader conversation. This is a very complex subject and one which I need to articulate in clearer terms.


The positive feedback focused on the session being well structured, clear hand outs and with a good tempo which fitted well into the ten minutes. Several participants commented on it being very clear.

There were several suggestions for improvement, primarily concerned with those who dislike drawing, perhaps using photographs or collage. Everyone requested examples of art works to illustrate each level and there is some thought needed to clarify the more complex ideas in context of art historical understanding.

Some notes on the history of pedagogy, and on Nicholas Addison/ Caterina Nirta/ Maria Georgaki’s research into changing pedagogy’s at UAL from 1975 – 2015, plus some thoughts on Lindsay’s notes and emergent pedagogies.

Vimeo 5000 years of learning.

Lao – Tse 500BC

‘If you tell me I will listen, if you show me I will see, if you let me experience I will learn’

  • Greek dialogue
  • 1631 –  John Comenius, suggestion of visual aids
  • 1690 –  John Locke – the three R’s
  • 1800’s – Russian military introduce gaming as a leaning device.
  • 1800’s – Learner centered, ‘Herbartarianism’ from German philosopher Johann Herbart
  • 1880’s – Case Study method at Harvard law school (as used by early Chinese philosophers).
  • 1883 – First correspondence learning
  • 1900’s – John Dewey hands on learning, ‘Heuretic’ methods
  • 1910- – Role playing
  • 1917  – Charles R Allen’s ‘show, tell, do and check’ learning by procedure.
  • 1924  – Individualized instruction, Sidney Pressey
  • 1927 –  Stimulus response, behavioral training (Pavlov’s dog)
  • 1928 –  Active Learning, combination of Dewey’s philosophy and stimulus response. Connectionism. Becomes requirement for next 50 years.
  • Constructivism:
  • Piaget cognitive development theory, child centered learning, early education models.
  • Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism, knowledge constructed under the influence of the learners cultural and social contexts. 1930’s/ 40’s
  • 1940’s – Discovery learning. ‘We can’t teach people what they need to learn, the best we can do is position them so that they can discover what they need to know when they need to know it.’
  • 1946  – Practice based learning, focus on practice in order to develop mental images that reinforce associations that make learning permanent.-
  • 1950’s – Cognitive Science
  • 1956  – Blooms’ Taxonomy, matching subject matter and delivery methods to learner requirements
  • 1960’s – Observational learning, Albert Bandura’s modelling, cueing, self-efficacy
  • 1962 – Standards based learning, beginning to instructional design based on standards that can be measured objectively
  • 1970 – Self-paced Study. Malcom Knowles taught that classroom experience teaches students to be dependent and passive, independent study principles were introduced.
  • 1981 – Lifelong learning. Patricia Cross: holistic, set within a learning society, self-directed.
  • 1983 – Howard Gardner’s’ Multiple Intelligences: instruction should be designed to meet different kinds of learners.
  • 2004 – Connectivism. Online self-organizing social systems George Siemens theory based on idea that knowledge is growing too fast to manage as individuals.

Technology and learning- what does it mean for learning today?

Nicholas Addison/ Caterina Nirta/ Maria Georgaki’s  session on the history of Pedagogies at UAL 1975- 2015

There is wine here. Ha ha.

  • Three-year research project. Pedagogies in this period are multiple and contested. Search for emerging pedagogies, which proved to be elusive.
  • Raymond Williams ideas of the dominant, residual and emergent. This was the initial framework.

Methodology was mainly interviewing academic staff as to their perceptions and memories of teaching and learning. 55 voices covering all schools and subjects. All anonymous. Study anticipated that pedagogies would be reflective of various turns during this period, social/ ecological/ practice based research etc.… discovery that in most discussions pedagogies existed in a more insular way rather than being reflective of wider contexts.

Going back to early art and design pedagogy. Victorian design pedagogies, very much to do with the economy. Foucault like supervisor looks over the students making. The nature of what was learnt was through repetition, following examples. Towards the end of the 19th century shift into more transdisciplinary curricula.

Fast forward 100 years! Pedagogies of control- Deleuze. They found that the classroom was not the only place where learning was taking place, more a deleuzean space- a subtler diluted space, a continuous social space, but within which there are still power systems in play. “Discursive power” spread across space… instead of focus on one classroom space.

Thoughts about the way the spaces of universities are structured, more open and social spaces etc. Nicholas comments about how they could have isolated space solely as the focus of their report.

‘From disciplinary to discipline based pedagogies’ 1975 – 95 Visual studies- craft based with a fine art frame.  

