English for Art & Design: Art history precourse (1993)

R.J. Preece (EFL)
Creative Business & Entrepreneurship

| 2 February 2012
This paper resulted from an independent study in a Master’s program in English Education at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA in 1993, with the title "Brush and English: A student needs analysis for an art history precourse". Click to see the English for Art and Design overview page.


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English for Specific Purposes (ESP) has gained international respect for addressing student motivation and providing relevant training for advanced study, professional aspirations, or current job needs. ESP contrasts with general English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL), where students with a wide variety of interests are joined together to study the language in and of itself with the assumption that students will be able to transfer these skills to suit their individual ESP needs. However, when a teacher [often] asks his students why they are studying English, it becomes evident that their students are studying English for a purpose.

According to Strevens (1977), the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) can be divided into two categories: English for Occupational Purposes (EOP); and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). For ESP, there are many specializations including the following: English for Science and Technology; Business English; Medical English, and, since the 1980s, Art English. Each specialization can fall into either category, EOP or EAP, depending on the context.

I. Introduction to Art English
In theory, Art English can be found in both an EOP and EAP context. While I lived in Korea, I tutored art dealers and artists who wanted to improve their English in order to gain independence when dealing with international art market concerns. Art English for occupational purposes includes not only combining the English language and art content, but also business content. Due to the fractured nature of the art business world, this field has little prospect for development.

However, Art English in an academic context has sprouted up at art and design schools, most notably in the United States. I have found that the teaching of Art English can be found in three types of situations: (1) at American art and design schools where there are a lot of international students; (2) at art and design schools abroad where students plan to pursue further study at an English-speaking art and design school; and (3) in the form of an elective course for advanced ESL students in an intensive university program.

As indicated in my research, most professors of art and ESL agree that, unlike other disciplines, many classes for the art student do not require a high level of English. An art program’s curriculum includes a significant amount of studio requirements along with some number of liberal arts requirements. The former are not language-demanding, as the classes usually have an extremely light reading load, if one at all. Also, because it is continually context-embedded, problems are minimized. To some degree, art is a visual language, and therefore, in studio classes, a professor and institution can ignore a student’s problems with a second language. While additional language training would certainly enhance the student’s studio experience, he can certainly produce art without it.

However, liberal arts requirements are far more language demanding. A professor becomes readily aware that the student with limited English proficiency simply cannot function in this environment without adequate language skills. Student inability to perform reasonably well in liberal arts courses has forced institutions to offer ESL classes that assist the student in getting through the liberal arts requirements.

At present, I have found that Art English in its infancy is some combination of English language training with art content. Currently, there are two kinds of programs: (1) those under the direction of professionals with art backgrounds; and (2) those under the direction of professionals with ESL backgrounds. However, a synthesis of the two has yet to occur.

Art English as a specialization has several challenges: (1) along with the entire ESP field, there is the problem of exchanging information; (2) administrators simply don’t know about other programs; (3) developing a suitable combination of art content and English. Often is the case that institutions have high expectations without providing adequate, even minimal resources; (4) lack of qualified teachers and administrators who have art and language teaching training; and (5) at present, there are no textbooks for Art English.

II. The Project

A. Introduction
For this paper, I am concerned with the third kind of Art English course, an elective course for advanced students in an intensive university program. M. Tisa, Assistant Director of Academics at Temple University’s Intensive English Language Program expressed an interest in running a pilot Art English course during the summer of 1993, as a means of diversifying elective course opportunities for students who were entering the university in the fall. She expressed concern that IELP students upon leaving the program were encountering American university and content shock. At IELP, by the advanced level, students became overly confident and tended to cut back on preparation for class. She hoped that by students taking a precourse to Art History 51, they would become well aware that their language study had not ended, but would continue into their content study. Basically, she hoped that the class would present them with content course demands, but at the same time, prepare them for these demands.

As language difficulties continue into the content realm for the ESL student, I selected a particular Art History 51 instructor for students to [experience] for two reasons: the instructor’s previous experience teaching students from many different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds; and overall enthusiasm about the project. Unfortunately, as at most, if not all universities, there is a great disparity of instructor willingness to work with and accommodate ESL students. In fact, due to the instructor’s sensitivity, I see the Art History 51 course to be a transition from my class to the university at large.

In this paper, I will present a needs analysis of the precourse, a syllabus and sample lesson of the precourse, and a final section presenting the implications of Art English.

