Students jumped right in to work when we arrived– taking out their projects, and beginning work.  It is an ipod day, so most students are plugged in as they work.  Joanna says they are, in Adv. Ceramics, able to do projects of their own choosing, and she takes her inspiration from an artist who does work about her children, and taking off from that, she is fashioning from clay a show, as part of an old lady and her shoe depiction, with children to be sitting all over it.  The teacher had asked them to do outside research on art and artists, and it was in doing so, reading a ceramics magazine, that Joanna found her inspiration.
This class is mixed, with kids at a lot of different levels.  The teacher explained to me that she has given up on a course outline, but uses a syllabus, because there are so many different things happening, and she is always changing things around, responding to where the kids are at.
The teacher shares her syllabus with me:– atop it are two questions (always looking for questions)– “How do I think like an artist today?  How do I work like an artist today?”    The goals below are a little more specific–provide a safe environment that respects artistic expression, and foster a mastery of ceramics- but it the “you will” section that returns us to the top questions: i.e.: “you will generate and analyze solutions to problems using creativity and imagination;” “think like an artist every day;” understand why art plays an important role in everyday life;” and “understand what it means to be an artist.”   Having been someone myself, and I am ashamed of this, who struggled to enjoy art prize art instruction, I am now intrigued to find myself so drawn to art teaching as a model for broader quality instruction.  I think that every subject could borrow this course outline as a template– changing the word artist from the top two questions and the “you will” list to the different disciplines.  So, at top of a math course sheet it would say “How do I think like a mathematician today?”   Of course, the statement “generate and analyze solutions to problems using creativity and imagination” requires no substitution at all– it could be, (should be) on every course outline in every subject.
Similarly, she says of her “grading policy” that “unlike lecture course with written tests, the studio arts depend on other criteria for measuring a student’s progress. Grading is done in collaboration with each student through rubrics and individual consultation.   Class critiques will take place routinely so that you have ample opportunity to gain feedback, make adjustments to your work based on that feedback, and hone your criticism skills.”     I read this and I wonder if I am being too provocative in saying that these three sentences could equally apply to any school subject’s grading, rather than having it begin with the statement “unlike lecture courses with written tests.”   That is not to say that we cannot ever have lectures or written tests, but that all the rest could still apply.

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