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Re: [teacherartexchange] Critiques in Art Class


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Dec 19 2005 - 06:37:57 PST

> I teach Middle School Art. I too remember those sometimes horrible critiques from college! What I recently started doing is to stop the kids when they are about half way through the project. I then have about 5 of them stand up at the same time and have the rest of the class point out one positive thing about the art work and one thing that the student could do better and give suggestions as to how they can accomplish that. The rule is that they are not allowed to simply say "I like it" or "it's good", they must point out what it is specifically that the student has done well or could do better. I remind the kids that we do this not to tear each other down, but to help eachother better our work, just as any community of artists would. It has turned out to be a positive experience for the kids and I plan on doing it with more projects.
>Kara LiCausi
>Northport Middle School
>Northport, NY

Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like an excellent idea. Stopping and talking about work really helps refocus and keep students on task. The quality of the work gets better.

I have one question for a variation on this.

As the students gain the skill of being considerate and helpful, do you think they could manage a system where you ask for a an open question related to their idea? Could you ask the classmates to look and think about what they might change in the work (maybe even jot it down). Then instead of making a suggestion, could they can make it into an OPEN QUESTION that gets the artist to see the issue - but still have the ownership of the solution? An example might be: "I like how this part of the drawing and how seems to come toward me. I am wondering how I would do this part to make it also show depth?" At this point the teacher thanks and affirms the student for that GREAT QUESTION and intervenes so that no suggestions are made, but the teacher asks if there are other open questions. Then the student who is being critiqued is invited to say her/his ideas about it, or simply acknowledge whether or not these were helpful questions. Sometimes open questions need to be clari!
 fied but not answered by the teacher. When this works, the artist retains total ownership of the final ideas in the work. The rest of the class learns to teach THINKING instead of giving answers for those who need to become better thinkers.

As an art teacher, I have so often been so quick to make a suggestion when I should have phrased an open question and asked the student for ideas or asked the student how she could set up a little experiment to see what would work best. I learned this teaching trick from David, our son, when I watched him help his younger sister with her homework. Even as a child, he never gave her answers, but coached her with questions to make it easier for her to think of ways to solve the problems. He must have had an excellent art teacher someplace.

David is now a scientist and teacher. He says teaching the post-docs and graduate students in his lab to do their own thinking is one of his hardest, but most important jobs for their future success. He says they get annoyed with him. Some are so accustomed to asking an expert that they forget to do their own thinking. They want him to tell them the answers, but he still asks them what they think the answer would be, or if the answer is not known, how they could set up an experiment to get the answer. Art and science use many of the same thinking skills. In my opinion, knowing how to ask good questions will always be more important than knowing answers.

Dr. Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171??
"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before." ... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.

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