RCS PGCert Project Theoretical Essay
Marble is one of the most desirable natural stones in the world, gracing the Palace of Versailles to Glasgow City Chambers, but this precious natural stone is too expensive to be used on a RCS musical theatre production. The role of the scenic artist is to translate the production designers vision of a marble floor into reality. The audience must never realise the inner workings of a theatre design, it is a character in its own right, that sits in the background and frames the action. A scenic artist must be adaptable problem solvers and this class on the art of faux finish marbling aims to add to the scenic art students array of techniques. The design of this lesson has taken advantage of the large sections of painted marble that are in the design of the Musical Theatre Production of ‘Chess’. This class will prepare the students for applying their skills in a production context and ask them to document this process for future students to use as a reference. It is used in conjunction with an online resource that is designed to as a supplement to the students learning. The learning outcomes, structure of the lesson, assessment and feedback mechanisms are in response to an investigation into learning theories and practices. They have been adapted for use in a scenic art teaching context.
The design of this lesson began with an exploration of the core values of the class. Alan Pritchard’s ‘The Lesson Checklist’ was a source of inspiration, his checklist provided a pragmatic and practical structure for the activities and learning outcomes of the class. Although Pritchard warns that not every lesson can fulfill every point on the checklist, educators should always strive to reach these pre-defined goals.
The seven point checklist is:
(Bates, p226, 2015)
I began by examining my own response to this checklist:
- Does the lesson have a focus that the students are aware of and working towards?
The focus of the class is faux finish marble for production, how an artist creates this and how they communicate ideas and techniques with their peers. The learning outcomes have to be clear for the students to understand this is the focus of the class.
- Can the content of the class be accessible to students of different experience and ability?
Some of the students have explored this subject before, so the content had to engage those with experience and those with none. The activities had to break from the traditional teaching of faux marble.
- What is the context of the class and the wider context of the art of faux marbling?
The context the students work under throughout the academic year is of the production. The students will be working on the Musical ‘Chess’ alongside taking this class. It was a consideration to use context of the classroom, where students can explore and experiment, to prepare the students for production context, where constraints such as time, finish and technique are more evident.
- How does this class use interaction to engage the learners?
The teaching of scenic art is predominately taught through interaction with the learner and the aim of this class is no different. The teacher should use physical demonstration and verbal communication to interact with the learner throughout the class.
- Is their enough variety in the activities to keep the learner engaged in the subject?
To create variety the activities must diverge from the traditional teachings of faux marble, by giving the students the chance to experiment with non traditional methods they will find what techniques and tools work best for them.
- Is this class challenging enough for the different student levels?
This class will be challenging for every student because replicating natural surfaces is one of the hardest aspects of scenic painting. Even those with prior experience can develop the skills and knowledge they already have.
The learning outcomes of this lesson were written to reflect the students learning journey through the investigative class activities and into the production work marble. The learning outcomes follow the taxonomy set out by learning theorist Benjamin Bloom:
- Knowledge – recalling or recognising 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, 2015)
The learning outcomes for the students participating in the marble class are:
- Evidence the ability to combine a variety of paint application techniques to create a faux finish marble.
- Evidence the ability to apply the techniques taught by this class in a production context.
- Evidence the ability to visually document the faux marbling process during the production of chess by using different video and picture methods
Learning outcome one reflects the knowledge, comprehension and application aspects of Bloom’s taxonomy. As the students move through the activities they are gaining the knowledge and understanding about how faux marble is created and applying that knowledge in different tasks. Learning outcome two brings the application of their knowledge and comprehension into a different context, it focuses the student on the analysis of their practice and shows how different approaches can change the outcome. The third learning outcome focuses on the evaluation of the student’s work, by documenting their process they are breaking down the steps they have taken to reach their goal, allowing them to evaluate the success and what could be done differently. This is a period of focused reflection is not usually given until the very end of the academic module, it is important for the students to have the space to evaluate their progress from the beginning of the class until this moment.
The formative assessment principles of Black and Wiliams’ ‘Inside the black box’ have underpinned the choices for assessment mechanisms. The key aspects of their theory are:
- Learners being actively involved in the learning process
- Feedback based on learning outcomes
- Flexible teaching methodologies
- Learners who engage in self assessment and peer assessment
- Acknowledging the impact of assessment on motivation
(Bates, p252, 2015)
Black and William state that assessment should not wait till the end of the session, that milestones set for during the class are appropriate markers to give assessment of student work. With this in mind I designed assessment from the teacher and self assessment to happen at the end of every task using the questions:
- How did I get here?
- What could I have done differently?
- Where am I going next?
- How will I achieve that?
This starts the process of student led reflection and assessment that will continue into the documentation of their process. Peer assessment is another important mechanism; the production work will be led by a student head scenic artist on ‘Chess’. The student in charge will be giving assessment on their peer’s work and in turn each student will be involved in assessing each other. This promotes an open environment of growth in which the students feel a willingness to communicate and share.
The mechanisms for giving the student feedback on their progress and whether they have reached the learning outcomes are influenced by Jim Gould and Jodi Roffrey-Barentsens’ ‘Six Stages of Feedback’. This has provided the structure for how feedback is delivered to the students. The formula follows these principles:
(Bates, p260, 2015)
This theory puts the emphasis on the student first then the teacher. Following this method, the students is given time to analyse their own artwork and process. Then the teacher’s feedback informs and focuses on specific areas of development before setting actions with the student for future work. All feedback must start with a positive and end with a positive, this should be encouraged in the self reflection of the student’s work.
The learning theories and practices that I have chosen as a basis for my lesson plan all revolve around the engagement and involvement of the learner in the teaching process. The teaching of scenic art is a collaborative process, with teachers learning from how students respond to tasks and experiment with ideas. The theories that have provided the structure for the marble class have become important milestones in my own learning journey, and the development of my artistic practice is moulded by the ideas of these theorists. The continuation of a collaborative working practice and an open reflective classroom is in part due to these educators.
Bob Bates, 2015. Learning Theories Simplified: …and how to apply them to teaching. 1 Edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd
Black, P. & Wiliam, D. Educ Asse Eval Acc (2009) 21: 5. doi:10.1007/s11092-008-9068-5
Gould, J and Roffey-Barensten, J. (2014) Achieving Your Diploma in Education and Training. London: SAGE Publications Ltd
How to Use Bloom’s Taxonomy in Your Classroom [WWW Document], n.d. . About.com Education. URL http://712educators.about.com/od/testconstruction/p/bloomstaxonomy.htm (accessed 5.1.16).
Pritchard A. (2005) Ways of Learning. London: David Fulton