Wednesday, April 01, 2015

TAB Institute 2015: July 12-17 Boston

A one week intensive course presenting basic and advanced methodology for choice based art educators.

To register for the TAB Institute contact Mass Art here: 
Flier designed by TAB Institute Director Diane Jaquith.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teaching for Artistic Behavior As Alternative To Test-Driven Curricula

Rhizomatic approaches to curriculum address children's unique biological capacities for learning.
The recognition that creativity is innate and children are born with innate intellectual capacities is a fundamental understanding of human nature and learning by teachers who practice Teaching for Artistic Behavior pedagogy.

TAB pedagogy is readily adaptable for general education purposes. There is no reason why creativity, NOT standardized, data-driven curriculum experiences, cannot be the centerpiece of a child's K-12 educational experience. 

To ignore heterogenous conditions of children in the delivery of curricula is to ignore reality. How are curriculum structures designed to optimize the experience of learners with unique cognitive profiles? What is the psychology of learning to be employed by teachers during the learning experience? How are students motivated to engage in their learning? How do educators view the human mind?

Classroom setting designed to support children's time-sensitive expression of ideas. 
Children engage in nomadic educational experience in learning environments dedicated to creative self-expression and student interests.
Rhizomatic curriculum diagram for regular K-12 classroom groups.
I propose an emergent curricula to replace curricula structures that do not support the unique capacities of the human mind. I propose a curricula in which primary experiences are driven by student(s) with teacher acting as program facilitator, coach, mentor, educational provocateur and designer of the learning environment.  I propose an experience in which learners may negotiate experience with their teachers, whereby ownership, emotional drive, autonomy and democracy are considered vital components of educational experience.

In order to promote motivation, intellectual growth, self reliance and arouse personal interest without diverting attention away from time sensitive ideas, daily learning experiences will be organized around the creative process, individual and collaborative interests, inquiry and experimental activities. In order to support individual creative learning experience we propose utilizing a learning structure that is rhizomatic. Rhizomes support learners who are interested in creativity. When we talk about creativity in this context we are talking about all facets of creativity. Learners enter the rhizome at any point where they are guided by their interests, strengths, curiosities and desires. Learners and the learning community are the curriculum and may form collaborative groups if so desired. Socially constructed forms of learning experience are major features of rhizomatic learning experience and will enhance the process and experience of learning. The revolution in education is here. It's name is Teaching for Artistic Behavior. More to come later!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Teaching for Artistic Behavior Optimizes Developmental Pathways

The events described in this post took place during one class setting on April 24th, 2014.

Eight year old Frank is helping five of his classmates select materials for a large floor sculpture. “Dude! We added new designs to it. Look we got things like new support beams!” John watches the action, “How are you making this thing? Can I help you?” Frank replies, “You could, you could put something down here on it.” Working with wooden blocks, chairs and benches, Frank and his crew of 2nd grade classmates are in the course of building a 15 foot long re-creation of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Their teacher has been observing from a distance and moves in to converse with the builders, “Aren’t you concerned about the safety of your bridge?” The boys respond, “It’s safe! It’s safe! It’s not that bad, you’ll only fall two thousand feet!” The historian of the group, eight year old Ken provides insight, “The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed when it was 4 months old. It sadly collapsed while a poor dog was trapped inside a car. He later fell at the bridge. He did not make it out alive.”

Ken’s teacher is fascinated, “What a tragedy! What inspired you to build this bridge?” Ken explains, “This is the ‘new’ Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The old Tacoma Narrows bridge video is on the Internet. So we watched the video and we got inspired by it so we built this one.” Ken’s team, an energetic group of boys, continue to stack and weave new parts into the structure and have transformed ordinary stools into bridge columns. The teacher congratulates the boys on their attempt at initiating such a large project and documents their sculpture progress with digital photographs. He moves on to observe and interact with other students.

