Monthly Mentor

Heather Kaplan (November)
Heather is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Education at University of Texas El Paso. She holds a BFA in Art and a BS and MS in Art Education from the Pennsylvania State University, teaching licensure in the state of Pennsylvania, and a Ph. D in Art Education from the Ohio State University. She is an artist, educator, and researcher. Heather has worked in the schools, museums, community education, early childhood education, and in higher education. As an artist Heather works primarily in ceramics but also enjoys other sculptural materials, drawing, and watercolor. Heather’s research focuses are studio art making and early childhood art education, and she considers her research to inform and be informed by her teaching and artistic practices. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« August 2017 | Main | October 2017 »

Wednesday 09.27.17

Cross-Grade Level Collaborations

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

Teaching art in a K-8 school provides me with rich opportunities for cross-grade level collaborations. I try to build in at least one occasion per year for my middle school students to work on a project with the primary students in Kindergarten, first, and second grades. Sometimes it’s a one-visit collaboration, like our Earth Day earthworks in the Kindergarten yard, in which the Kindergarten teachers first shared Andy Goldsworthy’s work with their students in a PowerPoint presentation and my middle school students watched Rivers and Tides, his documentary, to learn about how and why he makes the work he does. After understanding the parameters of using available natural materials in their own environment, my middle school art students teamed up with a few Kindergarten students in each group to build their own earthworks on the play yard in honor of Earth Day. To ensure that the lesson doesn’t become dominated by either group, all students are first taught how to communicate effectively in order to truly collaborate and combine ideas when working with others. I document each earthwork and photograph the students who collaborated to make it before they return the materials to their natural homes.

Earth day spiral collaboration
Earth Day Spiral Collaboration

Earth day spiral collaboration
Earth Day Collaboration

Earth day spiral collaboration<
Earth Day Earthwork

Earth day spiral collaboration
Earth Day Collaboration

Earth day spiral collaboration
Earth Day Collaboration

On other occasions, collaboration between grade levels becomes a multi-visit project, like the year my first grade students illustrated toy designs and middle school students brought them to life as three-dimensional forms. I was inspired by art educator Cynthia Gaub’s presentation at the 2015 NAEA convention on multi-age toy collaborations and decided to try something similar with my students. During a unit focusing on art that we use, first graders examined toys from long ago and compared them with their own toys today. They then illustrated a new toy they would like to have, including both the front and back views (turnarounds). They had to be specific in the details - colors, materials (soft and sewn, or sturdy and sculpted?), and size. Middle school art students selected one or two toys to construct, then met with their first grade design partners to ask any clarifying questions before beginning. Because we had more first grade art students than middle school art students, some worked collaboratively to complete more than one toy. Students had access to a wide variety of materials to fulfill their “client’s” instructions - fabric for sewing and stuffing, clay, Model Magic, recycled materials, paper mache, and much more, though some of it came from donations or secondhand shops to avoid high costs. During the several-week construction process, the first grade students could see their designs in progress as they visited the art room for instruction. At open house, the toys were debuted alongside the original illustrations. Parents were ecstatic - more than one Kindergarten parent wanted to be reassured that we would do something similar the following year so their child could participate! The day after open house, first grade students visited their buddies to receive their new one-of-a-kind toys. I was thrilled to see how proud my middle school students were and how honored they felt when their first grade partners were over the moon about their final designs.

Toys on table
Toy Planning with Buddy

Toys on table
Toy Planning with Buddies

Toys on table
Stuffed Dragon Collaboration

Toys on table
Stuffed Animal Collaboration

Toys on table
Toys on Table

Toys on table
Toy Reveal

Toys on table
Toy Reveal

Last year, second grade and middle school collaborated on zines, and this year I’m working through a few different plans for more cross-grade level collaboration. Possible options up for consideration include narrative exchanges back and forth several times, or task parties, based on Oliver Herring’s open-ended generative and playful work. If anyone else has been implementing cross-grade level collaborations, I’d love to hear your ideas!

