L is for…

…living. Living the dream. Taking every second for what it is…being who you want to be with the respect and moral value everyone deserves, with a pinch of happiness and a sprinkling of smiles…pushing yourself as hard as you can to get you to the next step without forgetting who got you to where you are today. Thank you to those people. February has become a very busy month without me even realising. I open my filofax and it scares me. It’ll be March soon, then things will start to simmer down. So where to begin…

Let me start by filling you in on \”home\” at the AirSpace Gallery which opens this Friday 12th February 2010 at 6pm. All the artworks were delivered last Thursday and installation started on a very, very cold Friday morning. The AirSpace Gallery has always been chilly but you tend to forget somehow every time you visit. It’s part of its character. I think it has been a particularly cold winter though. One of the artists Kashif Nadim Chaudry came to install his works around lunchtime. A very gentle character, extremely focussed and a complete perfectionist. It was beautiful to see his installation ‘Sanctuary’ in situ and it made a fantastic photo opportunity for the photographer from the local paper, The Sentinel. A classic pose caught of me as ever… apologies for the very wonky scan of it shown below (is that even how you spell wonky?!). Hopefully this is the start of some good press for the show.

On that day, I was also able to make sure Harminder Singh Judge’s sculpture ‘Madonna & Child’ was working as it includes a neon loop. In a word FRAGILE, but it illuminated perfectly. Also, I planned out the placement of Samit Das’s 2D works in relation to Chinmoyi Patel’s sound installation ‘B.P. & S.P.’. The second room has become very discrete in nature, reflective and solitary almost. AND The fold out publication came back today, I can’t wait to smell its fresh ink tomorrow. That is one of the best things about new magazines. Finally, the window graphics have been installed….a mock up can be seen below. It is all coming together very simply and hopefully tomorrow the rest will fall into place. Then it is all about Friday…four out of the five artists are attending and I have word of many other attendees. DESIblitz, an online Asian culture and entertainment magazine are coming to do some interviews and some coverage. I occasionally write for these guys so it will be great to finally meet them. Thanks in advance to those who come. I really do appreciate your support.

Design by Phil Rawle, Wren Park

Onto the PPG SEDA Course, is that what I’m referring it to as? I can’t remember….we had the second session last Wednesday and again as a task we have to write a reflective diary, so here are my thoughts on last weeks session. Apart from the fabulous lunch, which always lasts an extra day courtesy of Tupperware and “scavenging” (seriously, the tutors on the course call me a scavenger, is that something to be proud of?), it was a really successful and fruitful day for me. The whole day came from practical perspectives on teaching…action learning sets, setting objectives, interactive lectures and session planning. All very useful tools and transferable information….so if I start with action learning sets –  a group that meets and works to assist individual members with an issue or project they are working on (in a meeting) – this is directly in relation to the students on the PPG SEDA course. We have to meet and discuss in a “positive cooperative atmosphere” where there are three key roles, that of the reporter, the chair and the note taker. Time must be shared out equally, each taking our turn to speak and present where other members of the group must devote their energies to assist. Each person must also conclude with a resolve or action plan of where and what they are doing next, and as a group, what we must do before we meet again. This process, as an example, was extremely interesting as we each reflected on last weeks session. Grouped with Sam and Lorenzo we each had totally different perspectives and reflections…Lorenzo spoke of the structures of teaching and how each task feeds into a specific teaching method, Sam made a distinction between teaching and research and how really they are a continuation of each other questioning whether teaching was a profession or way of life, and I as ever went back to language, terminologies and definitions linked to my “activist” nature (that I spoke of in the last PPG SEDA reflective diary post). How can “teaching” encompass so many meanings? I did like Sam’s notion of teaching being a way of life. Is it instinctive for some people?

From here, the session moved on to how we set objectives when running sessions, workshops, seminar groups etc., to give a framework of explanation for students, learning from experience through constant reflection. In groups we used a real, live example, which happened to be the group tutorials I will be starting on Thursday. Fantastic! After initially jotting down learning objectives as the “initiation of a process” (identifying, engaging, challenging, encouraging), the Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain by Benjamin Bloom was referenced. This was a very useful diagram and tool for the process of session building. It helped you to locate the order in which your objectives should be set and take place. You can’t do the things at the end of the scale without doing the things at the beginning. It is also vital to think about where you want to start and finish on the scale, you don’t have to do it all at once! So in relation to the group tutorials I will be completing…”By the end of the session the students would have been able to…”

  1. Recall and recognise each others artistic practice/what each other has completed;
  2. Identify what they want to do/where they are heading with their practice;
  3. Interpret/compare/contrast each others artistic practice;
  4. Apply the tasks identified/carry them out after the session;
  5. Recall/retrieve what was discussed in the previous session in session 2…

Points four and five would be included after and as part of a secondary session as you would be unable to fit in all the points mentioned. This plan really needs expanding and I hope to get on top of this before the REAL sessions start at Loughborough University School of Art and Design on Thursday. Eek! Exciting though. What came out of this is that the objectives need to be clear to your audience, measurable and realistic. Clarity is a very key message coming through this teacher training where the use of action verbs as stated within Bloom’s Taxonomy, can give your sessions structure – ultimately, what do you want your students to do? LEARN! And have the drive to continue learning for themselves.

