One idea that appealed to me about teaching classes in our wonderful museum was the notion of a middleground–a space/place where none of us were experts and thus we learned differently because the power structure was new. This week, I’m taking my upper-division theory class to the museum for our second co-taught class. Unlike the first visit/class, I feel like more of an expert this time. I suspect two factors contribute to this feeling: (1) it’s our second visit [and, I assume we’ll all feel more like experts this time], and (2) we’re going to be exploring the concept of genre, something I have spent a lot of time thinking about in my own research [I’m not as sure that my students will feel like experts on musical genres or with the general topic of genre]. Since I feel more comfortable heading into this meeting, I also think I have better prepared students to learn from the experience.
In our first visit, we stayed together as a class (size = 12) with two museum educators and me as “co-teachers” and worked on the skill of visual analysis. In this second visit, we’re going to split into groups and investigate the concept of genre, which we’ve been doing in our traditional classroom with works that are sonata forms. We (the co-teachers) have chosen the visual arts genre of self portrait and picked three self portraits currently on display to study.
Before Wednesday’s class, each student has been assigned to one of the self portraits and will look at the digital image of it before going to the museum. They will also complete some low-stakes writing about their reaction to their assigned self portrait. I provided them with the following prompts [from the museum educator] to help guide their thinking/writing in a direction that will payoff for Wednesday’s class: What constitutes a self-portrait? How does one convey internal qualities through physical likeness? How does this particular work function as a self-portrait? What do you learn about the artist through this particular visual presentation of self? Do we/can we learn about other issues through this genre?
During class, the museum educators will briefly talk about the genre of self-portraits from their point of view. Then we will break into three groups and have small discussions about our assigned self-portraits. After 10 minutes, we’ll reconvene and hear about the self portraits. I will have a few closing questions prepared if time allows us some wrap-up space. If not, I’ll save my questions for Friday’s class.
My hope is that students will return to our work on sonata forms with a new idea for the ways composers express themselves within a quite well-defined genre.