Poverty at the UCL Art Museum: Situated Learning in a World of Images
This article is about fostering students’ ability to become creative interpreters of images using activities in a specially curated art exhibition. Drawing on theories of knowledge and learning that emphasize the role of communities of practice and situated learning, I make four related arguments. First, it is valuable for students to go beyond texts and engage critically with the images and other creative practices that form the texture of their everyday lives. Second, students come to us already as members of a community of practice that knows certain things: therefore their learning must engage directly with the things they already know and believe, in order to enable them to challenge received wisdom or defend their existing positions more critically and thoughtfully. Third, the images that surround them in everyday life create the conditions of possibility for their existing knowledge practices and those images have a history and context that is frequently not known or critically examined by students. Fourth, and consequently, it is important not only to enable students to engage with historical images that form the context to contemporary imaginations but also to support them in making the links between seemingly very different types of images from past and present. I conclude that, with appropriate scaffolding and support, we can use art galleries to help students learn to link their classroom and book learning with their everyday life experiences in order to become critical and engaged spectators in a world of images.
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