Saturday, March 03, 2018

YAM 2018 Celebration and Remarks

My sincerest appreciation to 2018 Indiana Youth Art Month Co-Chairs Carrie Billman and Shayla Fish along with AEAI President Mary Sorrels, our fabulous YAM Volunteers, the hardworking events coordinators Terry and Ned at the Indiana State Capitol, AMACO-Brent's receiving specialists Dale and J.C. and our keynotes, Indianapolis WFYI Radio Host Matthew Socey and Nashville, Tennessee based singer-songwriter Caroline McKinney!

Here are some pics of the event and my remarks to the audience:


Art class is the best way for children to experience creativity at school.

Fine Arts experience can excite the child's emotional realm and strengthen neurological systems while providing opportunities for creative self expression!.

Inside the body’s nervous system, myelin..a fatty protein that covers connecting axons between nerve cells, expands during these special learning events.

What does this mean? It means memory systems and action impulses work faster inside your brain, improving  the mind’s capacity to learn and think.

There is an immense amount of historical and biological evidence that reveals learning through the visual arts is vital to children’s cognitive development.

Five years ago, I remember speaking with a 7 year old child.

She was stretching packing tape over her wet tempera painting.

I asked her what she was doing.

She said, “I’m making shiny surface art.”

I said, that's fascinating!

She wrote in her journal, “ Art is a part of being creative. When you’re creative, you’re doing better than you are when you’re not.”

I thought to myself, “Why is she doing better when she is creative in school, than when she is not being creative in school?”

Think about this.

During critical phases of cognitive development, mental operations are realized primarily as a result of a child's interactions with the World around them.

There is a biological reason human beings are endowed with hands.

The hands are the key to intellectual growth!

Sadly, many children in the United States don’t attend schools where fine arts exist.

Compounding matters, there are scary trends in education today.

Among certain policy makers, there is this idea that tethering young children to digital screens and tasking them to select answers on multiple choice questions... is somehow a quality education.

I am here to tell you that finger taps on a flat, two dimensional screen, hardly passes as multi-sensory experience.

A school day consisting of screen-based learning is great for collecting numerical data but blunts participation in an abundant curricula. The worst case scenario? Excessive use of digital media introduced by the state during a child's formative development will increase the likelihood that child may become addicted to digital screens.

Seven years ago the Art Education Association of Indiana surveyed its members. We found 60 instances where arts programs were cut.

In 2010, Purdue University art education professor Robert Sabol surveyed over 3400 art teachers from across the United States.

A summary of the findings?

Children’s visual arts and creative learning experiences are being sacrificed on the altar of data collection and standardized testing.

I was admiring this years Youth Art Month exhibition earlier and I have to tell you it is a spectacular visual experience.

The children's art reveals they are developing special powers of creativity.

These children are fortunate to have families, teachers, administrators and communities who support their creative development and school art experiences.

As a parent or citizen advocate you have a powerful voice! I urge you to advocate for children’s art programs when you can. Send local, state or federal policy makers a loud and clear message either face to face, by telephone, snail mail or email to adequately fund and preserve fine arts programs for all children!

We cannot afford future failures of imagination!

I thank you!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Podcast Project: Clark Fralick and I Talk Teaching for Artistic Behavior

My friend and colleague Clark Fralick is a force of nature. We began team teaching art in 1996. Clark got me interested in technology integration the very next year. We collaborated on a state sponsored electronic portfolio project then and we began doing action research on creativity that same year. In 2004 we met Kathy Douglas, Diane Jaquith and John Crowe. From that meeting we immersed ourselves in choice-based art pedagogy that led to our Teaching for Artistic Behavior art education programs.

Our podcast discussions are a result of the hundreds of conversations we have had with each other and with the founders of TAB:

Clark, New Palestine HS art teacher Nikki Gardner and I play with lines on a white-board.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dueling Experiences Part ll: Examining the Educational-Psychology Structures Where Teaching for Artistic Behavior Art Programs Exist

Macky in 2004.
Taking on the job of training Macky would be a collaborative challenge for our family. Together, my wife Maria, our eight year old son Payton, six year old daughter Kelby and I would maintain rigorous experimental conditions inside our home. We were proud owners of a beautiful little puppy. Now we needed to house-train him!

