The GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning’s Faculty Fellows program aims to provide AUC faculty with training in object-based pedagogy and techniques. This month’s spotlight features GLAM Faculty Fellow, Dr. Charmayne E. Patterson. Dr. Patterson is a Clark Atlanta University professor in the department of African American Studies, Africana Women’s Studies, and History.
Last semester I collaborated with the GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning to create assignments for several of my courses. I have been a long time proponent of libraries and regularly consult with library staff to aid in the development of course assignments. It is important that students are aware of the extensive resources and services available through the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. Students are often unaware of the library’s holdings and unsure about how to effectively utilize those holdings for inclusion in their course work. Knowing all of this, the GLAM Center seemed to be the perfect place to identify innovative ways to promote both engagement with valuable yet underutilized resources and students’ visual literacy.
Student interaction with the GLAM Center varied by course. The United States History to 1865 class attended one library session where they were introduced to the concept of “visual literacy.” The group of mostly incoming freshmen seemed to really enjoy exercises where they analyzed images and made inferences based on visual cues. The session encouraged them to move beyond their initial presumptions and to ask questions about what they were viewing. What was it a picture of? When was the photograph taken? Why was the painting organized that way? By stressing the importance of both content and context for visual sources, the session proved to be a perfect complement to the written evaluations of primary sources that students completed later in the semester.
My History of Africa Since 1800 class participated in an object study session at Clark Atlanta University Art Museum Gallery. The assignment created for that class required students to critically assess individual works of art, including paintings and sculptures. The object study was literally a “hands-on” experience as students were allowed to touch, hold, and study select pieces from CAU’s permanent collection. The pieces selected by the GLAM staff helped to foster conversations during our unit on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as students compared the art to the human bodies that were taken from the continent, both as commodities. They also were able to see the art as reflective of the culture of the African Diaspora and identified similarities between the African art and some of the pieces by African American artists that were on exhibit in the gallery.
For my African American History to 1865 course, the GLAM staff and I collaborated to develop an assignment in which students would curate individual exhibits. The Center created a collection of about fifteen images; each student selected three images that were then placed in conversation with one another to tell a unique story. I was impressed by some of the final projects, as students sought to tell the story of enslavement and emancipation through the use of these images. Their visual displays provided powerful imagery to underscore what they were learning in the course and highlighted themes such as commodification, family, and resistance to slavery.
My experience with the GLAM Center was a positive one. Students came away from the courses with an additional skill set (the ability to critically engage visual, as well as written sources.) The assignments were distinctive and overall, enjoyable. This semester, I am looking forward to working with the PHENOMENAL GLAM team to find even more ways to enhance my teaching!