Basic Syllabi/Assignments/Rubrics


In a recent review of Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), The Reference & Information Services Section of the Art Libraries Society of North America, describes the website’s intention “in sharing teaching materials online goes beyond time-saving or convenience for fellow instructors; rather, they are interested in promoting pedagogical inquiry that can lead to innovative and engaging ways to teach art history.” Of particular note for my purposes is the section of AHTR on Basic Syllabi, Assignments and Rubrics. This is definitely a resource I am going to consult in the future!

Summer Reading List

In the spirit of continuous improvement I am assigning myself some summer reading!

Clayson, Hollis, Tom Cummins, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Richard J. Powell, Martin J. Powers, O.K. Werckmeister, “Art History,” The Art Bulletin 77:3 (September 1995): 367-91.

Dietrich and Smith-Hurd, “Feminist Approaches to the Survey,” and Mathews, “What Matters in Art History,” Art Journal 54:3 (Fall 1995): 44-7 and 51-4.

Nelson, Robert. “The Map of Art History,” The Art Bulletin 79:1 (March 1997): 28-40.

Nelson, Robert. “The Slide Lecture, or the Work of Art History in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Critical Inquiry 26:3 (Spring 2000): 414-34.

Phelan, Peggy et al., “Art History Survey: Round-Table Discussion,” Art Journal 64:2 (Summer 2005): 33-51.

Russo, Thomas. “A Collaborative Learning/Assessment Model,” Art Journal 54:3 (Fall 1995): 82-3.

Filene, Peter. “Discussing,” The Joy of Teaching, pp. 56-74.

The Digital Transition


“The Digital Transition: Perspectives from Art Historians,” issue of the VRA Bulletin asks, “Does the use of digital tools change the way art historians teach and do research? Does it change the way students learn? Has our professional preoccupation with the creation of (funding of, development of, staffing for, training for) digital tools clouded our view of the ultimate use?” Art historians in a range of different fields address these pedagogical questions in six essays. Anne Leader and Jeffery Schrader address issues in teaching using digital media and technology. Mark Trowbridge, Sarah Johnson and Erik Gustafson describe the impact of changes in research methods on fields of study. Finally Elizabeth Williams pays homage to the all but abandoned use of slides.

As a scholar who’s study began after the 1990s the time when Johnson describes, digital technologies as taking hold, I found these professors perspectives to be quite interesting (p. 13). Johnson continues on to explain, “some [scholarly] tasks are greatly simplified and expanded by the digital environment; others require huge investments of time, resources, vision and new technical skills. Future design historians’ jobs will be radically different, and hopefully the field can be developed by harnessing new technologies, even if they are not all created equally” (16-17). These are all important considerations as I begin my teaching career.

Gift or Loot: Who Owns Cultural Property, A First Year Seminar at Wheaton College

My first thought was, “I want to take that class!”

My second thought was, “I want to teach that class!”

Then I realized, who would want to teach a class we wouldn’t be stoked to take ourselves?

In the fall of 2013 art historian Leah Niederstadt developed a first year seminar course designed to “identify useful elements and applications of blended learning in Wheaton’s liberal arts classrooms.” Entitled Gift or Loot: Who Owns Cultural Property? the course examined contested claims over cultural property. Asking student to consider both historical and contemporary attempts to exercise control over artwork, ethnographic objects, human remains, and structures and to explore the beliefs, economics, ethics, morals, and laws that underpin such attempts and their failure or success, the course had been inspired by a “Teaching Naked” workshop led by Jose Antonio Bowen.

According to Leah Niederstadt and her collaborator Pete Coco, digital strategist at Wheaton:

This case study demonstrates the many ways in which collaboration between faculty, technologists, and college administrators can overcome the upfront resource challenges—particularly those related to time and technical expertise—that can deter the exploration of blended learning in any classroom. At liberal arts colleges, these collaborations have the added benefit of embodying and creating the community that our students join, united around the common goal of enhancing student learning.

For more on Niederstadt and Coco’s findings from this experiment in utilizing blended learning in a liberal arts context, see their blog post on “Digital Projects and the First Year Seminar: Making Blended Learning Work at a Small Liberal Arts College.” 

Leah Niederstadt and students work with the Arab Filly statue

And for further reading:

Berrett, Dan. “The Many Faces of the Freshman Seminar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2013.

Bowen, Jose Antonio. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2012.

Bryn Mawr College. “Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts, Home.”  Accessed April 30, 2014.

Coleman, Sandra. “25 years and counting: Reflecting on First-Year Seminar.” Wheaton Quarterly, Spring 2012.

DeFrancisco, Vincent. “Four Digital Humanities Projects from Chronicle Readers.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 10, 2014.

Spohrer, Jennifer. “Blended Learning in a Liberal Arts Setting.” Online webinar for National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, September 12, 2012. Accessed June 6, 2014.

