How to Teach Art

The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education and How to Achieve Them:

   1. Students should be given the opportunity to think like artists (just as they are given the opportunity to think like scientists, historians, writers, etc.)

   2. Visual art is another way of knowing and school is about learning different ways of knowing the world

   3. High quality thinking involves three qualities: Skills (the know-how), Alertness (knowing when to deploy skill), Inclination (the desire to develop and deploy skills)

4. What follows are outlines on how to structure and manage studio classes and an examination of the skills taught through visual art studio classes.

The “How” of Studio Teaching:

   I. Creating a studio culture

      A. Designing the physical space:

         1. Efficiency of transitions

         2. Organization

         3. Social groupings

      B. Light and sound:

         1. Atmosphere of the class

         2. Open studio: talking, lively music, creative energy

         3. Closed studio: quite, focused, subdued background music

      C. Social climate:

         1. Teacher-student and peer-peer founded on mutual respect

         2. Use of intentional language to emphasize concepts

   II. Focusing on thinking with studio assignments

      A. Assignments guide a particular type of learning

      B. Use class to develop studio habits of mind

   III. Teaching through artworks

      A. Sharing both student and professional level work

      B. Show the process behind great art

      C. Model possibilities and show different stages of completion

      D. Keep it grounded in details and key concepts

      E. Arrange intentionally to encourage thoughtful comparisons

Studio Structures: Use alternating short structures for best effect

   I. The Demonstration–Lecture

      A. Group focus: everyone at once

      B. Visual emphasis: visually rich examples

      C. Immediate relevance

      D. Brief and concise

      E. Show connection between ideas and skills

      F. Useful for:

         1. Setting tasks

         2. Illustrating concepts

         3. Modeling processes, approaches, and attitudes

   II. Students-at-Work

      A. Focus on making

      B. Independent work

      C. Ongoing assessment focused on process

      D. Individualized interventions: personalized learning

      E. Useful for:

         1. Putting making at the center of learning

         2. Assessing process rather than product

         3. Individualizing the curriculum

   III. The Critique

      A. Focus on artworks

      B. Reflective: ability to analyze and assess

      C. Verbal: ability to articulate ideas and goals

      E. Forward looking: ability to envision future possibilities

      F. Works should be viewed as a record of process not a static object

   IV. Exhibition

      A. Phases

         1. Planning

         2. Installation

         3. Public discourse

         4. Aftermath

      B. Teaches the ability to envision end goals and to engage the public

Studio Habits of Mind: Dispositions and the skills, alertness, and inclinations to use them

   I. Develop Craft

      A. Technique: must be tied to purpose

      B. Studio Practice:

         1. Using and caring for tools

         2. Storing and organizing artworks

         3 Spaces and procedures

      C. Don’t teach craft alone: focus on quality in relation to what is conveyed

   II. Persevere

      A. The ability to engage and persist

      B. The goal is to eventually arrive at a self-directed line of inquiry

      C. The only rule is work, work and it will lead to something

      D. Learn self-discipline

      E. Encourage: sticking with things, slowing down, and managing time

   III. Imagination: Inward focused

      A. The ability to envision

      B. Thinking in images

      C. “What if…?”

   IV. Express: Outward focused

      A. Communicate ideas and feelings

      B. Art can not be reduced to verbal explanations

    V. Reflect: Inward focused

      A. Question and Explain: What are you trying to do/communicate?

      B. Evaluate: Is it working?

   VI. Observe: Outward focused

     A. Not just looking: Drawing is about SEEING

     B. Increased awareness: not just of the visible world

   VII. Explore

      A. Divergent and transgressive thinking

      B. Play, take risks, make mistakes and associations

      C. Creativity is problem-finding not just problem-solving

VIII. Understand Art Worlds

      A. Domain: a familiarity with a full range of art traditions and spheres

      B. Communities: knowing the “language” and recognizing gatekeepers.

These outlines are based on the book Studio Thinking (2nd Edition).

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