art historian do's/dont's


Dr. G:
Is it me or is the best way of teaching the art history survey ancient to medieval course still with slides in a lecture format, ideally in a darkened room lit by a lighted lectern?

I am currently at an institution which does not have the facilities for a lecture style format, i.e., no lecture hall, no lighted lectern and very few rooms that have an ability to be darkened fully, none which have lighting which can be dimmed, and so am having 'problems.' The style of teaching that is being promoted is seminar style, groups are small, 10 students, with no art history background or major/minors enrolled.

Has any one been successful in teaching this survey as a seminar class, twice a week for 1 hour 45 min, with group work and discussion rather than lecture? I know the Web sites for Janson and Stokstad are interactive with discussion questions and good possibilities for e-learning. Perhaps this is the way things are going -- bye, bye slide lectures hello group e-learning? Can the student still build up a visual vocabularly with this change in teaching format?

Dr G.

To some point, the slides are still better. The scale permits elements to be pointed out easier. CD rom sets, and the like, can be fairly expensive. Especially given the production cost vs. price issue. And when the format, software ages it can be a problem retrieving sources.
Powerpoint, for some types of art history powerpoint presentations can be problematic. Mainly because the syntax format that it requires often causes the 'See spot run, see spot jump' approach ... aka 'enlightenment in ten words or less.' Not really suited to some concepts in VFA history and crit.

Group e-learning, contingent on the equipment and general affluence of the students and institutions. There are places where many students can't afford home computers, or the school can't keep it's IT running in any meaningful matter. In those conditions, due to the heavy reliance on visuals, slides are more operable. Sounds like your institution might be a place with some facilities and logistics limitations.

In those kinds of cases, the hoary old slide/dark room situation, is the best alternative. Even if the facilities aren't ideal. For example, in the past, I've operated classes in hallways and slides have worked. Use whatever accomodation that can be acquired.

Discussion could take a bit of prompting. Non VFA majors are often reluctant to express opinions in art history surveys. Usually a good way to get them involved is use a text source which stresses the art/society influence, rather than formal aspects. Jansen's a bit lacking in this regard ... others like Honour and Fleming are better suited. Lighted lecturn ... get a small flashlight.


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