One of the things I was inspired to try this year was to try and elicit deeper connections to the artwork in our course. This meant deeper engagement, spending more time “slow looking” at the works and less time “covering” information. This required an overhaul of my teaching practice and one of the key elements in this change was picked up at Project Zero at Harvard this past summer.
An immediate way to carry this out was to take a look at my content mastery maps (CMMs) which I used as a literal map to help students understand what content they were responsible for.
Rather than just have the key images and key concepts for each unit on these CMMs, I usually had several Essential Questions that I wanted students to answer to help them gauge if they knew the material they had read or was discussed in class. Since I was developing a new approach, I decided to add Understanding Goals, which was inspired by Tina Blythe’s The Teaching for Understanding Guide.
Understanding Goals helped give me open-ended questions that would challenge students to demonstrate a deeper-level of understanding of the material that would go beyond a mere regurgitation of facts on demand. The AP course requires the students to make connections to art from other cultures and other time periods and the Understanding Goals help aid students in this endeavor. I structured the Essential Questions to be more based on the content we read about in the textbooks and class discussions, activities, and lectures while they also became building blocks in answering the Understanding Goals.
For the Understanding Goals, it was rather easy – I just tethered these to the Enduring Understanding and Enduring Knowledge statements that were created by the folks on the AP Art History development committee.
What resulted was a series of CMMs that were more connected to the course and forced students to think a little more deeply about the content of the course. I would share these CMMs with my students at the start of a new unit and they were responsible for filling out the CMM along the way and turning it in before we took our summative (test) at the end of the unit.