Learning About Experimentation

I’m going to give into my nature, here, and ask questions. (I’m usually better at this than answering them.) My question is this — What do we want art students to learn about experimentation?

Static #1 by Sarah Brooks, art teacher
Static #1 by Sarah Brooks, art teacher (See Sarah’s Blog here.)

Our local art curriculum is deep into a revision (to be completed this summer), and one of the K-12 threads that I am really struggling with is about experimentation.

I’m sure you can all imagine how it got there. Experimentation is something we do in art. It’s part of the creative and design process. The problem is, in this revision we have made great efforts to improve our Program of Studies by clearly defining learning objectives. That may sound like the obvious thing to do, but it’s often not so easy. There was a tendency in the past version of the POS to simply state what the student will do, but most students will do what the teacher tells them to do, and this is not the same thing as learning.

To avoid this trap, we had to repeat a mantra:

WHAT STUDENTS LEARN, NOT WHAT THEY DO

With this much background, do you see the problem doing this with experimentation? Stating a specific learning outcome is challenging when students are learning about something that, by its nature, does not have an expected outcome. We can avoid this stumbling block if we avoid trying to state anything about the outcomes of the experiments, and as it points out above, we need to avoid simply stating what types of experiments they will DO. We want to say what they will learn.

So… What do we want students to learn about experimentation? What should they know? What should they be able to do as a result of the instruction?

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One thought on “Learning About Experimentation”

  1. We want them to learn several things through experimentation:
    – how the media reacts to their input
    – figure out what works well and what doesn’t (and remember that for future decision-making during the artistic process)
    – that it’s okay if something did not turn out as well as expected; we learn from both hits and misses
    – that they can direct the process (empowerment!)

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