Do you remember when you learned to swim? There you were, standing at the waters edge with your “floaties” on with your mom (or dad) gesturing for you to jump in. You shook your head vigorously and chose instead to dip a toe in, and then back in slowly over the edge of pool. Or, perhaps you chose to ease in one step or ladder rung at a time. Or maybe you bravely dove in?
I have been testing the waters with TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior, and choice in the art room. Diving in, exploring choice, and co-constructing learning seemed scary to me.
The steps started small. Still cleaving to my DBAE, or Discipline-Based Art Education, roots, I offered choice and by variations within a project or having student input when designing a project. For example, this fifth grade Artist Guitar project:
OR this second grade Britto project.
For this project, student interest and input designed the lesson – we sipped cocoa (sugar-free, of course) and students chose color and patterns.
All well and good, but student choice (and voice) was still limited. I went to NAEA and took every Choice workshop I could, and started to wrap my head around it and really flesh out my goals. I love how Anne Bedrick describes her goal in her essay (and book) Choice Without Chaos. She says:
I teach the way I teach because I am keeping my eye on the end game, the adults that I want to help build… the innovators, the ones who persevere, the ones who ask questions and see possibilities, the ones who are able to be self-directed, organized, and can manage their time. I want to help them realize that the key to success in anything is their trust in their own judgment.
As an art teacher, I am educating people. Whether or not my students grow up and continue to make art is not the most important thing to me. I hope that they will continue to make art, but if they grow up able to recognize problems and see possibilities in situations, then I will feel that I have succeeded as a teacher.
-Anne Bedrick, Choice Without Chaos
I had the chance to meet Anne at the NAEA convention, and I could not help but feel inspired by her passion and experience. That is my desire – to create an environment that builds a well-rounded person who have the skills for jobs that don’t exist. Yes, they will learn and develop and build things – and they will be wonderful because they created them – but, I – I am in the business of building up people.
Since then, I have begun swimming in the TAB pool. I started with the younger students, and deconstructed a project I have done in the past and turned it into a “skill-builder”. The students explore art materials and after that design a project. Sometimes it has been more in-depth with art history embedded into the the skill-builders.
I have also begun curating digital resources. Our district is going 1:1 with devices, so I have begun organizing videos, instructional resources, art history content connections, and image banks to help facilitate blended learning.
What I love about this whole experience is seeing the the A-ha! moments – hearing them describe in great depth their thinking and problem-solving behind the framework of their composition, their design choices, and choice of art materials.