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Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Don’t High School Art Students Work Like Artists? Part 1

This is part one of a week long series on choice in the art room...

Artists plan their work and select the best materials and techniques to execute their vision. As they work solve problems that they encounter. Sometimes they start over and go a different direction or abandon a project entirely. They might work on a few projects simultaneously or one at a time - which ever method works best for them. They use subject matter that is personal and meaningful to them. They work in series, pursuing an idea to it’s end point.

If you examine these things that artists do as an educator, with Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind, you see that most of the items on the list fall in the creating, evaluating and analyzing sections. These categories describe higher level thinking.  Some descriptors of behaviors from theses sections are assemble, construct, design, develop, appraise,  judge, select, support, value, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, examine, experiment, question, test -  all things that working artists do. These higher order thinking skills are essential for artists to have to be successful.

Now think about a typical art lesson. The teacher selects materials, sets the subject choice, selects the size. The teacher plans the process or technique, then teaches it to the students. The person doing the higher level thinking is the teacher in this instructor driven model. All the hard, challenging, higher level thinking has been done, so the students are left with less challenging tasks, like remembering the steps or copying a specific  technique. Most of the work looks good, because the teacher planned it, but what was learned?

More importantly, how does this method of teaching prepare students to work as artists? What students really need to learn is how to think. What art teachers need to do is provide students with opportunities to make decisions themselves. To do the hard work of planning a project and fixing problems. To decide for themselves when a project is finished. In this student centered model the higher level thinking is done by the students.  Art rooms need to be open to more higher level thinking to make content challenging and relevant for students.


  1. How do you work with timing? Thanks!

  2. I started making this transition in my High School Art program three years ago and it is challenging and sometimes things work great and sometimes not but I really think it is the only way to teach art! I have worked closely with our grade school art teacher and we are setting up Choice Based Art as our district standard!


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