Discussion them moved onto making lectures interactive and how habituation plays a big part in this. Lectures must break with habituation as it is often the case that the level of performance from students decreases rapidly as the period of teaching continues (Bligh, 1998)…taking a break can cause levels of performance to increase again but at the same time learning is lost. Hence, the use of interactive. Being an “activist” I like the idea of this, the constant change in learning methods and student involvement. We looked at handouts, group teaching, summaries and review exercises, quizzes, plans, buzz groups, note-taking, reading other;s notes, problem-solving, application, reading, rest, worksheets, question-asking and round. From these, there were a few I recognised as key…round was a really quick fire method, for example students are asked to finish a sentence such as ‘What I found most interesting was…’ or ‘I am wondering about…’. It gives you quick feedback largely focussing on positive aspects seen as the ‘burning knowledge inside you trying to get out’ and in a practical example we did as throwing a fake piece of dynamite from one to another. The idea of questions asked through the use and exchange of post-it notes, again a quick fire and anonymous response format. Finally, plan – where and what the students need to do next in order to learn more about the topic…appendices, reading lists, web links, names…endless! Again encouraging students to learn and research after learning. Integral and the whole point I guess to teaching.

The last section of the day looked as session planning again with practical examples, and again me! Helpful, so ,so useful. We were asked in groups to plan a lecture, in my case it was called ‘Exhibition Design and Curatorship’. From the title, we were asked to name objectives and produce a time schedule whilst stating any materials we might need to use and all recorded on white boards as shown below. The objectives included:

  1. Recall exhibitions the students have experienced;
  2. Compare/contrast different display ideas and methods;
  3. Get the students to understand how to interpret/transfer their work to the public.

The first fifteen minutes were allocated for a post-it note discussion, where students would state an exhibition they had seen on the note and what was good about it. After selecting a few examples and deconstructing these I would then move onto a 20 minute powerpoint lecture contextualising historically and practically exhibition design methods. After this I would get them to gross over into groups to take part in a poster tour where they would start to look at what makes a good exhibition. Interpretation? Display? Labels? Handouts? Branding? Professionalism? Finishing the session with an informal Q&A.

This plan I do need to further extrapolate…refine and define. What I can say is what came out of that day’s session was that students need to be exposed to different types of learning opportunities and methods, they need to receive feedback from not just you as the lecturer but from your peers and colleagues (pivotal to learning), and finally build and develop motivation. You can’t avoid having as effect on motivation as a teacher…we’ll see how Thursday goes.

Onto PhD now…I had the first group tutorial with my first and second supervisor, last Tuesday, so a week ago, wow that has flown by. These meetings are to specifically discuss the completion of the 9R form, which is the formal registration form for the PhD. In this tutorial, we initially spoke of the feedback arising from the submission of the Pg Cert literature review and research proposal in January. Positive critical feedback was received from both Darren and Joshua and it was implied I passed (well they wouldn’t let me do the 9R form if I hadn’t). which I can work from and develop for the 9R form. Discussion moved on to the specifics of the 9R form about what goes where – ethics, training, hours etc. – where the interviewees stated as part of the methodology need to be explained more specifically as to how they relate to my research. Why Francesca Dal Lago? Why Karen Smith? Why Hou Hanru? etc. From here, the outcome of my PhD in terms of an exhibition in relation to my research, was discussed. Conversation turned onto the curatorial practice aspect of my PhD and the notion of this becoming more explicit within my research. A suggestion was made as to whether it would be appropriate for me to curate a show as a working case study for the PhD methodology. But where to locate the show? Regionally? London? Chinese Arts Centre? Should there be associated or linked venues? And when should I start planning? Funding? What about the Hayward Curatorial Open? Planning time. Darren highlighted the phrase “translational route of an artwork” – an integral definition in my research. I liked this. Finally, we also discussed the funding opportunities available such as the BIAD research grant and the Great Britain China Centre Chinese Student Award for the fieldwork research I am planning in the Autumn 2010. After this meeting, Joshua has already arranged a meeting with the Chinese Arts Centre  to discuss my exhibition proposal. I’d better get my curatorial thinking cap on, which I reckon would look a bit like my Grandpa’s bowler hat crossed with a ribboned Trilby. What would that look like?

I promise to update you on my progression with Mandarin tomorrow after our Chinese New Year class…I managed to get hold of a large white board so I intend to write a little every day on it but so far it leans against my dining room/office wall covered in hands silhouettes drawn by RJW. This makes me smile though, it’s like the world saying hello…

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