Like minds…


I recently stumbled across a professional group I am intrested in joining. Art Historians Interested in Pedagogy and Technology (AHPT) is a College Art Association and Southeastern College Art Conference affiliated society with the purpose of promoting “knowledge of all aspects of technological applications for the teaching of visual culture. It further proposes to encourage graduate training in this aspect of the teaching of visual culture.” The group’s recent publications include:

Blog Post about Lectures and New Technologies:

Teaching Art History with New Technologies: Reflections and Case Studies, edited by Kelly Donahue-Wallace, Laetitia LaFollett, and Andrea Pappas. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. Available at

Sarah Jarmer Scott, “Wiki-based learning in the Art History survey,” Academic Exchange Quarterly14:1(Spring 2010).

Kelly Donahue-Wallace, “Assessment in Art History,” CAA News 32:5 (2007): pp. 8-12.

Making Data Promiscuous

“Making data promiscuous” that is exactly what the Walters Art Museum is trying to do. Or as curator William Noel explained, the important thing is to put the “data in places where people can find it — making the data, as it were, promiscuous. That means putting it on Flickr, Pinterest, that sort of thing; these are forums people are used to using and commenting on, which they already use to build datasets of their own.” For more on the Walters Art Museum and Noel’s perspectives on the digital future of art museums check out his interview with the TED Blog and his TEDxSummit talk on the lost codex of Archimedes.

Growing the 8% starts with me

i heart books

After reading Jose Antonio Bowen’s Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, I did the obvious thing, and started following him on Facebook. As would be expected, Bowen posts some really great resources. Yesterday he posted an infographic that really caught my attention. Turns out it came from a blog called Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed, but that is another story.

Titled “Grow the 8%,” the infographic provided several shocking stats, such as only half of student make “any improvement in writing and critical thinking in the first two years of college” and “Years after a lecture course, students in another study only knew a little more than those who never took the course.” However, the most statement was that only 8% of professors reported taking “any account of research on teaching and learning in preparing their classes.”


The good news is that the infographic provided a list of resources that would help professors improve their teaching. These include:

  • John Tagg, The Learning Paradigm College (2003)
  • Dee Fink, Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003)
  • Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching(2013)
  • John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas (2011)
  • Rebekah Nathan, My Freshman Year (2005)

And books by Parker Palmer, Ken Bain, Susan A. Ambrose et al., John D. Bransford et al., Barbara G. Davis, Donald L. Finkel, and Wilbert J. Mckeachie.

Looks like I have some reading to do!

On and off my mat

Last week I took the leap; I started yoga teacher training. A 200 hour yoga teacher training course had been on my bucket list for a while, but a recent trip to India inspired me to take the plunge.

Then as if meant to be, I found a yoga school close to home with a schedule I could easily manage while still working full time. Unfortunately the next session was full (I took that as a good sign!) and I was put on the waiting list. I figured if it was meant to be it would happen and if not, I could wait. Turns out it was meant to be and I got the email! Someone had been unable to attend, and I was in.

I was nervous, like really nervous to begin and I couldn’t figure out why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was hesitant to share my yoga with others. I have been practicing for years, and it has always been in a way selfish. I have used asana, pranayama, and more recently meditation to ground me, to find calm in turbulent years, to help me feel balanced in the chaos of my busy life. I realized I was concerned about bringing all my expectations about what it means to be a teacher to my mat. So in order to find some balance, I started thinking about how I have applied the lessons I have learned on my mat, into my teaching practice.

Being Present For me, being present manifests in two ways. Primarily it is being in the moment, giving my undivided attention to the students during class time, not thinking about previous courses, or upcoming material. However the idea of being present has also inspired me to think more about why we teach art history, and why is it important for students current lived experience. What connections can be made between images from the past and the present moment? Although being present in a history class seems to be a contradiction, maybe it really speaks to the need to be mindful (another good yoga word) of contemporary biases, and perspectives that colour how we see the past and the future.

Observing without Judgement This is another multifaceted lesson taken from my yoga practice. For me it is a reminder to be aware and be sensitive to students and their unique needs. It is less about me categorizing them and their work as good or bad, and more about me helping guide them. Not only do I wish to cultivate my own powers of observation, but perhaps more importantly it is about encouraging students themselves to observe with out judgement. A thoughtful, engaged art historian does not discuss art as good or bad, but has a developed visual literacy. Observing means being mindful (again!), and able to use curiosity to make connections.

Being Reflective This is one that I have currently listed on my statement of teaching philosophy, but now I am really reconsidering what it means to be reflective. For the first time, this fall I will be teaching the same course again. This gives me the opportunity to really evaluate what went well, and what can be improved.

Finding edges And finally one of the most important lessons I have gleaned from my yoga practice is an ability to find my own personal edge. How do you push yourself while honouring your present moment? How do I find edges for my students and me? How do I foster that intellectual sweet spot where students feel safe but can also push the boundaries of their thinking? This is one that I will always have to constantly be mindful of.

Like yoga, teaching is a journey.