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Teaching Philosophy

My passion is teaching, and it informs all aspects of my professional practice and aspirations.  What I love most is the opportunity to help students at all levels recognize and deepen their interest in the material we explore together. For much of my career, this has meant helping individuals become more confident in their ability to find meaning in art and its relevance to their own interests, experience, and knowledge base. I also want my students to engage critically with the broader world, so I encourage them to question ideological, political, social, and economic functions of institutions that disseminate knowledge and give value to material and visual culture. In recent years, my pedagogical philosophy has evolved, along with my teaching methods, to empower students to disrupt existing academic hierarchies, to assume greater authority to shape their intellectual growth, and to pursue activist goals that can improve their lives and those of the people around them.  

Knowledge builds confidence and practice builds knowledge. My teaching strategy is to give students lots of practice looking, talking, and writing about art, usually through active learning and project-based assignments that involve higher order thinking, collaboration with peers, and involvement with local communities. I hold fast to the art object as the primary source of art historical study, so learning to look closely is essential. In today’s digital and globalized culture, however, this skill is best cultivated through varied experiences that allow students to engage with art in multiple environments (virtual and in real life), and to interact with many people involved in art’s production, interpretation, exchange, preservation, and display. Giving students access to this broad range of voices provides foundational knowledge and forces them to acknowledge, and reconcile, disparate perspectives and concerns. My job as an educator is to facilitate these experiences, to ground them in relevant theoretical and scholarly discourse, and to guide students to capitalize on opportunities to formulate their own ideas, which they must then communicate and support through research, reflection, and synthetic thinking.  

My pedagogical approach complements my research interest in questions of teaching and learning, and the potential for cross-sector collaboration to enhance art historical instruction in different settings.  Although extensive research exists in museum education and art education, it does not emphasize art history taught in a classroom context and rarely addresses K-12 instruction in the discipline. While academic art historians may tout object-based learning as essential, they have only recently begun to integrate gallery-based teaching techniques and active learning experiences, and little research has been done to assess the effectiveness of these methods or their application in post-secondary learning environments, including digital and hybrid courses. The ironic effect is that instruction in art history in museum and K-12 contexts remains largely tied to outdated pedagogical models traditionally practiced in higher education.

The lack of rigorous pedagogical literature in art history led me and my colleagues at AHTR to co-found Art History Pedagogy and Practice, a peer-reviewed e-journal, which is maintained on the Digital Commons through an informal partnership with the City University of New York. My current work involves a discipline-wide effort that includes educators in museums, K-12, and higher education to support art historians interested in conducting action-based pedagogical research in order to develop robust scholarship of teaching and learning in art history.  This project is important to generate public facing knowledge that shows the relevance of art and art historical study toward the broad educational goals of students today.  

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