-KVT

Monday 09.18.17

Finding Relevant Professional Learning Opportunities

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

It’s been well noted that art educators often find themselves at a loss for meaningful, relevant professional learning (PL) opportunities, especially within their schools and districts (Battersby & Verdi, 2015; Berwager, 2013; Conway, Hibbard, Albert, & Hourigan, 2005; Gates, 2010; Milbrandt, 2006; Sabol, 2006). Many times, we have to look for outside sources like conferences, museum workshops, or state professional organizations to fulfill our desire for collaboration and communication with like-minded colleagues, especially for those of us who are the only art teacher in our school. Experiencing this firsthand, my friend Jeanne Hoel, who is the assistant director of education, school, and teacher programs at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and I decided to partner to bring visual art educators from all over Los Angeles county together to collaborate and learn from and with each other. Excited by the idea, we initiated what is now a yearly event each fall called Think, Sync, & Drink at the museum as a way to get visual art teachers dialoguing, sharing their plans for professional learning for the year, and collaborating across schools and districts.

Because we had such positive responses to our first two events, Jeanne and I thought about how we might be able to cultivate ongoing collaborations throughout the year that might engage and inspire visual art teachers to further reimagine their own professional learning. After surveying event attendees regarding their PL needs and interests, we decided to form a smaller community of practice (CoP), which Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) define as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (p.4). Attendees from Think, Sync, & Drink were invited to join the CoP, which is centered around the idea of identifying and exploring individual PL pathways or designing visual art PL opportunities to facilitate for others.

Our CoP, now in its third year, has grown a bit each year with a number of members returning and newcomers joining. The partnership with MOCA, facilitated by Jeanne, has been an invaluable resource for meeting space, opportunities for engagement with the museum exhibitions, critical thinking about art education in the 21st century, and legitimacy in supporting PL that is designed and facilitated for teachers, by teachers. The CoP has provided members with meaningful and relevant PL that is ongoing and content-specific and values the contributions of each participant. Our hope is that this CoP may serve as a model for schools and districts that are struggling to meet the needs of their art teachers, or for museums to partner with visual art educators to develop other CoP to further support the ongoing collaborative professional learning we so need and desire.

If you live or teach in or around Los Angeles and are interested in attending the next Think, Sync, and Drink event at MOCA on Thursday, October 28, you may RSVP here. To find out more about the CoP, email Jeanne or Kristin.

-KVT


Battersby, S.L. and Verdi, B. (2015). The Culture of Professional Learning Communities and Connections to Improve Teacher Efficacy and Support Student Learning, Arts Education Policy Review, 116:1, 22-29, DOI: 10.1080/10632913.2015.970096

Berwager, K. C. (2013). Straddling the borderlands of art education discourse: Professional teacher identity development of preservice and novice art education teachers (Order No. 3562399). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1399574904).

Conway, C.M., Hibbard, S., Albert, D., and Hourigan, R. (2005). Professional Development for Arts Teachers, Arts Education Policy Review, 107(1), 3-10, DOI: 10.3200/AEPR.107.1.3-10

Gates, L. (2010). Professional development through collaborative inquiry for an art education  archipelago, National Art Education Association Studies in Art Education: A Journal of issues and Research, 52(1), 6-17.

Milbrandt, M.K. (2006). A Collaborative Model for Art Education Teacher Preparation, Arts Education Policy Review, 107(5), 13-21, DOI: 10.3200/AEPR.107.5.13-21

Sabol, F.R. (2006).  Professional Development in Art Education:  A Study of Needs, Issues, and Concerns of Art Educators. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.  

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Wednesday 09.13.17

Feedback and reflection: starting right away

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

Even though the school year is just a few weeks in, I knew that one of the most important things my students needed to practice right away was giving and receiving meaningful feedback. I am using the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) to guide my planning, instruction, and assessment, and “reflect” is one habit I know will be an integral part of everything we do. Because I have both middle school general art and advanced art classes mixed together, with sixth, seventh, and eighth grades combined, everyone is working at different levels and has had different experiences in art. Reflection is something they can all do successfully no matter their prior knowledge.

