Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Some Basic Beliefs in Contemporary Art Education - Foundations of Contemporary Art Education - A History of Educational Thought - History of Change in Art Education - Development of Psychological thought - The Values of Society - Recent Art History

Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.

A History
of Educational Thought

Contemporary art education, then, is a field that is fed by the history of art and of general education. The development of current practice in art education is also supported by the investigation of pscyologists into the learning process as a whole. [Diffusion of ideas. Assertions for various reasons at various times providing a comprehensive understanding of ways persons learn. Emphasis in the diffusion of ideas does not mean that everything else is eclipsed or should be--so much as it means an aspect asserts its reality.]

Plato (427-347 B.C.). Germ of the concept called 'the search for excellence' in the Republic.

Montaigne (1533-92) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626) emphasized the need to base teaching on first-hand experience rather than on "logic chopping."

Comenius (1592-1670) developed this idea in his Didactica magnaand later made it practical when he asserted that children should not memorize what they do not understand.

Rousseau (1712-88) wrote Emile.Education should be concerned with everyday life--related to children's interests. Let children be children and learn through self-initiated activities. Self competition is preferable to revalry with other children. "What must we think of the barbarous education, which sacrifices the present to the uncertain future, which loads a child with chains of every sort, and begins by making him miserable, in order to prepare him, long in advance, for some pretended happiness which it is probable he will never enjoy?" . . . . it remained for future teachers to make pedagogical order out of Rousseau's theories. Three contributed to this process:

Johann Pestalozzi (1746-1827) gave particular emphasis to the idea that education is more than the process of recording sense impressions on a passive mind. Learners must be active participants and must recognnize the experiences that they encounter. Herbart and Froebel developed these ideas differently:

Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) established his first kindergarten in 1837 after visiting Pestalozzi's school. Teaching methods founded on the naturalism preached by Rousseau and practiced by Pestalozzi . . . . His mystical ideas prompted him to use in the kindergarten objects that have a basic geometric shape--cubes, spheres, prisms, and so on--on the theory that a child would gain an awareness of unity, and indeed deity, by being in contact with some of these "perfect" forms. Froebel's strong beliefs that children should be taught from the concrete to the abstract and that a school should be a miniature society are still considered sound . . . . in this respect at least, Froebel predated the theories of children's concept development of Jean Piaget, for both saw sensory experience as providing the natural basis for distinguishing between material and social realtiies. [And that children can learn more through role playing than through a discussion.]
Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) developed a systematic pedagogy . . . . inspiration to perform this task from Pestalozzi's school . . . . methodology seems cold and formal . . . . his teachings nevertheless recognized in the learning process the natural capacities, interests, and activities of children.

Common educational practice by mid-19th century. The mind acted as a unit with power of apperception: The capacity to assimilate new ideas through ideas already acquired. Compartments of the mind. Separate faculties [i.e., memory, will, resason] that are trained through exercise - and the exercise of certain faculties leads to the acquisition of more faculties, etc. This applied to all areas of human endeavor in education, including visual arts. He elevated the importance of the teacher and made the pupil the listener whose mind was to be molded according to the teachers preconceived plan of study through a Herbartian method of teaching emphasizing the following Steps:

Functionalism/Dewey. Interest in psychological concept related to Darwinian Biology. The mind thought to be the chief factor in adapting to the environment. Hence - the mind was said to consist of functions rather than static structures. Concern with relationship of learners to their environment and to the society in which they live. Experience and education are not synonymous. Education involves the direction and control of experience. A meaningful experience implies some measure of control for future experience. Knowledge is not static. Learning must lead to more learning. The process is never ending. [Learn by doing and mental recapitulation . . . . ]

G. Stanley Hall. The selection of learning activity should proceed from the study of child development. A primary obligation of the teacher is to study the child rather than the subject. Defender of the happiness and rights of children. Led to laisey-faire methods of progressive era.

Stimulus-Response/Thorndike. Based his education theories on Stimulus-Response [S-R Theory]. Learning consists in the establishment of a series of connections or pathways in the brain resulting form a specific response to a stimulus. The Synapse [gap] between nerve endings resists the stimulus - thus repeated stimuli bridge the gap. Repetitive drill. Breaking the learning down to parts or connections and develop thro gh drilling an elaborate and intricate system of connections. Still applied to reading and math.

Gestalt Psychology/Kurt Koffka's The Growth of the Mind Strong influence on contemporary art education. Organism acts as a total entity [in learning]. It does not exercise only certain parts. Wholes are primary. Parts derive their properties and their behavior from the whole. Learners acquire knowledge not by building bit by bit a system of neurolgical connections - but by achieving insight: Understanding of the relationships among the various aspects of the learning situation.

Rudolf Arnheim. Provided art teachers the clearest and most completely stated view of Gestalt psychology. The whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, such as a work of art which consists of many elements--and by changing one, the whole is changed--but it is through the entity as a whole and not through the parts that understanding is possible.

Behaviorism/B. F. Skinner Learner is a passiave organism governed by stimuli which is supplied by the external envirionment. Behavior can be controlled and is able to be controlled by new and increasingly rigorous technology. Responsible for such contemporary concerns as Operant Conditioning, Positive and Negative Reinforcement, Apparatuses for Research, the identification of conditions and variables which can predict and control behavior. Education Evaluation, Measurement, and Testing have gained emphasis as has the accountability movement in education--tending towards more precision in education in some areas.

Humanism/Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May Learner as the source of all acts--freedom of choice. A whole mesh of feelings, emotions, perceptions that are not all acted out in behavior. Behavior only the observable expression of private being. The goal of education should be to facilitate learning for onll the person who has learned how to learn, adapt and change is an educated person.

Developmental Theory/Piaget Systematic and comprehensive theories of cognitive development. Evolution of thought and language. A Child's concepts [of the world, number, time, space] are aspects of intellectual development. Three major stages in childhood. Development takes place through interaction with environment. Active use of senses in learning. Development is sequential--neither flowering nor programmed. Knowledge of learner's characteristics essential to curriculum and instructional decision-making.

Split-brain research. There are two hemispheres to the brain The experience of one hemisphere functions quite differently from that of the other--They are integrated. Both need recognition. We should be aware of the kind of emphasis placed upon experience and learning in education. Schools have traditionally emphasized the verbal, symbolic, logical, analytical functions of one hemisphere and generally have ignored the intuitive, holistic and analogic functions of the other hemisphere of the brain.


[Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.]



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