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Critical Thinking in PHO301

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Started by Lucy Mackie 10 Jun 2013 9:28pm () Replies (4)

Hi all, I am a recent member of VLN and am just coming to terms with all the resources available. This year (as part of my action research) I am looking into developing critical thinking with my Level 3 Photography class. Just wondered if anyone feels like contributing to this discussion point? Successful ways of developing critical thinking skills? I've never submitted a Scolarship student as I don't feel like my students have the independent, synthesised thoughts necessary for this (that sounds harsh but true). I don't expect to get any feedback as this is quite a 'conceptual' idea but if anyone has any hard evidence of things that work...I'd be keen to hear! 


  • Sam Cunnane (View all users posts) 11 Jun 2013 7:49pm ()


    Great discussion to kick off!

    Just thinking off the cuff - I tend to approach the teacing of critical thinking with a mix of demonstrating it, and just sort of expecting that students will demonstrate it. In terms of demonstrating it, we do a lot of critique based teaching/sharing throughout the year (in Level 3, but also in increasing measure from Year 9 upwards), which gives me (and my colleagues) the opportunity to explicitly model out thinking when we look at student work and how we might relate it to a wider context of photographers and other makers.

    In terms of the expectation that students will demonstrate it, most of out units, particularly at senior level are written up with an expectation that students will engage conceptually with the work of other artists, and that they will demonstrate elements of this kind of thinking in their own work. My students joke about how they'll be talking about their work with them and I'll get this funny look in my eye and run off to the office to collect a book that has some tangential relationship to what they're doing. Hopefully this kind of approach helps them to develop the abiltiy to make those connections for themselves. 

    I'm really keen to read what others have to say. And if I have some clearer thoughts I'll drop back in with another comment too!


    PS. Just for a bit of shameless self/whanau promotion . . . my sister Abby Cunnane wrote a great section in our book Saying What You See where she talks about 'looking critically'. She's a curator and reviewer, so is pretty on-to-it in terms of critically engaging with images, and that section of the book might be useful when working with your students.

  • Matt Jarry (View all users posts) 11 Jun 2013 8:30pm ()

    Following on from what Sam said, at our school we have set up a Scholarship forum which we sometimes do after school for 1/2 hour - 1hour a few times a term. (Starting this year, but have been meaning to do this sort of thing for a while). My colleague Nikki and I started out the forum by introducing art that we liked and called it 'art that rocked our world'. The intention was to show the students work that we both really enjoyed as visually inclined people and the students got to hear us discuss art works from critical perspectives. We tried to discuss how this work related to us/ our own practice and interests and then invited to the students to put in any thing they noticed about the work. This was our way of modelling things. We have then started up a critical forum on-line and have tried to supply readings, articles, videos, etc. that get the students to think about art. The on-line forum started out with the question 'What is Art? What is good art?' and used NZQAs definition on art from the art history pages to ask our students what they think about the definition, etc. 

    We've opened this forum to all our Level 3 practical art students and our Art History students with the hopes that they will approach this and contribute to the discussions in a sort of cross-discipline way. As it's not exactly driven by one discipline, it sort of encourages the students to think about Visual Culture more broadly, which we hope will feed into their own work, into higher thinking, and potentially equip them for Scholarship. It's a work in progress, but I hear you on ways of teaching/ developing critical thinking. 

    I also like to every so often throw in some outrageous statement like 'I think the work of the Renaissance masters is boring and Duchamp's 'L.H.O.O.Q' was the best thing done to the Mona Lisa', statements like this really can fire up students and in a way forces them to take a stance and start to think about art in an evaluative sort of way.

    Dunno, just some ideas.


  • Lara (View all users posts) 13 Jun 2013 1:37pm ()

    Critical thinking for me is really about reflection and then making together. I tend to talk to my students a lot about the relationship between the meaning they are expressing and how they have expressed it. So when I look at artwork that really makes sense to me or student work that has achieved highly, there is a clear correlation between expression of something and how it is expressed. Communicating this to students is tricky obviously but they need to choose their methods/ processes/ techniques carefully and be clear on the meaning they are expressing.


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