Thursday, 5 April 2018

Dive in slowly - Do research (part 2)

I had my reservations about a complete and immediate switch from my teacher-directed and skill based art programme, to a student-directed one

So I moved slower - for 2 reasons.
One was to have the time to reflect on the effect that degrees of choice had on a range of students, giving me time to observe, be observed, interview students, adjust, create support as needed and research.
The other was to build confidence gradually in the students who had already been learning in the conventional teacher-directed method.

With students who moved from experimentation at Kindy the year prior, I used a 50/50 combination of teacher-directed mini lessons and students directed choice sessions that I alternated with. This year group probably had the most influence on me.

Due to their, as yet, uninhibited approach to creating in visceral, haptic (active exploration) and tactile ways, their level of engagement, independence, free collaboration and detailed explanations were second to none.

In comparison, when I engaged the same group in teacher-directed mini projects, their neediness multiplied tenfold and the words "can you help me", "I can't do this", "mine's not good", "I made a mistake", etc. were continually repeated. Self-criticism rose and confidence seemed to diminish rapidly when students were expected to conform to the same outcome, at the same pace. In hindsight, I believe these clues were always there but I just didn't know to look for them.
Yes the skill level shown in the teacher directed pieces seemed more developed, but when they returned to independent work, this 'learnt skill' seemed to evaporate.

Last year, I compiled some points that emerged from observations, in this table. Green boxes are the positives I noted at the time.

I also rewatched one of my favourite TED talks -

Sir Ken Robinson - Do Schools Kill Creativity?

And came across this amazing video

Cindy Foley - Teaching art or teaching to think like an artist?

I was feeling nervous about the innovations I was contemplating as it opposed the reality of current practise in our classrooms. I had been fortunate to attend an inspiring key note talk by Professor Welby Ings from AUT at a previous art teacher conference, and was glad to find that in his book - Disobedient Teaching, he argues that positive disobedience is a fundamental teaching behaviour among successful practitioners, and excellent teachers show the ability to change learning programmes and learning environments to suit their students.

Here is his TED talk from 2013

Welby Ings - Disobedient Thinking:  at TEDxAuckland

Books that opened my perspective still further included:

Ings, W. (2017). Disobedient teaching: Surviving and creating change in education. (Kindle Edition). Otago, New Zealand: Otago University Press.


Jaquith, D. B., & Hathaway, N.E. (2012). Learner-directed classroom : Developing creative thinking skills through art. New York, United States of America: Teachers College Press.

and articles by:

Gaw, C. (September 05, 2016). What is an ethical pedagogy? Retrieved 12 August 2017 from

Jaquith, D. B. (2011). When is Creativity? Art Education, 64(1), 14-19.

Purtee, M. (2016). Teaching skills for the 21st century: Creativity. The Art of Education. Retrieved 7 August 2017 from

Social and online media also played a big part:

The TAB website was a minefield of ideas,

Block paper Scissors podcasts by Clyde Gaw and Clark Fralick
and their personal blogs which can be found at:  and

And the Facebook pages for Teaching for Artistic behaviour are great places to ask questions.

All this research and reflection takes a lot of time but is well worth it. You need to feel confident in your deeper levels of knowledge and not run merely on superficial impressions. The chances are you will be challenged - by supervisors, colleagues, students, parents and members of the on-line teaching community.
If you are also wrestling with these issues or have some great resources to recommend, I would love to hear from you so please comment below.

Thank you for visiting,
With Love, Te Aroha


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