Theoretical Account Scott McIntosh PGCert The Teaching Artist
It’s about customising to your circumstances and personalising education to the people you’re actually teaching – Ken Robinson
In my role as Scenic Art Tutor I work as part of the Central Production Unit in the paintshop of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I am responsible for the painted scenery elements for the acting, musical theatre and opera productions during the academic year. This structure is to allow students to learn their craft within a professional paintshop environment. It is my role to guide them through the production process, keeping them on target and supporting their learning needs. As a department we actively encourage experimentation when it comes to problem solving, this leads to students achieving their desired results through a self-directed framework.
My lesson Light and Shade is an exercise in Tromp l’Oeil designed for second year undergraduate Production Arts and Design students. Tromp l’Oeil, a French term meaning trick of the eye, is a technique used often in theatre, decorative interior finishes and street art to create something that looks 3D but is painted on a flat 2D surface. For the artist to produce a realistic Tromp l’Oeil effect they must understand the basic concepts of light and shade. Having such an understanding not only helps them with painting Tromp l’Oeil but also to comprehend how objects and scenery react to light, a very important consideration for any scenic artist given that sets are bathed with light on stage.
Before my lesson begins I will be implementing a flipped classroom method of delivery. The flipped classroom is:
A pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. (Educause, 2012)
Online teaching resources such as the Khan Academy have constructed databases of classes that can be used not just as a process of remote learning but to promote collaborative learning with peers and teachers in classrooms. Dr Douglas Fisher details collaborative learning as an opportunity:
To consolidate their understanding of the content, students need opportunities to problem solve, discuss, negotiate, and think with their peers. (Fisher 2008)
Using a flipped classroom model provides the learner an introduction and contextualisation for the class. By sending the students three short videos on light and shade theory and it’s application I’m looking to engage the students and to get them to think about techniques, materials and the different uses of Tromp l’Oeil. I have chosen not to base my whole lesson around the concept of a flipped classroom. I believe it’s important to embed knowledge and understanding of theory and techniques in person with the student. Flipped classrooms promote discussion and experimentation of the subject and familiarisation of the unknown. Putting the students in the place of ‘the expert’ (Dorothy Heathcote 1994) by giving them the knowledge to input into the discussion is important to empowering learners.
When most people hear about the flipped class all they think about are the videos. It is the interaction and the meaningful learning activities that occur during the face-to-face time that is most important. (Overmyer, Bergmann and Wilie, 2014)
For the basis of my lesson plan I have been using Bloom’s Taxonomy, as follows:
- Knowledge – recalling or recognizing information
- Comprehension – understanding the meaning of the information
- Application – putting emerging ideas from the information into practice
- Analysis – interpreting and assessing practice
- Synthesis – developing new approaches to practice
- Evaluation – assessing how well the new approaches are working
(Bates, p218, 2016)
My lesson activity structure is as follows:
- Introduction into the origins and use of Tromp l’Oeil
- Discussion of the use of Tromp l’Oeil in a Scenic Art context
- Discussion of the theory behind the production of a Tromp l’Oeil image, the use of half tone, accents, form shadows, cast shadows, highlights and reflected light. This incorporates a physical demonstration using a light and a ball to demonstrate where shadow and highlights fall
- Drawing exercise using charcoal and chalk to construct a Tromp l’Oeil sketch of a of an architectural moulding
- Moulding example in the light box to compare between the sketch and reality
- Physical demonstration of brush techniques
- Distribution of mouldings, materials and tools
- Discussion of tools and materials
- Preparation work
- Students continue to work through their task of producing a Tromp l’Oeil architectural moulding in paint.
- Clear up
- Pop quiz
- Critical discussion as a group of their work
- Hand-outs for further reading
- Feedback sheets
In the discussions and exercises, numbered 1 to 4 above, I am looking to combine ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Comprehension’ into an engaging presentation and evolve into the ‘Application’ of a practical task.
Bloom’s separation of knowledge has influenced how I have designed the exercises and discussions with the lesson. I have incorporated factual knowledge ‘The basic elements students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems’ (Anderson, Krathwohl 2001) by detailing the origins of Tromp l’Oeil and the theory behind producing it, then evolving the process to use procedural knowledge ‘How to do something, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using skills, techniques and methods’ (Anderson, Krathwohl 2001) by engaging in an immediate drawing exercise which applies the factual knowledge in a procedural way. One of the challenges when using Bloom’s Taxonomy is the transition from knowledge and comprehension:
They recall appropriate concepts; if not the specifics, they remember at least the general ideas. They then tend to summarise the situation of the case, but they can get no further. (Athanassiou & McNett, 2003)
Athanassiou and McNett found that those students operating only at the knowledge and comprehension level offered the information they discovered back without exploring or evaluating what they had learned. By getting the students to apply their knowledge and comprehension at first with a drawing exercise, then analysing their approach and how it can be improved, the transition into the ‘synthesis’ aspect of the lesson (using the same technique of identifying highlights and shadow but now using paint) will be easier. As Athanassiou & McNett describe, ‘The evaluation must be supported and connected to action.’ (Athanassiou & McNett, 2003) to achieve this I have left time for the evaluation of the student’s work as the lesson draws to a close.
By engaging the students in a critical discussion of their final work the students can construct an understanding of their development over the course of the lesson and their future path. Evaluation techniques such as Marvin Bartel’s Emphatic Critique has shaped my questioning to contribute to the development of the work, dropping any negative feedback that can draw a students attention away from any positives. ‘Build awareness through sincere inquiry and discovery’ (Bartel, 2008)
Nevil Postlewaite summarized in his essay ‘Validity vs. Utility: Personal Experiences with the Taxonomy’ that the taxonomy needs adjustments, such as the development of how synthesis and evaluation lie in the taxonomy (something that Anderson and Krathwohl would revise in later editions by swapping the two) and that Bloom himself regarded the taxonomy as a beginning point for any framework. It is also juxtaposed by other taxonomies such as Dr Dee Fink’s ‘Taxonomy of Significant Learning’ which, rather than a hierarchical structure, is relational and promotes interactive elements such as ‘learning how to learn’ (Fink, 2003). I am certainly influenced by having a more adaptable formula and by shifting the dynamic between Bloom’s application, synthesis and evaluation to allow the students the chance to develop their practice and method. Bloom’s approach is useful as a scaffold for my lesson and as a tool in promoting self-management and discovery with the students.
Throughout the design and into the implementation of my lesson I will be aware of the different learning styles of learners detailed by the VARK model. VARK stands for the four different learning styles visual, auditory, read/write and kinaesthetic.
VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. (Fleming, 2006)
I have attempted to cater to all the types of learning styles throughout the lesson, by having paper hand-outs that mirror the content I speak about, and through visual examples and exercises for the students to take part in. It also makes me think about the opportunities to change the way a class is delivered, which enhance engagement and interest in the subject.
Through the comprehension of the subject and its application and evaluation I hope to create another facet to the students skillset. Whilst instilling a belief in expanding one’s knowledge and experimentation of techniques. The design of my lesson was influenced and guided by the flipped classroom, VARK model and Bloom’s Taxonomy. They have provided a foundation for me to focus on the development of the learner’s journey, by respecting and supporting their learning style. From when the class begins at home and then continues in the workshop I have sought to create an engaging learning environment.
Experience, challenge and limitations are all things we need to embrace for creativity to flourish. (Burnstein, 2012)
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