Sunday, April 22, 2012

Teaching for Artistic Behavior- Do you TAB?


To ensure that students are given the opportunity to learn about art by working as artists, they must be given choices. If a student makes “cookie cutter Art” without being allowed choices, they may be learning something about art, such as a skill or new concept, but they are not authentically making Art. Giving students choices does not mean that the teacher is absent. The Teaching for Artistic Behaviors (TAB) approach to Art Education is a child-centered choice-based approach, making the student totally responsible for the decisions of what to make, how to make it, what materials to use, and how long to work on it.

I’m attracted by the idea of TAB- students being real artists instead of making what they think I want them to make (no cookie cutters!), but I do have a few reservations. My reservations are more practical than theoretical, such as
  • If students are responsible for what materials they use, how do you order adequate supplies with a limited budget? 
  • How do you ensure students experiment with different media and encourage them to try new things if they are content to use the same materials each class period? (I know I have some students who want to do nothing but paint, or use clay for the whole year.)
  • Students are obviously responsible for their learning and designing their assignments, but how do you make sure they are pushing themselves and not coasting when they are allowed to work at their own pace? (Sadly, when I have 6th graders who chose to make a snake for their project because they think it will be easy but "can't" roll a coil and want me to do it for them, this is a concern.)
If you use TAB in your classroom, I would love to hear about your experience with it. I'm not ready to totally jump to the TAB ship, but I am interested in incorporating more aspects of it in my classroom. I've read that demos and introductions are used to cover the standards and that makes sense, I just wonder how the rest of it works in practice, rather than in theory.

12 comments:

  1. I agree, Katie: theoretically, it sounds great but it's much more challenging when you begin to consider the practical applications - especially re: limited art budgets and with students who have had limited art experiences. I imagine this would be easier in a small school/ selected classes/ with an 'artroom assistant' (hahaha) - but how do you manage a whole-school TAB art program where (say, 500) students are working on their own projects in their own choice of different materials and in their own time frames? Yikes! Looking forward to reading more about this...

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    1. I really want to get the Engaging Learners Through Artmaking book and see if there are just some more ideas I can incorporate.
      http://www.amazon.com/Engaging-Learners-Through-Artmaking-Choice-Based/dp/0807749761/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240779098&sr=1-1

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  2. I wish I had had access to a class that provided all of these art ed theory things that you have discussed in your blog. So interesting!

    I have found a happy medium with freedom and structure, and since I didn't know about TAB until just now, I am seeing that I do have some fundamentals of that theory in my classes. How my classes (grades 6, 7, 8) go: We set the tone at the beginning of the semester that all of us are artists, and we try to cultivate that atmosphere in the classroom each day. I find a project that I think the kids will be interested in, or use one that's already proven to be successful. I give an intro w/a minimal number of example images from art history, show a few prior student works or one of my own examples, and then show the kids the project rubric. We go over a technique or medium's usage and I demonstrate with that. Usually we focus on one or two design elements and a couple of principles, a specific technique with a specific medium (I only get a semester with them so we have to squeeze in a lot), creativity, and craftsmanship (which boils down to mainly responsibility with materials more than it does neatness). They are told to create whatever design/content they would like to based on the parameters in the rubric, and this has never once caused a problem for any student, much to my surprise. I end up with a class full of unique artwork every time and everyone has experimented with the medium on which we've focused. I give a deadline (generally about two weeks in class) and 90% of my students have no trouble meeting it. At the end of the semester, I try to do a project where students are allowed to choose any medium we've worked with or even a new medium to make whatever they'd like, but sometimes the end of the semester sneaks up before we get to try this one.

