Sunday, 1 April 2018

A better way - Reflecting on the start of my journey to TAB principles (part 1)

Post Mindlab - a retrospective

It is so interesting how much your perspective changes about education, the minute you step outside of your single cell classroom.

As a classroom teacher for many years, I believed that I knew best what my class of students needed to progress their learning, and to some extend that was true. But it is only when I moved into a specialist role, teaching across 7 age groups that I got a much wider indication of some of the traps I fell into in the past.

It is so easy to think only of that one year that you are teaching and to meet your targets at all cost. But once you see students develop from ages 4 to 11, you quickly become aware of the long game.

When I took on my current role as Visual Art and Digital Media specialist, I had a big learning curve ahead but was ready for the challenge. I have a passion for learning, the creative arts and technology, the rest was going to develop through research and observation.
I started with a teacher directed approach that focused on practical skill development and scaled formulaic projects up across year levels. Nothing new to see here as this is the best way to teach skills in art, or so I thought.
After pulling together the first art show (in my first year in this role), I knew there was something not quite right about this way of learning art. The final clincher was when I shows student work at a school cluster art show in the local shopping mall. Several works from a range of schools were instantly recognisable as Pinterest staples. Very embarrassing. 

I wanted more variety of work from within the year levels and started trying to modify the same recipe for each class but wanting them all to still be getting the same skill development. Basically, I was still focusing on the skills that I felt they should be developing, rather than what individual students really needed.

Some early attempts at teacher-directed differentiation across 4 Year 2 classes - Seasons using Collage technique:
Spring Winds

Summer Flowers

Winter Snowglobes

Autumn Leaves

Some early attempts at teacher-directed differentiation across 3 x Year 3 classes - Savannah Habitats using the Crayon and Liquid water colours (Dye) with drawing technique:



Some early attempts at teacher-directed differentiation across 3 x Year 4 classes - Monet using the Tache technique:

Then, I first came across Teaching for Artistic Behaviour (TAB) in one of my many online explorations.

In 2016, I discussed the notion of offering some choice options to my Year 5 and 6 students (last 2 years of primary) to see how they would cope, with my assistant principal . We were staging 'The Lion King' for our school production, so I thought - what a great opportunity to engage the students with all things Africa.
The rest of the year groups I continued to teach through directed lessons with a skill focus, apart from Kindy, who came in to explore with different media each week.

I offered Paint (acrylic, water colour), Drawing (pencil, coloured pencil, oil pastel) and Sculpture (papier mache) centres to my Year 5s to select from.
The Year 6s also had  collage, photography and clay on offer.
The only guidance I gave initially was to  show how the same concept can be created in a range of sources and I collated some Youtube videos on techniques for most of these resources. I linked these into our 'in-house' student digital resource page.

Choice centres across 3 x Year 6 classes - Africa:
Liquid water colours (Dye) and Collage

Acrylic on Canvas Board

Clay Elephant




Clay African pots

Clay Rhino

Papier Mache Rhino

Papier Mache African Mask

I also would spend 5-10 minutes in a centre to introduce or review specific skills or techniques during lessons but would roam the rest of the time to support individual students on request. While they were learning independence and building confidence in themselves, they were teaching me to let them be, to let them self discover and construct personal knowledge, and to share these learnings through collaboration with their peers. 

Yes I had my worries but was so excited to see what the students would do when given the choice to pursue personal passions. 

Te Aroha, with love


Thank you for visiting,


  1. Timea, I just clicked over from your link on our FB TAB group, and I’m living your story! We even did The Lion King at the end of my first art year, right after I learned of TAB. I can’t wait to read more about your journey!

    1. So lovely to connect Brooke :) Thank you for stopping by. I aim to update every week so feel free to connect by following here or on instagram/twitter (links at the top under Resources)

  2. Thank you for the wonderful resources and the story of your heartfelt journey. I found that I was so engrossed with many of the things you had experienced and observed. I am so grateful, as I start my 2nd year of incorporating TAB features into my classroom, to have your observations, research, and connections. Thanks!!

    1. Awesome to connect Lucinda. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment. Please pop back again :)