By the Book: How to Construct a Useful Textbook for Students of Art and Design
Many instructors choose not to use a book for foundations of art, design, or any studio courses. The reasons are diverse: too much material, too little material, authors’ viewpoints insinuate themselves too strongly, students get confused, the material they have amassed after years of teaching works better for them, the art choices are peculiar, “tired,” or idiosyncratic, the material is focused on developing skills but lacks focus on the students’ conceptual development, or the books aren’t written with students in mind—they’re just not user-friendly. Yet instructors also remark that students very often like to have books—for ready reference and visual examples. The language of art is expansive. Acquiring it and achieving true facility in it is essential for the student of art. There is a lot to learn, and having a textbook at hand often makes a student feel more at ease with and in control of the material. Many instructors want a comprehensive text that will present the elements, principles, and vocabulary of art in a clear and consistent manner. They expect a degree of flexibility to enable them to bring their own experiences as artists and teachers to the material. They want to bombard students with as much contemporary art as possible, while keeping them aware of and conversant with historical examples. And they demand that the diversity of artists in the text responds to the diversity of their students in the classroom. Textbooks ought to meet these needs and wants as well as provide students with information, tools, and creative and intellectual incentives to arrive at their own points of view and ways of expressing them. This session will focus on valid ways to integrate a textbook into the art and design curriculum. In other words, teaching by the book in the land of hands-on.
Keywords: Teaching Foundations, Art and Design, Textbook
Dr. Lois Fichner-Rathus
Professor, Art Department, The College of New Jersey