Macky would sleep in a kennel and first thing in the morning he was led outside to go potty. At intervals throughout the day, whenever he was in the vicinity of the back door, our behavior modification team would repeat the question "Macky go outside?" Team members would open the back door and walk the furry animal outside. Within this learning structure, whenever Macky went potty outdoors he would receive verbal praise and a food treat. Our goal was to elicit an association of outdoor potty behavior with verbal cues and food rewards.
Macky in 2014.
Commands or meaningful words can be used to initiate behavioral changes when those words are associated with the behavior and rewards or punishments. Our use of command words, "Macky, go outside," was meant to become a first order association with food. In order for the association to become a strong stimulus we paired the command with food rewards, usually a small piece of chicken or a Cheerio. The recitation of that command phrase and subsequent rewarding of food, meant that over time, the recitation of that phrase near the vicinity of the back door, would create an anticipation and association of the tasty food treat, the reward for doing potty behavior. The verbal command spoken by one of our team members near the proximity of the back door, would be repeated regularly. The back door would become a second order association in our behavioral potty training process.

Ivan Pavlov, 1904 Nobel Prize winner for his work in behaviorism, would use sound cues in order to signal to his dogs food was nearby. The dogs began to salivate when they heard the sound cue. Pavlov learned that dogs could be induced to salivate when the anticipation of food, an unconditioned stimulus was paired with a conditioning stimulus like sound or visual stimuli. Training dogs to salivate with the introduction of a sound or visual stimulus was the basis for Pavlov's discovery of classical conditioning, a form of behaviorism in which the association of stimuli will lead to a change in behavior. Pavlov's method of behavior modification utilized positive stimuli. This is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is different from operant conditioning in which rewards and punishments are used to change behavior. Our family was using operant conditioning methods. We emphasized positive stimuli during our training process, but we did utilize negative stimuli whenever bad behavior was exhibited, an aspect of the training regiment I later regretted. Potty behavior inside the house would be punished with negative stimuli in the form of a smack on the nose by myself or Maria as prescribed by the lady who sold us Macky. Rewarding outdoor potty behavior with treats and verbal praise in order to create an association of food and utilizing negative reinforcement for unwanted indoor potty behavior, Macky learned to do his outdoor potty business in a couple of months. As predicted, we trained the animal with operant conditioning methods. I knew we would be successful in training our dog using behaviorist learning principles because behaviorism is an economically efficient form of learning experience, despite the autocratic nature of the training procedure. Throughout my life, behavioral conditioning paradigms were learning structures I was familiar with, particularly during my formative educational experiences as a as a young, unwitting K-12 student-participant.

My brother Kevin and I around 1962.
In 1964 I attended the Walkerton Elementary Kindergarten program and from 1965-'70 I attended St. Patrick's Elementary School. I remember profound differences in the educational experiences at these schools and from my own self-directed learning experience. Mrs. Gardner's kindergarten program was much different from my experiences at St. Patricks. With Mrs. Gardner, we made free association drawings and painted on big easels at the art center. Mrs. Gardner would read to us while we all sat around her at our community gathering center. We looked at picture books from the library center. We took naps in a part of the room designated for nap time. I learned to write my name but looking back on what I was producing, I didn't have the cognitive skills yet to understand the alphabet so when I spelled my name it read Cld.

