Download: Ragland-TeachingPhilosophy.pdf //
University of Alabama at Birmingham ARS495 Stories from the Line: Documenting Poverty students listen as Magnum photographer Matt Black gives an artist lecture via Skype on his ongoing project, "The Geography of Poverty," November 9, 2015.
Photography is in the midst of an uncertain, yet exciting, present. Through the shaping of fabricated and found images, deconstructing hierarchies between canonical and vernacular photographs, and engaging with traditional and emergent technologies, contemporary practitioners are employing a wide range of strategies to critically engage with the dilating character of globalized visual culture and examine assumed values in historical photographic discourse. My pedagogical approach enables students to consider the intellectual, aesthetic, and practical implications of this pivotal moment through a dynamic curriculum that actively addresses these issues and connects them to the broader cultural and political conditions shaping our time.
In my classroom students are challenged to master the craft of image making, approach the reading and pictures within historical and contemporary contexts, and understand the power of photographs to document, reveal, criticize and provoke change. From providing a firm foundation in historical and current methodologies to teaching in an inclusive, equitable, and diverse environment with access to safe, clean facilities outfitted with up-to-date, professional equipment, I provide a platform from which students learn to take risks, develop their voice, and redefine the photographic medium in their own way.
While I encourage my students to pursue the act of making as a way of thinking, I believe that artistic development does not solely occur as a result of making itself. To reach beyond traditional studio classroom models, I incorporate experiential and service learning coursework through single assignments and longterm coursework. This immersive fieldwork and community-based research motivates students to develop partnerships outside the classroom that yield multi-dimensional, mutually beneficial outcomes based on shared vision and tangible benefits. By acknowledging specific student and community needs, fostering student-community collaboration, and promoting application of theory to “real world” practice, experiential and service learning strategies provide learning outcomes where students analyze, synthesize, and apply key concepts, knowledge, and research methods in new contexts; develop effective oral, written, and visual communication; and cultivate independent judgement, reasoning, and decision making skills.
Deep learning and transformational growth is further fostered by combining studio assignments and class presentations with museum visits and multimedia resources including podcasts, websites and online social media applications. To create a classroom culture based on academic curiosity, I draw from a variety of literary and academic texts to augment my teaching and regularly give cross-disciplinary reading assignments in literature, poetry, science, history and journalism. Students are connected to contemporary practitioners through visiting artist programs, Skype sessions, workshops, and internships to prompt dialogue that reaches beyond the classroom and spurs professional development opportunities.
Carefully structured critical reflection intentionally connects students’ creative work with course content, and is facilitated through ongoing conversations, critical writing assignments, and studio critique. Through these methods, students test the strengths and limitations of their work, integrate new experience against existing knowledge, and analyze their assumptions and beliefs in open, constructive dialogue.
Ultimately, the object of this dialogue is a creative exchange marked by the success John Henry Newman describes in The Idea of a University: a kind of higher learning that does not cherish “talent, genius, or knowledge, for [her] own sake, but for the sake of her children…with the object of training them to fill their respective posts in life better, and of making them more intelligent, capable, active members of society.”
i Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM, 2013–
BA Capstone: Contemporary Art Practices
Special Topics: Camera-less
Special Topics: Stories from the Line – Documenting Poverty
Special Topics: Photography in the South
4-D Design Foundations
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, 2016
Master of Arts Graduate Thesis Committee
Student: Celestia Morgan
DUKE UNIVERSITY, 2015
Master of Fine Arts in Experimental & Documentary Arts Graduate Thesis Committee
Student: Aaron Canipe
CORCORAN SCHOOL OF THE ARTS + DESIGN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, 2007–13
Studio Photojournalism Core IV Senior Thesis
Studio Fine Art Photography Core IV Senior Thesis
Studio Photojournalism Core III
Studio Fine Art Photography Core III
Light Studies & Optical Culture
Focus on Photojournalism Pre-college
LAGRANGE COLLEGE, 2004–05
Western Humanities II
TULANE UNIVERSITY, 2002–03
Instructor of Record
Foundations of Art: Photography