Transitioning from traditional art education models to make room for more choices for students has led me on a quest toward Student Directed Learning! We know that education theory is cyclical. When I was in high school - my art teacher gave us full choice, with little instruction or guidance. Later when lesson plan writing became a requirement, art teaching became more industrialized and mass produced. Now the core of my focus twenty some years into this journey is to encourage engagement by providing scaffolding and choices. I currently enjoy teaching 2D art courses at Greenfield High School, a first ring suburb of Milwaukee. This is a district with a high poverty rate, over 30 languages spoken by students and families, and a warmth of acceptance that is palpable.
I moved away from crafting assignments that I knew were sound from an art education viewpoint - but, not of interest to my students when I came to want more for their experience in my art studio classroom. I was leaving school feeling badly about misbehavior and disrespect from students. It was by questioning and discussing with the students (from beginners to advanced) in small groups as they worked that I was able to start to realize what they might be more willing to engage in while attempting the socially risky business of trying new art making methods in front of peers. The National Board Certification process helped me to accomplish this step.
Characterizing the things students would be able to learn into about ten main power standards with my art department colleagues in 2010 laid the scaffolding for lessons, rather than subject matter themes. Now I see these power standards we developed are really close to the Studio Habits of Mind!
I ramped up my strategies for creating an atmosphere of trust in my classroom. I began to deemphasize grading and finished products. I put the emphasis on feedback and process. I put the ownership in their hands. Bingo. Behavior problems began to decrease. When I made it clear the many choices they have while working to Level Up their accomplishments with the Learning Targets - the studio began to sing. Now I go home feeling rewarded by what the students realize in the process of art making.
By attending and presenting at WAEA and NAEA conferences, taking part in professional development and leadership opportunities in the School District of Greenfield I have been able to Level Up my practice. I learned about more and more opportunities for students to extend their learning beyond the art studio classroom and into the school and community. I am honored to be recognized by WAEA as teacher of the month.
Thank you so much!
Greenfield High School
Visual Art Department Chair
National Board Certified
National Art Honor Society
4800 S. 60th Street
Greenfield, WI 53220