Mrs. Gardner's Class (Photo courtesy of Jeannie Glasco Eiler).
That's me upper left corner, white shirt, behind the swan's tail.
I don't remember any behaviorist principles utilized in Mrs. Gardner's room. Class seemed to be an extension of our natural selves. I only remember Mrs. Gardner's calm voice. She was very nice to us.  I remember playing at learning centers and my first attempts to verbalize and communicate with my classmates in. I was born with a speech impediment and I stuttered quite a bit. ln retrospect, I appreciated Mrs. Gardner's pedagogy very much. She was a firm believer in holistic learning experience. I don't believe she ever used positive or negative reinforcement to get us to do anything. We were invited to participate in her activities. We had a natural inclination to learn. That is what I remember. Mrs. Gardner must have been incorporating pedagogical ideas from Maria Montessori or John Dewey's educational philosophies. I was a lucky boy to have been in her class.

My mother's family is Catholic and after my stint at Walkerton Elementary's kindergarten class, my parent's enrolled me at St. Patrick's Elementary School also in Walkerton, Indiana. Right away, I understood the administration of educational experience at this school was going to take a much different approach.  In first grade, we learned quite a bit about positive and negative stimuli. Particularly negative stimuli. There were negative consequences for actions that were undesirable in everything we did and within the learning structures we participated in. Catechism was a central component of the school curricula and so was radical behaviorism. If you follow the teachings of Jesus, you will be rewarded in Heaven. However, if you break any of the 10 Commandments, you will spend either a certain amount of your "afterlife" in Limbo, Purgatory or burn in Hell. To a small child, that knowledge gives you a fear of authority. When the nuns yelled at me for a rule infraction, my heart rate jumped and I became stressed. I had many joyful memories of my classmates at my Catholic school setting and some wonderful learning experiences related to self-directed learning and art-making (we had no art teacher), however the main thing I learned was to associate rule breaking with horrible outcomes.

One day at St. Pat's our 5th grade teacher placed a demerit chart on the top of our desks. We would receive an X for bad behavior to be marked inside a square designating a day on the calendar. You could receive a demerit for all kinds of infractions. Talking to a neighbor, not turning in your homework on time, not keeping a tidy desk, not listening to the teacher, being distracted from the lesson. We had to sit in our cramped wooden desks for 6 hours a day! I couldn't help myself...I was a squirmy, gangly elementary school boy with an active imagination. My thoughts might turn to questions about paleontology for example what might happen if a T-Rex and a triceratops faced off?  I couldn't sit still or pay attention much during formal lessons. The nuns who taught us were dedicated to imprinting traditional Catholic educational values, morals and ethics on us but strict and sometimes abusive. St. Pats was a tough school. Our local public elementary school sometimes sent students who were behavior challenges to St. Pats to be "educated." My 5th and 6th grade teacher called us "stupid donkey" if we didn't follow directions. I don't remember much of the content of the instruction from that time, but I do remember the pain used for emotional or physically punishment if we didn't follow the rules. Over time, my demerit chart seemed to have more marks on it than anybody else! I felt shame, immense guilt and self-loathing.

Once in 5th grade, my classmate Jack who sat at the front of class was sent to the corner for bad behavior. Unfortunately my desk was right next to the corner where Jack was sent. While I was sitting at my desk,  Jack took a pencil out of his pocket and started to poke me with it. I turned around and poked him back with my wooden ruler. Sister "E" saw me poke Jack, took my ruler away from me, told me to flatten my hand on top of my desk and proceeded to hit me half a dozen times on the hand and fingers with my ruler. In front of the entire class. Law and order would be maintained. Classroom directives would be followed! If classroom rules were broken, serious negative consequences would be administered to the children including corporal punishment!

It wasn't just at St. Pat's that radical behaviorism and operant conditioning was big. In 7th grade while attending Urey Middle School, my math teacher took me outside to the hallway, pulled out her wooden paddle and gave me 3 whacks because I failed to produce my homework on time! My science teacher did the same thing too! After talking to my peers at I.U. and throughout my lifetime, I found out paddling as a form of negative reinforcement to comply with curricula mandates was a regular occurrence for children of the United States in the 60's and 70's.  I felt shame and anger when corporal punishment was utilized on me. I learned if you don't follow the teacher's directions, you will suffer! I began to associate math and science classes with physical and emotional pain. I also learned there are figures of authority that are inhumane, obtuse and mechanistic.

If you attended the schools I attended in Walkerton, Indiana back in the 1960's and early '70's, you learned behaviorist learning principles were central to the school curricula. The reality of the school setting as described by Elliot Eisner, is this. There are two forms of curricula experienced simultaneously by the learner. The intended curricula as Eisner describes is "curricula in vitro." In vitro activities and content should impart authorized knowledge to the learner through a sequenced presentation of content, organized for the benefit of the teacher and scaffolded to gradually increase complexity for the benefit of the learner. The second form of curricula within the school setting according to Eisner relates to the globality of the learner's experience related to the teacher's pedagogical practice, instructional methodology, management techniques and classroom and school culture. Eisner calls this "curricula in vivo."

My "in vivo" experiences taught me if children do not conform to strict curricula guidelines then negative reinforcement will be administered either through psycho-emotional means or somatic means as an abrupt intervention to force compliance. The resulting stress, psychological pressure and physical pain experienced by the child is overlooked. Teachers and administrators can create first and second order negative associations with school, learning and activities with their students when curricula is structured around behavior modification. Children's formative K-12 educational experiences integrated within an "in vivo" curriculum structure that is narrow, organized around authoritarianism, structured around a narrow framework, forced upon children and outside their control will lead to lasting memories that may have immense unintended consequences.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dueling Experiences: Examining the Educational-Psychology Structures Where Teaching for Artistic Behavior Art Rooms Exist, Part 1

In 2001 my wife Maria and I drove our son and daughter Payton and Kelby to Northern Indiana to check out a litter of Jack Russell terrier puppies. The puppies lived on a picturesque farm situated on land once connected to the Grand Kankakee Marsh. Seven year old Payton and five year old Kelby had grown up watching the PBS show “Wishbone” They wanted a little Wishbone of their own. I secretly wanted one too. We made the decision to purchase a family dog that was small, athletic, cute and full of personality. When the dog breeder showed us a litter of sleepy faced eight-week old puppies, a male with a black, white and brown mask bounced out of the pack wagging his tail and up to my son. Kelby cried out, "Look Mommy and Daddy! He's going over to Payton" He was a beautiful, energetic and irresistible furry, four legged force of nature. Payton named him Macky.

After we exchanged payment, the dog breeder gave us potty training instructions. We should keep Macky in a kennel at night and first thing in the morning, walk him outside. Anticpating he would do his business out doors and not in his kennel, he would immediately receive a dog snack. The dog breeder also cautioned us if Macky were to potty indoors, we should place him near the mess, then give him a smack on the nose. When she told me that, I was taken aback somewhat. But then I thought, "Why should I doubt her expertise about potty training? She was the dog breeder." She also instructed that Macky should be taken outside in regular intervals throughout the day and rewarded after making his potty outdoors. In fact, throughout my entire life, particularly in my early life, I have been rewarded or punished for desirable or undesirable behavior. I thought to myself, “We can potty-train this puppy in no time!”  Maria and I paid the dog breeder one hundred seventy five dollars and loaded up the mini-van with the kids and little Macky inside of a cardboard box.

Macky became the subject of our Family’s grand behavior modification experiment. My wife Maria and I discussed the plan with our children. Whomever was taking the dog outside would report to Mom or Dad if Macky had done his business and reward Macky with a treat from the snack bag. The words “bad boy,” and a smack on Macky’s nose adjacent to the “mess,” would be delivered by myself if he made a mess in the house. We didn’t want the children to administer that part of the training procedure because we didn’t want the dog to associate the negative experience with the children but we did want him to associate potty behavior and treats with being physically outdoors. That was the power of operant conditioning. The subject associates affect to certain stimuli and responds. We didn't want the dog to respond negatively to the children as a possible outcome. I thought our plan seemed to be a good plan, but the question remained, would there be side affects from the use of negative stimulus during the dog’s formative development as a member of our family? Despite my apprehension, the dog breeders advice was taken seriously.

