Sorry it's a bit late but its finally here - fav.me/d3427x6
The following is the academic side of the tutorial and some of the research that went into its design.
This is the accompanying written section of the first tutorial for my little ‘Animation-Group’ project. I want my tutorials to teach the medium of animation in a much more open and broad sense. So I had to do more than learn animation, I had to try to learn how to teach.
Pedagogy is the subject of teaching.
Richard Fox, author of Teaching and Learning, Lessons from Psychology breaks teaching into 3 main categories – direct teaching and demonstration, interactive teaching and independent practice and problem-solving.
I found when designing a tutorial for teaching animation that all of these are necessary but not always available by doing so online.
Direct Teaching and demonstration is when a teacher shows the student how to do something and has them repeat or even mimic his or her actions. This may not actually teach them how to do what they are doing. I can learn to repeat a bit of language through the sounds but may not understand what it means. Or I can learn a part of a process but not know why I am doing it.
Interactive Teaching involves the student more by perhaps first taking a simple explanation or problem and allowing the student to work through and understand it and then offering them a more difficult problem that they can now work through with the knowledge they have obtained and so on.
The final teaching category is Independent Practice and Problem-Solving which is similar to what a researcher would do. The teacher would present you a problem and you would investigate it and perhaps find yourself realizing aspects of the problem you may not have considered. When you ask your teacher for help they may ask you questions that would steer you in the right direction without blatantly giving you the answer. This allows the student to realize and develop an understanding of the topic or problem in a less linear way.
The only way I can practice direct teaching is to do this exercise in picture or video form and post it online allowing people to ask questions and to try the exercise themselves. But because of the detached nature of doing this through the ‘interwebs’ it dilutes some of the teaching process, or lengthens it anyway. Interactive teaching is also made much more difficult because I have to give the information all at once rather than being able to give it episodically and allowing for people to take in the information in the chunks (and in the order) which is most efficient. While the independent teaching method is inevitable, it doesn’t suit animation. Animation is much easier to learn in a studio/group setting as you will have a lot of feedback immediately.
“When we teach face-to-face we can situate the learners within the lecture theatre or class room but when we prepare distance learning materials it is impossible to think of the learners’ situation but in both approaches it is even more difficult to know what the students are thinking, their academic histories, and so on. This is probably harder when we recognise the diversity of background from which learners using distance methods come.”
-Kogan Page, the Theory and Practice of Teaching (2nd Edition)
To counteract all of this I’ve attempted to design the lesson so that the information is taken in the way it was intended (and needed) by the reader or ‘student’ I suppose. And I’m almost on Deviantart at least once a day for a little while so I can give feedback to whoever needs it. Hopefully this will create a kind of virtual classroom setting to give people a better way of receiving information.
Now, while reading The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer I came across the following extract that really interested me and changed the way I thought about pedagogy. Earlier in the book Palmer explored the idea that we were approaching teaching in the wrong way. He believed that we focused too strongly on the idea that ‘knowledge; for knowledge’s sake; is all’. He disbelieves that the idea that taking the human element out of teaching, as some modes of teaching attempt to do, will remove any risk of having emotion or argument ‘tainting’ the knowledge itself. He disagrees with the idea that humans cannot teach without spoiling the teaching. But, from fear of being accused of saying that anyone should teach he goes on to say this -
“In earlier chapters, I tried to correct several imbalances in the way we approach teaching. To correct our overemphasis on technique, I stressed the teacher’s identity and integrity. To correct our obsession with objective knowledge, I stressed subjective engagement. To correct our excessive regard for the powers of intellect, I stressed the power of emotions to freeze, or free, the mind.
My intent was to rebalance the scales. But in a polarizing culture, it is hard to do that without slamming the scales in the opposite direction. In arguing for the neglected pole, I may be mistaken for someone who excuses poor technique, urging teachers just to “be themselves”; who believes there are no standards for truth, just thoughts, just as long as you “share what you feel”.
It is obvious (I hope!) that these are distortions of what I have said. But we distort things this way all the time because we are trained neither to voice both sides of an issue nor to listen with both ears. The problem goes deeper than the bad habit of competitive conversation some of us have: tell me your thesis and I will find any way, fair or foul, to argue the other side! It is rooted in the fact that we look at the world through analytical lenses. We see everything as this or that, plus or minus, on or off, black or white; and we fragment reality into an endless series of either-ors. In a phrase, we think the world apart.”
