Monday, April 1, 2013

Ok art teachers v. great art teachers- words matter

I've been hanging out with some great art teachers for the past few months. I have a new understanding of what separates great from the merely adequate when it comes to teaching art.

One thing I have really noticed is how great teachers speak to students in a learning situation...the words they use are important.

When they see a student looking intently at an art piece pinned to the wall or on the easel, they will ask "Tell me what you are working on". This facilitates a conversation between student and teacher and puts the ball in the student's court. Now teacher and student can have a discussion about what's going on with the artwork, what direction it's going in, if the student is happy the progression,  finished with the artwork, or needs help in resolving the work. Often in these conversations, the student answers all of the questions themselves with only a little prompting from the teacher.

Notice what they don't say.
Phrases such as "Wow, that's good"; or " Good job!" do nothing to help the student at this point. In fact, it often shifts the conversation to the teacher: it's not about the student's work anymore but about what the teacher thinks the student wants to hear. Often you will hear these "good work!" statements when the student hasn't even said anything about the artwork; the art might not even be finished! Save this kind of talk for the end of a final critique after all art pieces have been discussed and the teacher can give a little pat on the back to the student and finally say "good job!"

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