Four Learning Environments for the Contemporary Art Education Classroom: Studio, Information, Planning, and Electronic

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This article provides an overview of a secondary art education methods course developed in response to a variety of educational directives and movements in the fields of art, education, art education, and design. Within each unit of study in thiscourse, students engage in four learning environments-studio, information design, planning, and electronic. I advocate for their use in the contemporary art classroom to expand our notions of how learning environments can be implemented in K-12 art education, or any subject area or level of education. These four environments are of relevance to instructional methods, instructional strategies, and learning principles (Manley Delacruz, 1997), the use of new technologies in the classroom (Gregory, 1997), and the preparation of teachers (Day, 1997; Yakel, 1992). This article is not about what to teach, but how to expand learning. In doing so, the "range" of learning experiences available to K-12 students will also expand.

Four types of learning environments were incorporated into the units that my secondary art education methods students engaged in across the semester (see Table 1). These units were: a) Studio learning environment-developing studio learning, production, and art of specific artists or groups; b) Information design-finding, designing and presenting concepts that underlie understanding of a particular area of art through graphic designed information displays; c) Multiple-audience planning environment-developing two levels of unit plans appropriate for middle and high school teaching and learning for a variety of students; and d) Electronic web-based learning environment-creating web-based learning environments that represent the complex and relational make-up of a topic. Students worked individually, in small groups, and contributed to large group efforts in constructing complex learning environments on topics that incorporate these four learning environments.

Artist/studio learning environment. A group of students engage in artmaking as if they are artists in a particular field of art (e.g., ceramic artist; urban and regional designer; product designer; media designer). They engage in real world problems-not exercises, use tools of the artist, and produce art objects. Professionals are models for students. Whatever the student needs to know in terms of technique, use of materials, and problem-solving skills is presented as the student needs it, through small teaching/learning episodes as the unit unfolds. This is how the teaching process is applied to each of the four learning groups. Student artwork is accompanied by artistic statements and displayed as a design process, with preliminary work leading up to the final product. This is a "design" presentation rather than a "gallery" presentation of their work.

Information design environment. In this learning environment, students initially conduct research by browsing and reading publications specific to the topic. A rather extensive array of print and video materials is made available within the classroom. Important ideas and concepts that shape the field, artists' work, processes, and purposes are gleaned from the materials and recorded. From these ideas, eight to ten conceptual statements are formulated that the group feels are important for all citizens to understand in order to make informed judgments about the topic. Students decide whether the conceptual statements will be publicly presented in text only, or a text and image format through visual "information/display boards." The elements of the information boards are desktop published to emphasize how text and images can be shaped to intensify the visual impact of certain elements and/or words. This information can be constructed in a static (boards) or interactive (relief displays) format. Other formats of informational display are sometimes produced, such as one-page handouts, bi- or tri-fold pamphlets, or shirt-pocket sized "quick study" guides on the topic with respect to overview, concepts, applications, resources, and references. …