Kylie Neagle takes a look back on the past four years in AGSA Education

The position of Education Officer at AGSA, held by Kylie Neagle, has been generously funded by the Department for Education until March 2021. This funding enables AGSA Education to provide a wide range of programs and resources for teachers and their students. At the beginning of 2017 the Department for Education reshaped its Outreach Education funding model, such that cultural organisations selected and managed the person for this role, who would then be embedded into the fabric of the organisation.

Realigning our focus on teachers, the gatekeepers to a school visit, has seen a steady increase in student attendance and large spikes in educators attending professional learning sessions. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of professional development hours offered to teachers increased from forty- two in 2016 to over 160 hours in 2020. Rather than continually increase the number of hours on offer, our aim now is to refine our programs and to build long lasting relationships with teachers. We want to learn more about their teaching and learning needs and sustain the quality and quantity of professional learning opportunities, an approach we believe will have a ripple effect on the quality of art education in South Australian schools.

One component of the Department for Education funding has supported the introduction and continuation of Educator Connect evenings, held on selected First Fridays throughout the year. These evenings provide an opportunity for teachers to network and unwind, at the same time learning something new about the collection or a temporary exhibition – and, importantly, leaving with ideas, content or activities that can be applied in the classroom.

Since 2017, we have welcomed over 166,000 students and teachers to the Gallery. During that time AGSA Education has made significant changes to the support offered to teachers, now providing additional professional learning opportunities aimed at empowering educators and arming them with a variety of strategies for engaging with our collection, in both the Gallery and the classroom. Where once a visit to the Gallery was daunting, even overwhelming, because of the size and complexity of the institution, teachers now have easy access to online resources and a clear outline of the programs and tours available. With AGSA Education having entered the realm of social media, access to the Gallery’s activities is effortless and straightforward, with notifications of new and existing programs for teachers and students consequently achieving a far wider reach.

The number of resources developed by AGSA Education has increased substantially, from four to nineteen per year, with this increase reflected in the depth and comprehensiveness of the resources themselves, which also include extensive suggestions for pre- and post-visit learning, these making connections to other works of art in the collection and the Australian Curriculum. The presentation of these resources in PowerPoint format has helped to support educators with more thorough pre-visit learning and, on the occasions where an excursion to the Gallery is not possible, access to high-quality images has enabled greater engagement with the collection and associated resources.

A popular and much-used resource developed in the last three years is the Curiosity Cards. In 2018, with an unprecedented number of school visits during Colours of Impressionism, it became clear that we needed to provide tools for teachers to interrogate works of art, particularly for those unfamiliar with the works on display. These cards promote formative learning and present an opportunity for students (and teachers) to practise their critical thinking skills. They are ideal for all age groups, for use in both the classroom and the Gallery, and are not content-led, which means that teachers of classes of all levels can incorporate these questioning techniques into a self- guided tour.

Our resources have also gained recognition interstate. At the National Visual Arts Educator Conference held at the National Gallery of Australia in January 2019, we presented a paper on the Gallery’s Curiosity Cards and their effectiveness in developing critical thinking. In July 2019, we travelled to Brisbane to present a paper at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Conference, where we showcased our work on equipping teachers with the skills and knowledge to deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in the classroom in an appropriate way. The recently released publication Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the classroom was the feature of this presentation, heralding its use for teachers not only in South Australia, but also nationally.

Kylie is Education Officer at AGSA, a position supported by the Government of South Australia through the Department for Education. This article first appeared in AGSA Magazine Issue 38, 2020