Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Reflections on the Elements and Principles
My concern with the elements and principles, I told my students, is that there are art teachers who rely on them too much. I tend to think of the elements as vocabulary and the principles as grammar. I don't think an English teacher would have students evaluate literature by identifying the nouns and verbs, so why should art teachers place too much focus on art's vocabulary and grammar?
To present another view, I shared with my students an article by Olivia Gude, Principles of Possibility: Considerations for a 21st Century Art & Culture Curriculum, originally published in Art Education, January 2007, Volume 60, No. 1.
Though Gude was more broadly focused on the the national standards for the visual arts, the elements and principles are included in her discussion. I especially liked this part:
"Has any art teacher ever reviewed the national or state standards for art education or a prevailing list of elements and principles and then declared, 'I feel so motivated to make some art?' I don't believe so and this is why using the standards as they are written is not an ideal structure on which to elaborate a curriculum. Contemplating the main topics of a curriculum ought to stimulate students' and teachers' anticipation and participation. Modernist elements and principles, a menu of media, or lists of domains, modes, and rationales are not sufficient or necessary to inspire a quality art curriculum."
A learning activity Gude suggests is an elements and principles panorama or accordion fold book which is developed as a whole using the elements and principles. Another approach is the one I have used, making a series of artists trading cards that illustrate the elements and principles. The cards can serve as an introduction or review and don't take up too much class time.
What do you think? If you have a similar approach, please share it here.