The Aegean Center’s New Intensive Block Curriculum
30, April 2017 § Leave a comment
A New Way to Teach
Based on fifty years of teaching experience and an awareness of the evolving profile of the contemporary student, the Aegean Center has transformed its program schedule. We have introduced intensive scheduling within a newly formatted twelve week session. We continue to offer core subjects in drawing, painting, photography, and creative writing. Art history and literature classes are still held. Core studio classes are scheduled every day for two weeks followed by a Bridge Week in which assignments, special projects and cultural activities occur, but regular classes do not meet. Then two weeks of intensive instruction resume and this pattern repeats throughout the term. This intense learning structure has proven to be enormously successful in our summer program. We see this evolution as a way to make our program more vital and responsive to our students’ needs. As an independent school we are able to respond personally and immediately because we are small by design, unaffiliated with mainstream corporate education, and, without the weight of administration and policy statements we can implement changes efficiently.
We find this new format is very beneficial. The average student coming to our program is highly connected to the world through social media, but often scattered by too many commitments and pulled in too many directions. They are enthusiastic, energetic but unfocused at times. We have discovered through teaching short intensive summer classes that time spent going in depth into a subject translates into a profound pedagogical experience. In two weeks we can cover a month’s worth of material and the student retains this knowledge longer and with more comprehension. We have a clearer idea as teachers what each student in the group requires and how they best work through problems. Students are able to work steadily and calmly and don’t tend to procrastinate and leave work until the last moment. It eases social situations as people get to know each by working side by side, promoting conversation and amiability. We also know from research that learning a new skill requires deep concentration followed by down time to allow it to sink into the subconscious mind. When the subject is renewed the learner finds the information transformed and readily applicable.The above was written as a first announcement of our change of program. We are now in our 5th week of its first trial at the Center. The overall consensus is that it is a true success. I have been able to progress much more quickly through the material with far more student comprehension. In the first two weeks for instance, I taught basic drawing every day for two hours. As a class we were able to cover what would have taken 2 1/2 months in the old format. Because we could delve into topics that were going to be taken up in figure drawing in the subsequent intensive, the students were far better prepared to handle the demands of drawing the model when the time came. As I taught the figure drawing class I saw that students already had the concepts of perspective, negative space, cross contour and geometrical forms in their hands and minds. The intensive program builds relationships rapidly between the teacher and students as we get to know each other on a daily basis. The students themselves seem to bond more readily and comfortably too as the social contact takes place around classes and art. From solicited comments from students I hear that they are learning quickly but not feeling overwhelmed. During the Bridge Week they each found a different rhythm. Some took it easy the first half but worked hard later in the week to complete assignments. Others spread their time out and enjoyed having their own schedules to decide when to come to the studio and when to relax, read, or socialise. This Bridge Week some of them have planned a three day trip to Santorini at the weekend.The best aspect of the intensive for me is that I can readily read the level and engagement of each student and the group as a whole and I can adjust my lessons to keep forwarding their skill levels. It is not easy for them to procrastinate and the work becomes a daily habit. I like having the Bridge Week to introduce other activities; book craft (taught by Silina) the first time and monoprinting this week. It invigorates the program and gives the students a new and creative use for their recently acquired skills. John taught a view camera workshop and Jeffrey is taking them to the museum.The majority of the students are doing both photography and painting, nearly all are doing drawing. The overlap of differing aesthetics and media is mind expanding and challenging. Having two or three teachers a day who require that they be attentive is hard work I’m sure, but they seem to be up for it. I feel a lot more relaxed at any rate as the daily unfolding of the lessons keeps me focused without the break between classes which sometimes scatters my momentum.