A standards-based Visual Arts Program requires our students to develop viewing and thinking processes that are self-directed, collaborative, creative, critical, and reflective. Development of skills in art production, art history, aesthetics, and art criticism, and in visual literacy are developed through the following components of instruction.
- Demonstrates artistic techniques and use of media
- Provides opportunities for practice, experimentation, and refinement
- Supports divergent thinking and multiple learning outcomes
- Provides a variety of visual references
- Incorporates a variety of critique formats
- Introduces and expects appropriate use of art vocabulary
- Makes connection to artists, careers, art in the community and everyday lives
- Maintains organizational system for storage and disbursement of materials/tools
- Sets clear expectations for art room safety, cleaning, and classroom procedures
- Integrates art with other content areas
- Displays a variety of student artwork within the school and community
Quality Teaching in the Visual Arts Classroom
Engagement. When works of art and the materials are intentionally compelling and aesthetically attractive, they draw students toward them and their possibilities. They invite learners to pay attention and wonder about them. For many students, once engaged, the intrinsic pleasure of making or experiencing art becomes truly joyful.
Purposeful experiences creating or engaging with works of art. Students need opportunity to experiment, draw on many experiences from a multiplicity of cultures and experiences that demonstrate, discuss, reflect, explore, discover, and, finally, exhibit or perform. Students must have the opportunity to work directly with a variety of materials to value their own sense of discovery.
Emotional openness and honesty. Safety is considered basic to arts learning. While there may be some danger implicit in arts learning experiences when working with power tools, toxic chemicals, or extreme physical movements, physical safety is always a given. However, art may also bring about emotional demands and opportunities of arts learning. Students need to feel “safe” with their feelings of embarrassment, frustration, vulnerability, or joy in the work, as well as to have their own powerful emotional responses to the works of others.
Experimentation, Exploration, and Inquiry. Learning in the visual arts bring an intensity to learning as inquiry and exploration. There was a constant shifting back and forth, from working toward mastery to exploring new possibilities and experimenting with different approaches.
Ownership. Part of the character of deep engagement in learning is a personal investment in the work at hand. This is also referred to as student-driven or student-centered learning. Working on a project of one’s own or as part of a team has the promise of rewarding a sense of ownership, commitment, and responsibility.
Authenticity. Learners need to be involved in actual artistic processes (e.g., drawing sculpting, and critique) or the serious study of works of art that historians, critics, and curators do.
Modeling artistic processes, inquiry, and habits. Students need teachers who model a passionate and inquiry-based approach to art making, leaving students with a desire to learn more and some skills to continue that learning. They model and instill a certain passion for asking questions and exploring ideas.
Participation in the learning experience. Students need to be engaged in inquiry – the active investigation of ideas, issues, feelings, aesthetics, and aspects of human experience. When teachers actively participate in inquiry, both students and teachers are engaged in inquiry, their experiences become aligned and they learn side-by-side
Making learning relevant and connected to prior knowledge. In the arts, teaching is the ability to create links between arts learning and students’ own lives – their social and cultural contexts, their needs, their expressive languages, their background knowledge, their interests and activities.
Intentionality, flexibility, and transparency. This dynamic is hardly unique to arts education, but the richness and complexity of art works and artistic processes present so many possibilities for exploration that it can often be impossible to predict the best path for a particular group in advance. Being well prepared with clear goals and intentions for a class is considered critical, but being able to know when to let go of one’s plan and follow the interests and needs of the moment are critical.
Respect and trust among all participants along with a belief in student capacities. When visibly demonstrating respect for and interest in each other’s work, teachers convey to students the sense that the artist, the artwork, and the teacher are all important, increasing the likelihood that students will value the experience.
Open communication. In many ways, all work in the visual arts is, ultimately, about perception (seeing, hearing, sensing), recognition, and response. Communication in the visual arts classroom goes in all directions – among students, between teachers and students, among teachers, and between everyone and works of art. Nevertheless, dialogue in the classroom – often verbal, but sometimes communicated more visually—is a cornerstone of effective teaching.
Collaboration. Visual artists can produce work alone or in collaboration. The feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself offers an identity and sense of purpose to one’s efforts that helps many students sustain commitment to their own learning through their commitment to being a full contributor to the work of the group.
--Adapted from The Qualities of Quality Understanding Excellence in Arts Education, Seidel, Steve, et.al., Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts