Showcase Interview

James Bryan talks about various teaching methods he uses.

James Bryan

Faculty Profile
Email Address

Teaching Strategy Video(s)
Student Collaboration and Contribution to Course
Focusing on Topics Students Perceive as Important
Struggles and Benefits of Working with Participatory Approaches

James Bryan is an art historian in the School of Art and Design at UW-Stout. His teaching responsibilities include both semesters of the Introductory Survey of Art History, a survey of Western Art for art majors; Evolution of Design, covering the last 300 years and offered for Art Education majors and Design majors; and Period Furnishings, a history of interior design for interior design majors.


Bryan said he doesn’t have a favorite class, but finds the class for interior design majors the most challenging; he would like to find a new approach to foster intellectual engagement and curiosity in the students.

When he first started teaching, he used lectures because it was what he knew, how he had been taught. Then he re-educated himself, trying to find new ways to teach and new examples to use. The survey course is a lecture for 110 people in two sections. He lectures with illustrations, and may try to tease out the information but often runs out of time. Noting that students are addicted to multiple stimuli, he doesn’t stand at the podium because if he is static, students will do other things. He gives a quiz during every class period, which he couldn’t do without D2L. The quiz points are 20% of a semester grade.

He thinks of the upper level courses, Period Furnishings and Evolution of Design, as a microcosm of higher education learning; he begins with a brief overview, emphasizing the essentials (he notes he is better at this in the Design course.) The students specialize; he gives them a set of choices and they select one.

He also allows students, with some supervision, to choose the material they feel they should know and be tested on. For the final, students select the fifty slides they should memorize and be tested on. He uses the study teams already established, assigns each team a chapter or set of chapters in one or more of their textbooks, and tasks them with finding five or so items illustrated in the reading that cover concepts important to the understanding of their subject. After they review their options and select items, they present their choices to the class. Jim takes their nominations into consideration and condenses them into a set of fifty slides to be learned by the end of the semester. He feels this process gives the students ownership in the agenda and scope of the class; he also feels this method would work in many disciplines.

In Period Furnishings, a team takes on a research project, and eventually puts together a Power Point presentation on what they learned. They are responsible for figuring out the basics and how to show them. He has found that doing this project in class, with the teacher engaged in the process, results in much better work because the texts in this field are poor.

In Evolution of Design, Bryan asks about the reading; students also discuss and summarize the reading in bullet points in teams (the teams stay the same all semester.) There are two texts, and he may finish one and compare the two in the nuances they contain. He hopes students begin thinking about epistemology—how we know what we know.