Writing in Art Courses
Writing assessment within the context of the art curriculum currently only occurs within art history courses. This is because writing forms a critical component of these courses and contributes to the course grade; art studio courses do not contain a significant writing component and writing does not contribute to the final grade.
Over the past four years the Art Department has been actively engaged in curriculum evaluation relative to student experience and the provision for success. This process included the role of writing in art history courses and other potential areas of the curriculum.
Art History courses have traditionally had prerequisites of ENG 090 and ENG 094 (was COL 090). These prerequisites were designed to both ensure student success and provide early access to the Art History curriculum (it is important that art majors gain an historical perspective to their studio studies as early in their college career as possible so that they can start to make connections between what they are attempting to do in the studio and that which has already been accomplished in the art world).
In assessing student outcomes as evidenced through the results of written assignments, it was clear that these prerequisites were not functioning as desired and did not adequately prepare students for the academic rigor of the art history survey: The quality of the writing was not sufficient or on a par with that required by other institutions.
To address this issue, the prerequisites for AHS 101 Art History Survey I and AHS 102 Art History Survey II were changed to ENG 101, 103, or 105 or concurrent enrollment. A two-year evaluation period followed to verify that the change was sufficient. Fall 2011 saw the end of this period and a marked improvement in the quality of student writing, but there still remained some disparity in student reading compression and composition/writing abilities; most notably, a number of students were unable to write outlines, identify key points and ideas within a text, and formulate their own responses to questions based on that text.
As a result, the prerequisites for all AHS coded courses were then changed to ENG 101, 103, or 105 or permission of the instructor and, in Fall 2012, the Art Department submitted curriculums actions to implement these changes. The course instructor engaged in course specific evaluation of student experience with the goal of developing teaching and learning strategies (adding sequenced assignments to address reading comprehension and note taking) that emphasize strengthening writing skills through course content. In addition, the prerequisites for AHS 102, a second period art history survey course, were changed to AHS 101 and ENG 101, 103, or 105 or permission of the instructor. This change enabled the instructor to focus on course content instead of developing writing skills.
A second curriculum development was to introduce a new course that emphasizes student writing for professional, rather than academic, outcomes. The course, ACS 200 (Art Critical Studies) Professional Art Practices, will function as a required course in the newly restructured Art/Visual Arts Associate Degree program (previously Art/Media Arts). Within this course students will, among other activities:
- Write artist statements, cover letters, and resumes.
- Apply for exhibition, grants, scholarships, internships/transfer to other institutions.
ACS 200 originates as a result of informal alumni feedback and through faculty-observed omissions within the art curriculum that have been evidenced over past several years: Poor student writing (particularly in transfer application cover letters and artist statements) and a lack of preparedness to move on beyond GCC as artists, transfer students, and employees. This course was offered for the first time in Fall 2013.
A third initiative, led by the full-time art faculty, was to integrate a small written/verbal component into several studio courses. This included:
- Artist statements about particular pieces of work.
- Formal assessment of works created by other artists and students.
- Proposals for works to be created.
In most cases, the above work may be no more than one paragraph to one page in length, but the more students are able to connect the importance of writing to real-life practices, the more they should be able to appreciate the benefit of working on their writing skills.
Advising is an additional component that significantly contributes to student success. In art major advising, it is recommended that students take ENG Comp I during their first semester at GCC, along with another Gen. Ed. and two art studio courses. It is critical that students engage in college-level writing as soon as possible so that the quality of their writing can develop across the curriculum. For their second semester, students will typically be advised into ENG Comp II and Art History Survey I. The above mentioned ACS 200 course will be taken later in a student's college career, most likely during the fall before graduation when students begin thinking about the schools to which they will apply in the spring. By the time they reach their final year, students should be better prepared to succeed in the written component of the course.