Students enrolled in an online general studies course [GNM 2190: Extinct and Threatened Life] at Stockton University were presented with two different pieces of abstract art. They were asked to draw analogies from each piece of art to the ecological concepts studied in the course. Students provided written responses which were submitted as assignments in the learning management software, Blackboard [Bb]. This exercise was described as ‘open-ended’ by the instructor; no grading rubrics were used. Responses to each piece of art were collected from 47 students and were subsequently uploaded into Quirkosä software for qualitative analysis. Codes representing major concepts studied in the course were developed and applied to student responses. Codes were also developed which focused on the characteristics of the art used by students to create analogies. The major ecologically-related codes emerging from this study included ‘endangered, extinct, and threatened’; ‘species’; ‘ecosystem’; ‘vulnerability’; habitat/habitat loss; and wildlife trade. Major codes relating to characteristics of the art included ‘color’; ‘images’; ‘features/techniques’; and ‘qualities’. The results from this study confirm that students did incorporate major ecological concepts covered in the course in their analogies derived from abstract art. Moreover, this study revealed the characteristics of the art used by students to draw these analogies.

Author/Artist Bio

Jane Huggins is an instructor in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Stockton University. She is interested in developing teaching methods which bridge the gap between art and science in basic science courses for both science and non-science majors.

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