Why teach art?
Why teach art?

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Why teach art?

4. Balloon debate

Another statement from a 14 year-old student:

‘I don't want to do art – it's rubbish’

In addressing such a straight dismissal it is naturally worth considering the student's prior learning experiences, aptitudes and influences. However, this perception nevertheless encodes a declaration of value, which is not fundamentally different to some of the earlier quotes explored. It is perhaps unsurprising that negative perceptions voiced by policy makers, government figures and those in positions of public authority do influence both parental and student value judgements. This may explain why, according to some critics, disciplines such as art and music have been given a comparatively marginal status within many school curricular including topics in the National Curriculum for England.

The following activity might be useful in testing and reflecting on this hypothesis, while offering an opportunity to re-emphasise links and interdependences, particularly to the art curriculum. Student feedback may provide one basis for adjusting or reflecting upon present teaching practice or delivery.

Now look at Activities 3 and 4.

Activity 3

Although the card exercise given here is of a familiar format, it can be a very useful tool for involving students in exploring perceptions of value in a discursive and collaborative forum. There are various approaches, one of which is to divide your pupils into five groups of six. Then each group picks three cards from a set containing the names of a variety of careers, vocations and professions. Here are some typical examples.

Soldier Chef Art History
Teacher Cleaner Engineer
Train Driver Politician Artist
Priest Nurse Plumber

Each group could be asked to rank these in ascending order of ‘value’ according to their criteria and perceptions.

A printable set of cards is available by clicking on 'view document' below

View document [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Pupils might also be encouraged to discuss issues of social and cultural interdependency, and some of the issues this raises about the nature of civil society.

It might also be useful to relate some of the conclusions or findings to the intrinsic and extrinsic listings in the first section.

Activity 4

Consider how you might devise a scheme of work over a term for some of your pupils which incorporates some or all of the aptitudes listed earlier. If you teach in the UK, this should be the key stage appropriate to your year group.

Here are three specific issues to keep in mind.

  • To what extent do different artistic media reflect some or all of the justifications and objections just explored?

  • As well as teaching practical and process related skills, how can the historical perspective inform the study of art?

  • What strategies can be used to assess the achievement of learning outcomes?

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