Monday, November 02, 2015

Democratic Forms of Art Education

"... information severed from thoughtful action is dead, a mind-crushing load." John Dewey, Democracy in Education
"How much of our education is real doing, real self expression? Handwork is too often the making of a pin tray under the eye of an expert." A. S. Neill, Summerhill 
Thinking about the four practices of Teaching for Artistic Behavior, "students as artists," "pedagogy," "classroom context" and "assessment," the integral role of democracy as a necessary element in the transaction of these practices cannot be overlooked. When Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith formulated Teaching for Artistic Behavior, a flexible blue print for democratic education within test-centric learning environs was created.
TAB learning experience is an opportunity for children to practice self-expression and adaptation on a regular basis within a dynamic environment where development of voice and self-sufficiency are critical learning components.
Intellectual identities are established in the formative years of K-12 schooling.
If I learn early on in my developmental years, my voice does not matter, why would I want to participate in a larger system that views my existence as marginal?
When test scores and test-prep-like-activities take precedence over student voice, there is a price to pay.

That price is civic engagement.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Teaching for Artistic Behavior Is Democratic Education

The name of this blog is somewhat of a misnomer. "Transition to Choice-Based Art Education" can suggest a high degree of student autonomy with respect to learning experience. In the hands of a Teaching for Artistic Behavior practitioner, choice becomes the instrument from which learner-directed art experiences are realized where children control as many facets of the creative process as the setting will support. The student has a high degree of autonomy, may select from a variety of materials, work from selected studio centers and is the originator of the ideas expressed during the creation of the artwork.
Students begin a drawing game called "Copycat."
Consequently, a K-12 art program where a teacher claims, "I offer a choice-based art program," while offering few choices may connote something that qualifies as choice, but is not TAB. A teacher could offer students a lesson on observation drawing where the two activity choices available are drawing a paper bag or drawing a bouquet of flowers. The idea to draw the paper bag or the bouquet of flowers is the teacher's. Student's have a choice, but neither choice was theirs to begin with. This experience qualifies as choice, but it would not be a Teaching for Artistic Behavior choice-based learning experience.
Students turn their drawing structure into a clown face.
TAB teachers understand opportunities where students direct their learning within social, cultural or internal context is important in order to secure learning experience that is personally meaningful. Time sensitive ideas and the constant evolving present in the lives of children cannot be ignored when it comes to emergent curriculum. Emergent curriculum experience within the hands of a TAB art teacher can mean educational gold.
Another student in class works on a figure drawing.
The eminent art educator Dr. John A. Michael classified approaches to art education into 8 categories (Art and Adolescence, Teachers College Press, 1983, pg 182.):

Industrial arts: geometric drawing, vocational preparation for industry, skill development; imitation, copying rigidly following directions from simple to complex.
Academic art school: Skilled production of art work and appreciation of art, morality; rigidly using art elements and applying art principles following directions.
Non-directed creative art: free- expression with art media emphasizing creativity and the individuals personal development' Laissez-faire, learning by experience as an artist, correlation with other subjects.
Applied art: Aesthetic tasted in choosing objects; relating design principles to objects and environmental aspects.
Psychological: Self expression with art media emphasizing psychological adjustment, intellectual, creative emotional perceptual social, aesthetic, physical development; Guidance and facilitation stimulation, suggestions, praise, reinforcement, integration with other subjects, concern for needs of student)
Content: knowledge of art/artists/ artistry/art appreciation; exposure to art/artists/art history, reading memorization, viewing, analysis, criticism.
Aesthetic education: sensitivity, sensuousness, knowledge, aesthetic awareness; experiential activities involving the senses-seeing, hearing, touching, moving, tasting, feeling-assimilation.
Arts education: comprehending relationships underlying the arts, dance, literature, music, theater, visual arts and life; Infusion-introduction to the study of the other arts and subject matters through visual art.

From my own experiences in the classroom, aspects of all these approaches are or can be incorporated into a TAB program. TAB is a hybrid approach to art education and student experience is fundamentally democratic.
Memories of the beach from fall break.
What does democratic educational experience mean? Simply put, democratic education means the learner has an equal say in how the learning experience is going to go down. For TAB teachers newly experimenting with choice based art education, there may not be as much latitude for student autonomy as there is in other TAB classrooms. As my friend and colleague Clark Fralick says, move slow, grow as you go. 

Abstract drawing with overlapping lines and shapes.
It's not easy working within a democratic educational structure. Learning to take charge of one's pathway is difficult for many learners. Teacher interventions are necessary on a situational basis. However, democratic learning opportunities are some of the most important learning experiences a child will ever participate in. Why? Children learn their ideas matter. Their voice matters. There is a difference between regular opportunities for self-expression and self-expression once-in-a-while-on-command.

Virgin of Guadalupe is honored with a drawing.
When learning experience is generated from within a child's mental reference points, learners will remember. They own the experience. TAB teachers extend learning events with historical information, creative insight or technical information. The teacher can help the student build on initial ideas and collaborate on new ones. The student connects new learning to existing schema. This is how practitioners of emergent curriculum open doors to new learning experience for their students. One of the learning goals of TAB teachers is to help students go beyond the given information.

Students add finishing touches to their experimental mandala clown.
TAB teachers understand the importance of connecting art (educational) experience to a child's social, cultural or psychological realms. The TAB art room is a dynamic 3-dimensional lesson plan, ready to serve the needs of diverse learning groups with an abundant curriculum, affording learners opportunities to explore new forms of art and techniques, extend existing ideas or experiment with new ones.

Pen and ink are added to the figure drawing.
Within the USA, TAB art programs ran by teachers knowledgable in democratic educational experience, can provide opportunities to learn within settings where children have a major voice in the decision making process central to the learning experiences they participate in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On The Use Of Radical Behaviorism....

I was having a discussion with a group of students last week who, over the course of the semester, have produced some very compelling art. We were talking about how artists generate ideas and produce art. I asked the students if they would like me to facilitate their art making activities.
Teacher: "Do you want me to assign a deadline so you will have an incentive to make art?"
Student A: "Please don't! That would make this class just like all the others! This class is special."
Student B: "I don't work well getting all stressed out. Having time to think about my art is important."
Student C: "I like being able to design my own curriculum."
Rewards? Punishments? Extrinsic motivators?  Over the past decade, I have phased out behavior modification techniques as a driver of artistic experience as much as possible. I see no need to incentivize learning experience let alone art education in the general education populations I serve. Learning about art and art making is done for learning's sake and for the sake of developing creative capacity consensually. How do we manage human beings? We trust them and we provide an abundant curriculum. There are many choices, materials and opportunities for students to express time sensitive art ideas. Art making in our classroom is a consensual matter. Since students are working primarily with their ideas, giving students time and space to make art is an essential part of our program. Observing student behavior and commentary is also fascinating. Some of my observations related to a human being's natural desire to learn leads me to the question: Do American schools optimize a child's natural desire to learn?
A young man asked me how he could print his design on his t-shirt. I told him he might consider silk-screen. 
Student's research Rube Goldberg machine concepts.
Student's work with ceramic hand building techniques.
Student repairs his wood and plaster sculpture.
Observation drawing from a cell phone image.
Student pays homage to WWll Veterans.
A student generates an automatic drawing after a discussion of  DADA, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ian Sands Keynote Speaker: AEAI Indianapolis 2015 Conference

For 6 days this past Summer I hung out with Ian Sands at the TAB Institute. Ian is one of the most thoughtful, provocative and progressive art teachers I know. Ian will be speaking at the Art Education Association of Indiana Fall Conference Oct. 9th, 10th and 11th.

Information on that conference is here: .

Ian will be making two other presentations on Saturday:
I'll have a couple of presentations ready on Sunday morning. Word is a special guest VIP from Sugar Creek Elementary is stopping in so this is going to be a blast! See you on October 9th, 10th and 11th!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

TAB Institute 2015 Photos

MassArt Tree House residence is a spectacular structure in the heart of Boston.
Participants view an exhibition of their student's art including statements providing insight of the artistic activity. 
Teachers prepared and shared demonstrations of their practice. Karen Frenchall gives a talk on shadow puppets.
More demonstrations and discussion of successful practice.
Room 206, a bona-fide choice based art room provided teachers with space to create new teaching materials. 
Stefanie gives a talk.
Katherine shares her passion for teaching with other TAB high school teachers.
Ian Sands ask the question, "Why don't we give students the same opportunities to create and experiment that contemporary artists utilize for themselves?"
George Szekely provides insight into the imaginary realms of children.
TAB Institute director Diane Jaquith shares information at breakfeast each morning.
Jean Freer Barnett shares a student success story.
Julie Toole shares her pedagogical insight with teachers.
TAB Institute visits the Fenway Studios.
Director Diane Jaquith preps the TAB Institute crew for new activities. 
Kathy Douglas shares a story from her illustrious teaching career with TAB teachers. 
TAB Institute 2015.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

TAB Institute 2015: July 12-17 Boston

A one week intensive course presenting basic and advanced methodology for choice based art educators.

To register for the TAB Institute contact Mass Art here: 
Flier designed by TAB Institute Director Diane Jaquith.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teaching for Artistic Behavior As Alternative To Test-Driven Curricula

Rhizomatic approaches to curriculum address children's unique biological capacities for learning.
The recognition that creativity is innate and children are born with innate intellectual capacities is a fundamental understanding of human nature and learning by teachers who practice Teaching for Artistic Behavior pedagogy.

TAB pedagogy is readily adaptable for general education purposes. There is no reason why creativity, NOT standardized, data-driven curriculum experiences, cannot be the centerpiece of a child's K-12 educational experience. 

To ignore heterogenous conditions of children in the delivery of curricula is to ignore reality. How are curriculum structures designed to optimize the experience of learners with unique cognitive profiles? What is the psychology of learning to be employed by teachers during the learning experience? How are students motivated to engage in their learning? How do educators view the human mind?

Classroom setting designed to support children's time-sensitive expression of ideas. 
Children engage in nomadic educational experience in learning environments dedicated to creative self-expression and student interests.
Rhizomatic curriculum diagram for regular K-12 classroom groups.
I propose an emergent curricula to replace curricula structures that do not support the unique capacities of the human mind. I propose a curricula in which primary experiences are driven by student(s) with teacher acting as program facilitator, coach, mentor, educational provocateur and designer of the learning environment.  I propose an experience in which learners may negotiate experience with their teachers, whereby ownership, emotional drive, autonomy and democracy are considered vital components of educational experience.

In order to promote motivation, intellectual growth, self reliance and arouse personal interest without diverting attention away from time sensitive ideas, daily learning experiences will be organized around the creative process, individual and collaborative interests, inquiry and experimental activities. In order to support individual creative learning experience we propose utilizing a learning structure that is rhizomatic. Rhizomes support learners who are interested in creativity. When we talk about creativity in this context we are talking about all facets of creativity. Learners enter the rhizome at any point where they are guided by their interests, strengths, curiosities and desires. Learners and the learning community are the curriculum and may form collaborative groups if so desired. Socially constructed forms of learning experience are major features of rhizomatic learning experience and will enhance the process and experience of learning. The revolution in education is here. It's name is Teaching for Artistic Behavior. More to come later!