An analysis of `Kunstunterricht' in the writings of West German art educators, Reinhard Pfennig and G"unter Otto

Lois Petrovich-Mwaniki, Purdue University


Kunstunterricht (art instruction) was a reform movement in art education that emerged during post World War II West German reconstruction. The aim of this study was to investigate the specific characteristics of the Kunstunterricht movement and identify those social and educational conditions that influenced its development.^ To trace the origins of Kunstunterricht the study described the post World War II West German economic and social conditions, the Allied and West German educational reform initiatives, and the reemergence of four traditional art education movements: Musische Education, the Art Education Movement, the Britsch theory, and the Bauhaus theory.^ To investigate the characteristics of Kunstunterricht, this study explicated and analyzed the normative theories of the two leading proponents of Kunstunterricht, Reinhard Pfennig and Gunter Otto. Pfennig's book, Gegenwart der bildenden Kunst: Erziehung zum bildnerischen Denken (Presence of Fine Art: Educating Pictorial Thinking) and Otto's book, Kunst als Prozess im Unterricht (Art as Process in Instruction) were used as primary sources.^ This study found that Kunstunterricht was characterized by an emphasis on contemporary nonobjective art and educational learning theories to derive clearly stated aims, a structured methodology, and a scheme for evaluating student performance. More specifically, Pfennig advocated one aim: to teach pictorial thinking. He designed an instructional system, composed of three experience levels for grades 1-12, that was based on lesson activities derived from six principles of contemporary art. Otto advocated the teaching of pictorial structuring and aesthetic communication. His instructional model was based on four components; instructional aims, methods, content, and medium.^ The similarities in Pfennig's and Otto's theories were their emphases on contemporary art as the source for instructional aims and methods and on research in educational psychology as the source for learning theories and instructional strategies. The primary difference was that Pfennig derived most of his ideas from an analysis of contemporary art while Otto derived his from educational psychological research.^ The study concluded that the Kunstunterricht movement marked a turning point in West German art education because it legitimized art as a discipline of study and secured its place in the elementary and secondary schools. ^




Major Professor: H. George Geahigan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Art

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