I hope when you read, “What is your purpose here?” You can fully envision the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest. If not I think the image, below, is linked to a gif. (Hit me with a comment if you know the response to the question from the movie.)
I suppose it’s fair if you are wondering what this has to do with art education…
I met with art collaborative team leads recently and posed a question about the purpose of art CTs. Some quick answers included “to collaborate,” “to share ideas,” and “to share best practices.” Yes, these are reasons we get together, but why do we do these things? Why do we collaborate? Why do we share ideas?
TO IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNING!
I am surrounded by this language all the time in the instructional services department. If a similar question were asked of a group of my central office colleagues we would probably all respond in unison.
This interaction with my art instructional leaders helped me realize that this is a message that I should work harder to promote. It’s a mindset that can impact how we interact with our work. Everything we do should be with the goal of improving student learning.
Jacqueline S. McElhany has a nice article in the January 2017 edition of Art Education. In Awakening Student Ownership: Transitioning to a Student-Centered Environment, she describes taking some very important steps toward improving the art experience for her students.
This transition included the very important step of switching from teacher solved art making assignments, to designing instruction around big ideas — turning over the problem solving to the students.
THIS IS OUTSTANDING, AND A GREAT FIRST STEP!
For this lesson, she told the students they would be “creating their own unique mask sculptures that represented their identity.” The article goes on to describe the delivery of this student-centered lesson in a fair amount of detail. Students were encouraged to explore and experiment, and the teacher served as a “guide on the side.” Again, all good, but I fear there is something missing: INSTRUCTION!
One of the challenges of facilitating student-centered instruction is not going too far. Art instruction can be too restrictive, and it can be too loose (In fact, how tight and how loose can be adjusted in response to the abilities of the students). In every case though, we must balance the open-ended aspects of our lesson with some structure that will result in expected learning outcomes. Turning over every aspect of choice to the students discards the opportunity to teach the students specific content.
As one example, a specific media technique could have be taught (and assessed) through this lesson and it would have been significantly stronger. This would take away the full range of choice of materials from the students, but they could still have a lot of flexibility in the choices they make in addition to using the specific material and technique that is taught and assessed.
This is a worthwhile read, and a worthwhile topic to consider. I’d like to add an idea to Method 1: Task Crafting that I think art teachers in particular, as well as some others, would be able to take advantage of. Most art teachers enjoy more freedoms and flexibility in their work compared to teachers who teach subjects measured by high stakes standardized tests. With this freedom, most of us can make a significant to change to what and how we teach without changing subject, levels, or schools. Get creative and design a bold new approach to your instruction! There’s no better way to reengage!
At the end of this year, I had a major thought: I need alcohol. Then, I had a more productive thought: I need a change. You’ve had those years, right? When the challenges of teaching stalk you like dementors, sucking the life out of your soul? But as much as I’ve thought about waving goodbye […]
“We just thought it would be a great idea,” they said as we debriefed on the event, “We thought these high school students would love the opportunity to come talk about their art and have it displayed in the community.”