Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning
Teach Hybrid

Survey of Art History Assignment Reflection (Karen Shelby)

What were the learning goals for this course?

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe different art media using appropriate visual terminology.
  • Articulate what cultures create that tell us about their values, religion, or politics.
  • Articulate how objects make meaning in the world, and how do those meanings contribute to our social, political, and spiritual life.
  • Be able to describe how a object, through the form, informs us about its function.
  • See artists and important works of art in their historical, social and cultural context.
  • Write cogently about specific artists, periods, or movements in art.
  • Articulate an understanding of the cross-cultural influences of a global art history.
  • Visit museum collections, special museum exhibitions, galleries and other venues and demonstrate knowledge of visual literacy.

How did you translate this assignment from the face-to-face version into the hybrid version?

At Baruch, the survey art history courses are traditionally conducted face-to-face, two days per week. Content is conveyed by lecture and student participation through discussion, and in-class projects. Assessment takes the form of papers and essay exams. In the hybrid version, students met me one day a week, with the second day dedicated to student-led learning through a variety of projects. The results of those projects were shared on a blogs@baruch course blog with the requirement that each student read, and comment, on one another’s contributions to class content. (This requirement was amended fairly quickly once the professor realized how much time that would take for students to (1) read so many posts and (2) how much time it would take for the professor to track it. I modified this requirement so that students had to only read ten posts.) An additional result of asking students to post on a blog rather than simply submit through Blackboard, is that I noted that student writing improves significantly when it becomes public. Rather than a reader of one (the professor), students have an audience of roughly 100. These off-site projects were also used to prepare students for the material presented in the subsequent face-to-face class. For example, in preparation for a course on the High Renaissance, students submit a photograph of one-point perspective along with a short essay that explains an understanding of one-point (linear) perspective. This provides prior knowledge, on a much deeper level than if they simply completed an assigned reading on linear perspective. After a very short review of the assignment, discussion jumps immediately into why artists in the Italian Renaissance used this method.

In the traditional survey art history courses, instructors also take the students to a museum at least twice during the semester. The first trip is to the Met and the second choice varies depending on content. In the hybrid format, several of the assignments require students to visit museums resulting in a wider variety of museums that I am able to incorporate in course content.

What was it like to transition from teaching face-to-face to teaching a hybrid?

I found the transition from hybrid teaching difficult at first. It was hard to give up the performative aspect of teaching. I carefully planned that the days we did meet, students would be responsible for completing an assignment that would give them prior knowledge of the subject to be addressed during the face-to-face class. But I always doubted how much they retained and spent too much time the first weeks repeating that same information they had been responsible for two days prior.

As the semester progressed I learned to trust their contributions to their own learning. It was a real challenge to let go of my control of the learning. But once I did, I saw a vast improvement in student retention of the material. The student-led learning that was a necessary component of the hybrid subsequently became an integral part of all of my courses in the following semesters. Instead of reading, which is never-ending challenge to get students to complete, I am now assigning only activities, that often include a reading assignment, that prepare students for the discussions of the material we have in class. Similar to a flipped classroom, I have already read and evaluated these assignments (they are due at 6:00 two days before we meet face-to-face) before we come together for discussion.

But I must be always aware that in assigning those activities, of how much of my time I am able to dedicate to assessing those activities. I recognize that my own engagement in the course is necessary, particularly in providing feedback on the assignments. This takes time! So I had to learn to alternate the more lengthy assignments with shorter ones.

Mastering assessment on the blog posts was also a challenge. I was so happy once I learned that a simple plug-in would allow me to both comment privately and publicly on student posts. This permitted a more critical reading of their assignment in the private post. The technical challenge of the blog posts is getting students remember to categorize their posts. It takes a lot of energy to track down posts. I learned to give them one mulligan reminding them to categorize a post that wasn’t (instructors can search through the back end of blogs@baruch) before assigning a zero for any subsequent assignments that are not categorized.

One of my goals in my classes is to get the students to care about the material (and I cannot  imagine that this is any different from other instructors at the College). This is particularly challenging given that the survey art histories are a required course and students are encouraged to take them their first semester at Baruch. I call these students my “reluctant learners.” I have organized my class to present the material in an engaging manner.

For example, once we finish the unit of Chinese art and architecture from the 13th through the 19th century, I immediately introduce contemporary Chinese art, which is typically addressed at the end of the semester in a dedicated session to Contemporary Art. This serves to underscore connections between the art of the past to contemporary events – the students can “see” themselves and their own concerns in the art, making it more relevant. I found that the hybrid course really enhanced this aspect of my pedagogy. The student-led learning adds them as authors to the course, giving them an agency in how the course unfolds. I have also modified the exam format placing more emphasis on student-led activities rather than on rote memorization.

Assignment link

View Professor Shelby’s assignment here.


Dr. Karen Shelby, along with fellow founder and collaborator, Michelle Millar Fisher, is Director of Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), a a Kress Foundation-funded, peer-populated platform for art history instructors project now used in over 185 countries. In 2016, AHTR launched Art History Pedagogy and Practice (AHPP), an e-journal devoted to scholarship of teaching and learning in art history in order to build an open-access platform to advance, collect, disseminate, and foster academic consideration of pedagogical practice and its scholarly value.