CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week ONE - Really?

"A" stuffing a hand-sewn neck-pillow for a special teacher

It is 2:15 in the art studio, on the first Friday of the 2014-15 school year. Two eighth-graders are outside the art studio door, working on a collaborative sculpture project that they started on the first day of school. Two fifth grade boys just left – they came during their guided study time to tie up some loose ends on the fiber-art projects they were making art for family gifts.
Needle felted finger puppets in progress
Lace overlay textile for pillow construction  By "I" grade 6

Revisiting printmaking
I am a little stunned to recount the following (partial!) list of activities students have engaged in during the first 4 days of school:

  • Potters wheel practice, resulting in 5 bowls and 1 cup
  • Clay slab bowl
  • Clay whistle project (on-going)
  • Clay sculpture - butterfly
  • Color-mixing experiments and resulting paintings
  • Cardboard sculpture – architecture, mechanical objects
  • Bookmaking/bookbinding
  • Drawing: from observation, from memory, from imagination, from digital reference
  • Digital designing
  • Pillows on sewing machine
  • Hand-stitched objects
  • Needle-felting
  • Soapstone carving
  • Mono-print printmaking
  • Styrofoam printmaking using the etching press
  • Scratchboard drawings
  • Origami

"Wings!" by "A" grade 6
Team-work in Sculpture Center
 How is it possible that so many art projects with such a variety of media and techniques are going on simultaneously in the studio in the first week of school? The answer is that the studio-setting we have established facilitates student-directed artistic inquiry. Returning students can get right to their work, knowing what studio centers are available and how to use them. Students new to the studio are learning how to work autonomously, after each new center is “opened” for the very first time. Authentic work in a studio-setting means that student-artists choose their idea, materials, and process. Observing these artists at work during Week One assures me that this is a great way to learn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The End of Grading

Assessment in Art
            One important goal I have as the art teacher at CBMS is to support intrinsic motivation and nurture student-directed learning in an authentic art-studio setting. What I hope for my students is that they find and develop authentic interest in making and responding to art. I hope that my students discover meaningful connections to their lives, interests and personal knowledge-base, that they challenge themselves to try new things and get better at those they find rewarding, that they develop individual purposes for making art, and discover genuine enjoyment and satisfaction from both making art and experiencing the art of others.
            Over the past several years I have conducted an “action research” study to examine the effect of grades and grading in art. With the help of the CBMS student body, I have learned that for most, grades are not an important factor for learning and growing in art. A minority of students feel grades improved behavior and participation, and for some, grades are detrimental to the creative process.
First I asked students: If you were grading yourself in Art, what grade would it be and why?

Next, I asked students: "If there were no grades in Art, How would this affect your work?"
            Based on surveys, observation and discussion with students over four years at CBMS, I will begin to pilot a program that is free of letter grades, number scores and percentages. Instead of grades, student work and achievement will be assessed through self-reflection and self-assessment, art sharing/critique/display, individual consultation and my observation of and interaction with students at work as artists in the studio. These authentic assessment practices are already in place in the CBMS art studio so the only change students will notice is that they will no longer see grade updates in PowerSchool. Students will “know how they are doing” based on the assessments and reflections they routinely participate in and will see my comment on their report card at the end of a term.
     This new initiative in art is at once a small change and a ground-breaking one. By setting aside grades and scoring, we further support intrinsically motivated learning and growth. This approach is very well-suited for the learner-directed studio-classroom that is already well-established at CBMS. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teaching for Artistic Behavior Summer Institute

It seems appropriate to sub-title this post: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation," although planning for the first ever TAB institute was a year-long endeavor! 

The summer TAB institute was a big success: 43 teachers from 18 states attended, lauded author and researcher Lois Hetland (Harvard Project Zero) delivered the keynote address, and
Massachusetts College of Art and Design provided the venue, including a gallery for a TAB student art show, studio, dormitory, classroom & meeting space.

Attendants were given free TAB t shirts - why are only 4 of us modeling them?
Authors and TAB founders Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith, along with Clyde Gaw and I were instructors and organizers for the week-long program offered for 3 graduate credits. Field trips to the historic
Fenway Studios and the Gardner Museum and time for side trips to both the Museum of Fine Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art provided a rich visual art experience to balance classroom lectures, round-table discussions, and studio time. 
Lois Hetland relates her "Studio Thinking Habits of Mind" to choice-based art pedagogy in the opening Keynote

Teachers in "Track II" set up studio centers from their classrooms to share with the group and participated in a lively "demo-slam," demonstrating how content can be delivered in a brief whole-group lesson format. 
Art teachers found needle-felting to be just as addictive as my CBMS middle school students!
Thank you CBMS for loaning the drum wool carder for the week so teachers could learn to prepare wool for felting
Centers were open in our gallery/studio each evening for artmaking and conversation.

Our view from "The Tree house" dorm where we stayed
Thanks to Dr. John Crowe, Anne Bedrick, Ellyn Gaspardi, Candi Price, Jeff Pridie, Ian Sands, Colleen Rose, Cameron Sesto & Renee Nolan for providing inspirational sessions for the first national TAB institute.