Aides may feel that they are doing the right thing when they "show" how something is done. I believe it is our responsibility to help teach the aides how learning in art can happen (not just observed). With encouragement and correct methods, some of the aides may become good teachers.
In the syllabus of Advanced Ceramics (in college) I required all advanced students to be aides for beginning students to work safely and to help teach basic processes. It was a win-win system. During the semester each advanced student was required to supervise at least one beginning student (usually a team of two beginning students) in kiln loading, firing a kiln, unloading the kiln, mixing a batch of clay, and mixing a batch of glaze. A few of the best advanced students (those who were best teachers) were also hired to be student assistants to help individuals master clay-making processes, glazing processes, firing processes, keep supply inventory, and do kiln and equipment maintenance. Every advanced student (as part of the course requirements) had a Task Sheet and was required to get the signatures of the beginning students that were helped perform each learning task. At final grading they had to show me this Task Sheet along with their own artwork they had created duri
ng the term. The task list specified that they could NOT GET CREDIT for a task if they did any of the task for the beginning students. They were told to use reminder questions and refrain from demonstrating accept when necessary to review a safe process or to keep from ruining a batch of clay, glaze, or student artwork.
SAFETY was their first responsibility and detailed LEARNING (not speed) was the main goal. The classes were told that the content of this learning was included on the beginning class final exam. Therefore, students were encouraged to ask each other for explanations about the reasons behind all the specifics during the task learning. By saving time for me, I was able to accommodate larger classes, put my time into the more creative aspects of learning, improve both the individualized and large group instruction, and so forth. Fortunately, as a professional, I had total autonomy. I was free to experiment and invent learning strategies that worked for us. Students could include this as work experience to gain admission to graduate school and jobs. Many have gone on to teach and/or make living from their artwork. I never had complaints about this learning system, and a number of students made the effort to mention it as a positive in their course evaluations because they realiz
ed they were learning things while helping others learn. They were also becoming better thinkers, leaders, and future parents.
If I was still an art teacher in a K-12 school, I would try to give a learning policy sheet to any aides that showed up in my class. I would invite them to let me know if they have any questions. It might look like this:
ART LEARNING POLICIES
1. All students are required to do the artwork themselves.
2. No one is permitted do any of artwork for a student.
3. Aides and other students may help by reviewing the teacher's instructions with the student, but not by showing examples of how to do it. Start by asking review questions.
4. If you want to be helpful, ask questions such as: "Do you remember what the teacher said?
How would you like to start? What do want to do first? What do you want to do next? What do you think you could still add to this work? What did you learn last time that might work this time?
5. You may also encourage the student to experiment to see what works. When a student tries it more than one way, one of the ways is always a little better than the other way. They are learning by experience and by making choices.
6. If you think the student is doing it wrong, please do not tell them that it is wrong or bad (you should stop the student if it might cause an injury). In art we learn from practice. Even if a student is doing artwork wrong, there is often learning from the practice. We learn from our mistakes. We learn from our discoveries. If we do it for the student, the student learns to depend on us too much. As a teachers I need to see when my instructions are not working. Feel free to check with me when a the student is doing it wrong.
7. I do not do the artwork for students. Other students should not do artwork for each other unless it is a teamwork project. We may help each other by being interested and asking question, but not by doing the work for others.
TEACHING WITH QUESTIONS