Microteaching session

A writeup of the microteaching session:

Lesson Plan:

Introduction

This is about looking through drawing, and using drawing to record visual information. It is not about drawing as picture-making. It isn’t about style, quality or skill. Drawings will be neither good nor bad, they will simply record. The idea is to gain some understanding of the physical qualities, structure and workings of something by an intense period of focused looking.

Drawing tasks:

Each task should take roughly one minute.

Using the object as your subject:

  1. Quickly write down your initial thoughts about it, in just a few words. You could describe the material, shape, form or something it reminds you of.
  2. Draw the object without looking at your hand or the sheet of paper. 
  3. Draw only the outline of the object. 
  4. Draw the object without using line (so look at colour/light/shadow/texture) 
  5. Look at the object for one minute (object is now removed). Draw the object from memory. 

Now take a few minutes to look at everyone’s drawings. Think about the following:

– are there any differences in how people have perceived the object?
– how would you describe the object now?
– has your opinion/understanding of it changed? How?

________________

Evaluation

I ended up changing this plan slightly, with the first task being to close your eyes, hold the object for a few seconds, then (with eyes open) draw it.

I also dropped one or two of the proposed methodologies due to time and this new one that I inserted. I added this opening task in because of the dynamic in the room, and the layout. I do try to leave all workshop things I do with an element of adaptability, because I feel that it is disingenuous to create a set-in-stone activity without understanding properly the context or dynamics of a group of people and a space (unless you have ownership of a particular place and are very familiar with students, but even then, there can be a difference in mood etc…). I prefer to improvise upon a foundation of preparation or rehearsal, rather than being strictly rehearsed or completely improvised.

Observations and feedback from the group:

It was noted that task 2 resulted in humour/frustration, and task 4 absorbed and engaged people (task 3 was skipped). It seemed ‘very soothing’.

Positive feedback was:

  • Exercise built up an ‘experience of the object’
  • The quick pace of the lesson stressed capturing a ‘feeling’ of something, not the ‘look’ of something
  • The exercise was useful in flexing a part of the brain that helps draw from memory
  • The constraints felt ‘both fun and challenging’
  • The outcomes were surprising
  • Tactility of the first task made the participant aware of some features of the object they might otherwise not have noticed through just looking
  • The exercise ‘made’ people draw and the end summary helped to elucidate what the aim was
  • Details of the object were more intriguing when explored through touch with eyes closed

Negative feedback was:

  • There wasn’t time to reflect properly on the different approaches to drawing and how it can build up knowledge of the object

My reflections on this

I was surprised that task 1 seemed to resonate a lot with participants. It was something i’d thrown in at the end as mentioned above, so wasn’t particularly thought-through or road-tested before like some of the other ones. I think it has given me something to try myself when building up a memory of objects through drawing. This tactile handling as a way of building an image in the brain, before looking. I am interested in ways of drawing and representing the world, and how this can be altered, skewed and disrupted, so this and similar exercises are part of that enquiry. This was very useful as it is the first time i have asked for or received feedback on an exercise like this, and I should do it more.

Reflections from February Seminar

The connection between philosophy and theories of education

Obviously I am only just starting to read about and look into this – and I hope to be adding more thoughts as I try to work through some of Lindsay’s references etc. Having watched the suggested video, I feel able to pick out these forms of teaching and learning from my HE experiences (both as a tutor and student). That is one of the reasons i am doing this course, is to try to become more aware of what i’m doing – as all of my teaching is based on experience, intuition and responses (towards or against) how I have been taught by others. This reaches its limit and i’ve begun to want to know what i’m actually doing, and what others are doing, what the students are doing, etc!

Bloom’s Taxonomy feels familiar to the language used in the UAL assessment matrix, with the value on analysis and reflection, and aiming for creative synthesis as an ideal. I’m always suggesting that students need to be more aware, analytical, critical and reflective of their own work, but perhaps with little useful guidance on how to start doing this.

