High schoolers hate ambiguity. When it comes to school, the familiar is safe and comfortable. But I want my students to direct their own path of learning, which is the opposite of familiar.
So I start with baby steps. Things that feel like familiar assignments, like Bootcamps, that teach them the Artistic Thinking Process (ATP).
Next I move on to themes with open media choice. This still feels safe because they've learned how to develop ideas with ATP. They hardly even notice that they are selecting media from a dizzying array of options and interpreting increasingly complex ideas, but they are.
Here is where I've struggled. It's a big gap from where they are, interpreting themes I've set, to where I want them to be - working on 100% self-directed art.
I think I've found a good bridge - the learning challenge.
I've done related things before, but I made some important changes that have really improved the outcome of this challenge. The first is establishing a baseline - which involves students independently creating work before they dive into the learning of new content.
To teach students how to do this on their own, I modeled what I wanted them to do through a drawing activity. This started with asking the whole class to draw an eye prior to any instruction. We looked at the drawings and kids listed things that they observed that they wanted to improve on. Next, I lead the whole class, step by step, through a demonstration on drawing eyes in graphite. After this learning experience I asked them to create a drawing, in any media, that showed what they learned. We discussed how the baseline they created compared to the drawing at the end, and how comparing the two is helpful when analyzing growth.
The second important change I made to this challenge was being extremely clear about what the learning component would look like and how long it would take. Asking kids to spend multiple days with step three and giving them some example tasks helped all my kids really show growth during this challenge.
My kids are interested, focused and making %100 of their artistic decisions independently.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.