B. The Needs Analysis
As with Art English as a whole, nothing has been published about needs analysis for Art English. There are quite a few articles about art and bilingual education, but these articles do not deal with art history. Therefore, for the purposes of developing the precourse, they are extremely limiting in their application.

Basically, the role of the needs analysis is to determine what a learner needs. A needs analysis is the basis for the following: syllabus, course, and program design; selection of materials; and even the role of the teacher. For this project, I reviewed the literature on ESP needs analysis and took this into strong consideration when developing my needs analysis for the precourse.

For the precourse, I was most interested in the structure laid out by Mackay and Bosquet (1981) which includes a Target Situation Analysis (TSA), a Present Situation Analysis (PSA), and a plan to get students from their present situation to a target situation.

1. Target Situation Analysis
For a TSA, the researcher determines what product is needed for the student to achieve certain tasks. As recommended by Mackay (1978), I conducted a structured interview as opposed to using the quantitative models of Munby (1978) and Richterich and Chancerel (1980) for two reasons: (1) while these models aspire to be quantitative, they require the researcher’s intuition in order to determine which factors are more important given a particular context; (2) these models were designed for use with a large number of respondents. This was not needed in this particular case.

For the TSA, unlike Hutchinson (1987) and Mackay and Bosquet (1981), I restricted my study to my perceptions of the content class as opposed to incorporating the perception of the students and content professor for two reasons. Many times, as with my students, they had rather inaccurate ideas of what the real course would be like. Even my art student had an inaccurate view. At first, she questioned the legitimacy of the precourse, basing her impressions upon her high school art experience, which had limited supervision and was exclusively studio-based. Only upon my explanation, did she become aware that she had liberal arts requirements. The second reason is, as indicated by Johns (1981), content professors have a limited understanding of ESL and ESP.

The results from the following TSA were shaped by a structured interview I conducted with the content instructor, my analysis of the course requirements, and my intuition as a former student in the art history program and ESP professional.

a. Class Structure
The class meets two times a week for two hours per week for fourteen weeks. Due to the fact that the class size is sixty, the course is largely in the lecture format accompanied with slides. Students are presented with approximately twenty-five slides per class, to which definitions of art vocabulary are given. These definitions and concepts are then applied to works of art that best demonstrate these definitions and concepts. There is an attempt on the part of the instructor to engage in class discussion. However, due to the class size, this is quite limited.

b. Speaking
Students are not required to speak in class. However, the professor finds this desirable.

c. Reading
Students are expected to read approximately 500 pages. However, to those not familiar with art history texts, half of the text is pictures. In addition, the instructor recommends reading a writing guide.

d. Notetaking and Lecture Listening
Students are expected to take notes from the lectures. However, the lectures reinforce the text and vice versa. In fact, it is possible for a student to do well in the class by either mastering the reading or note-taking.

e. Writing
Students are given two outside class writing assignments: a compare / contrast paper on two works of art that they have seen before but have not been discussed; and a paper where students are asked to describe and react (like / dislike) to a work of art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

f. Exams
Students are given a mid-term and final exam. On the first part of the mid-term, students are asked to fill-in the blank and match words with definitions. The content is art vocabulary and art vocabulary as it applies to specific works of art. Afterwards, students are asked to write three essays: two description and one compare / contrast. For the description essays, students are presented with unfamiliar images and asked to visually analyze them, thereby requiring a sophisticated use of applying art vocabulary and concepts to random works. For the compare / contrast essay, students are presented with two familiar works. For the final exam, the same structure applies. However, there is an essay on a theme where the student is asked to embrace a concept and bring in many works of art in a historical context.

g. The Art History 51 Process
There are several processes that NNS and NS students alike needs to master in order to do well in the course. First, the student must be able to take definitions and concepts of visual art and gain confidence and competence with applying them to random works of art. This is required for the outside class essays and essay exam questions. Second, for the essay exam questions, they need to gather information, organize their thoughts, and quickly write essays given a certain time limit. The student then needs to understand this language receptively as it applies to a historical context.

2. Present Situation Analysis
Richerich and Chancerel (1980) add PSA as a complement to TSA, Hutchinson (1987) refers to this as "lacks", whereby the researcher determines the current capability of the learner.

For the PSA, I conducted a structured interview with Margaret Tisa and the IELP faculty. They claimed that students needed to improve skills in all areas. As this course was to be offered in an intensive EAP program, we decided that the course should provide students with a greater indication of what to expect upon entering Temple and develop skills specifically related to the Art History 51 course.

3. A Process-Oriented Approach
The third part of my needs assessment was process-oriented. My process-oriented approach differs from Widdowson (1987) and Hutchinson (1987) as my goal was not to get the student from their present situation to the target situation, but from their present situation to within the target situation. Hutchinson, in particular, wants to concentrate on learning needs whereby content and process are downplayed in lieu of watered-down activities that disinterested students want. However, I feel that my responsibility is to prepare students for a course and university without this methodology, and I will prepare serious students and let the others succumb to seriousness.

Due to the various steps in fine-tuning the art interpretation and historical process described earlier, my process approach deals with developing student capability and confidence with this process.

4. The Means Analysis
After I conducted this needs analysis, I applied it to a means analysis as described by Holliday and Cooke (1983). Basically, the means analysis shapes the course / program into a form that takes into consideration the practical constraints of a given institution and / or culture. It also provides a loose framework that can be modified by instructors and an institution after the course / program developer has left.

The class size was ideal: only six students. This allowed for a lot of student-teacher interaction and student-student interaction. There were twenty-five classes of fifty minutes each, four days a week within a twenty hour a week intensive program. However, there were existing problems with motivating students to read material for homework due to no penalties except for level upgrade, and there were no funds allocated for the rather expensive student text. Also, Art History 51 was not offered during the summer [during the time of the pilot]. As a result, I was unable to videotape authentic classes and students were unable to observe these classes.

As set by Tisa, the role of the precourse was to (1) prepare students for Art History 51, an art appreciation course offered at Temple University, and (2) expose students to the format and discourse in a real college class.

C. Syllabus and Course Design

1. Syllabus
The following is a revised syllabus for the fall course.

Visual Experience Precourse Fall I
2:10-3:00 MTThF

Text: Living with Art, third edition, Rita Gilbert.

CLASS 1: What is Art? Role of the Artist and the Observer. Read pp. 26-58.

CLASS 2: Issues of Beauty and Naturalism; Representational and Nonrepresentational Art

CLASS 3: Visual Elements I: Line; Shape and Mass. Read pp. 99-113.

CLASS 4: Visual Elements II: Light, Color, and Value. Read pp. 114-126.

CLASS 5: Visual Elements II continued with content lecturer.

CLASS 6: Visual Elements III: Texture; Space; Time and Motion. Read pp. 127-146.

CLASS 7: Binder Workshop.

CLASS 8: Compare / Contrast. Hand in ten summaries.

CLASS 9: Themes and Purposes of Art. Read pp. 59-97.

CLASS 10: Quiz Preparation.

CLASS 11: Quiz.

CLASS 12: Consultations.

CLASS 13: Principles of Design I: Balance; Emphasis and Focal Point. Read pp. 147-166.

CLASS 14: Principles II: Proportion and Scale; and Rhythm. Read pp. 167-177.

CLASS 15: Principles with content lecturer.

CLASS 16: Painting. Read pp. 195-212. Hand in ten summaries.

CLASS 17: Sculpture. Read pp. 283-305.

CLASS 18: Architecture with content professor. Read pp. 324-357.

CLASS 19: Art History: Italian Renaissance Art. Read 396-405; 406-423; 415; 418.

CLASS 20: Art History: Italian Renaissance Art. Hand in ten summaries.

CLASS 21: Art History: Italian Renaissance Art with content lecturer. Read handout.

CLASS 22: Test Preparation / Binder Workshop.

CLASS 23: Study day.

CLASS 24: TEST and hand in binders.

CLASS 25: Test Review / Individual Consultation.


2. Description of Course Activities

The course is comprised of the following sections: visual art language / binder workshop; notetaking / lecture-listening; and critical reading.

The first part deals with visual arts language. Students are presented with a short lecture followed by a seminar where students analyze works of art. Students are given question sheets and are exposed to random works of art that help them develop speed and accuracy with talking about pictures. While this may appear to be a drilling exercise, the pictures constantly change, and the students need to apply the language to a different context continually.

Questions during this activity promote student responses in the academic tradition, where students are encouraged to talk about problems with understanding and application. Students summarize other students’ responses, agree or disagree, and elaborate. The image provides a great opportunity to verify and clarify student responses, thereby helping students fine-tune their language production. The seminars are followed by in-class notetaking to writing activities, and out-of-class essay writing with student-selected works. With these essays, forty in all, about two paragraphs each, the students create a binder. They arrange these works into chronological order, thereby laying the foundation for an understanding of the history of art.

