Thoughts on Art & Education

Formative Assessment and TAB

In my TAB studio, I have no deadlines. So, how can I further tweak my assessment system to keep students accountable for studio work when there are no real deadlines? This question was at the core of my thinking about assessment way back in September. So, I have spent the majority of this year further developing a system of grading that lets students take control of their art while providing me with information about their growth as artists.

This year, I have required weekly updates to students’ digital portfolios. Their portfolios are process-based. The process portfolio supports and informs students’ developing studio work, through exploration of skills and art processes. They reflect on how ideas are formed, how they made decisions regarding the intentions for their work and their overall growth as an artist.

My students’ writing is improving each week; however, I know that this is an area I will re-visit this summer on a quest to further push student reflection and self-assessment. While this may sound negative, the switch to weekly updates has been a positive change to my formative assessment system. The weekly review of all portfolios gives me insight into where students are finding success, as well as where they are struggling. It has informed my lesson-planning to best accommodate individual student needs. Furthermore, it keeps students accountable for their work as artists.

Summer Work

I have been teaching for artistic behavior (TAB) for nine years.  I spent 6 years TAB in grades pre-K through eight, then moved to high school where I’ve just finished my third year. I haven’t written yet this summer but have been actively working on my professional growth. As I do every summer, I reflect on the past year, read through the year-end student survey responses and use resources to plan new content based on what I’ve learned.

I first read Engaging Learners Through Artmaking years ago and used the text to devise a plan for making the changes that I knew were necessary to create an authentic art experience for my students. Years have passed since my first reading of the text. The reading of the second edition of Engaging Learners, published just this year, followed a long weekend professional retreat with TAB teachers from the midwest. At the retreat, TABstock, we discussed everything from  advocacy to engagement, which stems from the three sentence curriculum:

  1. What do artists do?
  2. The child is the artist.
  3. The art room is the child’s studio.

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Reading Engaging Learners, following reflection on my first year at Galesburg-Augusta HS and our rich discussion at TABstock, has brought me to the following conclusion: I need to simplify things in my art room. I need to present students with the least amount of information to get them started, then get out of the way.  However, I need to tighten up the delivery of this information. Throughout my years of TAB teaching, I have lost focused center menus, vocabulary and the consistent routines that make the studio hum. I need to keep growing in my practice, even if that means scaling back, to provide the best learning opportunities for students.


So this.  This came across my PLN from @spencerideas.  I shared it with my peers because it is true.  Unless you are a teacher, you have no idea how hard we work. I listened to John Spencer’s podcast and believe me, I will take time to do the things I love this summer – spend time with my family and children, enjoy days and nights at Crystal Lake, run and paint.


But I also think of “rest” as a time for rejuvenation in another way – learning and planning to be the best teacher that I can be. This is the perfect time to pursue my own professional learning!

It will all start with TABstock 2018 – an amazing “uncoference” in Three Oaks, MI. We camp, cook, eat, explore, make art, laugh, enjoy nature, celebrate, sit around a perpetual campfire and share…..creating connections that encourage us in our work and passion for TAB.

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I cannot wait to see my TAB friends!  Keep tuned in during the summer months as I share both versions of my time of rest!

Art Learning

We never stop learning!


I am so excited to be attending the annual Michigan Art Ed Fall Conference in Detroit this week.  It will be an opportunity to reflect on my own practice as well as develop some new teaching approaches to art processes, from metalwork to perspective and anatomical drawing.  Furthermore, I will be exploring engagement strategies with at-risk students.  This will be a great opportunity to rejuvenate my practice and love of teaching!  Check back for updates on my experience at the conference.

Why TAB?

As I am in the midst of my third week of school, I have experienced ups and downs bringing the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) approach to the Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools.  One of the biggest hurdles I am working to overcome lies in the question:  How can you provide for students who will come to class needing structure or ideas?  I am finding many of my students need a more differentiated approach to TAB, than I have experienced in my past years as a TAB teacher.  I will continue to adjust my teaching approach and move these students, in a more gradual progression, towards an authentic art learning experience, where choice is at the core.

Along with these hurdles, came a great reminder of why I am a TAB teacher.  A seventh grade student was working through a pencil drawing of her horse in the barn.  She approached me and asked how to capture the image of sunshine pouring through the window.  I asked her what it felt like and looked like to see that in the barn.  She said it was warm and the space where the light came in turned the walls a different color.  I then questioned if she was planning to color the image and what media she was considering.  One of her classmates jumped right in and said, “You should use chalk pastels.  You can layer the colors like we did in class the other day, until you get the perfect color.  I just did this in a drawing of my sister to make her skin tone.”

This was the perfect opportunity to let this student be an “expert” and show her what he had done with layering.

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THIS is one reason why I am a TAB teacher.  Think about the art understanding, display of confidence and learning that took place in this one transaction between students. Because in a TAB classroom:

“Students provide much of the instruction. Student “experts” who work in one medium over time serve as coaches and peer tutors, enjoying further learning in the process. Student discoveries are shared with classmates and teachers. Students form cooperative groups in an organic manner. In this way, a great deal of information is transmitted student to student.”*

I only need to imagine more of this to keep me motivated to make the G-A Art Studio an amazing place to work each day!

* “Teaching for Artistic Behavior: Choice−Based Art”. BrownUniversity. 31 October 2008. _tab_entire.pdf. Accessed 26 September 2017.