Unlearning

 · 3 mins read

I wanted to take on a new position with different content, faculty, and processes because I knew it would help my practice become more well-rounded. So, while I wasn’t surprised that I am struggling a bit with wrapping my head around the idea of arts-specific pedagogy, what is surprising to me is how ingrained in my mind my process for business education design.

The first interaction I had that highlighted this gap was a meeting between two of my new colleagues and a faculty member. The topic was studio instruction. As I listened to the conversation, the topic eventually shifted to the struggle of studio instruction in an asynchronous online environment. Specifically, the lack of thorough, thoughtful critique in the studio environment was troubling for the instructor and my fellow designers. Aware of the fact that this is my first experience with studio instruction, they showed me some examples of what the students were producing and the types of feedback and commentary they wished the students would produce.

“It’s not a discussion forum,” one of my colleauges stated. “It’s part of the experience of creating.” She was referring to the community that develops when artists make in the same space. They get to see each others’ process, offer encouragement, advice or directions in the moment, and watch the work develop. It is a very stage-driven, process-focused type of expereince and a way of learning that seems to have become unique to art education, despite its applicability across other disciplines.

In that moment, I was thinking, “Damn, I have a lot to learn.” But after some reflection later on, I amend that statement to, “Damn, I have a lot to un-learn!”

Business is a very logical, linear type of discipline. Students progress through courses in a manner that clearly builds their knowledge and allows them to specialize after they learn the broad, general foundations of business topics. It’s pretty lock-step; you’re not going to go into Accounting 400 until you’ve successfully passed Accounting 100, 200, and 300. There are sets of strategies that work really well to communicate that kind of knowledge, and they’re pretty easily to implement and replicate. Students come to expect to learn those skills and concepts in a specific way that, I’d argue, is pretty prevalent in most practitioner’s disciplines. Teacher preparation comes to mind as another that is relatively lock-step. You don’t student teach until the very end, when you’ve obtained all the prerequisite knowledge to prepare you for the experience.

But art education on the other hand appears to expose students to as much as possible right away, and the rest of their education focuses on helping students develop a mindset through which to apply those skills to various situations. That may be a naive way of stating it (after all, the subject of this reflection is my lack of understanding!).

To that end, I’ve spent some time this week looking for titles from our library to help me ground my practice in this new field. I’m beginning my study with “Discord and Disjuncture Between the Arts and Higher Education,” which is a compilation of papers by authors who have experienced the conflicting values of today’s higher education landscape and the greater goals of art education. It’s edited by Jessica Hoffman Davis, who writes a compelling introduction that sets a clear stage for what follows in the rest of the book.

I’ve only just started the book, but I hope to refelct here as I read through each contributor’s experiences and share my own connections. It is part of a series by the publisher on the arts in higher education. If you’re interested in picking up a copy yourself, here’s the info for the Amazon listing:

Davis, J.H. (2016). Discourse and Disjuncture Between the Arts and Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan US.

You can also purchase individual chapters and get more information about the rest of the books in the series at Palgrave Macmillan’s website.