Curricular Resources

Research and Critical Thinking Assignments

  • How to Study on-line
  • Women In Art on-line assignment
  • Looking for Printed Treasure

Object-Based Learning Assignments

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) Scavenger Hunt
  • National Gallery of Art (NGA) Audioguide project

Grading Rubrics

Research and Critical Thinking Assignments

How to study on-line:  This short discussion-based activity was designed to ensure students engage with assigned on-line resources in an active and critical way.  It resulted from student feedback about challenges with on-line content delivery, as well as my own experience transitioning to e-books and multi-media OERs that demand new models of reading, note-taking, and organization.  

It’s best to have students review the on-line materials prior to class because of 1) user limitations on library subscriptions to on-line journals, and  2) the tendency to engage with podcasts and videos more passively in a group when they cannot pause or otherwise control the material.

Note: This activity was the final part of a workshop  “The Technology of Modern Art,” conducted during the first week of class.   The workshop’s goal was to introduce students to key technologies they’d be using routinely throughout the semester (on-line readings, podcasts, blog posts, and electronic portfolios) by having them perform different tasks on their laptops, while working in small groups.  

Learning Outcomes:

  • Access on-line materials for study purposes
  • Distinguish passive and active methods of viewing videos and podcast
  • Identify strategies and/or technologies for remembering information delivered on-line
  • Recognize different approaches used to read and interact with on-line texts

Women in Art On-line Assignment:  I designed this activity to solve a practical problem I discovered the  first semester I taught at Georgetown.  Although the registrar says classes must be held on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, GU students rarely attend.  That first year only ONE student (out of 34 in Intro. to Art History) actually showed up.  My solution the next time I taught in the fall ( Intro to Modern Art) was to develop an assignment that could be done completely on-line (on campus or remotely) and had to be submitted by the end of the scheduled class.  

It also addressed a  major pedagogical concern for my survey courses:  Due to the large class size and quantity of material, I didn’t have a strong research assignment, so students didn’t learn where to find or how to discern good critical and academic resources for study in the field.  

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify and access academic on-line resources for art historical research through the university library’s website.
  • Use an academic resource to conduct art historical research.
  • Assess one’s existing knowledge about female artists in the 20th century.
Looking for Printed Treasure:  I recently began working with Anna Simon, Research and Instruction Librarian at GU’s Lauringer Library, to develop assignments that would have students perform basic research tasks using library resources on-line and in print.  It grew out of our conversations about what students (and scholars) may lose through increased reliance on digital materials and electronic research methods.  For example, we often find useful resources serendipitously while browsing library stacks for an unrelated text, or perusing the tables of contents and footnotes in journals.  Although we are still developing specific learning outcomes and assignment details, our primary goal is to have students recognize the benefits of engaging directly with archival and print materials. If you’re interested, take  a look at this presentation about this issue in relation to our use of JStor. 
1.  Bring a Book to Class Day 
(ARTH140 website)    (download document)
This assignment was designed to supplement a class discussion of Fauvism and Expressionism in the early 20th century.  Students had been given on-line readings and podcasts to learn about the topic.  After completing the readings, they were tasked with performing some basic research using the library’s on-line catalog, and then choosing a book to check out and bring to class the next day to share as a “show and tell” in small groups.  I also had them submit via e-portfolio the relevant bibliographic information and a brief explanation of why they chose a book.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Use the library’s on-line catalog to perform a subject search using key words
  • Locate/check out print resources from the library stacks
  • Distinguish different types of art historical publications including monographs, anthologies, collections of primary source documents, exhibition catalogues, and survey texts
  • Discern usefulness of a resource based on introductory matter, illustrations, and brief review of text.
Notably, more than one student in the class commented that this assignment was the first time they had actually checked out a book from the library.  In addition to the planned outcomes, the assignment was helpful for introducing material and methodological approaches to the topic that I had not included.  For example, one student brought in a book on Expressionist portraiture, which addressed more representational artists associated with the movement after WWI.  Another found an exhibition catalogue that focused on the preliminary study and production process of a single work by Kandinsky, which challenged her assumptions that nonobjective painting required little thought or planning.  Also, several students mistakenly chose books on Abstract Expressionism, which offered the opportunity to distinguish the later American movement and to call attention to pitfalls one encounters when using key words to search for resources.   

Object-Based Learning Assignments

Teaching in DC, I want students to take advantage of the wealth of local (mostly free!) resources for engaging with art, but it’s difficult to schedule required trips for an entire class.  Moreover, taking 35 students for a  1 hour visit to a major museum doesn’t offer much opportunity for active learning.   The following assignments were designed as individual and group activities to engage students and encourage them to think more critically, both about art and its exhibition in a museum setting.

SAAM Scavenger Hunt:  This activity forces (yes, that’s the right word) students to visit a brick and mortar museum and familiarize themselves with the collection, layout, and experience of looking closely at primary objects.  (Designed for an introductory modern art survey covering 1850-present, I chose the Smithsonian American Art Museum in order to expose students to a broader range of American art than what’s covered in the course, and to encourage them to think about what–and why–information is left out of the classes they take.)  

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify different types of art on view at the museum.
  • Find information using museum didactics and object labels.
  • Talk about the impact and possible reasons for the way objects are displayed in museums
  • Point out visual or thematic relationships in two or more works of art.
  • Develop a written explanation supporting their opinion about a work of art

NGA Audioguide Project: This project, which has developed with the support of GU’s CNDLS TLT staff, builds on formal analysis papers I’ve traditionally assigned in introductory art history courses.  Students work individually and in groups over the course of the project, which develops over the last two months of the semester.   Although students were initially apprehensive, their feedback was extraordinarily positive at the end of the project.  One of my favorite comment came from a senior non-major who had never taken an art history course.  Smiling broadly after her final presentation, she told me:  

“It was neat–getting to be the teacher.  I’d thought I could not ever do that.  But, I did.”

Learning Objectives:

  • Create an original visual analysis based on observation of an object in the National Gallery of art.
  • Demonstrate ability to communicate ideas about art (orally and in writing) to audiences with either specialized or general knowledge.
  • Apply appropriate terminology and concepts in a discussion of art.
  • Collaborate and contribute to a team project.
  • Use technology to create a shared educational resource.

 Examples of Student Audioguides
developed by students in GU’s ARTH140 Modern Art (Fall 2013)

Grading Rubrics

Formal Analysis Rubric

Audioguide Podcast Rubric

Group Project/Teamwork Rubric

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