An Analysis by Marvin Bartel of Paul Duncum's "What Elementary Generalist Teachers Need to Know to Teach Art Well"(Art Education. November, 1999) and "Drawing Is Basic" by Jean Morman Unsworth,  A response to “What Elementary Generalist  Teachers Need To Know to Teach Art Well” Art Education. November, 2001, pages 6 to 11.   

Strategies A, C, E, and F are largely acceptable as written by Duncum.  Strategies B. 
Conversatioinal  and D. Conventional, are problematic.
A. Verbal strategies.  We agree with Duncum on verbal strategies. I use this strategy a lot, especially with younger children. The teacher gives lots of verbal feedback.  Anybody can easily do this.  Avoid meaningless praise such as, "That's beautiful."   Make comments about specific accomplishments.  Talk about the shapes, asking the name of shapes.  Or ask about the name of colors. "How did your arm move to make these dots?"   Ask motivational questions to make passive knowledge active.  Promote accretion.  "What does the dog like to play with?"    With older children use lots of art terms that acknowledge what they have done.  "I notice lots of repetition. It helps my eye move around the picture?  What do you think I am noticing?" "What do you think gets my attention when I look at your picture?"  "Okay.  Why do you think I notice that first?"
C. Perceptual strategiesWe agree with Duncum on perceptual strategies. Asks students to focus attention on the thing being represented.   With young children this may mean asking detailed questions about what they see in order to get them to become better observers.  I will provide multi-sensory experiences.  I think of it as studying the subject before and during the drawing.  I do not expect young children to "get it right", but I expect them to include more detail in their work.      Beginning in grade 1, I will also use questions to help children to pay attention (define these terms as talking) to size and proportion, orientation, contour, color variations, texture, quantities, and other details.    Beginning in grade 2. I would start some blind contour practice, shading, and so on.  These sessions are described as practice.  If this is done often enough, we will have very few children who feel experience a serious crises (explain this) of confidence when they reach grade 3.  Lots of preliminary sketches would be used for any observation based assignment.
E. and F. Non-Sequential strategy and Inductive strategy Non-Sequential strategy and Inductive strategy are ways of responding to artworks.Most art educators would agree with Duncum that these are both useful strategies for teachers to use.

Strategies Duncum Unsworth and Bartel 
B. Conversational strategies Duncum Peer learning. Plus one phenomenon. People learn what is just slightly more difficult than what they already know. Duncum wants us to encourage children to learn from each other.  This will exploit the natural tendency to learn by imitation.  Judith Harris writes in a book called, The Nuture Assumption, that children, will instinctively imitate slightly more advanced children and learn to do what their slightly older peers do.  She feels that this learning behavior is probably genetically predetermined in our makeup.  Unsworth and Bartel disagree with parts of this.There is no doubt that the process of imitation works if the goal is to learn how to do something.  When some of us do not think this is an appropriate learning method, it is because we do not think of learning in art as learning to do, but as learning to think, to feel, to respond, to know, to express, and so on.  We are not learning the make a thing, so much as we are learning to think a make.  On page 77 of our text, Carroll explains that art making is "making thought and feeling visible."  Some of us feel that peer imitation tends imitate a product more than a thought process.  Too often you get a copy of a copy of a copy . . .        Furthermore, Unsworth makes the point that those who are copying are not enjoying the same status as the copied.  She says we stigmatize those who are copiers as the “have nots” in the classroom.
Duncum Unsworth and Bartel
D.   Conventional strategies This has children learning to make pictures by having children copy pictures made with cameras and made by adult artists.  In Duncum's Conventional Strategy children are encouraged to imitate and borrow.    Duncum claims that case studies have shown that this kind of practice has been beneficial to children who have drawn copiously in their own time.   He also claims that children should learn by imitation so they should not be expected to reinvent the wheel.   There was a time in western art education during the days before photography, artists were trained in apprenticeships. Parents who felt their children were "talented" would place them in an artist's studio to learn to help the master paint or sculpt the artist's work.  They were required to learn to work exactly like the master and to do work the master could sign as her own or his own work.  In art education literature this is called the academic method of art education.  Lynn Lais is a Maryland potter who was an art major from Goshen and went to Europe for this type training before setting up his own business.  This method also includes the method of setting up an easel in an art museum in order to copy paintings from master works.    I think that children who do lots of self-initiated drawing in their own time should not be reprimanded for copying from examples, but I do not compliment them for the quality of copy work.  I encourage them to also practice blind contour drawing.  This is in place of copy work, so that they can learn to "copy" real things rather than pictures of things.     I would also show them how I can use drawing aides and sighting devices such as viewfinders and measuring methods using the pencil and an outstretched arm to "get it right" so that they do not need to copy a photograph or an artist's work.     If I encourage students to think of copying as a way to learn to be an artist, I am telling them that art teachers are not needed.  If you can learn to be an artist by copying, why would a teacher be needed?  Do writers learn to write by copying other works?  Imitation is natural and needs no teachers other than models to copy. On the other hand, direct representation of reality and innovation require different parts of the brain.  A good teacher can teach approaches to good observation, problem finding, problem solving, and innovation.  These are often too hard to learn without the help of a good teacher.  A good writing teacher will teach methods of good descriptive writing, good imaginative writing, and good writing from remembered experience.  Art teachers can do the same when they teach to create art from observation, from imagination, and from memory.   Unsworth says there are good reasons to study the work of artists, but not with the intention of copying. "Seeing the many “wrong” lines in a Matisse or a Delacroix drawing, lines they drew and then rethought and drew again, is an important way to encourage students to risk drawing and not to be inhibited by fear of 'messing up.' ” 

file: duncum-review.html   2-25-02

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