I want to engage my students, but I'm not sure how, or even if it's possible.
February 3, 2012 10:20 PM Subscribe
How do I do a better job of teaching Art History in a way that will engage my students and feel meaningful to me (are the two antithetical)?
posted by segatakai to Education (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So, I'm teaching Japanese Art History, though in reality I guess it might be better if I thought of it as "Japanese Art Appreciation". The school is a 2-year University in Tokyo. The students don't seem to have a specific interest in art history, though some may have an inkling of an interest in art, or at least in being creative. I think the class is seen by the students (and by the administration?) as a kind of chance for the students to enjoy themselves, almost as a respite from the more academic nature of their other classes. With a few exceptions, the students want to know only what's going to be on the test, and nothing else. I'm teaching in Japanese, which is not my first language (and I think that is part of my problem). I've been through the class twice now (Spring and Fall semesters), and for my first time through, I guess I didn't do too bad of a job. But I'd really prefer to do a better job next semester (from April). With this in mind, I want to . . . I guess start from zero in terms of planning the course and its content. But I'm not sure if I need to go back to zero or not.
What I am quite sure of is that most of the students are not . . . interested? engaged? And this is the thing that weighs most heavily upon me; I feel like kind of a jackass going through these lectures that (almost) no one is actually paying attention to. I know they're not paying attention, and they know that I know, so it feels like a bit of a ruse, which makes me extremely uncomfortable. I can say "hey, pay attention out there!" (and I do) but I find that doesn't ultimately work for more than about 3 minutes, and ideally I'd like to be be giving them something that they really want as opposed to force-feeding them.
I'm sure that part of this is that I simply need to thicken my skin, and I do believe it's true that my skin thickens slightly with each class, but I continue to struggle with: How much do I need to adjust vs how much should I be encouraging (forcing?) my students to adjust? Is it actually possible to give a lecture on Art History that these students will be interested in?
Thus far, I have been reading the lectures, which are accompanied by projected "slides" of the artwork (as well as some text of the more important points) I'm discussing ; the students have hand-outs that identify the slides, and they're encouraged to follow along and make their own notes, both from the slides and from my lecture. I try to read it in as conversational a manner as I can, and make sure to throw in ad-libbed comments here and there, but I know that any lecture that is read is going to be kind of dry. I'm reading because my command of Japanese, although not bad, and perfectly fine in conversational settings, is not quite where it needs to be in order for me to give the lectures off-the-cuff, though now that I have gone through the cycle twice, I intend to work at giving the lectures from a set of notes in point form, so that I'm not exactly reading but at least a step closer to spontaneity.
I've essentially been given carte blanche on the class, so I can adjust it any way I feel fit to. With that in mind:
What did your Art History (or Art Appreciation) teachers do that made the class interesting for you? that made it boring?
How important/necessary is it for the lecturer (at the university level) to tailor the material or teaching style to the students (as opposed to encouraging the students to make the reach to the lecturer's side)?
What resources (of any kind) are there for me to learn how to get better?
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!