Saturday, September 03, 2005

Transition to Choice-based Art Education

After 22 years of teaching elementary art, I have decided to change my teaching style to one in which the students make all of their own choices, as practicing studio artists do, rather than using teacher-directed lessons. This change has come about gradually after finding websites which advocated this style during the past year, attempting this classroom set-up in a limited fashion last spring, and doing about 6 weeks of research during the summer.

This teaching style is based on constructivist learning, in which the students interact with materials, and make their own choices and create their own solutions to problems, and, I believe, is best for the students. Constructivist learning is based on recent research about the brain and how learning occurs. In this style, the student IS the artist, and the classroom becomes a working studio. I have divided the classroom into stations, where the students have a wide variety of choices to be made in the way of materials and techniques to use to express themselves. Students may work independently or with a classmate. Brief instruction in the way of technique, content in the way of art appreciation and culture, or new materials are introduced at the beginning of each period. Students are then allowed to select the stations where they will work.

Students are expected to reflect on and discuss their work, as well as give each finished work a title and write an artist statement about it. They are expected to put their “heart” into their work, rather than just their hands and their head. Moving toward choice-based art gives students greater control of their education and allows them to communicate personal meaning and ideas, enabling them to become confident, inventive, and inquisitive human beings.

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