Creating meaningful and interesting application activities in a team-based learning art history class can be challenging. Some activities will come to you in a single “Aha!” moment, others will take hours of drafting, thinking, and reworking. Then, when you are in the classroom, some activities will work well, while those you think are brilliant and insightful might fail.
So what is an application activity anyways?
- These are the activities that students will complete in-between Readiness Assurance tests (RATs). They are the bulk of the class, and they are the situations in which students will practice what they are learning. Sounds easy right? Wrong.
- Application activities need to strike the right balance. It is also important to vary the type of activity you ask your teams to complete.
- Unlike lecturing, you are not walking through the activity with them as one large group; rather, they work in their teams.
Here are some sample application activities that I’ve used for different classes.
- Multiple-choice question that asks teams to choose the best answer. Don’t be fooled: when done properly, these questions can stimulate some amazing dialogue. For example, I asked students in my Mesoamerican art class to decide what the Postclassic International Style and Symbol Set compared to in our contemporary moment, then gave them a list of 5 options (they included items like corporate brands a la Starbucks, videogames, etc.). The question required them to have done the reading (of course) and to apply what they learned to different situations. Students spent about 20 minutes discussing their answers in teams because they had to be able to justify their answers. Then, at the same time, teams raised a colored card (labeled A–E; called “simultaneous reporting”). Everyone could see immediately what each team decided, and this allowed us to then have a class-based discussion about the different answers.
- Create a poster. Each team is provided with a question or activity guidelines. They have to create a poster that answers the question or activity. When each team is finished, they tape their posters to the wall. Each team then circulates around the room to read the others posters. Each team places a green post-it on the poster they think completes the activity best overall. In other words, a team gives their green post-it to the poster that provides the most evidence, is the most thorough, and addresses all the major points of the activity. Each team also places a purple or pink post-it on one poster (it could even be there own!) that needs some clarification or for which a team has a question. It doesn’t mean the poster is bad or that the team did the worst job, but simply that one team isn’t clear about some component of a given poster and wants clarification. I should mention that each team typically writes their team name on the post-it along with their question or comment. I try to encourage teams to view this process as making each team stronger. And I also like to point out to them that these posters are similar to how they go about answering essays on exams or writing research papers–you have an argument and you are supporting it. After each team is done, I can walk around the room and see immediately which poster was viewed as the strongest and those that could be stronger. We can then engage in discussion about the posters and teams’ responses to them.
- Here is an example of a successful poster activity: I had students read about Plains clothing, myths about buffalo, and other portable goods fashioned by women artists. I also had them read about one specific decorated hide that was created for tourists visiting a particular reservation after 1890. For an activity in class, I displayed for students this one hide created for the tourist market, then asked them to decide whether it was similar to other objects they read about, and if so how. They needed to point to specific objects and details to support their answer. Some teams did an amazing job even relating the object to myths they had read. This activity really allowed them to apply what they read to a particular situation and decide as a team how they felt it “fit” with everything we’d been discussing or reading.
- More examples to come in a second posting…