Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thoughts on studio vs. Liberal Studies classes

As I'm not teaching studio this quarter/semester (my schools are on different systems), I find I muse of late on the implications of that.
What are the advantages of one over the other, from a teacher's standpoint?
I love teaching ideas. The value of what's being done has to be part of doing it, and if what you're doing doesn't stand up to some measure of scrutiny, then it's just busywork. So studio courses clearly need a humanities/ liberal arts framework.
But ideas require context, and ideas about art need the context of the art itself. While it can be a self-conscious process, an awareness of the history and theory of the discipline in which one works can, and ought to, inform the work.
Any studio teacher worth their salt must incorporate some theory into their teaching. In order for a drawing to be most effective, it must incorporate design considerations, mathematical principles and a measure of psychological insight. Communicating that to a student, especially a novice, is challenging, to say the least. Students at that level often tend to take a defeatist tack- "I can't do that!" The studio teacher's challenge is to get them out of their own heads and into the work itself.
The humanities teacher, on the other appendage, must of necessity be a bit of a pedagogue. The implicit didact in this position has a measure of necessity. While ideas are fluid, core principles underlying those ideas form a foundation that is crucial to the successful absorption of any of the ideas presented in a humanities class. So the didactic position is necessary to get the work started, to say nothing of completed, if any such work can be said to be complete.
As I prepare for the paradigm shift of going from the digital arts studio back into the lecture hall as a primary arena for the first time in more than half a year, I find my thoughts turning to these concepts.
There's an associated, more universal concept, that I got from an early teaching mentor, William Wells.
We can't teach them anything.
All we can do is show them. It's up to them to learn.
This is both a sadness and a liberation, and applies equally to the studio teacher, the humanities teacher- any teacher.

No comments:

Post a Comment