Long conversation here about the relationship between practice and ‘complementary studies’ or what we would now call contextual studies.

Some feedback from their questionaires-

  • Comments from tutors about their experience of Fine Art teaching being an ‘anything goes’ no mention at all of ‘learning outcomes’. A ‘do what you want approach’
  • Talent Spotting as a major preoccupation of teachers, grooming potential stars but also staff having careers and pitting themselves against each other, using students to follow their own agendas etc.
  • The crit as a pedagogical tool… lots of issues with this. Nicholas argues it as a core pedagogical tool in Fine Art which is useful, and I agree, though it really must be employed with humility and generosity on the part of the teacher, which is often not at all the case. Could talk on this one for hours…- – – –
  • Academicisation. Art history and complementary studies as a critique of studio practice in the 70’s. Goldsmith in the 80’s??
  • The dependence on written practice as a reflective tool for practice. Now academic support huge part of the university to help students essentially with writing.
  • 1990’s joke of the fine art student with the blank canvas, brush in one hand and copy of Derrida in the other, as if illustrating a theory.
  • 70-s to 90’s ‘studio cruising’ tutors walking around talking to a few people then carrying on the ‘symposium’ in the pub! This is absolutely my experience at the RA. (Drinking culture) tended to promote a masculine, mildly transgressive, proto activist community remembered by many with great affection. It was also a site for the politicization of practice one where students might learn of the practices of their (visiting) tutors who were often involved in the developing counter culture.

Then a conversation about doing away with assessment entirely. Currently- some units introducing non graded units.

Finally a jump to what they found as possible emergent pedagogies:

  • Legitimate actor within a neo liberal culture
  • Pedagogy no longer a dirty word as it was up to the 80’s, where studio staff were primarily practitioners rather than teachers. Now teaching taken much more seriously.
  • Current culture of conformism because younger teachers don’t understand/ are not aware of the past.
  • New forms/ spaces of conviviality/ reciprocity.
  • Modules having their own Facebook page! Discussions happening online in social media, even on WhatsApp.
  • The valorization of collaboration and co design.
  • Material and digital convergence
  • Nostalgia for the idea of the art school, and for perceptions of what an artist is. A celebrity culture, clichés o art school- revival of interest in life drawing for example.
  • The problem of the student consumer. Also massive increase in anxiety, like it’s a means to an end, getting though the course as a means to an end. Making sur that your money is used in a worthwhile way, get a first to show your payment was worth it rather than a previous spirit of learning as an adventure.
  • From summative assessment to ‘care of the self’
  • Anxiety and its harnessing gestation, resistance
  • Research (rather than curriculum) as a site for critique and risk taking
  • Para academic energies – many staff are finding they cannot to what they want to do within the institution so form alliances outside to do so, often binging in the students.

What I find really fascinating about this, is that these possible emergent issues very much reflect Seth Abramsons’ 10 Basic Principles of Metamodernism

This is something I want to unpack further, probably in the practice as research essay. First thought would be to look thinking that comes from ‘Modernist’ pedagogies; Dewey, the Bauhaus, Black Mountain… then think about pedagogy in Post Modernity (?) and think about what it would mean to oscillate between them.

Notes to self- further to reading Lindsay’s notes I will delve further into Dewey (though having approached this before I know he is complex and not always that accessible). Speed up on Lev Vygotsky, also read Pascal Gielen & Paul De Bruyne.

Further to the note on Ron (Rob?) Barnett, this is an interesting point. In terms of art education I have had ongoing dialogues in Germany about their system- very much a master/ student model which cultivates derivative work (both made to be taken on by a particular ‘master’, and spat out the other end to be shown by galleries who can tag line, ‘studied under Neo Rauch’ la la la). The German art education system makes us look very progressive and critical!

Finally, to consider the questions- impossible to answer any time soon, but very good to ponder.

  • What are the proper aims and guiding ideals of education?
  • What are the appropriate criteria for evaluating education?
  • How is authority to be divided between institutions/teachers and the state?
  • What are the rights of students?
  • What are the characteristics of critical thinking?
  • What are the characteristics of indoctrination?
  • How are we to understand moral education?
  • Which of these ways of conceptualising education resonate with you? Why?
  • How do they correspond with philosophical questions of education?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s next?
















Notes on readings for seminar 21.02

‘Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator’ 

Chapter three from Monica Wilthauer’s, ‘Gadder’s Ethics of Play: Hermeneutics and the other’, 2010. 

Hans Georg Gadamer (1900-2002). Studied under Husserl with Heidegger. Ethics of play was written in 1960.

