INSTEP learns to linger with the Lincoln Center Institute ☆

Elizabeth Sanders | July 16, 2012

Jean Taylor at INSTEP

“What do you notice?” asked Jean Taylor.  Sitting in a large circle, the students and faculty of the Teaching of English INSTEP MA program gazed intently at a photograph.  “It’s okay to be very simple when we start describing things,” Taylor reassured the group.

“There are three very distinct planes to the image,” said one.

“It has a triangle cut out of the image on the right-hand side.”

“It’s black-and-white!” offered a third, playfully.  The room chuckled.

Taylor smiled. “Alright, now let’s go deeper.”  The group began to note a sense of isolation created by a fence in the photograph, and how the composition of the picture enabled one to read it naturally, from left to right.  “So now we’re not only noticing, but we’re analyzing.”

The INSTEP program allows full-time teachers to earn an MA in three intensive summers at Teachers College.  Sunday’s orientation brought together first-, second-, and third-year students, as well as program faculty, to participate in a workshop that highlighted the continuing partnership between the program and the Lincoln Center Institute.

Taylor, a Teaching Artist at the Lincoln Center Institute, led the group in an aesthetic education workshop developed in collaboration with TC faculty Pat Zumhagen.  Throughout the workshop, second- and third-year INSTEP students connected their experience to the writings of Maxine Greene, whose work they had read in previous summers.  Greene has been the Philosopher-in-Residence at the Lincoln Center Institute since its inception, and is a professor emeritus of Philosophy and Education at Teachers College.

“I once worked with an eighth-grade teacher at Manhattan Day School,” said Taylor, “who used the word lingering. She would ask her students to linger. And it was the most wonderful task because students would simply spend time looking, noticing, analyzing.”

Teaching students to ease into aesthetic analysis in this way, said Taylor, involves guiding them through a series of three levels of thinking about the work at hand: First, “what do you notice?” This open question leaves room for all students to enter the process of inquiry.  Second, students are asked to “go deeper,” to make connections between the work at hand and their prior knowledge.  And finally, “What questions do you have? What does this work of art make you wonder?”

Taylor’s workshop not only gave the INSTEP students an opportunity to bond with members of their cohort at the beginning of what is sure to be an intense, fast-paced summer of courses — it gave them a set of tools to take into their classroom practice, to help them guide students of all levels into deep and meaningful analysis of art and literature.

Learn more about the Teaching of English INSTEP MA.

Learn more about the Lincoln Center Institute and Jean Taylor.