The next section deals with lecture listening / notetaking activities with the sections on painting, sculpture, and architecture.

The last section is comprised of critical reading activities with Renaissance art content, whereby students pull apart paragraphs and classify sentences and paragraphs and plug them into art historiographical categories with the aid of a category sheet. This is followed by an activity where students create their own art history, bringing in visual arts language and historical information. Time only permitted one art history section. Renaissance art was selected by Dr. Marcia Hall, Professor of Art History and I, as we agreed that it was the most important period in understanding Western and American art and culture.

Students are given two grades: an Art English grade and an Art History 51 grade competing against native speakers of English. These two grades provide the student with an opportunity to see how he fares via process and product. With the former, students receive grades for their quiz, exam, homework, final binder product, and classroom participation. For the latter, students receive grades for the quiz and exam.

Compared to Art History 51, the course covers about one-third of the content. However, the actual process in my course differs from that of the content instructor. In the real class, students are presented with many images when talking about certain language, such as line. These images are not reinforced in the later sections of color, texture, etc. In my course, students are presented with a limited number of images which continually appear in different contexts. My reasoning for this is to lay the groundwork for the art history section of the course.

3. Amendments
The fall course will be team-taught with the target Art History 51 instructor as a means of further emphasizing the seriousness of the course, provide the students and instructor an opportunity to get to know each other before the course begins, and present the students with lectures from the instructor in a non-threatening environment apart from native speaking students. Further, the students will be invited to observe the real class and go on a museum tour with native-speaking students as part of their acclimation.

Unlike the summer course, students will be given reading assignments from the text used in Art History 51. This was not possible due to institutional constraints the previous semester. While institutionally, students are not required to read the material, students will be presented with a concrete indication of what will be expected of them the following semester. A class activity will include comparing the precourse syllabus to the Art History 51 syllabus.

While the binder workshop activity is used to develop student competence and confidence with using visual arts language, the students were still reluctant to speak in the real class even though they knew the answer. In fact, the content instructor remarked that the students were far more prepared than the native speaking students. The students demonstrated what Adamson (1990) put into writing, a reluctance on the part of NNSs to speak publicly in front of NSs. In order to address this, the instructor plans to coach the students by informing them that they will be called upon the following class to answer a certain question.

4. Sample Lesson

CLASS 6:
Activity 1: 20 minutes.
Teacher-centered lecture on "Texture, Space, Time, and Motion." Assumes students have read section in their texts. Students take notes from lecture. Teacher presents definition and applications while comparing / contrasting two works on the screen. Teacher often talks next to the screen and uses hand gestures to demonstrate applications.

Activity 2: 20 minutes.
Students are given "binder workshop" sheets. Students select slides that they want to discuss. Students ask each other questions from the list and take notes in their binders.

Binder Workshop Questions
Describe the texture.
Are there patterns? Describe.
Describe the space. Is it 2-D or 3-D? If it is 2-D, describe the spatial relationship and the illusion of depth.
Are any figures foreshortened? Explain.
Is the work in actual motion?
Does it present the illusion of motion? If so, how?

Activity 3: 10 minutes.
Students write a small compare / contrast essay in their binders.

Follow-up Activities
Students work on the binder workshop in three ways— (1) during class discussion / note-taking activities, (2) homework, (3) and by preparing a total of forty summaries of works throughout the course in essay form.


The structure of the texture, space, time, and motion class is similar to the other classes discussing the visual elements and the principles of design. With this structure, students gain experience with listening and watching a lecture, taking notes from an instructor’s lesson, making sense of this information verbally and in notes, gaining confidence with talking about it, and writing about it in essay form. Also, this process is utilized when students work on their binder throughout the course, as principles of design incorporate visual elements language and art history incorporates principles of design.

III. Implications
The implications of Art English are [substantial]. Art English allows for art and design schools to accept international students in greater numbers and create a more dynamic international environment where artists from a variety of cultures come together. While art is a visual language, the common verbal language, English, provides for a greater opportunity for exchange of ideas. Art English is the impetus that provides a greater exchange between artists by training art students to communicate with a common verbal language. They can now find out the thinking behind the image in greater detail.

In fact, we can anticipate reading about Art English as one of the causes in the late 20th century for an ever-increasingly international art product, for better or for worse.

English for Art & Design: Art history precourse: 1 | References and other readings: 2