Teaching for Artistic Behavior (@Home)

Note: This was an old post that I really never got around to finishing and just hit publish on today. I need to get back to the @Home part.

I’m just wrapping up a course on curriculum in teaching art. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite course to teach. Students expect it to be very method, and it is to an extent, but it is mostly theory. What makes a great art lesson? With the whole history of art, design, and visual culture before you and just 40 weekly sessions with your elementary students, what should you teach them? They want answers; we give them questions.

And then there is another reality that is increasingly creeping into the course, standards and testing. Many people would be surprised to hear about testing in art class. Some would probably even laugh at the notion. When you take a subject that is so expansive with so much room for personal interpretation and try to pare it down to common denominators, you kill what makes it special. You wind up teaching to the test, a test that emphasizes the memorization of dates and definitions at the expense of the head, heart, and hand.

Like Gude (2004), Eisner (2001), and others have suggested, art educators don’t get into the game because they long to teach kids the elements and principles of art (color, line, shape, form, value, texture, movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, proportion, and pattern). We do it because we fell in love with being in the studio experimenting with materials and visiting museums to stand face-to-face with masterpieces. We do it to share that passion with our students.

We want our classrooms to buzz with creative energy like the ateliers of Reggio Emilia and Room 13. We want our students to be self-determined makers. All too often, however,we find ourselves facilitating projects with safe, pre-determined outcomes. No surprises. No big messes to clean up.

All this makes sense given the culture of testing and overcrowded classrooms teachers face today. But there still are folks out there trying to provide students with authentic experiences in the artroom. Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB) is one approach my students gravitate towards but are not convinced they can execute.

Eisner, E. (2001). Should we create new aims for art education? Art Education, 54(5), 6-10
Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art Education, 57(1), 6-14.


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