In the last blog, I talked about our departmental approach to professional learning and how we, together, worked to improve the quality of visual arts teaching and learning. I thought it might be helpful to have a few concrete examples of what we have done:
• In the beginning, we needed to develop common language and understandings as we shifted our instruction away from isolated activities and technical exercises to that which had assisted students in applying knowledge and skills to create personal meaning and understand content and using the artistic process from kindergarten to Advanced Placement. We used Art Education in Practice books on meaning, assessment and aesthetics and teacher-developed guiding questions to frame our discussions and agree on commonalities of effective practice. Teachers developed guiding questions for chapters and discussion centered around application in the classroom.
• We examined student work. Sample groupings (e.g., drawing progressions from kindergarten to Advanced Placement, Advanced placement examples across media) were developed to provide starting points to talk about student growth and what kind of teacher behaviors would support high achievement.
• Did I say we examined student work? On a semi-regular basis, art teachers are encouraged to bring samples of work to meetings – perhaps, a single lesson in a range of achievement levels, examples of particular media, or the work in response to our student growth/teacher evaluation performance assessments to build inter-rater reliability.
• It’s about student work – and building complexity. We take the opportunity at exhibitions to look at student work and photograph interesting exemplars. Sometimes the sample is a group of works which have interesting processes. At other times a common thread, like interesting treatment of surfaces, arises from the work itself. Teachers responsible for the lessons then discuss how they were able to scaffold student learning to achieve the results. Additional teachers add to the discussion with different approaches while others who might have had difficulties with the media or concept feel comfortable to ask questions and get advice.
• We also like for our professional development to tap the knowledge and skills of the entire art department and to result in something tangible at the end where possible. Working together – at times in K-12 groups and others by elementary, middle and high school levels – we have…
* Unpacked big ideas, identified concepts, developed essential questions, and added supporting artists per elementary grade level with content deep enough to be resources for upper levels.
* Reviewed piloted curriculum, developed pacing guides, unpacked grade level benchmarks.
* After identifying some difficulties with the progression of 3-D work across the district, as a K-12 vertical team, planned backwards from Advanced Placement to kindergarten.
* Identified beginning of the year activities to hook students.
* Developed, piloted and reviewed a common district assessment for our art foundations course.
* Developed a list of ways to connect with other curriculum areas in ways that would support our artistic goals.
* Developed a list of performance assessments strategies used in art classrooms across the district.
* Feed our artistic and educator souls on our professional learning days by taking a balanced approach with a concentrated adult-level studio workshop, art education discussions, and local artist presentations.
This list is just a small part of our professional journey. We are always on the lookout for ideas to improve what we do and would be interested in what you are all doing in yours.
Senior Coordinator for Art, Norfolk Public Schools, VA