We discussed the differences between self-reflection, peer reflection, and my (teacher) reflection on student work. Each valuable in its own way, when used formatively these types of reflection can help students move forward in making choices about or revisions to their works in progress. The questions, however, must be specific and detailed; asking a “yes/no” question won’t provide the rich insight students may be looking for, and questions pertaining to whether someone likes their work or not aren’t necessarily informative either. I’ve posted a variety of sample questions students may use (such as “What suggestions do you have for… ?” or “How might I improve… or communicate … more clearly?”), or they may develop their own. Summative reflections, such as artist statements, may also help students better understand and evaluate their artistic process at the completion of a project. Even though the work is considered finished at that point, they may decide later to revisit it, or their reflection may help them discover new pathways for their next project.

While my middle school students get to practice giving and receiving feedback almost daily, it’s a bit slower going with my younger students, as I only see them once a week for 12 weeks. However, they are gradually beginning to integrate feedback into their discussions in art class and are no longer asking me if they are finished or if their work is good - a positive move in the direction of student ownership!

-KVT

Monday 09.11.17

Getting to know who’s in your art room

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

The first weeks of school are always so hectic. Everyone just wants to start making art - including me! But part of starting the year off right means getting to know who’s in the art room. Whether I’m working with young students or university adults, establishing time to learn about each other is one of the most important things I’ve learned. Everyone has something going on - something good to share, something that’s bothering them, something they want to ask.

With younger students, we spend twenty minutes of our first class together checking in and catching up. Everyone gets a chance to share something on their minds. In middle school and in college, my students complete surveys with questions helping me get to know them better - about their interests, their families, responsibilities outside of school, access to technology/art media. This year, I hand wrote notes in response to each middle school students’ survey so they knew how valuable their thoughts are to me. For my university students, the surveys help me understand the other demands they are juggling, which reminds me to be cognizant and respectful of their time. It also gives them an opportunity to share things that are important to them that I otherwise might not know – some are reluctant to speak up in class because of language barriers, some have had negative art experiences before, and others just want to connect more personally, which is always welcomed!

Sharing information is definitely a two-way street; our students are just as curious about us as we are them. I try to make my teaching environments as welcoming as possible by letting my students know that they can ask me anything; if they’re too shy, they can write notes and I’ll write back. I may not answer EVERYTHING (why do middle school kids always want to know our age?!?), but I try to be as encouraging as possible so they get to know me well, too.

Sometimes students share information that they might not have, had we not worked on relationship-building from the start. I’ve learned who’s shy, who misses loved ones, who has family issues that may interfere with their work. I’ve also learned when to provide support and advice to students, as well as knowing when to ease up on assignments because things are just too busy. I know we are all eager to get going, but this small act can make all the difference in how the rest of your year turns out!

-KVT

Friday 09. 1.17

Finding time for our own artistic practice (or, play!)

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

As teachers, we know that “summer vacation” is often a misnomer; we spend much of that time “off” engaging in our own professional learning, attending district-sponsored PD, or planning for our upcoming classes. And once school starts, we don’t stop any of this - it’s ongoing, on top of our instruction. That’s just the nature of the job. But it’s important to remember that we need to take time for ourselves - even if it’s profession related!

Being enrolled in Pepperdine University’s Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy program for the past two years has pretty much eaten up any of my non-teaching time (I wouldn’t call it “free” or “extra”, as we know both of those are a myth when you’re in education!) However, this summer I made it a point to pull out my own art materials and just start playing again. At first, I went through that struggle of not knowing what I wanted to make...and then came that fear of it not being any good. It was my husband who suggested that I stop thinking so hard about it and just have fun. What a notion! I was reminded of all the times I said exactly this to my students.

So, I took his advice and lo and behold, I had fun! I stopped judging the process and tried working in ways I hadn’t before. I found myself back in the flow of creating and was reminded of what I’ve been missing. Now that school has started, I know that my time will once again be much more limited (hello, dissertation!), but I’ve vowed to myself that whenever I’m able to, I will squeeze in even a few moments to play with my art again. I hope that you are able to make that space, too… and just have fun!

-KVT