Pedagogy Effective Programs page 2



• Content of the program is restricted to theoretical or fundamental exercises in design, color, drawing and form in conjunction with an orientation lecture course.

• All exercises are given with strict limitations in terms of format, materials and objectives. Most design exercises are done in black and white; the majority of drawing exercises are done with pencil or pen; color may be done as collage, etc.

• Extensive refinements are demanded for all studio work. Exercises are sequential and accumulative. There is correlation between different courses with common terminology.

• The unequivocal thrust of the program is instruction – not art, expression, professionalism or anything other than focus on visual principles, criteria, craft and orientation. Criteria are objective and made available to students with each assignment. Subjective concerns are never a factor in evaluation of student work.

• There is conscious and ongoing effort to develop and require eye and hand skills.

• There is discipline. No radios, headsets, visiting or other disruptive behavior during class time. Students are expected to be in class at a fixed time and excessive absences result in being expelled from the program.

• There is instruction in the use of basic tools and media. Nothing is taken for granted when dealing with first year students. This includes such mundane things as how to hold a pencil and that it must have a point.

• All work is self-paced and students move ahead only after they demonstrate understanding of an assignment. Student work is not graded or collected until the semester end. It is recommended that evaluation and grading of student work at the end of each semester is by review with all faculty members participating. Each student is given a space to display their work. After faculty examination of the work, individual students are brought in and the work is discussed with them. A grade is given at this time.

• Concurrent with studio work, a one hour orientation lecture and slide course is offered. The content is slides of work by painters, sculptors, designers, photographers or architects that provide exemplary role models or illustrate the visual principles being worked on in class. There should be opportunity for faculty presentation and student discussion.

What Happens the Next Year?
Basic Design should not begin with the first semester and end with the second semester. As students move into the discipline of choice, teachers need to be familiar with the Basic Design program, its content and objectives.

Students have to be reminded that moving into a discipline is not something entirely different, but rather, it is an extension of previous studies into more specific areas of concentration. It is essential that instructors in the major reinforce what students did in Basic Design. Students have not always assimilated what they learned from the first year, and they have to be reminded, prodded and pushed to carry over earlier experiences. Student efforts in this respect are often clumsy and obvious, but in time, lessons from Basic Design become reflexive and automatic leaving students free to concentrate on new objectives connected with the area of concentration.

Within my experience, the third semester is the most critical and difficult to teach because of the necessity for bridging the gap between general and specific or theory and practice. Making the connections is determined to a great extent by the attitudes and abilities of teachers within the discipline.

Why Have Basic Design Programs
So Often Failed in the Past?

The primary reasons are

Upper level teachers do not understand connections between Basic Design and their area of concentration.

Upper level teachers cannot define or agree upon what is basic.

Because upper level teachers do not understand connections between Basic Design and the major, they do not know how to build on the first year experience, so they tend to dismiss it as a waste of time.

Few teachers themselves have come out of strong basic programs so most do not have a model by which to judge or formulate an effective program in introductory studies. They do not know what content or structure is required or how it relates to upper level classes. Consequently, they do not grasp the concept of a general program that can accommodate a variety of disciplines.

Because of these conditions, upper level instructors within the majors tend to either be critical even hostile, contemptuous or completely ignore the introductory program.

When I enrolled at art school during the 1940s, the introductory courses were taught by a mixture of painting, sculpture, design and drawing teachers. Painters felt that monochromatic painting using black, white and shades of gray was basic.

Sculptors believed that modeling with clay and working with plaster were basic. Drawing teachers started students with charcoal, newsprint pads and figure drawing from a model. The design teachers gave disconnected exercises dealing with line, point and plane. Many of these notions still persist and some that are even more nonsensical still prevail at many institutions.

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