Our family would duplicate as best we could, the methods and structure used in B.F. Skinner’s behavior modification experiments using both positive and negative stimuli.  I had learned about B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov and John Watson, pioneers in behavior modification, from my high school psychology teacher Mr. Kupfer and took educational psychology classes at Indiana University. This behavior modification procedure would be implemented. The children, my wife and I would conduct an operant conditioning experience on Macky to strengthen his behavior to potty outdoors and not potty indoors.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Do Children's Art Classes In School Have To Do With Citizen Engagement and Voter Turnout?

Why do less than 50% of Americans participate regularly in national, state and municipal elections? Might it have anything to do with the way we educate children? I address that question in my YAM remarks at the Indiana State Capitol last Sunday, February 26th, 2017. 
Here it is: 
"Greetings! Thank you for coming to our Youth Art Month Event! 
I want to talk to you today about arts education as practice for participation in a democratic society.
One of the fantastic things about art education, are the stories children tell through their art! 
I read an artist statement this morning:
A boy wrote:
“I’ve learned to express my own art and thoughts through paintings that I haven’t done before.” 
What does that statement mean?
It means is that In art class….students take a whisper of consciousness….we’ll call this….an IDEA.….and they practice representing the idea in 2, 3 or 4 dimensions….
This is the creative process. 
A child asks the art teacher: “How can I turn my idea into art?” The teacher helps the student gather art materials, teacher offers suggestions and together a third learning pathway is formed. 
With the help of the art teacher, the child learns to become an autonomous self-directed, independent learner. The child learns that working with the teacher, following suggestions from the teacher and other classmates and doing research….creative ideas can be achieved!
Creative-self expression in the art room is democratic education. When I say democratic education I don't mean education to become a Democrat. I mean educating to become a participating citizen in our society.
Children have a voice in what they say and do in democratic education. If you are educated to believe your voice is meaningless, you are reduced to the role of passive spectator. Where else in the school curricula do children have a voice in what they say and do?
The place of the arts are important in a child’s school curricula not only because we want them to become better intellectually, but more important, participate in a society as a citizen with the agency to question, pose problems, envision solutions and use their creative capacities to make the world a better place. As a citizenry, we cannot afford future failures of imagination.
Why is democratic education and art education in our schools important? Because you can’t immerse a child in authoritarian experience and expect them to engage as a democratic citizen. It won’t happen. Voter turnout trends in the U.S. reflect this truth.
About 5 years ago, I was watching a 6 year old child in action while she was conducting a painting experiment. I asked her, “what are you doing?” She said, “I’m inventing a shiny surface painting.” Later she wrote in herjournal: “Art is a part of being creative. When your creative, your doing better than you are when your not.”
What did she mean, “when you’re creative you’re doing better than you are when you’re not?” 
I know the visual arts are beneficial to children's cognitive development. After all, it’s a biological fact, multi-sensory learning experience expands synaptic connections throughout the core of neurological structures in the brain. 
But the last part of her statement bothered me.
“When you’re creative you’re doing better than you are when you’re not?”
What is happening to her when she is not in art class? 
Why is she not “doing better” in other learning experiences? 
Policy makers don’t like to talk about this, but the pressure placed on children in order to pass high stakes tests is immense. This pressure trickles down from the state house to the school house. This pressure narrows curricula and marginalizes learning opportunities in the arts. 
Ignoring children’s capacity for self-expression in their formative years comes at a price. That price is civic engagement. Or I should say civic disengagement.
Our schools prepare U.S. children to be the best workers in the World. Gross domestic product in 2016 for the U.S. is at 18 trillion dollars. That means the U.S. economy is as large as China, Japan, and Germany….combined. That kind of economic growth doesn’t happen if your education system is producing workers who are not up to the task. 
When I hear politicians and media personalities complain about test score comparisons with other countries I know they are skewing the truth. 
But where does the U.S. lag behind in international comparison? Voter turnout.
According to the Indiana Secretary of State, only 58% of eligible Indiana voters participated in the 2016 general election. Where were the other 42%? In the 2016 General Election, 90 million eligible voters across the U.S. did not show up. In the 2014 general election 27.8% of eligible Indiana voters turned out. That means 3.4 million eligible Indiana voters did not vote. 
When US citizens disengage from the democratic way of life there is a problem with the way we educate children.
Art education programs provide children with valuable opportunities to to gain insight into the complexities of our society and to expand moral consciousness. Art classrooms are those places in school where children act upon their educational ideas, where they have a voice in what they say and do and where they may control their experience. The art classroom is that place in school where children develop a critical eye, a critical mind, where visual literacy is emphasized and where the refinement of the imagination is practiced daily. We need more art education in our schools not less.
I ask you to please stay informed, remain active as a citizen advocate. Your voice to elected officials is essential to protect those educational programs that make our schools special."
Thank You!

