You may have read the Point of View article in this month's issue of
SCHOOL ARTS magazine. (Vieth, K. & Bush,D. (2008, April). Should We
Be Concerned? School Arts Magazine, 107(8), 14)
We were surprised at the tone of the article, and at the sources at the
end of the article, only one of which actually relates to our work. We
were very pleased, however, to read the eight questions that closed the
article. For those who are interested in this philosophy of teaching,
I post our response here. Note that the authors use the abbreviation
CBAE, which we do not. (it is commonly used to denote Community Based
Art Education--something completely different)
1. How does CBAE differ from the classic laissez-faire art programs of
It is not clear to which 'laissez-faire art programs' the authors
refer. In choice-based learning and teaching, all students are
problem-finders, developing their own ideas and following their own
path of inquiry. The open-ended structure allows students to work as
artists do, developing and refining their expression over time.
Exhibition preparation and display are student-centered, providing
valuable assessment of student learning. By putting decision-making in
the hands of the student, many higher order thinking skills are
required of the learner. Students justify their choices through class
discussions, journals, artist statements and portfolio reviews.
2.To what extent is the teacher’s attention divided by the number and
diversity of problems arising from the multiple activity centers?
Successful student-centered learning requires complex planning. Studio
centers contain techniques, materials and references that have all been
introduced to the whole group in focused brief demonstrations. Menus,
lists of procedures and vocabulary and highly organized materials are
found in these studio centers. Students who need help access these
resources and peer coaches in addition to seeking teacher attention.
Students are coached in a variety of approaches to solving their own
problems. In non-TAB classrooms, to what extent is a teacher’s
attention divided by behavioral problems that arise because students
are frustrated by the teacher’s assignment? How is student
disinterest/apathy handled in the teacher-directed classroom?
3.How can the teacher provide for students who need greater structure?
Choice teachers observe their students in action and assess what they
know and can do every week. Students having difficulty for whatever
reason, including learning and behavior issues, show us and we respond
with prompts for investigations pertinent to the child’s interests.
Studio centers provide a good structure for differentiation with
written and illustrated directions, flexibility with materials and
varied options for working styles. Because a majority of students are
working independently, the choice teacher is freed up to instruct in
small groups or one-on-one. Students working in self-selected study
groups support one another through shared strategies and critique.
4.How does the teacher deal with students who choose to handle subject
matter deemed as inappropriate for the school setting?
Like any good teaching professional, choice teachers discuss subject
matter in a developmentally appropriate manner. Students understand
that the classroom is a public art space and as such, there may be
limits placed on content due to school rules. Students who are
interested in topics inappropriate to the school setting are encouraged
to pursue their interests in their home studio. In upper levels,
controversy in art subject matter is addressed through current relevant
issues. The artist’s role in commenting on social and political issues
is tied to history lessons. Students are encouraged to make connections
to the very important role the artist takes in commentary.
5. How can the teacher foster the making of expressive art by students
who are working in a variety of different media?
If a student’s artwork is authentically expressive, the teacher does
not need to 'foster' its making; instead, the teacher should be
responding to the needs of the artist. Choice teachers know that the
students’ ideas are central to their art making. We value children’s
choice of subject matter, no matter how simple it may be. Developing
confidence in one’s ability to have an idea leads to deeper thinking
and more complex content for art making in any media.
6. How much of the teacher’s responsibility should be composed of
teaching the technical proficiencies and lower order skills, such as
how to join together two slabs of clay or how to mix paint?
When students work independently as opposed to working to follow
teacher directions, what they know and can do becomes very evident.
Choice teaching is directly responsive to the needs of the learners.
Instruction is purposely flexible to address student learning in all
areas. Much time is therefore available for idea generation,
discussions of “artistic behaviors” and personal meaning. In the upper
levels, critique is the best means to address communication.
7. Does the compartmentalized environment of the multi-activity
centered art room in CBAE diminish opportunities for sharing and group
problem-solving on a class-wide basis?
No. The learning environment is organized into studio learning
centers, not 'compartmentalized.' Students move freely among the studio
centers as their chosen work evolves. Students collaborate with one
another naturally. They assist, share ideas and work together in
supportive study groups. Like many adult artists, students who prefer
to work alone on their artwork are encouraged to do so. Work and ideas
are shared throughout class and often at the end of class.
8. Is the CBAE model more or less effective in helping students meet
established state and national standards for art education?
It is no more or no less effective than any other good art program.
The professional teacher who knows his or her standards makes certain
that they are covered through instruction, assessment and careful
curriculum planning. In Massachusetts, the Visual Arts Frameworks
contain multiple references to 'choosing materials and subject matter.'
How does that happen if the teacher chooses the problems to solve and
the materials to use for this purpose?
THANKS FOR ASKING!
Douglas, K.M., Crowe, J.V., Jaquith, D.B., & Brannigan, R. (2002).
Choice-Based Art Education. The Knowledge Loom.
Teaching for Artistic Behavior. (2008).
Pink, D. (2007, March 16) 2nd General Session. Lecture presented to the
National Art Education Association, New York, New York.