Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beyond the Lecture: Students Reflect on Innovative Lecture Strategy

I am now wrapping up my final semester of teaching art history at Sierra College. Interestingly, my most exciting innovations this semester have been in my face-to-face class, as this has finally been the semester in which I've fully integrated all the content I've developed in my online History of Women in Art class into my face-to-face Women in Art class. Now I am beginning to assess my students' perspectives on how this very non-traditional learning environment has affected them.

Today I had the pleasure to speak with three wonderful student volunteers -- Ashley Abba, Heather Caldwell and Kaylee Schlosser -- about their thoughts on this semester. I have plenty more assessing to do including a full survey that is currently deployed, as well as a self-assessment but I thought I'd go ahead and share this recording because -- well, I'm just excited about it!

Here is some context:
This 20-minute conversation includes three students' perspectives about how Michelle's non-traditional teaching environment enhanced their learning experiences as students. Instead of spending class time lecturing, as a traditional college art history classes are typically structured, Michelle had her students access her lectures via podcast or print prior to coming to class via Blackboard and a link to iTunes U.

During the 16-week semester, her students also participated in visual, interactive VoiceThread discussions before their class meetings and had the opportunity to volunteer to lead the class in "wiki challenge" competitions that involved identifying key aspects of artists' lives and accomplishments and presenting them in the class wiki. The wiki content, once "approved" by the class, resulted in a portion of the assessment content.

Listen to the interview.


Anonymous said...

With so much of the coursework done as online homework by the students, how did you configure your in-class sessions? What did you do instead of lecture?

Michelle Pacansky-Brock said...

Great question! And, honestly, the sessions varied quite a bit. We did a regular activity during 2/3 of the semester called a "wiki challenge" which involved the students spending 10-minutes working in small groups. Each group had the task of identifying the major life events and artistic accomplishments of key artists highlighted in the unit. One student volunteered for each "wiki challenge" session and was thereby challenged to extract all the key ideas and concepts that each group reported during their report session. Then that student posted these findings to our class wiki before the next class, we reviewed the wiki challenge contributions at the start of the next class and (as long as everyone agreed it looked good) then the student received extra credit points (which, essentially, replaced a zero for a VoiceThread participation, as there were so many participation points).

Aside from the wiki challenges, time was spent discussing key issues from the lectures, particularly in our early units that involve challenging and often controversial issues anchored in the social construction of gender and the 1970s feminist movement. We spent time deconstructing advertisements too. Students brought in examples of images they'd seen that represented the concepts of "the male gaze" (an idea from lecture) and they applied the concept in small groups and discussed how these ideas perpetuate us in western culture today endlessly.

We took one entire day for a field trip to an artist's studio in Sacramento (2/3 of my students came) where students had the opportunity to see a woman's studio , hear her speak about her art and ask her questions. It was amazing.

We also watched one full-class movie that I would never have had time to watch before. It is a new documentary about the artist, Alice Neel. I had students write to me about how they went home and cried over the movie, as her story was so incredibly inspirational to them.

All in all, we varied our activities and, in my opinion, had the freedom to reach deeply into learning about women in art on a level beyond which I've gone previously.

I hope that answers your question. Thanks for reading and thanks for asking.