Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Making Progress and Meeting Collaborators | Main | Some thoughts about the essence of Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) »

February 12, 2018

A closer look at Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB)

From: Katherine Douglas

When art teachers hear about student-directed learning and art making many questions may come to mind: 

Can students do anything they want all the time?

This varies from studio to studio and across K-12 grade levels, of course. Some teachers have a brief sketchbook topic for everyone to provide focus at the beginning of class. Many teachers have students chart their center use, to support both going deep in a particular medium, as well as growing and interacting with multiple media over time. The media/technique choices available to students have been introduced by the teacher previously and those choices are thoughtfully offered.

How can the teacher help multiple students at once? 

This was less of a problem than I expected! Media, tools and techniques available had been introduced in brief structured whole group demos. Students who chose to explore the new offering were invited to be coaches for newcomers to the subject. Peer teaching and support was a strong component in my studio. Children also benefited indirectly—watching a friend try a new material made more sense to them than what I might have showed! During studio time I could circulate, make noticing comments, pull a small group together for more information, work one on one with a struggling student, grab a paint brush and work along with students while engaging in informal conversation, and actually sit to observe and take notes. Because students were using their own ideas instead of mine, there was little need to consult me about “Is this good? Is this what I am supposed to do?” TAB studios are well organized and students are coached to set up and put away their tools independently, freeing the teacher for conversations and modeling.

How can there be enough materials for all students to do as they wish?

The TAB teacher is, like any teacher, in charge of the materials in centers at any one time. Because students are not all using the same media, the teacher does not have to provide wood looms, for instance, to a class or 30 students. The artist search (Szekely, G. (1988) Encouraging creativity in art lessons. New York: Teachers College Press.) is an essential part of artistic behavior, so students are tasked to be alert to potential media (cardboard, fibers, found objects) to spark their ideas and to provision the TAB studio.

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If everyone is working on something different how does the teacher grade?

Teacher grading methods are as unique as each setting, but many TAB teachers use student self-evaluation with teacher input. This is often based on the Studio Habits.

Evaluation of behaviors and a focus on the seven goals (Monthly Mentor post, 2.6.18) open up more possibility for growth and understanding than a grade on a particular project.

How can you let students use centers or work independently if you have not taught skills?

This leads to the question of “which skills” and how much time they might take in all-too-brief studio experience. Some teachers offer skill builder exercises, but many classics, such as shading with a pencil, become small group work for students committed to drawing. Other skill teaching arises from a student needs; an upper grade teacher could offer a soldering demo for wire building that might then appeal to other students. Skill offerings and timing are viewed through the lens of work students wish to do! Skill develops when even beginning students start making work and persisting in it. Third graders begin silk screen experiences with puzzlement and wonder; those who wish to go deeper gain both independence, understanding and quality over time.

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The trust between teacher and students allows for responsibility, decision making, commitment to work, and metacognition, as children find and process their own best art making practices.

-KD

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