SchoolArts Magazine

November 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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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 27 T H E O P E N A R T R O O M T eaching in a TAB classroom can seem complicated to outsiders. With each student working on their own goals and a range of media and processes in play at any given time, many wonder how teachers who incorporate a high level of student choice keep track of all the moving parts. For me, the key is simple: conver - sation. I talk to each one of my students every day, conferencing with them about their work and assessing their needs. These interactions form the bulk of the teaching and planning I do, giv - ing me insight into where students are, what their goals are, and what I need to do to help bridge the gap between those two places with my instruction. Levels of Engagement Before a conversation, I assess the lay of the land, observing how the student is working and paying care - ful attention to their demeanor. Next, I ask questions and listen. As I do these things, I'm assessing how each student is interacting with the art- making process to determine his or her level of engagement. Typically, learners fall into one of three levels, each one needing a different approach. Level One: Stuck The student isn't progressing at an ideal rate. This could be due to a variety of factors: behavioral issues, personal problems, lack of ideas, misunderstanding of next steps, unexpected challenges with work. Looks Like: Unengaged actively or unfolds by making sure I have a clear idea of his or her goals, challenges, and vision. It's easy to make assump- tions about what these are, especially when you know your students well or talked to them about the same artwork in progress yesterday, but it's important to take the time to ask, as teenagers are always in flux. I like to ask questions like, "Tell me about your work today." "What do you need to help you move forward?" "What are your next steps?" or "How are you feeling about where you are with this?" I try to make sure the questions are open-ended and impos- sible to answer with one word. Assessment for TAB Often we think of assessment as for- mal and apart from the normal flow of classroom activities. There is a place for assessment like that in many classrooms, but the type of informal formative assessment I've described here works well with TAB because it provides the individualized informa - tion needed to differentiate support and content. It's how we get students from point A to point B, despite the fact that all their journeys look so different. Melissa Purtee is an art teacher at Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina, and co-author of The Open Art Room, avail- able now from Davis Publications. Assessment in the Open Art Room Melissa Purtee passively; on the phone, not working, talking, off-task; disruptive. Response: Find the cause of the issue, redirect, support, engage. Level Two: On Track The student is working through the task at hand successfully with the resources provided. Looks Like: Focused work for the major- ity of class time; interested, engaged. Response: Maintain momentum with a minimum of a once daily check-in; ask for questions and pro - vide feedback. Level Three: Ready for a Challenge The student might normally func- tion at a high level, but has plateaued or he or she might be bored and need a new direction. Looks Like: Making similar projects or using the same supplies again and again without new discoveries or connections. Always working in a particular style or scale. Response: Encourage these students to break out of their comfort zone with suggestions. Unfolding the Conversation Once I've determined the student's level of engagement, I can best plan how to move forward in support- ing the student as our conversation Often we think of assessment as formal and apart from the normal flow of classroom activities.

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