Gadamer puts forward a model for understanding which emerges through dialogue. For him meaning is not fixed, rather understanding is a crossing point between two parties who seek/ commit to engage in the process. In this essay the focus is on the dialogue between art works and the spectator, who ‘plays a crucial interpretive role in what the meaning of the art work is’.

My first question was how, within this model, we can then judge the capacity of the art work to enter into a dialogue (many art works being dull/ lifeless/ empty), which is later answered: ‘the process developing in between different players as a shared experience that depends on both players contributions’. We have to set an intention to enter into this dynamic, active process of interpretation, bringing to that our own history. Furthermore, the art work, as well as the spectator, must be prepared to contribute!

Gadamer describes play as an ontological truth, a condition of movement that exists between all living things. His thoughts on play appear to be animististic: the idea that all animals, objects, nature and man are vibrationally alive and interrelated. This is at once drawing on ancient indigenous beliefs and reflective of much contemporary discourse. This text brings to mind writing such as Jane Bennett’s ‘Vibrant Matter’, which has an ecological drive behind it, urging us to consider how, with all matter being essentially vibrant (having its own agency) we should be more intentional and responsible for it. With this in mind, Gadamer’s writing feels fresh and modern.

These core values recur in this text- setting intention, being present, commitment.  He goes on to describe play as self transcending, to the point that the play between participants gains its own momentum to which participants are in submission, or ‘losing themselves’. There is a strong spiritual/ mystical aspect here.

In the final section Wilthauer tries to pick apart Gadamer’s ideas on art and truth- both of which are very slippery terms (I am very curious as to specific works which Gadamer would qualify as art, being as they are in his mind ‘ontological events’….(Art) ‘brings to light what is otherwise constantly hidden and withdrawn’.

These passages date the text, relying as they do on grand notions of art being a channel for the ‘unseen’, or for ‘truth’. Contemporary thinkers who turn back to animistic ideas, such as Bennett, are at great pains to avoid falling into these dialogues which are riddled with problems.

Hmm. It all gets a bit confusing here- coming back to the key idea of joint articulation, what then do we do with this ‘truth’ and this ‘ontological event’?! Is this not a paradox? P40 describes this as (loosely) a process wherein the individual- in submitting to the collective play (or the work of art) –  accesses this truth and therefore recognises this truth in himself. Hardcore mysticism! Again, ideas of transformation through this interactive state which involves a losing of oneself -what could also be described as liminal- borrow from ancient indigenous beliefs. I find this really interesting and I am not unsympathetic to such mystical notions but find myself searching for ways of translating which are more grounded and practically applicable.

In conclusion, although the extremities of Gadamer’s writings become perhaps too mystical and hermetic as to be fully comprehensible, essentially he describes values: intentionality, active engagement and participation, commitment, which are highly relevant today both in learning and in approaching art works (in the widest sense).

The classroom: a problem or a mystery? Dr Ian Munday, 2012

Draws on the work of Gabriel Marcel (1889 – 1973). Existentialist philosopher Writings mostly published late 50’s to early 70’s.

Phenomenological distinction between ‘being’ and ‘having’. This can be understood in similar terms to Gadaver’s distinction between meaning existing in an object, in a static sense, as opposed to it emerging through relations between parts/ participants. ‘Being’, is therefore a more dynamic, vibrant and interactive state than ‘having’, which isolates meanings and parts. Marcel goes as far as to suggest this separation as damaging, conjuring a sense of ‘mine’ and ‘other’. This is extended to the idea of problems and problem solving- ‘A problem is something met with which bars my passage. It is therefore before me in it’s entirety’.

Mystery on the other hand, ‘sublimes the boundaries of a vulgar materialist approach to objects in space’. (!!). As with the previous text, this is a bid for non Cartesian thinking, for a ‘vital and immersive understanding of existence’.

What is refreshing about this paper is that Ian Munday tackles the issue of mysticism, asking how it can be brought into the everyday. Instead of being ‘unknowable’, Munday brings in the idea of ‘flow’.

So, instead of seeing the classroom as a site of problem solving, or even students as problems to solve, his suggestion is to take the approach of allowing mystery into the classroom, to re-animate the educational space, although he says nothing concrete about how this might happen. Instead he acknowledges the idealism involved and the danger of sentimentalism. There is a funny paragraph discussing post graduate teacher training, reading texts (such as this) and being asked to respond on an online forum (such as this). His conclusion to the ‘bland rigid space’ which broke down into ‘a stream of confused postings’ was to ‘to ask very simple/ clear questions which were likely to illicit simple/ clear answers’.

I can’t help but wish he had managed to do that in this essay.