There is an argument in art ed that goes something like this: to teach creative thinking we have to give students problems to solve. We, the teachers, spend quite a bit of time devising problems for our students.
- Fill this pre cut shape with different types of lines.
- Design and draw a themed color wheel.
- Repeat an object, with overlapping, to fill the picture plane.
- Make an artwork using only recycled objects.
The problems we pose have a range; some are so narrow in scope that little room is left for interpretation, other are big and wide open with space for individuality. I have mixed feelings about these sorts of tasks. My primary issue is that they make a big assumption - that kids need that sort of hand holding to make art. Children are born creators. In preschool, in kindergarten, everything is a toy to be explored and creativity is unbridled. When we catch children at this age they need no limitations from us, just a safe space to make and help with understanding new processes and procedures.
Any need for limitation is for the ones we miss, the ones who learn that making art is about following a teacher's plan. Limitations can have a role in helping them unlearn the bad habit of needing an assignment, of needing decisions made for them, until they can make their own plans again.
The limitation, no matter how interesting or open-ended it may be, is not the end goal. That has to be for our kids not to need us to make art.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is missing the point.
7/29/2018 06:21:06 am
Hi Melissa, you know I love reading your thoughts about art and I often agree with the direction you are pushing others to explore. However, I disagree with this post. It seems the examples of “problems” you provide are really tasks or exercises teachers are asking students to complete, not problems. And although, I 100% agree with your end goal, many students do need scaffolding to get there. At some point in their development, they become self-conscious, or worse convinced that they are not creative or not capable of being artistic. Our role as artist educators is to (1st and foremost not squash their creativity, but also...) meet students where they are and give them room and support to grow. For some kids this is providing a prompt or question to get the wheels turning, sour their motivation. Where we can get lost is when we are so heavily invested in our question or prompt to not hear our students when they say my thinking has gone another way, I want to try this thing here. Part of our job that you alluded to is teaching kids how artists perceive the world. Where do artists get ideas? What do you turn to to get ideas? What do we do when we don’t know what to do? These are very real artistic problems that we should spend time with our students exploring. Some students, and many artists, find freedom through constraint.
7/29/2018 08:36:13 am
I completely agree that most students need scaffolding for creative Independence. The majority of my HS students do, though not all, and that's where we spend most time. However, once I got my elementary TAB program running those students did not, for the most part. I'd like to see a future with a school, K - 12, where kids never unlearn their inner creativity!
8/10/2018 05:00:33 pm
Holy guacamole! You're right - my goal as an art teacher really is for my students to not need me to make art. Woah. Excellently put - thanks!
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I'm interested in creating a student student centered space for my high school students through choice and abundant opportunity for self expression. I'm also a writer for SchoolArts co-author of The Open Art Room.