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The Value of Art Education

Why Art Education must be protected and cultivated.

Art education cultivates a student’s ability to explore things both objectively and subjectively; to expand their knowledge and perceptive capabilities through exposure to content opining on personal or universal issues as well as the opportunity to exercise their identity and sense of self by creating incisive artistic works of self-expression. By allowing students to evaluate the different works and imitate the concepts to externalize their personal worlds, art education develops a student’s ability to articulate their feelings about the world and leads to more mental and emotional development, which in turn allows them to better critically understand more art and complex issues -- either in the world or their lives. One teacher I observed believes that allowing students to express their feelings through art not only helped them through things they were struggling with such as depression and other mental health issues but stopped them from considering more dangerous alternatives.

As many studies have shown, students who are exposed to the arts often excel in other more traditional subjects like math and reading as a result of their ability to objectively and subjectively evaluate, dissect, interpret, and discuss aesthetic values, which both informs and refines the way the interpret other things they must interpret in the world around them. And since Discipline Based Art Education programs encourage students to use these aesthetic valuing skills to critique their peers’ works in many assignments, students also receive experience and preparation with giving and receiving constructive criticism. Many would argue that such experience is invaluable regardless of whether the student intends to pursue art or not.

Put simply, art is a way in which humans explore and interpret their inner and outer world which is why the benefits of an art education are not discipline-specific: It helps students have a better understanding of what’s going on around/within them, makes them feel like they have a voice in those events, and a confidence to actualize it. For me, art helped to express my feelings on a given issue without having to overtly state it or find the “right words.” I found passion for many philosophies and political issues in the art classroom and I hope that one day my students can do the same.

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Classroom Management Strategies

Personal statement of classroom management strategies and beliefs.

First and foremost, my classroom management strategy will focus on getting to know the students as individuals and treating them as such. Learning the students’ names, learning their likes and dislikes, what extracurricular activities they are involved in, will help the students see that I am invested in them as people, not just as students. I hope to be able to employ differentiated learning techniques so that students stay engaged with the content of the lessons and feel personally connected to the work they are doing.

Along with establishing personal connections, I want to make sure to establish clear expectations of work ethic and behavior from the first day of class. I will keep things consistent from the beginning, ensuring the students are aware of the standards for work, behavior and participation in class. Respect will be the way in my classroom and students will be expected to show respect to others as well as demand respect from their teacher and peers.

Behavior and participation standards will be iterated in a contract between the student and teacher at the beginning of class, and each student will sign the contract. The contract will also be posted in the classroom for the teacher and students to refer to as needed. When dealing with any behavior issues, I can remind the students of the contract that they signed and what it means to break the “terms” of the contract. Consequences will be fair and framed to keep the student positive about myself and the class, but they will also encourage reflection on the behavior and why it is unacceptable. The contract will be negotiated between the students and myself in the beginning of the year, so that the students will feel ownership over the rules as well.

I would like my classroom to be vibrant and inspiring, but also neat and orderly. I want the students to be inspired to create but also feel responsible for keeping the place tidy and organized. I will be putting their responsibilities for taking care of the classroom in their contract as well. For decoration, I will have many reproductions of famous artworks as well as posters explaining the elements and principles of art. I also want to to have lots of room to display students artwork because this will help the students to feel proud of their work as well as see progress over the semester. I hope to have a space where the students can work collaboratively in groups. It would also be ideal to have an outside area to be able to take lessons outside if we choose.

Some rules my students and I will follow in my classroom:

  • Show respect to get respect

  • Be a seeker! - Don’t stop at the easy answer or at the obvious.

  • Ask questions. The only stupid question is the one not asked.

  • Show up everyday, ready to work - don’t phone it in!

  • There’s no maid service here - we clean up after ourselves. Pitch in!

  • Respect the art classroom, materials, tools and each other.

  • Follow all safety guidelines at all times. Safety first!

Consequences:

  • Verbal warning (first few offenses)

  • Private conversation outside of class

  • Call home to parent/guardian (continued offenses)

There will definitely be consequences for bad behavior in my classroom, but it doesn’t mean that the consequences have to feel like punishment. Students typically act out because there is something going on in their lives that they cannot control. I hope to remember this as I deal with any behavior issues. One piece of advice that really spoke to me about teaching and classroom management was,”never let them see you sweat”. In essence, never break character. Students will respect a teacher who keeps their composure even when everything seems to be going wrong. A teacher that can stay focused, calm, and positive will be able to handle even the toughest day and the most unforeseen events. This will be my mantra as I deal with unexpected occurrences and bad behavior. My attitude will help to ensure that even consequences end up being positive, teachable moments for my students who are growing and changing.

Sources:

http://www.educationworld.com

https://www.edutopia.org

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Differentiated Instruction

How to make education meet the individual's needs.

   Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences differentiates intelligence into specific modalities rather than having intelligence defined by generic abilities. Gardner postulated that there are nine different intelligences, linguistic, logical/mathematical, musical, spatial, body/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. Some also include existential and moral intelligences.  MI is thought of as a way through which humans encounter and interpret the world around them. According to Gardner, the different modalities of intelligence are “invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains” (tecweb.org). The intelligences are meant to challenge an education system which believes that everyone can learn the same way, through the same types of activities. Teachers can use a mix of media and multimedia to appeal to several different modalities of learning in each lesson. The theory has to do with the way people engage with and retain information that is presented to them. 
    I agree with parts of the theory and disagree with others. I agree with the fact that people will learn differently, and presenting content in new and innovative ways will help to engage students. Working with new ways of presenting information keeps teachers engaged in subject matter that they will teach year in and year out. Considering how to incorporate multiple intelligences into a lesson plan makes for a richer outcome of learning. However, in my research, I found a critique of Gardner’s theory by Robert J. Sternberg, who said that Gardner is not expanding the idea of intelligence but rather uses the word “intelligence” to describe “abilities” or “aptitudes” (Sternberg). Also, it seems like Gardner oversimplifies and underestimates the subprocesses that also define intellectual ability such as executive functions, working memory, self-regulation, etc. (Demetriou). There is also a lack of empirical evidence supporting Gardner’s theory. However, I do see the value in presenting information in a multitude of ways and how that could be beneficial to education. Overall, I think it’s something to bear in mind, but I am not going to worry that each lesson appeals to all intelligences every time or concern myself with categorizing students, when it’s clear that many of the multiple intelligences can be used at any given time by one person. 
    Differentiated instruction is a way that educators can respond to varied styles of learning in their classrooms (readingrockets.org). Teachers can vary four different aspects of their curriculum to respond to the needs of individual students. Variations in content refer to what the students are being taught, or how the students will access the information. Process variations change the way that students will engage with the content. Product variations change what is expected of the student to show what they have learned, and finally, variations can be made to the learning environment itself. 
    Varying curriculum can be overwhelming to teachers at times, and it can be tempting to try and make and individualized learning plan for each student. However, there are strategies teachers can use to determine what differentiated instruction will work for them. Ongoing, formative assessment, recognition of diverse learners, and giving students a choice regarding their educational experiences, are all ways that teachers can gauge their classroom’s success (scholastic.com). Another helpful tip is to have students work on inquiry based and open ended assignments where the students are in charge of their own learning, which helps with differentiated learning and lets students work at their own pace (edutopia.org).
    I readily agree with differentiated learning in the classroom and hope that it is something I can implement well in my own classes. I believe it will be beneficial to give projects that are open-ended and inquiry based so that students will be more engaged with the subject matter being taught. However, I think it is important that there be clear guidelines and rubrics in place so that students have a guide to work with. As a student, I have experienced assignments that were too open-ended and left me feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. There has to be specificity in place, which will actually help the students be more creative. Again, presenting content in varied ways benefits everyone in the classroom and reinforces concepts. As an art teacher, I will have a lot of ways I can illustrate concepts; demoing, watching videos, students teaching students, copying, and comparing to other works of art. I’m sure as I begin my curriculum, I will find many other ways to vary my presentation of concepts.
    During a class period, students will draw to music, illustrating the way the music “feels” or “looks” to them. The music will include top-40 hits, classical, as well as specific genres such as R&B, punk, or jazz. Students will work on paper with markers to emphasize the “quick” nature of keeping up with the music, as well as having the ability to make diverse marks on the page and change colors easily. Emphasis will be placed on representing the music in an abstract way with mark making and color. Composition and the elements and principles of design will also be taken into consideration. The musical intelligence is addressed in this activity because students will be hearing rhythm and sounds in the music and applying that to their artwork. Students can use their mark making and color choices to illustrate the elements and principles of line, shape, color relationships, balance, proportion, emphasis, movement, rhythm and harmony through the way they interpret the music. It will be interesting to see the differences in art created based on the different genres of music and the music that is familiar to the students versus music that is new to them.
    This activity could be differentiated in a multitude of ways. One way the content could be differentiated is to focus on just one element or principle of design, or have students represent instrumental music using representational methods. A piece of jazz could inspire them to create a bustling cityscape for example. The process of this activity could be changed by having the students listen to live music instead of recorded music. A set of drums could be brought in and the students could illustrate the various sounds. Differentiating products might involve the students working as a group, listening to one song, and then interpreting some imagery from that. Students could also isolate different instruments in a song and illustrate their sound, and then bring them together with the other student’s musical illustrations to create a mural of the music. Finally, differentiating the learning environment could mean going to see a live orchestra perform and then illustrating the sounds in a sketchbook. The students would take into account the way the venue changes the tone of the music and reflect that into their art. 

References:
 http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html

Demetriou, A.; Kazi, S. (2006). "Self-awareness in g (with processing efficiency and reasoning". Intelligence. 

 Sternberg, R. J. (Winter 1983). "How much Gall is too much gall? Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences". Contemporary Education Review.

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/what-differentiated-instruction/

https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/18-teacher-tested-strategies-differentiated-instruction
 

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Art Ed. for the 21st Century

How art education must evolve to stay viable.

