Making Mistakes Work in the Learning Studio

My progress has been swift in my development as an art teacher. I have made several small and large gains up my learning curve also, many mistakes. I am still at the bottom but I am starting to see progress. My falters are not failure because I am learning.

 

My progress has been swift in my development as an art teacher. I have made several small and large gains up my learning curve also, many mistakes. I am still at the bottom but I am starting to see progress. My falters are not failure because I am learning.

This painting is by a kindergarten student who seems to struggle with verbal expression but when he can draw he is totally absorbed.

I am almost done setting up my classroom as a Learning Studio. By this I mean I have taken a center based Teaching for Artistic Behavior approach where students make decisions about the learning they will engage in.

The centers I have so far are:

Drawing

  • Book making
  • Collage
  • Construction
  • Paint
  • Fabric Arts
  • Inspiration

Still in development are three additional centers. The reflection station where I will coach small groups and individual students in their creative endeavors. The technology/research station where students will explore concepts farther. And finally, the documentation station where students will start to create an online portfolio. I am not far from getting these up and running, it is only lack of time slowing me down, but I make small progress each day.

As I have transitioned to this learner centered approach I ran into a problem though because students began to rush through the project in order to use newer/fresher materials in the centers.  I learned that this learner centered approach can work but only if it is reinforced with development of the knowledge and dispositions of art making. I have been teaching each of the 7 elements of art, which include line, shape, color, texture, form, value, and space, as they align with our first project focus of completing a self portrait. So far we have addressed line and color.

I also have been focusing on questions artists ask themselves about to art making.

Teaching creativity is actually far down on my list. The first questions I have been asking students are:

What is your best work?

What does it mean to work with intention?

How do we know a piece of art is finished?

I have been focusing on these types of questions in order to draw attention away from the idea of making art as a “talent” and refocus on process. I have seen some students who didn’t seem to be particularly talented really take to this approach but other students with obvious talent struggle and try to abandon pictures they made a “mistake” making.

I have really been trying to make students own the process and “make it work” mistake and all.

As an artist I often paint myself into a corner where I can’t figure out how to resolve a painting. When I do this I try to appreciate the struggle. Sometimes I have to put a painting down and start another but I always try to finish my pieces because the process of learning from resolving a painting is what keeps me coming back. People always comment on how being an artist must be relaxing. Personally, I think being an artist is anything but relaxing. It is a self perpetuating learning struggle that makes you want to keep coming back. That is what I really hope my students get from my class, the desire to keep learning, making, and growing, mistakes and all.

Photo by: @jmholland

 

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