Ground-breaking teaching methods inspire art history students

Excellence in Education Awards: Excellent Educator Award winner

  • Date

    Tue 1 Feb 22

Sarah Demelo

A collaboration which promoted innovative teaching strategies that inspired and motivated art history students has won an Excellent Educator Award in our Excellence in Education Awards.

The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) joined forces with Dr Lisa Blackmore from the School of Philosophy and Art History (SPAH) to teach two modules which delivered transformative education in a pioneering way.

Dr Sarah Demelo, curator of ESCALA and team leader of this project, said: “The purpose of our collaboration is to deliver high-quality, stimulating content for students and to engage them as active partners invested in developing their competencies as budding researchers.”

To encourage this, modules have been created using an object-led approach, virtual platforms and resources and experiential learning techniques. These have stimulated student engagement by offering support beyond usual contact hours and giving the opportunity for students to improve their employability skills.

One module, Gone to Ground, taught by Dr Blackmore, involved students researching artworks in relation to environmental issues in Latin America and across the globe.

Dr Blackmore said: “It was designed to give students a unique insight into the real-world experience of preparing an exhibition and offering significant opportunities for professional development.”

Students had first-hand experience in the curation of the art exhibition, publishing their analysis within the exhibition catalogue and also on ESCALA’s digital platform, alongside professionals in the industry.

To further enhance the learning experience, digital technologies were embedded within the module. Students were given the opportunity to interview artists across the globe using Skype and had access virtual learning environments such as Moodle, offering an abundance of learning resources for students.

When given an assignment to write an analysis of a chosen artwork, the students were given constructive feedback and personalised one-on-one meetings with Dr Blackmore to discuss and edit their writing.

Dr Blackmore said: “These experiences cultivated skills practiced by museum professionals, enhancing future employability in the arts sector and increasing personal investment in academic exercises.”

Another module, Collecting Art from Latin America, follows the University’s fundamental approach to education: students developing the ability to be open to the unfamiliar and improve their observational and probing skills, key to pursue a career in this field. In addition, students in this module research and propose the acquisition of a new artwork for ESCALA creating a lasting impact on the Collection.

Dr Demelo said: “These two modules, and their connections to the wider University community, reflect the long-term commitment of Art History and Curatorial Studies to innovate the curricula to offer students real-world experiences that enhance employability.”

These teaching methods have been praised by both students and partnerships with artists across Latin America, and other UK institutions have shown keen interest in pursuing these techniques.

More about our Excellence in Education Awards

Our Excellence in Education Awards are inspired by the University’s mission to achieve excellence in both education and research. We aim to provide students with a transformational education experience and intellectually challenging and stimulating courses that are based on creative and innovative approaches.

The Awards recognise and celebrate our institutional commitment to enabling our students to contribute positively to communities and societies around them.

This case study was created by Multimedia Journalism student Gina Williams as part of a work placement