Monday, September 05, 2016

What Is An Ethical Pedagogy?

The problem with administering standardized learning activities without accounting for differences of diverse cognitive capacities, desire and strengths in heterogeneous student populations is that individual flights of learning are blunted.

The scientific method is innate in human beings. The desire to be curious, explore, create, reflect and learn is a human trait that has served our species well.

When I think of Teaching for Artistic Behavior classrooms and art programs, I think of learning environments that support, nurture and expand mental growth through those innate capacities.

A TAB classroom is in many ways an umwelt, an environment where learners connect at a deep psycho/emotional/physiological level.

Within the environment of the TAB classroom, inspiration, time, support, opportunity and feedback are available to learners.

When I first began TAB practice, I began to witness unbelievable feats of creativity from my elementary students.

Natural pathways to creative experience are profound! Meaning making, memory formation is optimized during these profound experiences.

At the heart of natural pathways to creative growth experience? Emergence.
Baseline example of student art created in September, '14 and example from December '14 reveal changes in composition complexity of radial symmetry design ideas.

Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith's dynamic approach to art education that accounts for individual differences falls within the parameters of systems theory set forth by Aristotle, who writes in "Metaphysics,"...the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Question....Why Does Teaching for Artistic Behavior, As A Curriculum Structure, Optimize Student Learning?

After observing Dale Zalmstra's classes in 2014, the universal appeal of TAB curriculum structure became quite clear. Dale's students were absolutely thrilled to be in her art room, working together or apart, sharing, conversing, collaborating, creating and dialoging with one another. Dale had organized seven or eight learning centers and her students were all self-directed, autonomous and so excited to be in the classroom working on their art activities. But I had observed this special learning environment with similar student self-governing behaviors in Clark Fralick's room also. Just what is it about TAB that optimizes learning experience? What is so special and unique about Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith's unique curriculum structure that optimizes student experience wherever it is carefully implemented? There are a couple of things to point out.

First, learning experience in TAB classrooms is to varying degrees, democratized. In a democratic classroom, learners are genuinely empowered. Experience is generated consensually from the learning environment, inborn endowment or teacher collaboration. TAB teachers understand children are conscious beings and use their awareness, interests and desire to organize individual learning pathways. In TAB classrooms, learners own the experience because they consent to be apart of the activities by participating in the formation and design of the activity. Because self-reflection is consciously or unconsciously a natural part of TAB experience, a feedback loop is established. Students in TAB classrooms ultimately become self-governing and self-sustaining individuals.

I looked at the idea of self-sustaining curricula in earlier posts. Self-sustaining curricula, one that provides for unique learner interests and extends outside school settings where emotional drive is activated and stimulated was described with the Deluzian term rhizomatic curriculum. But I'm going to use another term because I think it also works within the TAB learning paradigm. What Kathy Douglas and Diane Jaquith developed while exploring art education curriculum structures and the optimization of individual's creative learning opportunities, is a self-sustaining curriculum structure based on general systems theory for K-12 public education.