Evidence of unique developmental rhythms and the personal nature of art making are all around Frank, Ken and John’s classroom. Moving about freely, other classmates have set up their own work spaces, communicate easily with each other and busy themselves with a variety of materials, tools and art making techniques. Two girls are painting landscape pictures, another girl works on a giraffe illustration while a boy concentrates on a dragon drawing with pencils, oil pastels and paints. Another student knots yarn to create a bracelet while her best friend is working on what appears to be a non-objective painting with green and blue tempera paint. The teacher notes there are painters, sculptors, weavers and other artists working in the room. He documents their activities with a digital camera.

The children exhibit a natural capacity for creative actvity. The teacher believes there can only be one reason for the artistic behavior he is observing. Art making is an inborn endowment. Heterogeneous groups of children are able to develop a myriad of intellectual, social and emotional skills through self-directed art making. In this setting devoted to child centered learning experience, students discover emancipatory knowledge of the self. These learning activities address real developmental needs and are not token responses but woven into the curriculum throughout the duration of the child’s experience in the art room.

The girl working on the green and blue non-objective painting begins to add packing tape to her wet painting. She informs her teacher she is engaged in an experiment to develop art with a shiny surface. After completing her experiment, she writes in her journal, “ Art is a part of being creative your always doing art. When your [sic] creative, your [sic] doing better than you are when your not.”

This artist statement reveals the efficacy of choice based art education settings to address neuropsychological domains of intelligence in children. Engaged in meta-cognition, the girl reveals how beneficial her art making processes are to her well being. That is a critical distinction here. They are her processes and her teacher is pro-actively facilitating her creative autonomy. Student autonomy is essential in order to fully address children's specific developmental pathways.

No where to my knowledge is this immensely important fact, that child development is inextricably linked to academic achievement, taken into account in mainstream education policy circles hell-bent on maintaining a broken system centered upon the intensification of high stakes standardized testing. Nan Hathaway and Diane Jaquith ask the question in their essay, "Where's the Revolution?" The revolution is happening now and it is being led by teachers who understand mind, body and spirit are all connected. These teachers are preparing learning environments and adjusting pedagogy to address developmental needs of children not addressed through traditional subject centered experience that focuses primarily on acquisition of technical knowledge.

Classrooms centered exclusively upon authoritarian forms of learning experience marginalize the possibility of children's opportunities for self-determination as a means of acquiring emancipatory knowledge of the self. This is problematic. There is significant mental health data to suggest that educational experience concerned primarily with predictability and efficiency, lacks efficacy in providing natural pathways for the unique in-born endowment, talents and genius of children to unfold.

Comer, J.P. (2005). Child and adolescent development: The critical missing focus in school reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 86 (10)

Hathaway, N., Jaquith, D. (2014) Where's the Revolution? Phi Delta Kappan, vol 95, no. 6, 25-29


Friday, December 26, 2014

What Does Creative Growth Look Like In High School TAB?

I have written about creative growth before.  I'm not going to assign Wiggins Creativity Growth Rubric scores to these works because you can see the growth for yourself:

What I observed over the course of five months is with continuous feedback inside a TAB classroom designed for autonomous learning activity, high school students of varying creative and intellectual capacities are able to generate their own art ideas, develop craft and scaffold and regulate their own learning. All without the use of radical behaviorism. No external rewards. No external incentives. Only the joy of art making and learning for learning's sake.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Abundant Curriculum Within High School TAB Art Education Programs

High school Teaching for Artistic Behavior is just like elementary Teaching for Artistic Behavior except the kids are bigger and have more executive functioning skills. In my situation, they all have their own computers and the Internet so that is a very big deal when it comes to researching or communicating essential content.

Students meet at the beginning of the class period in a specially designed centers-based learning environment, typical of TAB art rooms. Attendance is taken and class announcements can be made at this time. Students may also begin independent work from this starting point.
Teachers may also deliver essential curriculum content at this time, for example a presentation of Renaissance perspective utilized by Masaccio and Masolino at the Brancacci Chapel.
Teachers may also present large-group demonstrations during this time.
After the large group lesson, students acquire materials and settle into creative learning activities.
"Look, Think, Create," is a concept sign inspired by "Room 13 International" website.  I adapted it for TAB.
There are several high school TAB and TAB-like art programs I have been thinking about since transitioning to high school TAB. Nan Hathaway, whom I met in 2005, is a TAB middle-school art teacher and has been a huge influence on me. Patricia Knott a high school choice-based art teacher has been a regular contributor to the TAB Yahoo Group since 2005. I first saw Jeff Pridie present in a packed room at NAEA Minneapolis in 2010. Jeff laid it out perfectly. Lots of opportunities for students to sink their teeth into meaningful learning experience because art is a big subject. Barb Andrews was offering student-directed learning experiences at New Palestine High School in her "Arts and Ideas" classes back in the 1990's when DBAE was being pushed from the top down by the Getty Foundation. Miriam Marcus was doing 'choice' with at-risk children in Flint, Michigan around 2005. Her stories of teaching children to knit with pencils because knitting needles were not allowed in her school amazed me. Of course listening to John Crowe's stories about "care and play," during his high school teaching days was very inspirational. Colleen Rose is operating a wonderful high school art program in Ontario, Canada. At Apex High School, Ian Sands, Melissa Purtee, Kim Sudkamp and Shawnda Rossi are running a spectacular art education program where choice is featured in their curricula. There are many other democratic/choice based high school art programs around the country, but these are the ones I am thinking about now.

We are seeing educators adopting TAB pedagogy throughout the country at all grade levels. There are thousands of elementary and middle school teachers working with TAB and quite interestingly, the High School TAB Facebook page has 358 members in it.

Educators are very much interested in the possibilities of what liberating the imagination and creative spirit looks like in K-12 Public Education settings and looking at the results of my own experiences with high school TAB there is quite an appetite for choice-based art education.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Deficit Ideology

In the vast majority of US K-12 schools, pedagogy influenced by radical behaviorism, designed around data-driven instruction, intent on filling malleable minds with the same skill sets at the same time is wreaking developmental havoc. Significant numbers of children learn very early that authorities select, impose and manage their educational experiences whereby it is advantageous for the child to become a compliant, passive recipient of knowledge. Children who struggle to comply with teacher directives are ostracized and punished. State imposed high stakes standardized testing is a powerful incentive for educators to employ radical behaviorism and impose deficit model education. It is a matter of survival that educators do so. Children’s interests, strengths and passions are given token consideration when curricula is formulated. Curricula is centered upon passing tests.

In deficit model education, children are viewed as blank slates whereby curriculum focuses on what they don't know.  Educational experience becomes a technicized process done to the child where ultimately, machines ascribe a number to their educational experience, stack ranking children based on their ability to answer multiple choice questions loaded with distractors. In TAB classrooms, that paradigm is reversed. Children are viewed not as blank slates but designers of their own educational experiences and abundant sources of curriculum. Learners have varying degrees of control over the methods, content, pace and assessment of learning. 

One of the main points discussed in this blog is the idea that deficit ideology has no place in the art room. Looking at the big picture, deficit ideology I suspect, has done a lot of damage. All children are born with the innate capacity to learn. How many curious children have been turned into passive recipients of knowledge as a result of non-consensual radical behaviorism?

Human beings are not machines. The steady growth of TAB programs in K-12 art rooms across the United States is a direct result of children's positive responses to holistic and democratic forms of educational experience. Educators who honor, respect and support children's conscientious drive for autonomous, self-directed learning experiences will be on the cutting edge of the next revolution in education. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

TAB Across The Curricula

Last Spring, "Transition to Choice Based Art Education" became 10 years old. One of the themes that runs across this blog, and that theme is supported by other TAB art education blogs, is that human beings thrive in educational settings that support an individual's pursuit of creative learning activity. 

