Academic Versus Hands-On Visual Arts Education- How do you craft your program? (2 posts)

Topic tags: art, craft, program
  • Profile picture of Shalimar Poulin Shalimar Poulin1p said 4 years, 3 months ago:

    Recently, I was challenged to look at where the weight of my foot is when crafting an Visual Arts Education program. How much research, reading, and writing do I ask my students to do, versus, How much hands-on creative processing and skill building do I ask? Should art class have rigor or be a place to take a break? Is art class the place to provide opportunities to build life skills such as collaboration, work-ethic, citizenship, and digital literacy. What class room environment do I create for my students: therapeutic, sanctuary and/or a working space with expectations? Is the emphasis on achievement, process, and/or relationships? Should I interrupt course curricula to accomodate an interdisciplinary unit with a colleague? What are my student’s perceptions of their art class experience? What are parental and community expectations of an art class experience for young people? What do my peers/co-workers expect of the art educator on their staff? A fellow staff member recently suggested we look at our changing population of students from middle class from educated families to more lower, working class and less-educated families and how we may need to change our teaching to meet their interests and probable avenue post high school- if they make it to walk with their class. Should all students be prepared for a wide array of possibilities, or should we take their strength and send them on a linear path toward a pre-destined and probable future? Do adults with pre-conceived ideas, and decades-old art education experiences need educating? Or, do we need to listen carefully to the voice of the collective? Do we “sell” art classes by thinning/lowering expectations to keep enrollment up or do we offer what we believe is excellent quality art education (which may be more work than some students wish to do) and potentially attract less students? Should there be different levels of art study- for example, could a student take art-general or art-college prep?

    I am thought of by my students as demanding, strict, caring, and competent in visual arts. They complain about “paper work” in art. Some of my peers have shared with me that they see me as dedicated, hard-working, holding students accountable, messy, a pack-rat, and a master teacher. I often doubt myself- but have some healthy confidence. I love to work- love to teach- and create. The word is that my classes are a lot of work. I expect students to enter my class on time, read the “start up board”, begin working independently, take responsibility for their learning (no spoon-feeding), work the entire period, and make up missed classes. I ask my students to be helpful to others, ask thoughtful questions, be good listeners, avoid dependency, and take risks with their work. I require students to do research and planning in preparation for an upcoming unit. I give them project guidelines and demonstrate skills I expect them to practice and offer them the opportunity to revise the goals (at any point in their process) to make them their own. I ask them to keep an organized and complete binder, to use supplies modestly and with care, to leave their space better than they found it, to show concern for their classmates, to treat others kindly, to be a mirror for me (so that I may make improvements in my teaching). Students must complete project self evaluations, bi-weekly exit slips, quarterly self evaluations, and school-wide rubrics in writing, presentation, and citizenship. They must create an artfolio (online student portfolio), post required student-shot images, labels, and statements, and present their artfolio. They must participate in one critique per quarter. I post a student vocab bank for each unit. Students are invited to write on large paper new words and their definitions they learn and use for each two week period. For classes that are off track, I assign seats and set strick guidelines. I do my best to keep instructions and demos short so that students can get right into their project work. When I am at my best, I become passionate about student work, praise, get silly with the students, encourage students to challenge themselves, show patience when a student needs more time and guidance to achieve. I consider each student individually when evaluating their class participation, effort, and project work. I make it a point to exhibit at least one piece by every student I work with. I prefer to handle discipline on my own- to talk through differences with my students and will ask for support when needed. I give 30 minutes of homework each week. I don’t give quizzes- I consider student self evaluations, bi-weekly exit slips, and start-up questions (one question students answer at the beginning of each class- used to familiarize students with the MLR, our school mission statement, and other rote content) opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning beyond the project work itself. My weak area is timely assessment feedback and giving equal time to all members of my classes. I haven’t found an efficient way to grade project work- I usually spend 20 minutes per project- crazy! I tend to miss giving equal time to the “quiet ones”, who are less demanding of help. I enjoy creating new units, revising units, managing supplies. My happiest moments are when a student learns for the first time that you don’t have to be talented to be successful at art-making, when they put time in outside of class because they are motivated to excel, and when the resistors finally buy into my methods, know I have their back, and step up to the plate. My classes are weighted as follows: 50% project work and skill exercises 20% homework/binder/exit slips, 10% artfolio, 10% class participation/effort, 10% critiques/self evaluations/start-up questions. Mid term and Finals consist of an artfolio presentation, critique, reflective writing, and supply and equipment care. For more information about how I craft my program, please visit

    I wonder how you have crafted your program and established your classroom environment? How do you balance some of the tricky challenges I mentioned (and others)? How are you perceived by your students and peers? What do you see are your strengths and struggles? How does enrollment lead to choices you make about program? How do student and parent complaints/feedback influence your teaching, expectations, and curricula? Do you (like me) have moments where you believe you’ve got it all wrong- that you’ve lost your touch and then things turn around like magic- your sails are full and you are going somewhere!

  • Profile picture of Jen Nash Jen Nash1p said 4 years ago:

    Shalimar- thank you for sharing your struggles, your love of art, your high expectations and the positives that you’ve experienced.

    How you have crafted your program and established your classroom environment?
    In my first couple of years teaching I had to take it day by day. Figuring out what worked, and what did not- lessons, rules, expectations, rehearsals and etc. As I go into my 6th year teaching my focus is to be CRYSTAL clear with expectations, taking extra time to get to know students more, and trying to really figure out my whole philosophy on a music education. I know the “why”, but the “how” is always a work in progress. I know that through experience, talking with other educators, and reading I will get closer to the answers.

    How do you balance some of the tricky challenges I mentioned (and others)?
    I, too, have the challenges you have. Classroom expectations can be completely mapped out, but then you face the “I wants” from general education teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, students…etc. We can’t please everyone!

    How are you perceived by your students and peers?
    Through end of year surveys students think: demanding, goofy, serious, kind
    Through interactions with peers: passionate, hardworking, late
    If I think too hard about what other people think about me, it is easy to get wrapped up in it. I just think everyday about certain traits that I admire in a teacher/leader/person, and try my best to achieve them: joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This list hangs above my desk to remind me.

    What do you see are your strengths and struggles?
    personally- timeliness
    professionally- not enough time with students, or consistent struggle to help people see that art/music are an essential part of education.

    How does enrollment lead to choices you make about program?
    I have struggled with starting a string program at my school because I know the importance that band has in our district. I cannot justify lessoning band numbers because our band will be small. Therefore, unequal instrumentation, which leads kids to think that less people means, “our band stinks”.
    On the other hand, students who want to learn a string instrument will have an opportunity. It comes down to: how can I give them the best music education with the cards I’ve been dealt? Right now, strings cannot come into the equation.

    How do student and parent complaints/feedback influence your teaching, expectations, and curricula?
    I take feedback very seriously. I apply, and modify and adjust when I can. I always do end of the year surveys with students, and I get a big idea of the direction I need to go the following year.

    Do you (like me) have moments where you believe you’ve got it all wrong- that you’ve lost your touch and then things turn around like magic…
    Haha, it seems there are so many of these moments. Students change from moment to moment. They can go from absolute un-focus to engaging within seconds. So can we as educators! When we are in sync with them we have miraculous lessons. The wind picks up, and like you said, “it sets sail”.