What did he mean by this?
Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize-winning physicist said it in a much more simple way – “The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth.”
This applies to teaching in a very interesting way.
These are the six steps that Palmer uses in his pedagogical design –
1. The space (in which you teach) should be bounded and open.
2. The space should be hospitable and “charged.”
3. The space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group.
4. The space should honour the “little” stories of the students and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition.
5. The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community.
6. The space should welcome both silence and speech.
He describes these as the paradoxes of teaching, that to fully and effectively teach and learn the process needs to be balanced and exploratory of the entire spectrum and never of just the polar opposites. Nothing is fundamentally wrong and nothing is fundamentally right.
Gilbert Highet almost concurs with Palmer on the subject of teaching being art, and not science. While Palmer believes that teaching is a human process, so, by nature cannot be a science, Highet believes that it all depends on the scenario.
“Clearly some forms of teaching, especially those that tend to depersonalise the teaching and learning process, like the professor with whom we opened this chapter who can lecture to hundreds of students (without ever interacting directly with any of them), and those other forms that lend themselves to mass production, suggest that teaching is a technology. But when teaching is face-to-face and interactive, when it is a human process then it is much more than a science – it is an art.”
Gilbert Highet, the Art of Teaching
So how does this apply to what I’m teaching?
I think this affects how each tutorial should be designed, the order, what each person partaking in each exercise takes away with them at the end of each tut and
I’ve always had a problem with the typical tutorials here on Deviantart. From studying pedagogy and learning theory I’m starting to further understand why.
I think it’s interesting to be able to create a JPEG tutorial for people to quickly save and keep a copy, to be able to open it as a separate layer in software like Photoshop (particularly handy if it’s a Photoshop tutorial) and to be able to submit it as a deviation rather than a journal entry so people can give feedback etc. Those are the benefits of the format.
But the content can be a bit iffy sometimes. While some are interesting and useful, they tend to teach a specific method of how to do one thing. These are usually things like how to make realistic bubbles or believable planets or how to draw a head etc. While these are fine and the tutorials themselves are informative and can really help if the one thing they teach is all you need, but otherwise they are limited. They teach one thing, in the approach of the person who made the tutorial. You can sometimes learn new things through the tutorials (like tricks and techniques in Photoshop for example) but it can be difficult to apply in other situations. It’s very difficult to find a broad encompassing tutorial set.
I suppose one way of putting it is; it’s like learning a language one sentence, or phrase at a time. Those sentences only work in a few situations and can be bent to work in other situations but it’s awkward and inefficient. If you learn the foundation of the language, however, you will improve and eventually be able to apply your learning in any situation.
Now, none of this is the deviant’s fault, the vast majority of us here are not teachers and have not been thought to teach. It’s kind of a revelation to some people that there is a subject of teaching (as it was to me when I first thought about it) and that there are teachers of teachers. I can assure you that I’m no teacher myself yet, but I think I’m starting to get a slight grasp of how to go about doing it. And I’ve applied what I’ve learned to my tutorial and will do so with all of my future tutorials.
All feedback and comments are welcome and encouraged.
Thanks for reading.
-Teaching and Learning, Lessons from Psychology, Richard Fox, Blackwell publishing, 2005
-The Courage to Teach, Parker J. Palmer, Jossey-Bass, 1998
-The Art of Teaching, Gilbert Highet, University Paperback, 1970
-The Theory and Practice of Teaching (2nd Edition), Kogan Page (edited by Peter Jarvis), 2006
-Teaching Concepts, An instructional Design Guide (2nd Edition), M. David Merrill, Robert D. Tennyson, Larry O. Posey, Educational Technology Publications, 1992
-The Animation Book, Kit Laybourne, Three Rivers Press, 1998
-The Animator’s Workbook, Tony White, Phaidon Press, 1988
-The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams, Faber and Faber, 2001
The Animator’s Survival Kit: Animated, series by Richard Williams (2008)
By Craig Mullins