Learning to Teach


Learning to Teach

The first phase of the project for the undergraduate teaching mentors was to learn how to teach art history lessons. These are the boarder learning objectives of the course, for both the undergraduate teaching mentors and for the SciTech students:

To examine the art works that surround us every day in public space; to understand better how public art changes and is changed by its surrounding urban context

To investigate the stories behind these works of public art and evaluate what these narratives can tell us about the values, priorities, challenges, and aspirations of past generations in the city, using the following overarching questions as a guide: Whose voices have been represented and empowered by public art? Whose voices have been ignored or even actively excluded? How have race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and so on made their way into these representations and stories? How have our history's traumas as well as achievements been acknowledged?

To analyze why public art often produces social controversy, and what is at stake in those controversies

To understand what public art can tell us about changing perceptions of the "public sphere". In what ways does the public have a history? Who (and what) has constituted the public for art at various times in the history of the city and the nation? How does art intervene in the public sphere and disturb it or even redefine it?

Of these learning objectives we focused on examining the public art works that surround the students and the narratives that are found within the works. We gave students brief information about the artist, important dates, and commission history, but the lessons focused on the statements that were communicated and the artistic choices employed. We did not deliver traditional art history content, but instead introduced students to some public art sites and encouraged them to encounter the works.


We had to take into account the difference between secondary and post secondary educations environments and learning techniques. We spent 3 weeks reading about educational theories and successful teaching methods. Some of the materials that we read as we prepared for our time with the students include:

  • Bower, Bert, Lobdell, Jim, Owens, and Sherry, “Theory-Based Active Instruction” and “Visual Discovery” in Bring Learning Alive! The TCI Approach for Middle and High School Social Studies, (Palo Alto, CA: Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 2005), 10-17 and 28-37.
  • Wiggins, Grant and McTighe, Jay, “The Six Facets of Understanding,” in Understanding by Design. (Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005), 82-104.
  • Frey, Nancy, Fisher, Douglas, Allen, Aida, “Productive Group Work in Middle and High School Classrooms” in Adolescent Literacy, Field Tested edited by S.R. Parris, D. Fisher, and K. Headley (Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2009), 70-81.
  • Ormrod, J.E. and McGuire, J.S. “Creating a Community of Learners” and "Taking into Account the Broader Contexts in Which Students Live” in Essentials of Educational Psychology (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2009), 90-96.
  • Chappuis, Jan, "Formative Assessment and Assessment for Learning" in Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. (Pearson, 2010) 1-14
  • Marzano, Robert J., and Marzano, Jana S., “The Key to Classroom Management,” in Educational Psychology in Context: Readings for Future Teachers, ed. Bruce A. Marlow and Alan S. Canestrari (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 23-35.

We wanted to create the best possible learning environment where the students could feel comfortable exchanging ideas and developing their individual voices. Using these texts we could understand on a theoretical level how to handle certain situations and behavioral issues. Along with the educational texts, we also read articles from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the problems facing the Pittsburgh Public Schools District both inside and outside of the classroom. These were important for providing a foundation upon which we could build personal relationships with each student. Understanding our students became an important aspect of this program, and these resources helped us establish a productive and fun learning environment from the first session.


  • Encounters
  • Undergraduate Work