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RE: Pushing Quality


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Mar 23 2005 - 20:09:43 PST

Larry Prescott writes
> I think the entire process of motivating and encouraging kids to do
> their best and achieve a level of success can be summed up in one
> word.  Balance.  For me this means providing enough structure and
> excitement so that the unmotivated, apathetic kids may want to at
> least try the project and will be able to experience some level of
> success given the parameters I outline.  On the other hand, I want to
> provide enough ambiguity to spark the creative kid to push the limits
> of the lesson expectations.  To encourage kids to excell, I accept any
> late work wi th no penalty.  This provides incentive for those kids
> who get into the project to see it to its completion without rushing
> for the sake of finishing.
I have an Advanced art class that is all over the place in abilities. I
was holding up the class waiting for those with less skills to catch up
with the more skilled. None of us were happy.
I initiated something new.
I made up a list of 20 projects ideas and a format for a contract with
each student. They choose the project and I am grading on quantity ---
3 projects in a quarter is a C - 5 or more is an A. THEY CHOOSE.
The response has been enthusiastic. The skilled kids are are doing what
I expected and forging ahead, the kids that need time to get through a
process have made choices and their choice may be a "C."

I have also made daily progress reports. Thinking time counts almost as
much as producing time. Not doing anything is their choice and it gets
a zero for the day. I spend the time to write daily reports and
comments and when they see the week totals --- well they take

I'm a process person. I think it takes lots of quantity to get to
quality.... art isn't easy. Each week we evaluate the progress and they
criticize each other more than I do. This is hard for me, it's much
much more work than having everybody do the same thing.
But in the choices I provide I see so much more blossoming of ides and
ownership of the ideas. Yep, I have lots of kids pursuing stuff I would
rather take a "hand "in. But, between my suggestions and peer
critique, the "trite" stuff that we want to get rid of eventually
disappears. We ask each other hard questions about the choices.
I am always there with the techniques and skills for whatever they have
chosen. The variety of ideas is what fuels me and gives me the
incentive to provide the lessons appropriate to the choices. I have to
be there to constantly challenge. They want the challenge.
If we are to propose that art making causes better thinking and that
the critical thinking that we cause carries over to other areas of
curriculum, then we have to very seriously consider what we cause --
what we initiate and what we expect?
I don't want no masterpieces I want investigation
It's hard for me to put aside my notions of expectations and just see
the process
and by process, I see, seeing those wheels spin even if the result is
not what I saw as result.
Our positions are not justified by the art shows
our positions are justified by the process we put them through to think
about and justify their choices

Give them the freedom and space to make choices that they will
remember... and then we will not have any problem with advocacy for
what we do.
One success in art makes an advocate forever.