Patricia Cross’s Lifelong Learning is a phrase I hear a lot in the department at Camberwell. Having just read a little bit on it, I am able to understand it a bit better (although its pretty much what I thought it was). This I think seems to me to be a subtle, logical and appropriate way of viewing education, fitting to a learner’s experience, age and needs and able to be continued/pursued at any stage. The idea that learning stops after a particular time (as a student) is actually quite strange, but this is built-in to my experience and understanding of the education ‘system’ – you enter it then it spits you out then you are an adult existing in ‘the real world’ (a phrase I particularly hate). Considering learning as a lifelong activity is something I find joyful and positive and necessary. The idea that it needs to be set in a ‘learning society’ is perhaps problematic as i’ve accidentally perhaps intimated above – I think we do live in a learning society with a wealth of educational opportunities available (physical, also through the internet in the form of instructional videos, or language apps that are more experiential and perhaps more akin to using ‘Visual Aids’ or even ‘The Three R’s’ in a gradual experience and testing that builds up. Actually a lot of these are combined and used across apps, internet instructional courses etc, as McPheeters suggests) but I also think that there is a kind of resistance or reluctance to see this as part of one’s experience in society, that learning stops when you leave school or HE. So perhaps attitudes need to be changed. I also see this in my teaching practice preparing students to leave the university. We are encouraging (ie forcing) them to complete their ‘progression plans’ and getting them to think about what they want to do. I don’t know if that is particularly helpful, it feels like box-ticking. I feel like a careers advisor, and is it perhaps reinforcing this idea of learning coming to an end? Should I be encouraging them to continue learning? I certainly feel that I wanted to learn more when I left University, I was very disgruntled with my learning experience and I felt that I could learn much more after I graduated (and I did), through experience, apprenticeships of a sort, inquisitive speculative practice-as-research, dialogue with peers and experts. Certainly having an artistic practice or following a creative path you are learning all the time. The state must come into this to provide a learning society or to highlight/improve this. Institutions are linked to the state in terms of the overall assessment or monitoring of services, although they are independent businesses, so the state is controlling the outcomes or aims of the institutions. Tutors may have some agency within this framework, but that can be restricting.

Gardner’s ‘Multiple Intelligences’ is something i’m keen to look into further. I’ve also heard about this from my Mum who’s been a secondary/SEN teacher for years, but also from other mainstream sources. I think this feels useful and logical to me, and possibly brings up ideas of inclusivity in meeting the needs of different types of learners. Whether the university framework allows for this is another matter. Can we really meet those needs effectively, when teaching in certain ways? This suggests a tailored approach and is that possible with current teaching budgets/staff to student ratios/contact time? It can be, through tutorials that are responsive/reactive – but then is the tutorial the best way to teach certain people? I tend to do a lot of tutorials in the third year – its about 80% tutorials. I enjoy these and think I have some strengths here, but why is this the norm? Why is this regarded as the sort of baseline teaching model or activity? IS is particularly effective? We assume so, and perhaps we are putting the responsibility for learning outcomes on the student (unfairly) – we dispense advice (as in ‘Dialogue’ model), this does not feel so progressive.

I’m also really intrigued by Pressey’s ‘Testing Machine’! and haven’t had time to explore/further research yet. Analogues with online learning perhaps? Sounds mad. Will update.

So moving on from this, i’ve addressed perhaps some moral questions about the philosophy of education, but to try to be more specific:

The aims/guiding ideals should definitely not be linked to students’ employment/earning prospects, as it is in the current evaluation system/framework. In my opinion, education is a sharing of knowledge, an opportunity to learn together, to discover things as a collaborative act between learners and teachers. I would go so far as to say that this distinction should not necessarily be drawn even – can we learn together? Yes tutors have ‘expertise’ but the cultural knowledge/embeddedness of my own students in particular is so valuable to me as a learner – i learn a lot from their cultural references and circumstances, personal backgrounds/ideas/values that I am definitely learning as i teach, and i feel I prefer models that allow us to discover things as a group – to uncover ideas and share knowledge – in a group tutorial or seminar perhaps – where everyone has something to contribute and ideas coalesce out of the ether…so perhaps the right of the student is to be guided and given direction/feedback, but to set the bounds of their own learning aims/outcomes. To be an active participant and contributor to peers’ learning and students’ learning. Thinking about this actually makes me feel a bit misty-eyed about certain aspects of my teaching practice. I absolutely love it when discussing projects/work/ideas with a group of third year illustration students. There is such a wealth of knowledge, genuine weirdness, generosity, friction, ego, cultural perspectives, optimism, confidence, arrogance, resistance etc in the room that all combines in a way to move forward a students’ work or to provide help, or to argue something or corroborate, or to come up with something completely new. It is this i want to explore and harness and somehow work with. Some amorphous energy that can be utilised by everyone. I think teaching models need to move towards this, towards feeding this energy and getting something out of it – throughout HE and also as a society.

Evaluating learning or education should perhaps be about places reached that have not been hitherto dreamed of or expected – so perhaps how unexpected the outcome is! I don’t know, that’s very abstract and vague. Where you were at A and where you got to at B. Or maybe you never get to B! Should it even be evaluated at all? What is the purpose? I suppose evaluation is valuable in seeing the effectiveness of something – but in terms of assessment – is it even appropriate? It only serves as a shortcut for people to assess the educational status or achievements of someone. Why gradations of learning ‘success.? This is coming from definitely an art practice-based course so maybe not applicable to other educational realms. But does learning have to be valued in a best/worst kind of scale? Can everyone not just learn as much as they want/can in the ways which suit them? Rather than a baseline level or expected outcome.

Critical thinking is something that would be present for both learner and teacher in the examples above that resonate with me – i think i have chosen models which require or allow for this, rather than passivity on the student’s behalf. This obviously leads to indoctrination when there is no critical thinking and the student is encouraged to view the teacher as expert or vessel-filler. Even apprenticeship models don’t perhaps encourage or require critical thinking, this is learning by rote, or accepted wisdom. Critical thinking i suppose is a check or positive barrier or slowing down or interrogation of what has been suggested/taught and what you have done. The models i have highlighted I think require it of all parties – lifelong learning and the multiple intelligences idea require teachers to assess learner’s situations, and also require that of the learner themselves. It is also integrated into evaluation/reflection of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

 

Readings for 19th February

The classroom: a problem or a mystery? 
Dr Ian Munday
An interesting paper, which only really began to make sense from a teaching point of view in the conclusion (which Munday himself recognises). As someone interested (obviously) in the nature of creativity, creative processes and actually mystery as a concept, I found some parts resonated with my experiences and thinking. In particular this idea of transcending having into being (at one with/part of), as in the example of a gardener or someone playing the violin, or Stuart making his guitar seem ‘part of him’ when playing. This idea of having being basically negative, and being being a more positive form of relationships with ‘things’ is one felt uplifted by, and could recognise from my own experiences in playing an instrument or using creative tools to make something. I think this is a beautiful idea.
Mapping my own pidgin philosophy onto this, I find the emphasis on the transcendence/immersion of mystery vs the reductive quality of problems as obstacles chimes with my general feelings about order and detail vs a more free or messy outlook. Not that mystery is messy, but when Munday does finally come around to placing these ideas into a classroom setting, then the potential becomes very alluring. This rejection of treating students or the activities of a classroom as problems to be surmounted or overcome (like the guitar is to Michael)  and instead treating the classroom as a space in which people, things and ideas can interact organically and without a predetermined end result (as I think he means, reading into the comments on scaffolding) deserves further investigation. His reference to scaffolding is an interesting critique. It’s something that i’ve heard but not been fully aware of or trained in, but I know basically what it means – the metaphor is visually explanatory enough – but Munday is making the point that even in that idea/technique the outcome (ie the outline of the building) is already predetermined, so how organic a process is it, and how much mystery is there involved in this?

