Tips for Teaching For Understanding: Understanding Goals

According to The Teaching for Understanding Guide, there are four components to the framework:

  • Generative Topics
  • Understanding Goals
  • Performances of Understanding
  • Ongoing Assessment

We looked at Generative Topics here and that would be a great place to start if you are considering retooling your practice. Here, we are going to take a look at Understanding Goals and how they can be implemented. Continue reading “Tips for Teaching For Understanding: Understanding Goals”

Completed AP Art History Reading 2017

Another year, and another week in Salt Lake City, Utah pouring over thousands of student essays for AP Art History.

This year, we had over 27,000 essays among some 120+ readers from around the country to score. It is easily the best professional development that one can have because, unlike other subjects, you get to be trained and read over several different prompts as opposed to one prompt the entire week.

Larger subjects like AP US History or even AP World function this way – the numbers are so massive that it is unavoidable; the ship may be too large to turn around and train on other questions.

AP Art History is light enough and nimble enough to be able to achieve this. For this year, I assessed essay on three different prompts (there are 6 essay questions total for the exam). What I walked away with is that the students, collectively, are able to write more substantively about diverse topics than in years past.

The “legacy” exam tried to get students to learn to read artwork from outside the European/Western canon, but it was done rather tangentially and with difficulty. A few years ago, the committee decided (regardless of the concerns) that they would adopt a more global perspective with their art images and that this would suffice.

As for the teachers, we were very concerned at the onset as last year’s courses fell into the redesign and we were being told that although it is a global course, the 250 image set would assuage any fears. The problem is, that the burden on us teachers was that we had to quickly become experts in areas that we were unfamiliar with while also sufficiently training out students to read images from alien cultures and perform on the exam. After a second year under our belts, it is evident that we have done a better job shoring up weaknesses and the students performed better.

Now, the 250 images in the image set is actually more like 400 images total – when considering “sets” built around architectural sites, for example. At 20 minutes per image for instructional time, it adds up to a break-necked pace. It was admittedly a challenge this year to give each image its due. The scoring of the essays reflected this, too.

Although overall better, the student scores were low for the “African mask” question for question 4. Attribution, although a definite skill that is required of art historians and trained on with the students, the content that is available and perhaps properly divested among the teachers, was somewhat lacking.

As I have had experience teaching AP World History, and will be called on to teach the course again this upcoming school year, the historical training and background proved to be very beneficial when trying to contextualize the artwork from around the world. I am currently mulling over various projects to not only help share my knowledge, but also make a vital contribution to the field so that others can benefit as well.

That said, the training is top shelf in that it really helps you see the various nuances and approaches a question can take on. The multitude of responses helps sharpen your eyes regarding what you should be looking for and what you are assessing students on.  There is also the added benefit of touching base with your peers and getting some new ideas about how to approach your class and its content.

AP Art History Tours New York City 2017

Two years ago, I “inherited” a group of students in my first year at Pine Crest to take to New York City to tour the major museums for our AP Art History class. It was a terrific experience and it was one I was looking to repeat each and every year with my students.

Sadly, last year, due to the terror attacks in Paris – and heightened security alerts in New York City – we had to cancel the trip. I did try to create an alternative to Chicago, but there just wasn’t enough time to really get the trip fully mapped and planned out.

This year, we started early and got the trip together. The students who were in AP Art History last year were also invited onto this year’s trip – and with 29 students, we packed our bags. We toured the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Frick collection while also seeing “Sunday in the Park with George” on Broadway, starring Jake Gyllenhaall.

We started with guided tours at our first two stops – the MoMA and the Guggenheim – to help give our students an overview of what the museum experience could be like. It is important to invite students to look at art but to taper expectations – there is no reason to expect to see every single work of art in any museum. As the saying goes, museums are like libraries and you wouldn’t expect to read all of the books in one visit.

We packed a lot of art in our tour of NYC – walking around 20 miles in our time there. We stayed at the Blakely on 55th and walked through Central Park to our destination, the Guggenheim on our 2nd day in the city.

We also made a stop across town to lower Manhattan to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on our 3rd day, which was a very moving experience for everyone. We all have our stories to tell; the students were mostly very young when the attack occurred but their interactions with the museum helped shape the event for them from a passing thing into something more tangible. What was at stake, I hoped, was the concept of a museum and what role it could serve. At what point would we be memorializing an event, and doing it service, and at what point could we go to far?

After the dust settled, the students made it back to sunny Fort Lauderdale with a grander experience to build on. The artwork that we had been studying all year long became something real and tangible and, in some ways, was like meeting a celebrity in person. The works were larger than life and they were free to get a closer look and a feel for the work as the hands of the artists were there to share their stories. We will look to do it again next year and, maybe, in bigger fashion.

Completed AP Art History Trip to NYC 2015

Since recently taking over the AP Art History program at Pine Crest, it also fell to me to lead the tour to New York City. It’s a tough job…as they say!

This trip definitely proved to be an amazing opportunity and experience for our students. The fact that this is sort of a long-standing tradition at Pine Crest – dare I say, even a right of passage – is a testament to the school’s vision. To have the opportunity to see these artistic visions in person and experience them in a museum setting will prove to be a formational moment for our students.

We started our odyssey of art after we landed at La Guardia. We proceeded to the Met directly from the airport in order to maximize the time we had in New York City. We spent a good three and a half hours there and then hiked on down to the MoMA for an evening visit. After closing the place down, we then head back to our hotel and grabbed dinner.

The next day we walked from our 55th street hotel all the way up to the Guggenheim, seeing Central Park to our left along the way. We spent a few hours there and then walked back to our hotel area for lunch in the snow – in late March, by the way.

We spent the evening out for dinner and then caught a Broadway play. We closed down for the night, had a nice easy morning with a great breakfast, then loaded back onto the buses for our trip back home.

Three days, three major museums – thousands of artistic works. Almost as many selfies and tweets along the way. The students enjoyed their time in New York; they took to posing like their favorite works and I made sure to drill them whenever I could (which is probably why I roamed alone in the museums!). Truly a unique experience and a wonderful opportunity not just for our students, but even for myself, as their teacher, to become reacquainted with some of the most important works in our field. It had been some time since I have been to NYC, after all.

Serving as External Reviewer and Consultant for FLVS AP Art History

With the new course design on the horizon for College Board‘s AP Art History, teachers, programs, and organizations across the country are scrambling to be ready for next year. The new course design, which will have a core of 250 images contained within 10 defined content areas, will begin in the fall of 2015 with the exam coming in May of 2016.

Florida Virtual School is one of the largest, if not oldest, public educational institutions that serves its community through an online environment. With such a large reach, it was critical that their AP Art History program reflects the necessary content changes in time for the redesign implementation.

John Ricard has not only served as an AP reader for the past two years (2013 and 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah), but has taught AP Art History for 5 years now and has even written test items for College Board’s item drive in 2013 as well as for other publications. He has also taught AP Art History in an online setting, doing so as an instructor with Somerset Virtual Academy a few years back – which was leasing its programming from FLVS. With that kind of varied experience and background, Ricard became an excellent solution as a consultant to help FLVS review its content for the upcoming redesign.