Monday, January 20, 2014

TAB Colorado 2014: Professional Development of the 1st Magnitude

Wow! I am so indebted to Dale Zalmstra, Cynthia Barnes and Adam Laughlin for a wonderful  professional development experience! What was most inspirational was the fact that these three K-12 art teachers have been coordinating with the University of Northern Colorado Art Education Department and have put together a stellar professional education conference experience for the past three years! All professional development should enable teachers to take away valuable resources and knowledge and I observed some of the most inspirational presentations and excellent assessment development workshops related to authentic learning experience in my career here. NAEA doesn't have nothing on TAB Colorado! Many, many thanks to the art education staff at University of Northern Colorado including Connie Stewart and Patrick Fahey and Aurora, Colorado Public Schools.  I was so happy to visit with Mary Olson and Roni Rohr of New Mexico! I met many new colleagues including Jay Horn, Jen La and Keziah Kelsey.

Many, many thanks to Dale and Steve Zalmstra, and Kevin and Deb Gaw for hosting me during my stay in Denver!

Here is a link to the video recorded and posted by Adam Laughlin and Cynthia Barnes of my talk.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Colorado TAB 2014

I am most humbled and honored to have been invited by Cynthia Barnes, Dale Zalmstra and Adam Laughlin to speak at the 3rd Annual Colorado TAB Conference this coming January 18th. I am looking forward to visiting with all the educators who work in and near the Mile High City!  More info on this exciting conference related to one of the most important pedagogical developments in American education is here:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Democracy In American Education: Who is Focusing The Focused Instruction?

I wrote a comment in a recent article expressing concerns about focused instruction. The idea of subordinating self-directed, democratically initiated educational experiences based on children's interests and passions replaced with non-consensual activities devoid of student input is anathema to democratic education.

Choice based art teachers are positioned to facilitate democratically initiated forms of education through a pedagogy that values individual ideas, dialogue, collaboration. Choice based art teachers carefully design learning environments that support autonomous learners and student initiated learning. Human beings, from an evolutionary perspective, are naturally predisposed to democratic forms of education. This is a fact. 

In "Art as Experience," John Dewey explains that art making goes beyond the handling of materials and construction of an object, but has deeper ramifications as personally meaningful experience. Once amplified through aesthetic sensibilities and psycho-emotional realms, independently mediated art experience can transform lives at a profound level. 

From my perspective, education through art, is a civil rights issue. Eisner writes in "The Arts and the Creation of Mind, " and I am paraphrasing here: "There are two types of education in this World. The first is to educate children so they will have a chance to unfold, unhindered by forces that would divert them from their natural progression of development. The second form of education can be seen in totalitarian nations where the state imprints onto children's minds what the state values."

According to Noam Chomsky, "Teaching is common sense. Ninety-nine percent of good teaching is getting people interested in the task or problem and providing them with a rich enough environment in which they can begin to pursue what they find interesting in a constructive way." Chomsky's insight into the teaching and learning process is echoed similarly by Dewey and Clara Belle Baker.

The question for educators and citizens is this: What are educators saying to students when, in the context of compulsory schooling experience, we reject children's time sensitive ideas and interests?


Chomsky, N. "Democracy and Education," 2002 Edited by C.P. Ortero, Routledge Falmer, N.Y., N.Y.

Dewey, J. "Art As Experience," 1934,

Eisner, E. "The Arts and the Creation of Mind," 2002,

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Social, Emotional Learning and TAB

3rd grade boys collaborate, negotiate and communicate their ideas in real time during the creation of a large chalk drawing.
Within the context of NCLB and RttT high stakes testing accountability legislation and standardization of educational activities, current approaches to education reform efforts do NOT provide adequate social and emotional learning (SEL) experiences in American schools. If RttT and NCLB did support these vital domains of learning, then organizations like CASEL would not be necessary. The research is quite clear. When children are socially and emotionally connected to their learning activities, there is engagement and efficacy to the learning activities they engage in. TAB easily provides for social and emotional learning by virtue of it's subject matter and the emphasis on self regulation, collaboration, responsibility, problem solving, communication, negotiation and respect. In fact, TAB exceeds the goals of CASEL because social and emotional learning is a foundation of TAB. SEL does not have to be mandated or objectified within a TAB art program because the TAB approach to learning at a fundamental level works from social and emotional learning domains.
Children collaborate, cooperate and congratulate each other after the successful completion of a large marble run structure in an outdoor TAB setting.