I’m excited about the potential of classrooms being “allowed to be spaces of mystery”, the result or perhaps process of which he perhaps alludes to earlier when he says “…the classroom itself could become a living breathing organism. This would involve the kind of ―spillage‖ that could be affirmed. I am not suggesting here that this involve some sort of uniform coming together of hitherto disparate elements; each organism would be radically different and things would not always be smooth.”

I am absorbing this into my teaching muscles.

Gadamer: Art and the Ethics of Play
Vilhauer

This is very dense and repetitive, although I suppose it needs to be. I found it difficult to relate these ideas initially to teaching practice, or relationships between teachers, learners etc but in bringing together my thoughts I think I have some idea of how that might be relevant.

I had a strong image about the idea of play being something that grows out of the game/the action of participants – it sort of enlarging and growing and immersing the players like a bubble being blown with one of those bubble sticks and it just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Play being something that exists as an entity bigger and outside of human interactions, but being engendered by it (sometimes) and wrapped up in and around it. Its a complicated thing to articulate.

The back and forth thing resonated too, that there always needs to be a call and response action, or another player, whether that be a person or an object of a circumstance/property of an object like the ball example. I am always talking about restrictions/limitations because i teach on (and am a professional in) brief-based courses, where the brief sets limitations such as size, number of images, context, timescale etc. I find limitations to be useful and creatively catalytic. I also approach a lot of work as a ‘game’ with ‘moves’. So I feel like I am invested in ideas of play being important to work or ‘serious’ endeavours, and its good to read more thoroughly about that. I picked up on the idea that restrictions make the thing a game, rather than pure open-ended play, and that was what caused this link as expressed above. Also this idea that seriousness is essential, that the player needs to be totally committed to the game – well I totally agree with that even in a literal sense of playing a game, you need to be committed. It is cathartic and relaxing to play a game where there is no real peril, yet you are totally committed to it, you have to be in order for it to work or feel like a useful experience. I have often thought about how football worked for me as a player (it was a big part of my life between the ages of 8 and 18). The abandon to the game, the fluidity of interaction, the rules being understood by everybody, meaning the possibility of communication without verbal language. The getting outside of oneself etc. In my creative practice or in workshops I recognise the same elements of play and interaction of the players at work.

The later parts I feel are quite uneccessary after the first points are made – I think I get how these ideas work applied to theatre, the plastic arts, literature without it having to be spelled out. It did make me wonder how this would be applied now to contemporary art, even modern art – where a ‘picture’ is not always representational and is not always ostensibly representational of some truth. Would Gadamer say it is still presenting/showing something that is part of reality? I suppose he would make the same case, and possibly I would too.

So the game/sense of play is rooted in my experience of life and art and interacting with people. I think the back-and-forth motion needed to make this happen is identifiable in lots of areas, and now i’ve also absorbed this for use in my teaching practice. Food for thought, i need to see how i can use this thinking more actively/consciously as I continue with my practice. Really I felt I picked up more ideas and more things resonated in the first few sections rather than the latter half.

Readings for 22nd January

A Learning Model for the Future: Aoun

I found this a fascinating. I’ve read a little about the rapidly changing relationship between technology and the workforce, and its effect on society & economics through a left-wing lens in Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Srnicek/William 2016). This article made it all the more relevant to me being focused on education, as its obviously something i’m practising. The idea of ‘Humanics’ resonated with me — i’m very aware of and irritated at how the current education system seems to demote creativity and the arts to second rate or non-serious subjects. It often seems to me to be astonishing that there are people who come out of the other side of this system and still want to do something creative! I’ve seen the Ken Robinson talk mentioned and it was also something that made a big impression on me.
So these proposed methods of learning/teaching seem to be good groundings for the kinds of creative thinking I subjectively value. Also convergent vs divergent thinking is something I hadn’t seen expressed before, and this made me think about discussions I have with students about their work, and how the course and the tutors I work with encourage them to explore their ideas, to embrace failure and to acquire/utilise knowledge through research, in a definitely rdivegent way.

