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Perceptions of learning spaces: IOE artist-teachers occupy the Tate Modern

30 March 2017

45 students on the UCL Institute of Education’s (IOE) PGCE Secondary Art and Design programme hosted a three-day occupation at the Tate Switch House from Sunday 2–Tuesday 4 April.

The students challenged our understanding of spaces for learning through an exploration of ‘the classroom’ and the education space of the Tate. Corridor noises filled the Tate Exchange room as a recorded school day played on loop, and a performance-driven installation of a Parents’ Evening interrogated what it means to make progress in art.

PGCE Tate Occupation

The occupation featured provocative discussions, workshops, and film screenings by past and current IOE students. Panel discussions raised questions such as “What is an art teacher?”, “Can an art teacher be an artist?”, and ‘Why teach art?'“The occupation gets our students to think about what it means to be an artist-teacher” says Mr Andy Ash, Lecturer in Education at the IOE. “Our students are artists who share their practices with ther pupils. We expect artist-teachers to challenge the borders and spaces between their art-making and teaching.”

Watch PGCE student Tindara Sidoti-McNary speak about her experience:

Funded by the Freelands Foundation, the occupation formed part of ‘Tate Exchange’, an annual programme that looks at how art can make a difference to society.

Ms Lesley Burgess, Senior Lecturer in Education at the IOE, explains: “We wanted visitors to participate in our occupation – to take part in workshops and performances, to join discussion forums and be provocative.”

The artist-teachers produced 5000 copies of three papers: one issue for each day of the occupation. The papers contain accounts of their placement experiences and reflections on the school environment – sometimes in the form of WhatsApp messages to one another.

PGCE Tate Occupation news stand

In one issue, artist-teacher Jilly McAteer notes how a year 12 pupil had counted 2346 pieces of chewing gum in the playground. As she and other pupils painted over the gum, passers-by had to negotiate this otherwise unremarkable space.

Other artist-teachers write about their lesson plans around the theme of ‘space’ – such as taking their pupils through the school vegetable garden or asking them to produce maps of hidden places in the school.

PGCE Tate Occupation newspaper

Explaining the process behind the occupation, Ms Burgess says:

“In September, we (the tutors and Henry Ward from Freelands) presented our interpretations of ‘Space and Place’ to the new cohort. Building upon a series of workshops, artist-teachers were encouraged to think about spaces for learning and alternative pedagogies, which they then translated into projects in their placement school.”

" “We decided to hold an occupation because it gives artist-teachers the chance to test out ideas in an experimental and collaborative way. To demonstrate the importance of contemporary art, and its power to transform the way we think.”

This is the second year that the IOE has collaborated with the Freelands Foundation, with last year’s exhibition at Peckham Platform.

PGCE Tate Occupation pupil's note

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