Portfolio Program: The Figure – Curriculum Development

This week is the beginning of our winter term at Marwen, which means that I get to post weekly about our newly revised Portfolio Program curriculum! But, before I embark on that journey, I wanted to take a moment to share my initial thoughts because there have been a lot of great revisions to the program, and beginning with a reflection on the curriculum instead of the first day will to help frame my reflections as I teach each class.

For those of you who followed my posts over the summer, we’ve decided to change the structure from 3 courses (Part I: Figure & Portraits, Part II: Objects & Space, and Part III: Independent Projects) into 5 different classes that happen throughout the year (one each term, and two in the summer); each of which will focus on one genre.

By beginning the series in the fall term we hope to access more students, and allow us to connect with them a lot earlier. Often times we had seniors taking these classes in the summer, at which point they’d already finished the application process. Plus, we now have more time to dedicate to helping student develop a body of work.

And I get to start by teaching Portfolio Program: The Figure!

Excerpt from my curriculum planning notebook

I’ve been really excited about getting started because I’ve spent months trying to re-evaluate and improve the curriculum. I learned so much from my reflections of the program last summer, as well as through the new things I’ve been trying out in classes like Creative Explorers. But mostly I’ve just been really excited to help students develop their work.

On top of this, I was asked to take part in a relatively new initiative at Marwen: Kate Adams, our coordinator of teaching artist professional development, has been working with four teaching artist each term to try and explore what assessment looks like at Marwen. Obviously we’re not trying atacand cialis to get to the point where we’re grading student work – the thought alone makes me cringe. We are asking ourselves, “How do we assess the effectiveness of our programs?” and “how can we write the best curriculum for what we hope our students will gain?”

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On one hand it’s about building tools for ourselves as educators that will help us reflect, and ultimately make us better teaching artists. cialis bph forum But it’s also about recognizing that what we do at Marwen works – in so many ways – so how can we develop tools to collect data that will help us explain HOW and WHY it works.

My collection of assessment notes

So with all that in mind I’ve cialis viagra better decided that I really needed metrogel canadian pharmacy to focus on one main learning objective that I will assess. This will serve both as an instrument to help guide how I navigate the class, and as the main objective of the course:

Students will have a better understanding of how to use the figure as a tool for communicating personal artistic vision.

In developing the curriculum I have also taken into consideration what I’ve learned through teaching, what I’ve found to be successful, and what I deem to be important in my courses:

1) Provide a consistent structure. I will start each day by introducing the theme we’ll be working in, showing cialis online canada cheap them artist who work under those same principles, guide them through a series of warm-up exercises, providing them time to develop work on their own, and end with reflecting on the days events and then clean up. Allowing each day to progress under the same structure will help students be better prepared by knowing what to expect, and what is expected of them.

2) Approach a student’s development as you would teach them how to ride a bike: Guide and then let go. During the first couple of weeks, the warm-up exercises serve to introduce students to a variety techniques to develop work (using the daily themes as guides). They also serve to prepare them for the longer figure poses where they are given the task of developing their own work while reflecting on what they’ve learned. Gradually, I will relinquish direction of the projects to the students so that by week 6 they are self-directing their projects and developing their own themes and approaches and bringing in their own interests and styles.


Screenshot of my artist database blog – the-art-armory.tumblr.com

3a) Provide lots of resources. If I want students to learn how to approach figurative art as a form of artistic expression, I can’t assume that they’ll know what that looks like. I also can’t expect students to know the depth by which a theme/concept can be explored when we only spend one class session on each theme. For that reason, every day I will have work of contemporary artist who embody the principles I’m trying to introduce them to. I will also share my personal artist image database blog and sketchbooks to show how resources are an important component of my own artistic development.

Students from Summer canadian online pharmacy 2012 spending looking at artists’ work

3b) Printouts over PowerPoints. I know this isn’t the most feasible thing for everyone, but it’s been so much more effective to have images posted on the wall instead of projecting the work and giving a lecture. I find that students forget about the work we discuss when it’s no longer difference in viagra and cialis there. By having them on the wall from the start of class, they serve as a tool to establish the days theme, students can walk up to the images and explore them on their own time, and I can refer back to them throughout the class. By the end of the course, when we have a group critique, it’s also nice for their work to take place of, and thereby become, the artist work we look at.

4) Be transparent. From the start I want to make students aware of my goals for the class, the learning objective I hope to achieve, the structure of the class and the reasons for that structure, and even our participation in this “assessment” project. I truly believe that the more they are aware of your intentions the more comfortable they will be with what is expected of them, the more involved they will be in helping you attain those goals, the better class participants they will be, and the better they will be able to reflect on their own development.

And a new one I’ve thought of, with regards to assessment:

5) Integrate assessment into the structure of the class so it is not intrusive but becomes another part of student development. This will be done by:

a) Using my pre-term survey, in which students identify what they are hoping to get out of the class and personal goals they hope to achieve, as the first assessment tool. As before, it will help me adapt the curriculum to ensure I am helping support individual student development, but will now also serve as the first artifact to measure my main learning objective against.

b) Having an informal discussion at the end of each day where I will ask the students to think about what they found useful or effective about the day’s activities. Not only will this help me evaluate the success of the day in fulfilling the learning outcome, but also it will create a structure in which students must stop and reflect on what was beneficial to them and perhaps identify a studio practice that they can use on their own in the future.

c) Developing an end-of-term survey (specific to my course) that will ask students to reflect on the personal goals they established, and the classes learning objective. I will ask them to identify the ways in which this course helped them achieve those goals, or ways that we can improve the program to better do so. At this point, I feel it will be important to not only thank them for helping support my investigation of assessment, but to make clear the importance of reflection and how it benefits them to identify where they were when they came in, where they ended up, and what were those components that helped bring them to that point.


Examples of previous student work

So, if you are ready to join me once more as I discuss the development of this class, then I welcome you to stop by each week on Tuesday evenings and see how this all looks in action. I can’t wait to see what the students bring to this class!

Christian Ortiz About Christian Ortiz
Christian Ortiz has been a part of Marwen since 2001, first as a student, then teaching assistant, teaching artist, and now staff member. As an artist and educator, process, research, and discussion are a major component of both his studio practice and classroom environment - Practices which he uses as he helps Marwen develop curriculum and programming around students' artistic development. You can learn more about his classroom and studio experiences on his blog christianortizart.blogspot.com.



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