Something i’ve been aware of but am perhaps unwilling to accept is the depth of influence that technologies have on my own life. I am rather suspicious of the seemingly total positive reception new software, devices or systems tend to get in the press and from individuals, who i see as being seduced by shiny new things they do not understand the construction of or the eventual social/psychological effects of. I think there needs to be much more criticism of Silicon Valley and its unchecked rise to its philosophy and technology controlling almost every aspect of our lives. I think that my own teaching practice. However, it has to be accepted that the language of computers is essential to people growing up and experiencing education now, and I feel I should be aware of this. I do not spend enough time really getting to grips with the near future and what I should be looking at and pointing students towards. So this is an area for improvement for me – to broaden my thinking so I can in turn give students a better understanding of where their work might be situated. One idea that particularly struck with me is that of literacy being power. If the new literacies need to include coding etc, then I read the effect of this to be that if we/i remain ignorant of them, we are denying ourselves any agency in the creative/entrepreneurial and economical world of the near future, and risk this concentration of power being in the hands of a few.

Systems thinking is another area that i’ve not really come across and am interested to learn more about. I am generally anti-specialisation in terms of the arts, so again this resonated with me personally.

There is much more to discuss but i’ve run out of time. The main thing I took away from this is the optimism and insight that is in the article, and the adaptive approach that is being suggested or proposed, where we as educators need to respond to but also anticipate the effects of what is happening in the wider world, and create frameworks for the future that continue to value human skillsets and idiosyncrasies. It has made me want to become more aware of what i’m doing as an educator, and what I need to be thinking about outside my subject area.

Universities and their Function: Whitehead

Less fresh in my head than the previous text, so less to say here. Some overlapping themes, this idea of convergent vs divergent thinking appears albeit less directly, when he talks about ‘the mere imparting of education’ through books vs a more stimulating university environment of debate and discussion etc.

A couple of ideas with good imagery stuck in my head —

‘The task of a university is to weld together imagination & experience’ which is a simplistic but powerful image of forming something new by putting these two concepts together. Reminding me of Kant’s ideas of opposing ideals creating peace. Imagination and experience are not quite opposing, but this Whitehead text does seem to be largely about the differences of imagination and experience, and how one is not enough alone, and there’s a fair bit of conflict in the way he describes both approaches. So there might be a subtle link here with the idea of the University being an environment where other points of view need to be present to make new kinds of thinking/practice emerge.

and the idea of

‘A band of imaginative scholars’ – like the Magnificent Seven or something – a bit of a silly image of strength/guardianship of learning in the university context.

Also this idea of creativity being stamped out by repetitive mundane low-cognition learning/drudgery (possibly convergent) in a hierarchy of employment he describes is another good criticism of a way of learning/teaching that is perhaps becoming unnecessary (for humans to do anyway). Links here with Robinson’s idea of ‘strip-mining’ parts of the intellect too in the Anoun text.

Conflict and Peace in Kant’s Critical Philosophy

I’ve never read any Kant. His ideas for world peace sound pretty logical to me — fascinating that they’ve been used (unfortunately only partially) as part of the UN’s rules. I suppose the main thing I took from this is the obviously central theme of conflict being necessary for stability or peace. I think The idea of philosophers being held accountable only to reason (because they do exist in the world as much as anyone else so must have subjective viewpoints and experiences that inform their thinking) is idealistic but then i’m not a philosopher. Trying to transpose this idea onto arts education, I suppose on way to see it might be the arts tutors as philosophers and the management as the lawyers(!) I was left with the impression of the necessity for different viewpoints in order to make progress, and the idea that if you dismiss someone else’s view you are basically obliterating any opposition to your thinking and that is not very helpful at all – so even opposite perspectives must be listened to and reasoned with. Philosophers annoying all lawyers and lawmakers, government and military organisations is an amusing image. The idea makes sense as it is reasoned in this text.

Again, convergent/divergent thinking could be embodied as lawyer/philosopher, and the two types of thinking need to be present perhaps? Critical thinking vs received wisdom? Also shades of Duna Sabri’s text on the NSS as well in terms of opposition/conflict between a system or on a perceived scope of a system, and the realities/practicalities of actually using it/being framed by it.