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Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes

The Museum of Modern Art via Coursera


This course is designed to help build critical skills that support theme-based teaching practices and build confidence in incorporating modern and contemporary art into interdisciplinary lesson plans. By addressing themes and questions that arise in relation to modern and contemporary art, the course will help you to think creatively about links to your curriculum and the ways that you can tap into students’ knowledge and life experience.

In this course, you will explore four themes that educators at The Museum of Modern Art use frequently in their teaching: Places & Spaces, Art & Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art & Society. Through videos, slideshows, and a variety of resources, readings, and activities, you will explore the content and context of works of art in MoMA’s collection.

Learners will…
- Explore works of modern and contemporary art through a variety of themes that relate to classroom content and student experience.
- Hear directly from artists about their ideas and processes.
- Learn about the ways that a thematic approach supports interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
- Gain exposure to a range of digital resources available for teaching with themes and incorporating content around works of art into your classroom.


  • Module 1: Introduction to Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes
    • Be introduced to some of the overall benefits of studying modern and contemporary art through accessible and relevant themes. Understand that themes allow us to make connections with artworks, classroom content, and students’ lives. Become acquainted with the ways that a thematic approach supports student-centered, interdisciplinary teaching.
  • Module 2: Places & Spaces
    • Discover some of the many ways that artists represent place and take inspiration from their environment. Learn how to engage students with sights and structures that will be familiar to many of them.
  • Module 3: Art & Identity
    • Discover some of the ways artists create works of art to express, explore, and question identity. Gain strategies for using works of art to approach the topic of identity with students.
  • Module 4: Transforming Everyday Objects
    • Discover how artists use everyday objects to challenge assumptions about what constitutes art and how it should be made. Explore a variety of artistic and design choices, and the creative acts of inventing and transforming everyday objects. Gain skills for making interdisciplinary connections and fostering students’ critical thinking abilities.
  • Module 5: Art & Society
    • Explore works of art created in response to the social, cultural, and political issues of their time. Gain a deeper understanding of history and contemporary society. Be encouraged to think critically about world events and how they are depicted.

Taught by

Lisa Mazzola


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