There is an interesting thread going on at the TAB Yahoo Group Discussion Forum on learner centered education (actually all the threads on that forum are related to learner centered education).

What would TAB look like in other subjects? 

If teachers did not have the anvil of standardized high stakes tests hanging over their heads, what kinds of creative pedagogy might teachers be free to practice in their classrooms? TAB pedagogy is not for everyone, but I could envision programs where highly creative teachers could prime enthusiastic students to investigate individual lines of flight where teacher acts as learning steward, inspirationalist, supporter and co-collaborator.

I'm not talking about student centered learning activity as a handmaiden to traditional data driven pedagogy in math or language arts. I'm talking about a TAB like student centered trans-disciplinary curriculum experience that is rhizomatic. As Clara Belle Baker once said, "No one can predict how far an individual child may go in a dynamic school system when an understanding teacher, using all the resources of the community, awakens his/her imagination and interest and thus releases his/her emotional drive." In rhizomatic curriculum structures, children typically go beyond the given information and are full partners in the design of curricula and assessment of learning.

American standardized education require teachers to deploy learning experience emphasizing selected-response, information-processing activities that necessitate students passive compliance and conformity. Just because the teacher greets you with a smile at the classroom door does not mean authoritarian structures of control do not exist. They do. 

Our education system is not sensitive to young citizens voices or their time sensitive ideas to the extent that democracy exists in the classroom. Unless you happen to be in a TAB art room, children are systematically outside the decision making process central to the learning activities they are compelled to participate in. 

Diane Jaquith and Nan Hathaway, ask the question in their essay, "Where's the Revolution?"

It is quite clear to me, high stakes standardized testing prevent children from co-collaborating as curricula designers with their teachers. Teachers are forced to design curricula around the prospect of standardized tests.

The bigger picture is troubling. Since educational experience is designed around test taking, and individual children's unique intellectual realms are not considered, we have a huge problem in this country with respect to student engagement and transformative learning.

What would personalized learning experience across the curricula look like? TAB teachers are among a handful of educators nationwide who practice holistic, child centered education on a regular basis. TAB knows personalized, child centered learning.

John Dewey and his protege William Heard Kilpatrick argued that traditional curriculum structures do not fit the flow of a child's experience. That's why individual relevance to learning experience is so important. In order for new learning to occur a learner must accept his experience and have an affection for it. 

The premise that children need to learn specific content in a fixed curriculum because "they will need to know this later on," is a false premise to me. Developmental timetables, innate capacities and intellects vary from child to child. If a learner is not motivated to practice what they have just learned, despite all the external rigor in the world, learning goes into one ear and out the other. That's why building learning upon strengths and interests is so important. Learners freely practice what they learn through play, strengths, interests and they remember new content and material scaffolded through these experiences. 

One of my questions is... if human beings are natural born learners, why would traditional schools of education take children out of their natural learning states and into an unnatural state? I'll let the reader ponder that one.

What goes on within the neural-networks of the brain during the act of learning is just as important as the content being learned. The act of learning should be consensual, democratic and it should promote an individual's desire to learn more and to do more. 

I have linked Eric Kandel's book, In Search of Memory in the last paragraph. There is a contradiction here that needs discussion. Kandel, in his own life experience, received a traditional liberal arts education. His educational experience was satisfactory for him and he went on to do important research in memory acquisition and neuroscience. What his research says is this. Learning experience, in order to maintain the attention of the learner, should be an emotionally satisfying, multi-sensory, joyful and intrinsically motivated event where the neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline are part of the physical experience of learning.

Experience where children are treated as blank slates, driven by radical behaviorism is not beneficial to learning as over time, what is learned is likely to go into one ear and out the other.

Designing curricula that is purposely flexible in order to optimize student's independent learning pathways requires a special teacher able to challenge learners with emergent curricula and go beyond the given information. Facilitating learning experience of which students are inspired partners in curricular decision making processes is part of the artistry of teaching TAB educators utilize on a regular basis. 


"Soldier Animation" by Stephen