Plain Text of Week 4 What are Learning Theories.pdf

What are Learning Theories? How might you start to navigate them? @Neil Mulholland

Before we jump into learning theory, consider what you just did with Make Gold. This was an art assignment; a set of instructions that you followed. The art assignment is a technique widely practised in art education, specifically in its early foundational stages.

Draw it with your Eyes Closed delves into the art of the art assignment, engaging artists to discuss art assignments that they were set and that they might set themselves. Not all contributors are fans of the assignment format - but, on the whole, the art assignment is something they have all experienced as part of their art education.

You can read some of the assignments here

Here is an particularly meta art assignment from Draw it with your Eyes Closed to start with (you can follow this if you want, but reading it will suffice):


Of course we know artists have a kind of congenital allergy to rules, especially somebody else’s rules. We like to make our own rules. Very freeing, right? Well, that’s not the whole story. Let’s take a look at the rules you are following, especially ones living below the threshold of consciousness. Make a list of these rules, right now. Which of them that you think are your rules, are really rules you’ve inherited, been taught, learned are the cool rules? Are they serving you, or trapping you?


As you work throughout this next week, try to hear the rules whispering to you. Keep a running list, and add to it every time you hear another one. Don’t read any further until you’ve done #1.


OK, you cheated, because it was my rule. Now, what kind of rules did you come up with? Are they the easy formal ones about choices of materials, how long or short the piece should be, or what to wear? Try again, and listen for the harder ones: the conceptual limits you put on your work, the kind of work you let yourself do, or not do. Are there whole parts of your being you put in a separate compartment and don’t even consider bringing into your work? Whole enthusiasms you haven’t let yourself imagine as part of your work? Embarrassments, naiveties, intelligences you leave out?


Now, this week do whatever you have to do to break your own rules. The hardest ones first.

If you haven't had an art education, where else might you encounter art assignments? Increasingly, art assignments can be found online

For example, The Art Assignment is an OER website and PBS channel (hosted by curator Sarah Ulrist Green) that hosts assignments written and presented by different artists:

Green's show is primarily a way of exploring art history as practicum: working directly with materials and making processes that artists have engaged with in different historical periods. This has long been an important project within art history as a discipline, especially within the curatorial sector which has a particular investment in haptic, or 'hands-on') research methods (because curators tend to work directly with objects). Green's Public Broadcasting Service approach is also her way of fulfilling the public mission of the museum as an educational institution.

Green also enlists contemporary artists to establish their own assignments. This helps her audience to engage with emerging art on material and haptic terms. Herein, Green is initiating an experiential learning process.

The assignments in Green's PBS show are often simple to follow and require little expertise, skill or specialist equipment. Each assignment engages the participant in the weltanschauung of the artist that has set the assignment. Taking part in each assignment can offer a microcosmic insight into the artists' macro-view of art and their environment.

The Art Assignment follows a model established by the artists Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July in the earlier days of the web: