Join me for a Webinar

I know you all have a LOT going on, but in case you are interested and available, I am presenting a VDOE • VISUAL ARTS webinar on Tuesday afternoon. It’s free, and it’s not too late to register.

Community Engagement in Visual Arts
Tuesday, August 25, 2020 , 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. This webinar is an opportunity to explore community engagement as it relates to the History, Culture, and Citizenship strand in the 2020 Visual Arts Standards of Learning. Click here to register.

Using Slides to Structure Virtual Classes

As I was sitting through yet another virtual meeting this summer, I realized I had a distinct advantage over some of my teachers. All summer I have been experiencing thoughtfully planned virtual meetings designed by expert educators. Every one of these meetings… ok, well, most of them… is a model of what might be done for an effective class session.

In this short video, I use the actual slide deck from a meeting to show a few of these effective strategies.

Strategies shared include:

  • Giving students edit rights to the slide deck to interact
  • Creating slides with a warm-up prompt where students can respond
  • Providing links to content in the slide deck with time to read and process
  • Providing space in the slides for breakout groups to record their thinking
  • Linking to separate files where students can respond to prompts
  • And more

Virtual learning will require all of us to create and practice new strategies, and teach our students how to interact appropriately during class sessions. This is work we have always done, it just looks a little different when we are all in an all virtual environment.

I hope this video adds just a couple of new strategies to your virtual teaching tool kit.

Multi-School Collaborative teams

For well more than a decade now, educators have embraced collaborative teams (CTs) or collaborative learning teams (CLTs) as a powerful group structure with professional learning communities (PLCs).

CLTs are most often illustrated as a team of teachers who are teaching the same content, using the collaborative cycle to improve teaching and learning outcomes in each of the their classrooms. That’s fine for a grade level team of teachers in an elementary school, or for the group of 9th grade English teachers in a high school, but what about the singletons? What about the teacher who is the only one who teaches a particular course at their school? What about the elementary art teacher who serves an entire school (or maybe several) all by herself? What about the high school photography teacher who is fortunate enough to have colleagues in the art department but no others who understand his particular curricular needs?

Multi-school collaborative teams are the answer! In my large school system, we have supported the development of multi-school art CTs which have allowed elementary art teachers to meet with others who teach at the elementary schools in adjacent communities. They have allowed all of the high school photography teacher to come together, and likewise for the digital art teacher, the sculpture and ceramics teachers, and the middle school teachers. Multi-school art CTs put you in a group of like-minded teachers where you can share ideas and grow together.

This summer I brought together a group of CT leaders to discuss these teams and how integral they have become in supporting teachers through school closures and the COVID-19 pandemic.

YouTube video, Multi-School Art Collaborative Teams

These teams already know how much they will lean on one another as we begin the school year in all-virtual learning. Whether you expect the same for the start of your school year or not, consider how you might start a CT of your own. All it takes is a few teachers who want to participate. When you add in a little bit of video conferencing technology that has become ubiquitous, you don’t even need to be close to one another!

For more about art CTs, I recommend checking out these posts:

Art Collaborative Teams
Art Teacher Collaboration
Art CLTs

Multi-Year Portfolios to Assess Growth and the 5 C’s

K-12 education in America (or maybe I should only make claims for Virginia) is starting to recover from years of over-testing under No Child Left Behind. Schools are able to identify alternative assessments to replace some state Standards of Learning (SOL) exams, and are being tasked with developing Balanced Assessment Plans which include performance assessments. In addition to these adjustments in assessment format, schools are being asked to consider how they can assess growth in the 5 C’s addressed in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate rather than just the disciplinary content addressed in all those SOL tests.

These five C’s have been an important part of art education for ages, even before everyone else started focusing on them.

So, What does this all mean for art?

Art educators should rejoice! Things are turning our way. In my school division, more and more art teachers are being valued as experts in performance assessment. At the division level, work is being done to design ways for schools to assess growth in the 5 C’s over time. Art teachers can help with this too. After all, to show growth over time you need to collect evidence over time. If that doesn’t sound like a portfolio, I don’t know what does.

Parallel to this work, art teachers have been exploring ways to vertically align portfolio expectations so that elementary, middle, and high schools in the same community can teach technology and portfolio skills sequentially to help students create digital portfolios which can follow them across courses, teachers, and schools.

For us, the technology is in place to use Google Apps for Education. Perhaps you would use a different tool. Our student can create portfolio presentations in Google Slides, at a lower level, and in Google Sites, at a higher level. (In fact, some schools are experimenting with students creating multi-yer portfolios with Google Sites as early as the third grade!) In a single document, we have organized a draft approach to building technology skills sequentially while having students document their learning over time.  At multiple grade levels from elementary to grade 12, we have identified:

  • Platform and skills
  • Image expectations
  • Reflection expectations
  • Five C’s reflection expectations

At this time in education, art teachers have an opportunity to have a strong voice in our assessment practices. This is the opportunity many of us have been waiting for! An opportunity to be valued for what we do. I hope we can take advantage of it and become leaders in our schools.

This is a summary of a presentation presented at the 2019 VAEA Conference. Go to to view the presentation and access additional links and resources.

Practice vs. Theory

How does the saying go? All work and no play…?

As much as I love to be challenged to think deeply about theory in art education, the VAEA conference offers equal opportunities for art educators to engage in art making. The best examples of this prepare teachers to deliver high leverage instruction and model the qualities we aim to develop in our students.

Continue reading Practice vs. Theory

A Visual Audit

The VAEA conference has offered great session choices all day long. I was grateful to have an early audience for my 8 a.m. session on multi-year portfolios, had some meaningful discussions in Libya Doman’s Hidden Curriculum session, and then joined a large crowd at the Northern Virginia Region meeting. Next I learned about community art organizations here in the Harrisonburg area, and was challenged to consider if, how, and why we include art appreciation in our curriculum. And that was all before one o’clock!

I hope you have learned much in your own sessions!

Activities that Engage

I have spent some time this school year looking at engaging activities and how they impact instruction. I especially enjoyed an opportunity we had to share and play with a number of such activities with a cohort of new art teachers to our district. Most recently, though, I learned of a clever idea that was used to engage a different audience, families!

Continue reading Activities that Engage

Leadership, Trauma & Cultural Proficiency

I may be inappropriately mixing topics in the title of this post, but with an honest intent to honor the powerful messages shared in two presentations by FCPS art teacher and VAEA Secretary Libya Doman.

In her presentation, The Journey to Being a Trauma Sensitive Art Educator, Libya guided a full room to a better understanding of trauma and how it impacts students and educators. She discussed (in more detail than I will) a few ways teachers can support students with trauma including:

  • Stay calm
  • See the need
  • Meet the need
  • Don’t quit
  • Perhaps the most powerful messages from this session is this:
  • The number one most powerful impact on students with trauma is an adult who cares.

  • In another session, Leadership, Art, and Grappling with Cultural Differences through Visual Literacy, Libya guided attendees to think deeply about what it means to be a leader, both in title and as a de facto leader – one who acts and serves as a leader even in the absence of title or compensation.
  • Cultural proficiency was woven into the discussion through the lens of leadership and Libya warned against the perils of “business as usual” when we might otherwise make steps to include underrepresented populations. In other words, when new members join a team and make that team more diverse, it is a disservice to that diversity to continue operating as you always have.

    She included it her recommendations for culturally proficient leaders including:

    • Learn more about affinity bias
    • Audit your group (where 30% makes a critical mass)
    • Hold people accountable for “othering” and inappropriate behavior
    • Recognize your privilege
    • Contemplate pathways to success
    • Be deliberate in mentoring and supporting diverse populations.

    I am so excited to see that art educators are getting the opportunity to explore these complex issues through our conference. It is great to give art teachers an opportunity to make art and share lesson ideas but we must continue to think deeply about the broader context of our work.

    Thank you, Libya!

    Bridging the gap between Art and Education