A Curriculum in Subtractive Color Learning for Post-Secondary Education

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Kimmel, Kent Nevin
Longley, Edward L. Jr
In the 1920's, Johannes Itten developed and taught the Basic Course at the Bauhaus. As part of the basic course, he developed a syllabus in subtractive color learning. One of Itten's former students, Josef Albers, formalized the instruction into a series of specific color exercises. Although the Itten-Albers syllabus is the most consistently used color instruction format in post-secondary education today, there exists no published validation for contemporary color learning. As its major thrust, this work is the first to present a critical analysis of the Bauhaus color syllabus by developing a curriculum in color learning that provides a sufficient balance of verbal and visual information. A review of color texts and empirical research was conducted, and an evaluation of the relevance of the applicable citations was made and found inadequate for guidance in curriculum development. Of the available literature, none provides a comprehensive guide for course development, leaving the curriculum developer-reformer without guidance for constructing a logical and comprehensive syllabus. In addition to the review of literature, a questionnaire was submitted to selected post-secondary institutions to determine how and by whom color was being presented, and what published and/or unpublished literature, and what methodologies were being used in the field. Data indicated the lack of a subtractive color curriculum guide, and a disparity in the content and quality of color instruction. Using the survey data and related literature, a curriculum in subtractive color instruction was designed which outlined the relationships of color history, and human color vision and discrimination to the physical aspects of reflected light color. The curriculum can be described as a detailed sequence of practical instructional exercises, each preceded and accompanied by verbal and visual instructional content, providing the instructor with a guide for presenting color theories and the student with a method for learning how to translate those theories into practical examples of color relatedness. This work revealed that authors of color texts and research do not generally present them as curriculums. While the curriculum of Itten, Albers, and Sargent appear to be the most comprehensive, each lacks either sufficient verbal or visual content. Limitations of the completeness and efficiency of this curriculum suggest that an item analysis of the mid-course written examination be conducted, that the potential for a final examination be explored, and that the curriculum be presented in other classes to evaluate the sequencing of practical exercises.