Research and resources

Article Detail

Monday 20 October 2014
Christa Napier-Robertson

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We are Auckland’s wharenui/home for authentic and meaningful engagement with art for all... 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve started working on expanding what we can offer for secondary students and their teachers, and this statement – part of the Gallery’s new purpose/values/vision statement, really resonates with much of our thinking over this time.

We are very conscious that the Gallery and its resources have a lot of possibility for use in schools, with potential applications across a broad range of subject areas. And we know from our stats that many schools aren’t currently accessing these resources – a shame for many reasons, not least because they’re owned by the very people not accessing them!

So, how do we support meaningful and authentic engagement with this institution and its resources, by students and teachers in a diverse range of subjects? Especially when our subject speciality sits most specifically in the Visual Arts and Art History?

What we know is that you can’t have authentic, meaningful engagement if you don’t know your audience well – what’s happening for them, the challenges they face, and the needs they have. If you can understand that, you’re at a point where you can potentially respond to real needs – and ideally you’ve got a great opportunity to collaborate together, and share your varied expertise in creating the best possible resources and experiences for all.

So as part of this push we undertook a small research project earlier this year. We asked 18 teachers from nine schools, in Visual Art, Art History, English and History, to tell us about their experiences and needs. We also shared specifically the types of resources we have available (for example, the art, our physical environment, our staffing expertise, resources like our research library) and asked what they imagined we could do with these that could best benefit their needs. Lots of interesting data came out of these conversations . . . and even more questions for us to follow up in the future! I’ll share more about our findings (and further questions) in the coming months, but wanted now to share a few, and what we’re doing now to start to respond in one area.

All the teachers we talked to:

  • were enthusiastic about the possibilities of engaging with the Gallery and its resources in their subjects, and had lots of ideas about how meaningful connections could be made 
  • needed to teach students visual analysis skills 
  • said that help in doing this would be appreciated, as especially for English and History, this wasn’t something that teachers necessarily felt confident in doing 
  • identified how an important focus in the classroom is in developing students’ research skills 
  • found it difficult to locate accessible, reliable content that could be used to support students in this process; and in relation to art – a serious lack of information on New Zealand (and even international) art, artists and contexts 

In response to the last couple of points, we’ve started a process of developing some of this content, alongside support activities and resources that could be used or adapted for use by teachers both in the classroom and the Gallery.

For two upcoming collection shows on display at the Gallery during Term 4, 2014 and Term 1, 2015 (Age of Turmoil: Art in Germany 1900–1923 and The Social Life of Things) we’ve developed bibliographies of books, articles and websites students can access for further research. Alongside this, for Age of Turmoil, we’ve developed:

  • a PDF with an overview of the show, plus detailed descriptions of a good number of the key works 
  • two videos of the curator – one with him talking to a PowerPoint where he discusses the German context in the period 1900–1923, the other where he shares his curatorial process in developing the show (including photographic images of his planning process) 
  • curriculum aligned worksheets tailored specifically for students of Art History, Visual Art, History and English 

We intend to continue developing resources for future shows, and we’ve got many more ideas for how we could develop these even further, but we’d love your thoughts to help with this. Feel free to let us know any feedback you have on these resources – how they work for you, how they could be improved, plus any other ideas you might have for other resources of any kind.

We’d also love to hear your feedback on the findings shared above – do these reflect your experiences? Is there more you’d like to share, or a different perspective not represented?

Feel free to respond in the comments section below, or email us at education@aucklandartgallery.govt.nz with your thoughts.