Standard #9: Reflection and Continuous Growth. The teacher is a reflective practitioner who uses evidence to continually evaluate his/her practice, particularly the effects of his/her choices and actions on others (students, families, and other professionals in the learning community), and adapts practice to meet the needs of each learner.
Problems occur in every classroom. Whether it be organizational, instructional, or behavioral, the mark of a good teacher is one who reflects on their practice to find a solution to whatever the problem. In my own classroom, problems occurred when I asked students to reflect on artwork in written form. Not only was the task met with aversion and reluctance, student responses did not show that they truly understood what they were looking at.
The art room is a place for students to build fluency in visual literacy through the use of different art mediums and styles. Growing emphasis on traditional academics has brought the foreign practice of writing into a world based on visual images. Though writing across the curriculum is here to stay, many art educators are left wondering about its relevancy to their subject and how to incorporate the practice into their curriculum in a meaningful way. This inspired the following research where I sought to find out how to incorporate and teach successful writing practices for art students that are both beneficial to understanding art meaning as well as profit their art making.
The following two student examples define the problem. Shown here are a single student’s pre-SLO written analysis and first written response project rubric. The student shows an ability to identify elements and principles used, but offers no explanation/interpretation as to how or why they are being used.
During my research, I came across an article titled, “Hands on Writing: An Alternative Approach to Art Education. The Professor in the article was having a very similar problem in her classroom as I was in mine. Her goal was for her students to write a well-organized critical analysis essay of an historical artwork. Pre-assessment writing showed her students could locate the visual qualities within an artwork, but most essays lacked interpretation of these qualities as well as essay structure; including an introduction, thesis, supporting details, and conclusion. Her solution was to facilitate group activity to help students organize collective information into a formal written analysis. In the activity, each student was responsible for writing six sticky-notes reflective of the artwork. Students were instructed to discuss what they were writing to avoid any repeated information. Students were then asked to arrange sticky-notes on a chart under paragraph headings- introduction, information, visual elements, interpretation, and conclusion. The results of the post-assessment writing after the activity were much higher. Students displayed better organization and articulation skills.
I adapted her activity to meet the needs of my classroom. Below you will see the sentences created by the previous student and her group members after instruction on what to look for in an artwork and how to write meaningful sentences. You will also see the artwork those sentences describe.
This is an art analysis written by the same student. This analysis took place after the sticky-note activity and after the development of a new analysis worksheet containing an example sentence which shows what should be included. Student writing has become more descriptive and shows her understanding of visual literacy.
My research also explored my theory of introducing creative written activities into the classroom so that writing in art would no longer be viewed as an irrelevant and daunting task, but one that enhances their creative abilities and improves their art making. A complete overview of my research including a bibliography of texts can be found here in the form of PowerPoint-Writing Like an Artist-Tyler Cyber Presentation, and in essay form here- Action Research Proposal
To be reflective is to do better. This is always my goal for myself. How can I do better and be better for my students and my school?
Standard #10: Collaboration. The teacher collaborates with students, families, colleagues, other professionals, and community members to share responsibility for student growth and development, learning, and well-being.
The field of education is ever changing. As soon as you feel like you have a handle on what you are teaching, how you are to assess your students, how you yourself are being assessed, and how everything is documented, something changes. During these times, it is always important to be reminded that you are a part of a team with a common goal, to prepare your students for a successful and meaningful future. The following are two examples of how I have collaborated with others for the betterment of my teaching and student learning.
Example 1: At a department meeting we discussed a new district policy on what should and should not be used on a rubric as a means of assessment. The policy came about after a meeting between teachers, administration, and student parents and guardians. One of the topics of concern at this meeting was grading students on their behavior. At first glance, our department agreed wholeheartedly that students should not be graded on their behavior. However, after further discussion and after taking a closer look at our rubrics, we noticed that we had been doing exactly that.
I work very closely with the ceramics teacher in my school. We like to keep consistency in our assessments since we see many of the same students. Sections of our rubric, such as time management and effort, were deemed student behaviors. Immediately we began the task of re-writing it. The common core art standards had recently been released and we both felt it necessary to align our rubric to these standards. We met every day for a week until we both felt happy with the results of our work. The finished rubric now uses the original language of the standards and no longer factors in student behaviors in the overall project grade. As an added bonus, I have found the rubric much easier to use when grading as the criteria for success is more well defined. Below, I have included an example of our new rubric, as well as an example of our old rubric for comparison.
Example 2: Teaching not only requires professional communication amongst colleagues, but also with professionals. During my first year teaching Advertising & Design, I received an email from Oswego Harbor Festivals asking my students to design their Harbofest poster for the upcoming summer festival. I almost denied the request due to both my and my student’s inexperience. At the time, we had only completed one project using the graphic design software, Adobe Photoshop. To take on such a large and very public task was daunting, but upon discussing it with my students, I learned that they were up for the challenge.
Throughout the process, I had to do much collaboration with the representatives of Oswego Harbor Festivals regarding the logistics of the festival, themes and other requirements for the poster, and information about our winner. I have include some of our email conversations below.
Once the winning poster was selected, we arranged a party where the Oswego Harbor Festivals representatives came to the classroom to celebrate my student’s hard work and announce the winner. photographs of the celebration are shown below.
My ability to collaborate professionally with others not only makes me a better teacher, but also makes my students better students, by providing them with opportunities that they would have otherwise never had.