SchoolArts Magazine

MAY 2018

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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Page 15 of 54

T H E O P E N A R T R O O M H ow do we challenge students to work independently with - out overwhelming them? As a teacher who values a high amount of student choice in the artroom, this question is one I've contemplated for years. The answer, I've come to realize, is structure. When we teach kids ways to organize their thinking, the possibilities for achievement are endless. This school year, I've been working on a structure to support students as they approach self-directed learning in the artroom. I call it the Learning Challenge. The Learning Challenge provides students with a supportive struc - ture by giving them a goal to set, a sequence to work through, and a range of options to select from. As they work, students collect evidence of learning as they develop technical skill through an investigation that they design. Here's how it works: Step 1: Set a Goal & Create a Baseline To develop a learning goal, students can start by brainstorming to cre - ate a list of things that they would like to know more about or improve on. Next, they should select one topic from the list to focus learning around and create a baseline. The baseline is a snapshot of stu- dents' current skill level and is a key element of this challenge. To create a baseline, students should spend no more that thirty minutes making art related to their goal using only their current knowledge. Once the base - line is established, a specific learning goal is set. Students should analyze their work and decide on what they would like to know or do to improve. Step 2: Learn To meet their learning goal(s), ask students to spend two to four class periods working through their choice of the following learning tasks: • Watch an instructional video and follow along. • Work through a how-to instruc- tional guide. • Ask for a demonstration and apply new knowledge. • Practice new learning in a sketch, preparatory work, or model. It's essential for students to take their time in step two and work until they see improvement in their work related to the learning goal they set in step one. Step 3: Create In step three, students apply their knowledge and what they have learned through artwork. This work should be high-quality and showcase the learning that has happened. Step 4: Reflect To wrap up the Learning Challenge, ask students to reflect by comparing their baseline work to the artworks they cre - ated in step three. These reflections can happen through writing, critique, or peer-to-peer conversation. Ask students to think about the following questions: • What was your learning goal? • How does your final artwork com- pare to your baseline? • What, specifically, about your work shows growth or improvement? A Flexible Tool The Learning Challenge is an excel- lent tool to support student learning. The step-by-step structure supports students in deciding what to focus on while allowing for personal preference and ownership of the process. The focus on developing specific skills that individuals want to improve on gives learners a clear goal for work, and the creation of the baseline provides the perfect tool to use as they evaluate their learning. The best part about this challenge is that it's flexible enough to be used again and again. 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. The Learning Challenge Melissa Purtee When we teach students wa s to organize their thinking, the possibilities for achievement are endless. SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 11

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