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My approaches to teaching

I believe everyone can create art. But we need a little help and support along the way.

I feel it's important to equip students with the tools and skills they need in order for them to be able to successfully create the art they want to create. 

I do this with lessons dedicated to demonstrating and practicing of skills, sometimes called 'bootcamps'. 

When I am teaching skills I do not always 'mark' or 'grade' the resulting work. I have found that relieving students of the pressure to 'perform' for a grade limits their willingness to take risks. When trying a new skill, risk-taking is important so often these sessions are for exploring the possibilities of the new media or skill. Students loosen up and gain confidence. At the end of the session they can choose whether or not to use this in future projects - but at least they've had a go!! 


Over the last four years I've explored choice-based art teaching. I've tried different methods, from full free choice to boundary choice. I spent a week at the TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviour) in Boston in July 2017 and I've presented on this.

Giving students choice in their learning helps to make students much more engaged. When they've chosen to do a project they are invested in it. They are not comparing themselves to their neighbour as each is doing a different thing. When they collaborate, they do so of their own choice (no more "I don't want to work with so-and-so". 

For some students full choice lets them truly fly, explore and succeed. For others it is too daunting. I've found it's important to have options and to be flexible. What works with one group or individual will likely not work with another. 

It is an ongoing journey as I work out what works, what doesn't, how to assess it (I use Artistic Behaviours and the Studio Habits of Mind to frame and support my assessment). 

Successful boundary choice projects I've done are:

Umbrellas. I restricted the media to a plastic umbrella (though students could add or remove any part). 

My Hong Kong. Students were restricted to a 6 x 6 inch square and the artwork had to show an aspect of Hong Kong. 

Here is a video of what my classroom looks like when full choice is happening:

Cross-Curricular and Integrated Units

Making connections between subjects is not only helpful to learning it also builds community, between teachers and students. I've also found the cross-curricular units to be some of the most fun. Particularly successful integration projects have been:

Catapults and Pendulum painting

Chinese Opera Masks

Renaissance paintings

Abstract Art with High school and kindergarten students.

Community Art

Bringing art outside of the classroom is another wonderful experience. I have been involved in large-scale school decoration projects (Painted Tile Project).  A community art project I particularly loved was a site specific sculpture project I did. My students identified locations then created small figures which they then installed. The younger students of the school loved seeing the figures around campus. 

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