Pedagogy Foundation Programs page 2


Significant Variables: Prerequisites
I began my education at the University of Nebraska in 1946. My major was advertising design. Art was relatively new at the university, and there was no general introductory program. Educational sequence was controlled through a system of prerequisites. I was permitted to enroll in only one three-credit studio course per semester in the first year, and my instructor was a painter.

With prerequisites, the institution controls enrollment through assignment of personnel and the number of classes. Unfortunately, the demand is often greater than the availability of courses, and many students have to spend extended periods of time to get into required classes. The prerequisite requirement can add as much as two years to the time a student must spend to earn an undergraduate degree. When students cannot enroll in the desired class, they generally sign up for other classes. This benefits the institution through added tuition income, while at the same time, the students are still listed as departmental majors inflating the enrollment figures for art and design.

Because of the interrupted program and lack of consistency resulting from different teachers in several sections, the educational effectiveness is relatively low. The fragmented program also denies students the value of the collective educational experience where students move through the program as a group. Multi-use space is operationally efficient but it detracts from the educational quality as students do not have a home base. Attending university can be like going to school in a bus station and living out of a locker. Controlling enrollment and sequencing of courses through prerequisites tends to favor the institution much more than it does the student.

Significant Variables: Rotation
During 1948, I transferred to the Minneapolis School of Art and was enrolled as an advertising design major at the sophomore level. The introductory studies program was for two years, and it was based on painting, sculpture, basic design and drawing.

This was at the time when the number of students under the GI Bill peaked, and the school was over-subscribed. A number of WPA artists were hired as teachers to handle the influx of students. My recollection of the introductory studies program is somewhat hazy. However, teachers from every department were assigned to the program and each taught what was considered basic to their discipline. Painters worked with values, and assignments were limited to painting still-lifes in black, white and shades of gray. Sculptors worked with clay and plaster.

Basic design was borrowed from Bauhaus imagery and drawing was based entirely on life drawing from a model with charcoal on newsprint. I think a class in calligraphy was also required. My memory is that sections were rotated through the program in semester units rather than having multiple sections. However, drawing was taught in sections by several instructors. I believe that two-year programs for introductory studies were commonplace in visual art programs throughout the country at that time. Even to this day, assignment of faculty to the first year is often influenced by older notions of reserving what is perceived as the best teachers for upper level students. Teachers who are young and inexperienced, those near retirement and believed to be out of date, those considered to be weak instructors or even teachers being punished by administration are frequently assigned to foundations.

The program was fragmented both in content and instructional philosophy. While the educational content was often of dubious quality, the educational experience for students was reasonably consistent. There was institutional restraint in enrollment which was commendable.

Significant Variables: Team Teaching
As a result of the Albers program at Yale University during the 1950s, a few schools adopted a new concept for introductory studies. A faculty of four to six full-time faculty were recruited to teach only in the Foundations program. If I am not mistaken, I think this was when the term Foundations was coined. A large space that would accommodate one hundred plus students was allocated to the program.

This was fixed-use space and students had access every day including weekends until midnight. The faculty team taught the entire group as one class. Drawing, color, two- and three-dimensional design with some visiting lecturers were the mainstay of the program. All work was based in perceptual theory. This was a period when most schools put a great deal of emphasis on interdisciplinary studies.

Team teaching required a very close working relationship among faculty, and there was constant interaction among faculty members regarding program development and student progress. Because faculty involvement was limited to Foundations, teachers had no particular vested interests in where students would go after completing the program.

The principal advantages of this system was the unbiased relationship with students. One of the drawbacks to the earlier practice of drawing teachers from each of the disciplines was the constant pressure on students from teachers attempting to recruit the best ones into their program. Also, because of the singular assignment to Foundations, faculty did not have to cope with a divided commitment. Team teaching the students as one class insured every student of having exactly the same educational experience. Perhaps one of the more significant changes was reducing introductory studies to one year.


Team Teaching (continued) >


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