I taught high school fine arts for years. I used a historic approach with visual aids as a teaching tool for most media. In ceramics class I always asked the students to study the shapes, colors and styles of decoration of a culture and then to put their own 'twist' on their project.
I belong to a historical medieval/renaissance recreation group. At the present time I am making 11-14th century English styled pottery to use and to show. There are a lot of books on medieval pottery and the internet is great for viewing museum collections. Archeological reports made to various English archeological societies have been particularly helpful because of the cross sectioned drawings and clay/glaze information. I enjoy the history and the research and love putting it into my pots.