SchoolArts Magazine

January 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Ian Sands Seeking Authentic Growth in the Open Art Room T H E O P E N A R T R O O M O ne of my students approached me to ask what I had done with his recently created artwork. It was a large, thick-lined painting of a face. He had created the work after I encouraged him to consider enlarging a previously drawn pencil sketch. I told him, "I hung it in the display case." He said, "Mr. Sands, you're a good teacher. My old teacher would have prob- ably given me a 40." I asked why he thought he would have received such a low grade. He explained that he didn't draw well and at his pre- vious school, he received low marks on his projects. "In this class," he contin- ued, "I can make art and not worry about all that." Growth Potential I decided to reflect on what my student said and what I had done that was different from his previous experience. Instead of focusing on his lack of drawing skills, I asked him to expand on his use of line. I concluded that I hadn't looked at his weakness, but rather looked for his strength and asked him to pursue it further. Centric or Deterrent? With growth-proving mindsets such as Student Learning Objectives (SLO) seeming to prevail, many of today's project-based rubrics are designed to establish if a student meets a prede - termined objective. The objective is o ften reduced to specific tasks which are assigned a certain weight. Grades are determined by which tasks the stu - dent meets or which tasks are not met. W hile this method can be exploited to present measured growth, it is not inherently growth-centric. In fact, it may even be a growth deterrent. Imagine if we incorporated this method to seek growth in writing. Envision forcing a pencil into the right hand of a left-handed student and then setting goals to determine how much bet ter his or her handwrit- ing improves. Of course we'd never do this. First, we would confirm which of the student's hands is dominant. Next, we would seek to understand what writing strengths the student might possess. Does his or her strength lie in poetry, or should the student perhaps be a novelist? Cultivating Natural Ability As art teachers, we must seek out our students' strengths and cultivate their natural abilities. Instead of determin- ing what we want the student t o know, or setting objectives such as "The student should be able to," we should ask: • Where does the student s how potential? • What does the student w ant to accomplish? • What instructions can I , as the teacher, provide t o foster my student's ability? In the TED Talk, Do S chools Kill Creativity?, Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of British ballerina and choreographer Gillian Lynne. In the video, Robin- son explains how, as a girl, Lynne was taken to the doc- tor because she couldn't sit still. Instead of focusing on Lynne's weakness, the doctor looked for what she did naturally and directed her parents to guide her towards dance classes. Similarly, as we encourage our students to further pursue their strengths, we too will begin to see their authentic growth potential. Ian Sands is a visual arts instructor at South Brunswick High School in Southport, North Carolina. As art teachers, we must seek out our students' strengths and cultivate their natural abilities. 8 JANUARY 2017 SchoolArts

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