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RE: Didaction

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From: Esa Tipton (tmtartseducation_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat May 18 2002 - 00:26:26 PDT


Henry writes:

> Recently we have had what appears to be excellent
> interactive demonstration of Didaction right here.
> Let me see if I have this aright.

Deconstructing language may be as difficult as
deconstructing some visual images. It takes work,
effort, and insight. Good analysis, Henry, and I
especially like the references to recent posts. But,
it seems to me the most important point of Tochon's
work has been overlooked.

From the interaction of our various points of view,
hopefully there are unexpected new ways of thinking
that emerge. I can say that I very much appreciated
Jane's shift in her latest post highlighting the
limitations of preparatory programs.

But the most important point of Tochon's work has
still not been grappled with yet.

Constructivism begins a process that allows students
to take materials and tools with teacher guidance and
reach their own conclusions, to chart their own
territory, to go their own directions. To "construct"
their own meaning. Now this is very different from how
most of the arts education and entire education
community operates. We have already decided what
meaning should be constucted, and we give students
experiences to reach our pre-determined goals which we
call outcomes. There are many posts each day on this
list that reinforce a non-constructivist way of
teaching.

Constructivism is a vastly different approach from the
majority of DBAE lessons that people use and post here
on the list. Patty's example of first to fifth grade
students working with issues of robotics, for
instance, to me, is impressive work for any classroom.
I know how difficult it was to do this kind of project
with inner-city middle school students in the mid-90's
and think it's commendable work to have students
working with their own models according to their own
intentions.

Didaction or didactics, as it is being called, takes
such constructivism one step further. Tochon argues
that constructivism is still embedded in a
criterion-referenced system of assessment. That is, we
judge the value and the place the student has gone to
according to our pre-determined criteria of what is
good and what is bad. Jane posted a good example of
this in her critique of a student-teacher lesson she
experienced. She rightly points out imbalances in
teacher education programs but the example used begs
the question of what is needed. Is it more experience
using materials and tools of art production? Perhaps
in this student's case it was. But there is more to
it. Did the evaluation allow for open-ended assessment
or did the evaluation rest on the judgement of the
quality of the produced visual images?

This is a good example of how some of our most potent
learnings are overlooked by the way we in our school
systems, only focus on some or one aspect of the
lesson. Were the students satisfied with their
products, as Dawn asked, or was it the supervising
teacher who wasn't? Was the student-teacher aware of
what could be done differently and adjusted her lesson
the next time? There are rich learnings that took
place, undoubtedly, and like a friend of mine quoted
his mother when serving a less than ideal meal said to
me, "We eat the successes and well as the failures."
She was, after all, a student teacher, and no matter
what the background and training, first time lessons
in classrooms are daunting and less than ideal
experiences.

I can actually corroborate Jane's student teacher
story with my own version of the same events. In my
case, I had a rich background of tools and materials.
My BFA is in printmaking and I was an accomplished
artist. My teacher education program was rich in
studio courses and we had excellent professors who
linked our studio work to the classroom. But in the
high school class I had a lesson to teach, I found,
like Jane's unprepared student teacher, that I had my
own set of unprepared issues. I did a project for
students to illustrate a favorite or selected poem
visually as a print. Did I know what I was getting
into? No. Did it work outside of the ones that always
produce? Not for me - I had the same assessment, that
visually the products could have been much better. Did
the students get alot out of the project and working
with me on it. Yes! They loved it. They loved that I
brought theory to their work and later told me
privately they wished I was their art teacher. Now, in
this case, I could have applied all of Jane's criteria
to the lesson and called it a semi-failure. But seeing
it from another perspective, there is more to it. I
think this is what post-modernism thinking is all
about. It gives us permission to look at events and
art making from many points of view, and not just the
ones we are locked into in our classrooms and our
schools.

Tochon takes this aspect of constructing meaning one
step further, which is to say that he lets the
products be open-ended and he lets the assessments be
open-ended. Does his language obscure the point? Most
definately. But I think he is on to something that
most of us are not willing to or ready to look at in
our classrooms and our work. Ironically, this is the
creative process. To get to an undisclosed and not
pre-determined point. But in our quest to justify our
existence in schools, I'm afraid we have sacrificed
the most important aspects of the artmaking process,
instead. To me, didaction gives us new momentum to go
back there.
Teresa

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