Is art education still valuable and viable in the classroom of the 21st century? This question has been up for debate since the 1970s when arts education was drastically restructured to accommodate No Child Left Behind. For art education to remain viable and sustainable in today’s classroom, the expectations of what art teaches students must evolve to encompass the unique demands placed on students today and provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in tomorrow’s world. Expectations of why students learn art need to advance from mere reproduction of scenes, still lifes, and Old Master works to promoting artistic choice, expression, and the individual aesthetic qualities students bring to their own art. I believe that for art education to truly educate students and be meaningful curriculum in the classroom of today, the emphasis needs to be taken off the final product, the pretty picture to be hung up on the fridge, and guided toward exploration of process. I am advocating for art to remain a core curriculum subject in public schools and for this curriculum to evolve to encompass more modern theories and concepts in art.

Product oriented education is not exclusive to art classrooms, but it seems the art classroom is where ignoring the process of artmaking can be most detrimental and make the subject of art seem trivial. Art is an activity in exploration and a true artist never actually arrives, but is always chasing an ever-distant horizon. However, in many of today’s art classrooms, art assignments are too focused on teaching specific, repeatable skills and creating pieces of art that are focused on a certain outcome. Often, these projects are focused on copying the work or style of an “Old Master” or faithfully reproducing a still life or landscape from life or a photo. While teaching skills is important, especially in beginning art classes, it is not the end all be all of art education. Reproduction is also an important skill and being able to replicate what the eye is seeing (if that is the artist’s intent) is worth learning. However, students need more guidance and access to exploring why they are making creative choices and reflecting on the creative process. Many teachers, administrators, parents and critics see art classes as obsolete because they believe it is a “craft time” class, equated with recess or playing and does not provide the necessary skills for “career readiness”. Most people believe that art classes aren’t worthwhile because many students will not grow up to be artists or believe in the “starving artist” trope. However, art classes do more than teach students to work with art materials and there are a multitude of skills learned in art classrooms that correlate directly with career readiness after high school.

As students leave the safe, predictable world of primary and secondary education, what skills are the most important for them to succeed in their adult lives? Knowing how to draw a still life or make a color wheel may benefit students going into creative fields, but if technical skills in art benefit so few, why should art classes be kept as part of core curriculum in schools? I believe it should be in the core curriculum because of the intangible skills students acquire through the exploration of art. These intangible skills are honed through art assignments (even the ones that are replicative in nature) but the focus must be placed on the process instead of the product for students to become aware of the skills they have acquired. Talking about the process of art and facilitating discussion in the art classroom about process, technique, and critique all give students practice in real world skills that will carry them in any career that they choose. Engaging in discussion about process helps students learn to evaluate one choice over another, articulate reasoning behind choices, develop an explanation of process from one step to the next, develop a repertoire of prior knowledge from which to draw when faced with a new creative problem, entertain alternate viewpoints about choices without committing to any concrete position, just to name a few. Process oriented also can help students to accept criticism from others, see other’s perspectives more readily, imagine a range of possible outcomes, and to see their choices on a continuum rather than as a final destination. As students creatively problem solve in art classes, they are really working their mental muscles of imagination, out-of-the-box thinking, perseverance, open-mindedness, and adaptability. These skills are worth learning and developing and that is why art must be kept as a core curriculum subject.

Currently, many art teachers emphasize the final product as a culmination of technical skills demonstrated on a surface. This perspective needs to shift if arts education is to remain viable for the future. Learning artistic methods of replication is not enough to sustain the arts classroom of today. Today, we have the most sophisticated means of reproduction available to us on our cell phones. If we desire to replicate something, taking a picture is the best way to do so. When we are teaching students to draw, paint, sculpt, we are teaching them that they are making a creative choice to represent something with these methods. The exploration of the medium, technique, and individual hand of the student is what should be brought to the forefront of the lesson because that is how students gain the true underlying knowledge and skills of an art classroom. One cannot separate the artist from the art. Art education seeks to do this by saying that if you follow this certain set of rules, you will be able to paint like Picasso, Van Gogh, or Da Vinci. This is simply untrue. Art education needs to support students in the explorations of themselves, their styles, their visions, and voices. Arts education is already threatened in so many schools around the country due to the focus on pretty pictures and outdated pedagogy. I firmly believe that art is just as important as math, science, and English because of art’s ability to teach through doing. If educators help to evolve the art curriculum, more and more people will begin to see the value in arts education and the positive impact art has on students.

In life, there is always room for improvement and art is the perfect vehicle for teaching students to continue to reach for betterment. As students learn and grow and become adults, learning artistic methods of expression and reflecting on creative choices will only grow and expand with them. Students who engage in art and discussions about art are more open-minded to others, more willing to look beneath the surface, more willing to slow down and contemplate alternatives, and more apt to approach problems with a positive, can-do attitude. Aren’t these the type of people we want to pass our world to and depend on as we grow older? Keep arts education in schools and show students the meaningful impact art can have on their lives. Show them that through exploration and expression, their unique voice is heard and valued.