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Online pedagogy in art: comparing A844 Block 2 Sec. 2 and Exercises 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.4 & 3.2.5 in Sec. 3

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Friday, 23 Nov 2018, 18:17

Online pedagogy in art: comparing A844 Block 2 Sec. 2 and Exercises 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.4 & 3.2.5 in Sec. 3

Having recorded real disappointment about the pedagogy revealed by exercises in Sec. 2 of the course, I was really rather thrown back to find that Exercises 3.2.2, & 3.2.3 merely asked you to read quite short selections of prose. It was my fear that when I revealed Discussion about this reading I would have just been told what to think about that reading.

I judged too soon. They didn’t. Indeed they were a model of what online learning and teaching using computer-revealed feedback might be.

I think the reason I did not expect that is that Section 2 provides exercises used computer-revealed feedback that read as the ‘correct’ answer of the exercise task. I believe, maybe in part a pedagogic prejudice of my own, that such a strategy achieves, obviously unintentionally, the hidden educational agenda of lowering learner expectations of their own role in deference to a notion of the always reliably scripted authority of teachers and textbook writers. Indeed these ‘feedbacks’ even patronise the learner into believing they are they picking up a skill that, in the context of spectatorship in painting, always reveals the correct answer. Take this example from Ex. 2.5.4 (on Chepstov) Edwards says: 

“Once you get the idea, this one is quite simple (the clue is in the title).”

This instructs me as a learner that what is being taught is a script ruled by a dominating idea or principle that educated teachers, tutors or writers have but that I don’t have (yet). Hence I can be expected to do the easy ones with clues in the right places but not more challenging ones – like the one to follow on Caillebotte. No doubt this is a laudable kind of mentorship or apprenticeship approach but it rather translates any academic discipline that can be taught that way to a kind of technical exercise.

But in these early exercises in Section 3, this is not what I find. I read through the pieces – right up to 3.2.5 (and a bit further) before going for the reveals so that I could preserve some integrity as having at least contributed to the comprehension of the passages (from Aurier, Barr and Greenberg twice respectively). I found that satisfying. 

However having now returned to the revealed feedbacks I had clearly misses some of the sophistication of the digital pedagogy in this section. The computer-revealed feedbacks were not attempts to impose authoritative readings of the texts learners like me have read but amplifications of points in the texts and then application of these amplified ideas to stimuli (examples from visual art) and to the histories of art that can be unfolded from the implications of the texts.

This is to say that these feedbacks did not primarily make me check my understandings against an expert tutor but took my understandings, added them to those of the expert and developed them. That is, I felt herein cognitively involved – ‘I too (was) a contender’ (sorry Marlon) in academic debate. This has a lot to do with the management of tone and hence relationship between digital writers and their audience of learners. It maintains authority but does not impose or substitute expert readings for those of the learner. Notice how the prose addresses you as a thinking subject – something we, at least subliminally, must register:

But nevertheless, the fact that a photograph remains in some respect an image of something else, is at the heart of its power. It was so then too, the indelible sign of the photograph’s strength. Or, if like Aurier, you were thinking about art and imagination, the irremediable sign of its weakness. (3.2.2)

Notice the pedagogic power of that phrase ‘you were thinking’ in which the addressed is built into the rhetoric and hence the argument and the refined art-historical language it introduces. It empowers me. This is the effect (even in the much shorter feedback on Barr) in fact because the prose does not substitute its own understanding for yours but develops understanding by adding to the context of the original quotation, so that the reader is taken on a journey of comprehension rather than having their comprehension checked.

In Greenberg examples whilst a first revealed feedback does check comprehension to some extent, its tone is that of collusive meaning-building that corrects by sharing the onward movement in a thoroughly shareable co-learner’s language, by opening with something near to colloquial style.

He basically says the modernists reverse the terms of the equation.  (3.2.5)

When it is more teacherly, it is because it communicates ways of reading language in sophisticated (and not-to-be-assumed ways) as in the revealed first feedback in 3.2.4.

In both of the second revealed feedbacks new stimulus art-objects are introduced so that again we feel we are carried forward intellectually rather than contemplating our own performance as a novice. It works by assuming some kind of more equal partnership in that journey introducing technical terms as it precedes:

The governing value of such art has been ‘mimesis’ or imitation. (3.2.4)

To put it in terms we have been discussing here, according to the understanding of key modernist critics …, modernist artists went to great lengths to purge their paintings of images … (3.2.5, whilst absorbing us in learning how to read Rothko together).

I am going to really enjoy Section 3. I can see that.


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