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"Learning is fundamentally a social experience. That is, knowledge is synthesised in the connections between people"

Prof Kit Messham-Muir's Teaching Philosophy

Public Lecture: Artbar Lecture, Museum of Contemporary Art

This is a public lecture I gave at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, for a public program called Artbar, which includes music, performances and lectures, 'curated' by a contemporary artist. The topic of this lecture was 'How to Drop Freud into a Conversation at an Opening'. 


Camera: Joe and Louise Goulder.


Click play arrow to watch

Student Feedback Surveys

Student Feedback on Teaching (2011-2016; rated out of 5.00)


  • AART3140 Currencies 1: Los Angeles and New York 5.00 (2015)

  • AART3010 Writing and Art Theory: 5.00 (2011), 5.00 (2012), 4.84 (2013) and 5.00 (2014)

  • AART1110 Critical Studies 1: 4.80 (2012), 4.86 (2013), 4.89 (2014), 4.78 (2016)

  • AART1110 Critical Studies 2: 4.73 (2012), 5.00 (2013), 4.45 (2014), 4.45 (2015)

  • AART3050 The Arts in Health and Community: 4.71 (2012)

  • AART1220 Postmodernism and After: 5.00 (2011)





  • Faculty of Humanities Excellence in Teaching Award in the category: Individual Teacher Curtin University (2018)

  • ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning For “inspiring and motivating first-year visual arts students through innovative teaching practices, redesigning course material and assessments and creating comprehensive online learning environments” (2011)

  • Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning The University of Newcastle (2010)

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Learning Support The University of Newcastle (2009)




Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Awards

I believe that learning today is emphatically social and that excellent teaching must create conditions that connect students to each other, so that they learn through participating in constructing and sharing knowledge. This belief guides my entire teaching practice, from assessment and curriculum design to the classroom.


Learning is fundamentally a social experience. That is, knowledge is synthesised in the connections between people.[i] My philosophy of teaching, then, is influenced by a ‘connectivist’ approach, which Terry Anderson says, “stress[es] the value of peer-to-peer interaction in investigating and developing multiple perspectives.”[ii] Networked technology has changed attitudes towards information and knowledge, so that, even in face-to-face teaching, education is being transformed into “social scholarship.”[iii] The key to student learning today is activating learning spaces as social spaces, whether virtual or real. I aim to create participatory conditions for students, to create opportunities for knowledge to collide and synthesise.[iv]

Tactical Ruptures and Dialogical Lectures

Two of my principle strategies in the classroom, aimed at motivating and provoking the engagement of students, are:

  • Dialogical Lectures; and

  • Tactical Ruptures


Dialogical Lectures


My lectures break the mould of a traditional lecture -- they're a dialogue, in which the students' input is central to the progression of the lecture's narrative.  My lecture 'Revolution by Night: Surrealism and Psycholanalysis' (see the video at the top of this page or at is a typical example of one of my lectures


Tactical Ruptures


Tactical ruptures disrupt the expected flow of a lecture by creating a moment of tension for students.  I published research on this in the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, in which I describe a tactical rupture as:  

a calculated breakage in the expected flow of a narrative. Importantly, tactical ruptures are not necessarily moments of unpleasant disturbance...  Indeed, in teaching, a moment of “crisis” in a narrative is often created by something astonishing, curious, or funny – the vital component in any tactical rupture is unexpected provocation. [v]


For example, my lecture 'Revolution by Night' lecture is a two-hour lecture and one of the challenges it so maintain the engagement of students for the duration of this period.  Amongst other techniques, I include the tactical rupture of suddenly appearing in pyjamas and a dressing gown to reinforce the point that Surrealism in art was concerned with the analysis of dreams. (see at the 1:00:13 mark in the video at the top of this page or at


Another example of a tactical rupture is my performance of Geroge Maciunas' Solo For Violin, 1962 around the half-way mark of my lecture on the 1960s Fluxus movement:



Impact: Student Survey Results (2008-2018)

Teaching Evaluations 2008-2018.jpg

Examples of Video Resources

'The Sublime'

Students today have instantaneous access to the multitude of information and resources on the internet. As teachers, we should not try to resist this tsunami of information, nor should we try to match it – we should become part of it. 


I made this video a couple of years ago.  I teach the first year core art theory course at the University of Newcastle, Australia. In one lecture I discuss the idea of 'the sublime' and how it influenced many romanticist painters in the early nineteenth century, such as JMW Turner and Casper David Friedrich. In their paintings we frequently see idea of the sublime in relation to human vs. nature, with nature inevitably overpowering the hubris of humankind.

The sublime was a strong theme in Romanticism because it was a reponse to the burgeoning of modernity -- reminding us that we might try to tame nature with technology, but ultimately nature is more powerful. It's basically a moral point these artists are making.

Anyway, the important thing about experiences of the sublime is that they combine fear/awe/exhilaration together at the same moment, in which you mind is robbed of its capacity to think. I wanted to give the students a practical demonstration of this to show in the lecture.


So, I made this video.

'The Seahorse Project'

In 2012, with a team of colleagues from the University of Newcastle and a $200,000 grant from the Australian Government, I was involved in the Swimming With Seahorses project.  


As part of the project's Team Tech, we produced our own videos and commissioned others from students.  These videos are intended to connect with new students and help them transition into the university environment, as well as give them practical tips on dealing with the technology at the University.  


Swimming with Seahorses was made possible by a $200,000 grant from the Education Participation and Partnerships Program, Department of

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australian

Government, 2012




[i] George Siemens, ‘Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age’ International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2:3 (2005) 3

[ii] Terry Anderson T, The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Edmonton: AU Press (2008) 57

[iii] Christine Greenhow, Beth Robelia and John E Hughes, ‘Research on Learning and Teaching with Web 2.0: Bridging Conversations’, Education Researcher, 38:4 (2009) 281

[iv] Kit Messham-Muir, ‘Invention at the Social Scale (Social Configurations): Melting into the Texture of Everyday Life ,’ Ecologies of Invention, Sydney: Sydney University Press (2013) forthcoming

[v] Kit Messham-Muir, ‘From Tinkering to Meddling: Notes on engaging first year art theory students’.

Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 9:2 (2012) 7-8

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