My Top Ten Student Engagement Techniques


Inspired by Elizabeth F. Barkley’s Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty I have drafted a list of the ten I am going to incorporate in my classes next semester:

1) Artifacts – Present a physical object that represents key ideas to prompt observation and discussion.

2) Focused Reading – Identify 3-5 themes or concepts for students to look for in an assigned text.

3) Quotes – Distribute slips of paper with quotes for students to consider then discus.

4) Seminar – Students prepare for an in-depth, focused discussion of a topic in small groups.

5) Classify – Distribute items (specimens, images, objects) for students to classify and explain their categorization.

6) Academic Controversy – Students partner up to argue for and against two sides of a controversial topic.

7) Split Room Debate – Present a topic or case study then divide students to argue each side, moving about the room according to their opinion.

8) Team Concept Maps – Teams of students draw diagrams of ideas or concepts.

9) Letter – Students assume the identity of a key figure and write a letter explaining their contribution, theory, or significance.

10) In Class Portfolio – In small groups students organize notes, assignments, reflections, etc. into portfolios for submission.

Concordia Flips Out!

Benoit-Antoine Bacon highlighted the CIF applicants’ impressive range of ideas, that encompass everything from a science-focused journalism lab to game-related programming.

Check out how Concordia is flipping classes!

Note the contributions from Art History:

Art History, Art Education, Theatre and History

Course: Right to the City: Post-Industrial Ecologies
Project lead: Cynthia Hammond
Term accepted: Winter 2015
The Innovation: “The teaching challenge we wish to meet is to help students learn in place, from a place, and with its residents and social organizations — in this case, in Montreal’s south-west post-industrial neighbourhoods. Our design challenge, as educators, is to find ways to encourage students’ participation in what sociologist Henri Lefebvre famously termed the ‘right to the city,’ by which he meant the power to change the city, to render it more inclusive, responsive, and respectful.”

Course: HIST387 – Museums & Heritage in a Globalized World
Course: ARTH615 – Postcolonial and Indigenous Theories and Methodologies for Art History in North America
Project lead: Erica Lehrer and Heather Igloliorte
Term accepted: Winter 2015
The innovation: Lehrer:Our proposal is innovative in particular with respect to bridging student learning experiences across a variety of boundaries — including individual and group learning; theory and practice (or critique and creation); academy and community; aesthetic appreciation of material culture and cultural critique; undergraduate and graduate levels; Anthropology and Art History.”

Nice work Cynthia and Heather!

#Future Humanities


This weekend academics from around the continent are gathering at McGill University in Montreal to discuss the future of graduate studies in Canada. Future Humanities: Transforming Graduate Studies for the Future of Canada promises to be an important contribution recent debates on ways to reform the humanities for the 21st century.

In a Globe and Mail article on the event, organizer Paul Yachnin, the director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, said “Maybe 15 to 20 per cent of people who enter PhDs get full-time academic work. That’s a remarkably poor showing. … It means that students who complete PhDs and put themselves on the academic job market and don’t get academic jobs feel like failures.”

For more on the conference see the program here.

Making art history come alive


The year is 1625. You, Queen Anne of Austria, the wife of Louis XIII, King of France, would like to commission a portrait. Your mother-in-law, Marie de’ Medici, recommends Rubens, her court painter, but you are stubborn, and would like to have it your way. You know about this aspiring young genius, Rembrandt van Rijn, who, despite his young age, is known for his portraits. In your discussion, you will evaluate both artists’ portraits, will compare their styles and will choose the artist who will work on your commission. Will you follow the advice of your mother-in-law (after all, Rubens is the most sought-after portraitist in Europe)? Comment on your peers’ postings. You are free to choose any form for your writing assignment, a letter to your brother, King Philip IV of Spain, or a chat with your minister.

What a great assignment! This is just one of many great ideas I found in Making Art History Come Alive In The Online Classroom by Anahit Ter-Stepanian of Sacred Heart university in Fairfield. She explains, “Student engagement, development of critical thinking, and fostering original ideas are among the many challenges of online course design. This concern is particularly pertinent for courses in humanities, where the lack of face to face interaction and group discussions needs to be compensated with other methods resulting in similarly successful learning outcomes.”



At the College Art Association conference in February, Marie Gasper-Hulvat an Assistant Professor at Kent State University-Stark, presented her project, “Tweets, Secret Words, Bingos, and Blogs: Facilitating Engaged Participation in Art History Surveys.” 

Gasper-Hulvat astutely noted:

So many traditional art history survey classrooms function as venues for spectacular rather than participatory experiences: Students sit passively in immovable desks, staring at bright images on a screen that illuminates an otherwise dark classroom. The disembodied voice of their instructor tells (oftentimes quite compelling) stories about the projected images. The instructor is perpetually divided from the students by virtue of professorial authority, by controlling and narrating the images on the screen, by the implicit social contract established by the university setting. The professor remains the active and powerful agent who wields knowledge and grades while the students remain passive and receptive agents who receive all that is wielded at them.

Following her presentation Gasper-Hulvat posted an excerpt of her poster on the Art History Teaching Resources blog with the hope of discussing her methods with a broader audience and collecting other techniques professors use to actively engage students in art history courses, especially the notoriously difficult survey format.

Follow the discussion on Twitter #EngagedArtHistory!