Taking a clue from the world of museums, I now talk about my teaching as ‘curating the material’
I’m always looking for analogies for the classroom and for teaching. I used to describe my role more as a some cross between a set designer and a director, but lately I’ve latched upon the idea of being a curator.
From my experience and simple perspective, a curator selects the art and artifacts for the exhibit, designs the layout for the gallery, writes the labels for the works, and writes the catalog. The key thing is that the curator is not just presenting a listing of art works, but actually has a perspective and an opinion about the art being shown, and a message for the audience.
As a teacher, just like a curator, I can’t control what your students (audience) gets out of a classroom experience. The best I can do is create the best possible environment for as many people as possible to learn as much as they can. At first I thought this just involved putting the material out there, but then I realized I was just creating a new (but enhanced) book. The problem with books and book-like objects, is that in most cases the reader has no basis to effectively process the material. So then I started thinking about how I would share my opinion and perspective on the subject matter while still providing many different opportunities for students. So I came up the idea of curation. I still gather materials, but now I think about organizing or providing different guides to the material. The next stage is to figure out how to have the students interact with the material and to share their own ‘curation’ of the material.