CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reflecting on Reflecting

"I am convinced that the time spent by the teacher in digging out of the child what she has put into him, for the sake of satisfying herself that it has taken root, is so much time thrown away. It's much better, I think, to assume the child is doing his part, and that the seed you have sown will bear fruit in due time. It's only fair to the child, anyhow, and it saves you unnecessary trouble." 
~ Anne Sullivan on her switch from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that lead to her pedagogical breakthrough with Helen Keller (This came to me via Facebook - is it really from Anne Sullivan? what is the source? Whether it is bona fide or not, I find the content interesting, and will endeavor to varify it so I'll know).

It's "grading" time again. 8th-graders have one more day of art. Some, forever. Some will go on to take art in high school and beyond. Some will continue to make art in their home studios: their kitchen table, a workbench in the cellar or the desk in the bedroom. It is a time for taking stock, of measuring, in one way or another what was learned. It is also a time to survey students and ask: "what was of value?"

 In the art studio, students show me each day what they "know and are able to do."
  • Can students generate an idea for artmaking, or explore with materials and tools in order to develop an idea? 
  • Are they able to choose appropriate tools, materials and technique to express their idea?
  • Can students use media appropriately, creatively, skillfully?
  • Can students take care of tools and materials?
  • Are students willing and able to clean up and leave the studio ready for the next artists who enter the space?
  • Do students reflect about their work - before - during-after creating it?
  • Do students consider "what if?" and "what's next?"
  • Do students participate in group discussions, conduct themselves respectfully toward others and engage with interest in the topic?
(the above list is taken from personal communication with TAB founder Katherine Douglas, and revised by me)

In the past, I scored to what degree students are able to meet the above criteria.  Some routinely and enthusiastically practice and apply the studio thinking habits of mind, which characterize the work of artistts. They would score the highest. Others are less engaged, less willing to take creative risk, less willing to work hard enough to learn a new skill, less motivated to break away from their peer group, or less able to sustain the focus required to craft an image or an object. Their scores would reflect this. Some students disregard much of what is offered, are unwilling to engage in artmaking and instead practice the art of disruption. They would receive the lowest, possibly failing, grades. Everyone would "get what they earned," or, perhaps, "what they deserve." But don't they get this anyway, with or without a letter or a number? The knowledge and know-how each student takes away, at the end of the term, is unique to each learner. The complexity of learning transcends traditional grading designations. At least in the art studio, we have left these conventions behind.

I make a few remarks, observations mostly, on students' report cards. I encourage students to keep learning. My few sentences disrupt the report card format and cause additional pages to be printed. Several sentences are too many, one is never enough. Assessment, grading and reporting is moving away from standardization, as is teaching and learning. New forms and practices will need to be designed to accommodate these changes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where Do Artist Get Inspiration?

The latest obsession in our studio sprang from my recent visit to our local clay studio. There was a "Seconds and Student Sale," sort of a white sale, studio-style, going on last month. While I didn't buy a single new student, I did make off with these two guys:
Tripod animal jars by Abby Dreyer
Abby Dreyer, the potter who made these, is well-known in the area for the  exquisite clay bird houses she makes. I have admired her work for years, so I was thrilled to find these little clay jars she made, and chat with her about them. She told me a little about how she made them and suggested that it's a great clay project for kids. 

Well. That is an understatement! My students and I have made around a dozen of them already. The simple structure of the jar lends itself to endless variation and combines the concept of form plus function This makes the idea tremendously appealing to my middle school clay artists. Thanks for the great idea Abby!

I wonder if I bought enough clay?