Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reflections on Teaching

Professor Peter Levine reflects back on his experiences partnering with the Smithsonian and looks forward to the fall.

Bancketje (Banquet) by Beth Lipman - American Art Musueum, Washington, D.C.





This semester I partnered with two people at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Susan Nichols and Woody Dowling worked with me to develop an assignment for my class that would take my course topic, “Morality and Art: The Good and the Not So Good,” beyond the classroom and into their museum. The aim was for students to create a recording in reaction to a work of art that would be posted to the Smithsonian’s website.

It began on a cold pre-spring morning, when they gave me a personal tour through the American Art Museum on I Street (right near the Chinatown Metro). They had been looking to expand their range of students who recorded podcasts (either creative or interpretive) to college students. I was looking for a way to offer my students an opportunity to apply the framework of our course’s conversation to forms of art we didn’t have time to discuss in class. Also, it was a relatively easy way for students to earn extra credit.

As the semester closes and the assignment comes due, I am receiving some very thoughtful recordings which I will forward to my SI partners. Some students wrote poems, others tried to interpret or decipher the aims of their chosen artist.

Though it’s a work in progress, I think the exercise achieves the goal of expanding students’ appreciation and analysis of art, while making clear there are many resources at their GW doorstep.

Marissa Ostroff, a freshman in my class, reflected, “It was interesting to go out of GW to see what DC has to offer. I enjoyed seeing artists that I wouldn’t ordinarily see.”

The one thing I think I will change in the future is that I will transform the assignment from extra credit to a regular course assignment. And I’ll plan to consider ways to leverage this new partnership in different directions. Overall, however, like my students, I learned about another terrific resource at my doorstep.

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