Sunday, June 03, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part V: Rhizomes Decentralize Curricula and They Expand

Educators and administrators interested in rhizomatic learning experience need to understand the power of emotional drive when curriculum is decentralized.

Be prepared. When student directed classroom activities intensify, the synergy of this curriculum model will provide students with authorization to connect their learning to subject areas throughout the school. Are educators who advocate for connected, innovative and authentic learning models like a Teaching for Artistic Behavior art program, prepared to deal with the logistical dynamics of such a curriculum model?

The teacher who is interested in releasing human potential, the child's innate desire to explore, to question, to find, to imagine, to connect, to take risks, to make, is unlocking a powerful natural force. 

A special dark room is available for this student to project images for a mural project.

Many students will desire mobility. They want to be in specific locations to execute their learning plan. Educators will need to consider if an individual's learning experience can be enhanced outside of the classroom.

A child considers the next color placement in her abstract composition.

When time sensitive learning events require learning outside the art classroom, is the school willing to accommodate student needs? How responsive is the school to students? 

Do schools advertise student-centered learning experience when actually a centralized, linear curricula that encourages learner passivity is experienced by children?

TAB art programs offer dynamic curriculum experiences where intellectual emancipation can be realized by the child.  

Art is a very big subject. 

In TAB art programs, art class becomes a conduit to learning throughout the school, providing children with active, conscious minds opportunity to make powerful connections with their art ideas to learning content within the rest of the school curricula. Nothing could be more important than the school's mission to develop and refine the child's intellectual capacity through interdisciplinary learning. TAB art education experiences are transformative, catalyzing children to move beyond direction taking. The TAB art room becomes one of the most important learning environments in the school.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part lV: Despite the Happy Talk, Does Data-Driven Instruction Impede A Child's Social and Emotional Development?

Are "innovation schools," educational efficiencies and market-driven education a good thing when it comes to child development?
Looking at The Center for Disease Control research archives, I am struck with the statistics of children in the USA who are either suffering from mental illness, trauma or have given up on this World and taken their lives.

Knowing what I know about abundant curricula and authentic experience, that authentic learning is profound, capturing the heart and mind of a child, one in which learning becomes spiritual, where the child wants to learn more. I am asking the question what is happening to children in this Nation's schools?

How are US schools doing in supporting the emotional and social growth of children?

This question: Are schools whose administrative and instructional focus is on computer-based information processing tasks, rewards and punishments, data collection and classification of a child's standing in their educational "cohort" with numerical data harming children?

Other questions for policy makers and citizens to consider:

Despite the outdated gun laws in the USA, if schools are sanctuarys of learning in this country, why are students returning to the school to harm others?

Are schools providing adequate learning experiences that benefit the child's social, emotional and creative consciousness?

Are learning experiences outside the decision making processes of the child, concocted to meet the needs of the state? Or....are learning experiences responsive to the time sensitive interests, strengths and desires of the child?

If a child is in love with his learning, why would a child want to do harm to a classmate?

My thoughts related to school shootings?

Guns are too easily accessible to disturbed or angry individuals in this country.

But we also have an education problem here.

Many children who become citizens in US society, become disturbed through the school experience of non-consensual high stakes testing participation, including behavior modification curricula experiences, i.e. grading and data collection. High stakes testing, corrupts a school's regular capacity to provide a dynamic atmosphere whereby learning is a spiritual and most joyful matter experienced by the individual.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part lll: The Educational-Psychology Structures Where Teaching for Artistic Behavior Programs Exist.

Forty six percent of children in the United States under the age of 17 have experienced the marital divorce of their parents. While divorce can be an amicable process between married adults, for the child it is a time filled with immense anxiety. Many marriages are filled with dysfunction and that seriously complicates matters for the child. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, poverty, parental rejection, food insecurity, shelter insecurity, substance abuse and other genetic and environmental conditions outside the child's control impact levels of anxiety, stress, cognitive functioning and emotional receptivity to learning. Consider also that school systems are designed for efficiency, to mass produce standardized experience, an experience that externally tasks and controls children to move through a sequence of activities motivated via rewards and punishments. In radical behaviorist learning structures, administrators control thought and action. The organism is not in control. In K-12 learning experiences within schools, children are instructed what to do, thinking is managed by a daily schedule, thoughts and action incessantly prompted, controlled and monitored.

Is it possible that tightly structured radical behaviorist learning experiences might cause adverse neurological deficits of at-risk children affecting their emotional and intellectual maturation?

Children of divorced parents are at-risk from many forms of trauma. I won't get into the painful details of my own childhood experience, but I think often about students in my own classes who may be experiencing similar situations.  Shouldn't school be a sanctuary for children? Shouldn't the school's mission be to provide optimal learning experience, ameliorate psycho-emotional pain while the child is in the care of the school and expand consciousness and intellectual capacity? What I experienced as a child and observe today is that K-12 curricula experiences create additional pressure on the child because the school's mission is to imprint upon that child what the state values. What does the state value? The state values children who score well on timed, high stakes standardized tests, the content of which the teacher nor the child control. This situation guarantees that teachers of tested subjects must hurry children through a state mandated curricula employing radical behaviorist instructional practices.

Considering the mind, it is the single most important entity in the process of education. Looking at reams and reams of state and corporate sponsored documents and literature prescribing standardized content and best teaching practices, I have not once, viewed language from any state department of education document that defines the human mind or provides a description of the process of learning. This is a critical shortcoming of state sponsored departments of education because the mind and the process of learning at a fundamental level is physiological. Learning that lasts a lifetime, does not occur because the teacher is an expert at classroom management or instructional techniques, but results from a multiplicity of factors that takes into account a child's executive functioning capacity.

Despite authorization as a safe space by the state for the purpose of education, school can be an intensely difficult place for children.  In particular, how does the school ameliorate the emotional trauma children experience when their parents marriage's dissolve into a dysfunctional state of disunion. Divorce in the United States is a societal affliction that affects nearly
50% of all marriages.  Because large percentages of children already come to school having experienced violence and dehumanization within their family situation, classroom experience related to an explicit and prescriptive curriculum that has nothing to do with the child's current crisis state, exacerbates psycho-somatic maladies brought on by the parents divorce.  For educators, school counselors or administrators to make the pronouncement that children of divorce are plucky,  resourceful and over time will "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" while resuming regularly scheduled standardized test-driven curricula is totally inadequate as an educational intervention. The curricula should buoy the child during this traumatic time. The curricula should capture the child's imagination and serve as more than a work experience. The curricula should in and of itself  ameliorate any emotional distress the child is experiencing. The act of learning and the act of study should not be a rigorous chore, but a profound, self-sustaining spiritual experience. Creative learning experiences that compels a child to continue to pursue learning without the teacher's prompting are the experiences I regularly observe in my TAB classrooms.

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.