SITUATING ART HISTORY FOR MEANINGFUL LEARNING AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL
University of Nicosia (CYPRUS)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN09 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain
Abstract:A case study took place at the College of Education of the University of Nicosia, Cyprus with the purpose of examining students' expectations and attitudes towards an introductory art history course and a possible change of attitudes after the instructor's attempt to situate learning. The situated educational approach discusses the importance of considering specific students' needs, interests, learning styles, and physical and social context of the learning process for project work and negotiating learning. Based on this approach learning is in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used. No matter how successful situated learning has been for early childhood education, one point of criticism is the fact that it has not been applied in higher levels of education. Do college students loose their ability to negotiate meaning? And another concern is if all areas or fields of study leave opportunities for educators to develop situated learning. Can an area such as art history, which by definition refers to the past, be made meaningful, to a specific group of college students and cause them positive attitude change towards the subject matter?
A questionnaire with 43 questions in two parts was distributed both before and after the attempt to situate art history. Te first part of the questionnaire consisted of 26 statements constructed to measure attitudinal items on a Likert scale that ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The items were related to the students' views of how interesting, useful and clear art history was for them. The second part of the questionnaire included questions concerning demographic and background information. After analyzing the initial questionnaire given to a group of 37 3rd- and 4th- year students enrolled in an art history class, it was found that students' attitudes toward art history were negative mainly due to the traditional teaching method used to teach art history, which caused students' failure to recognize the usefulness and everyday life applications of the material. During a period of one semester, art history was presented based on a situated, socioconstructivist approach to teaching and learning. More specifically, students studied areas and issues that they raised themselves from art history and art history education through project work and negotiating meaning among members of small groups. A final questionnaire was distributed and analyzed to examine possible students' attitude change and the results indicated that the specific instructional approach affected students' attitudes toward art history positively.
The lack of standardized measures of art history knowledge makes it difficult to assess and compare various forms of instruction in art education. Examining students' attitudes toward art history and art history education provides insight into the teaching approaches, which affect attitudes in a positive way. The attempt to situate learning in art history, caused students' positive attitude change and this motivates the educator to consider applying this method not only in the context of art history but possibly in other contexts as well.
Keywords: situated learning, social constructivism, teaching art history.