    I think it sounds like what I do is different from TAB, though, because I don't allow freedom of medium for every project, and I don't give unlimited time, because I know that I can't with the students that I have. Judging solely based on my experience and student demographic, I don't know that I would buy into TAB for most middle school students. Many of them are unmotivated; most still need structures in place as far as wanting to know how they'll be graded and what is expected; and some, if given that much freedom, would never get anything done. After doing some more reading, I feel like this approach would work best in ideal situations: schools w/stronger art budgets; advanced or G/T class; or at the high school level, particularly in the Art II-Art IV/AP classes. I can't se doing it in the typical elementary school environment, either. Thinking back to my student teaching and practicums in elementary classes, I am not certain that most of the students I worked with could've handled that much freedom. And like you mentioned, the materials/cost may become an issue.

    If you choose to try it in your classes, I'll be eager to see your outcomes! Very cool subject and I'm glad you posted about it. -- Jessica

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    1. What I've learned from my class is that it is indeed ok to pull the good parts from multiple theories and use them in a way that works for your situation. I don't think any one theory is THE best and only good way to teach Art. I like some of your ideas! I agree that TAB would work best with a high school class.

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    2. I agree -- I think that's the best way to do most anything: combine things to see what works. I love reading your blog and seeing the things that happen in your class!

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  3. I, like you, like the theory behind TAB - but find it somewhat overwhelming and perhaps a little Utopian.

    I try and take different aspects of the TAB ideas into my lesson planning. I tend to pick a skill they are learning and let them make all the other choices within that skill. This way they are learning and making, but with direction to help them increase their knowledge and skill.

    I highly dislike cookie cutter lessons and do my absolute best to make sure the students are empowered to make choices and problem solve their way through their work. This helps them think critically, problem solve, and builds confidence and creativity.

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    1. Utopian is right! Maybe in an ideal world where Art classes have unlimited budgets, time, and space... :)

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  4. Interesting,but I don't see how you could jump in and just use TAB unless you were running a studio where the students were doing independent projects/study. It would not be practical in the a classroom of 26 school age children. I think that we all throw options to the students to increase their creativity. As you stated, how would you be able to supply all of their choices? You would have students that never branch out of their comfort zone and explore other techniques/materials. You could create a project as an experiment by giving them several materials to choose from and let them choose their subject matter( although you will still have those students that just CAN NOT make a choice and will be floundering and you will have to give them some direction) It would be interesting to see what they do.

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    1. I think true TAB would require a total restructuring for most school Art programs. It would be a big change for the students as well. I think the first year would be a big struggle for them. My younger students are always asking me when they get to free draw. Then when I give them a chance (like while waiting on something only half the class can do at a time) most either make scribbles or simple smiley faces or just sit and talk. Even after I remind them that free draw is still Art and they are still expected to think and do their best.

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    2. I definitely agree with your comment. I googled TAB to learn more about it as I am doing something similar to it here in Melbourne. We call it a personalised learning curriculum, where students have choice in what they create in the art room. I am fortunate to teach at a school that values choice and inquiry based learning and those values and behaviours are embedded in students when they first come to school. I structure my program basically to prepare students for year 5 and 6 where they choose their own projects, mediums etc. In year 3 and for, learning is skill based and students have choice on the content of their work. I try to expose kids to a variety of mediums and skill so they have a folio of learning to prepare them for their journey with personalised learning/TAB. I don't give students a deadline or rubrics or anything, I just want them to look at their art work and be happy with it before they move onto something else.

      As for materials, while some gravitate to the more expensive materials like magic clay and acrylic most are happy with paper and a variety of textas.

      As for the time wasters, I follow the motto "With choice come responsibility. You break it you loose it"

      I really like your blog and I definitely used your recycled clouds lesson with my preps. Beautiful.

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  5. I tried TAB about 6 years ago after reading everything I could find. I set up the elementary room in the summer for the year--what fun, and the kids absolutely loved it. I used a lot of recycled materials, so it wasn't prohibitive. I was exhausted by the clean-up, however. Young children don't clean up well on their own, despite trying. One time, I turned around to see 3 first grade boys emptying white glue into the trash can--a fourth was adding water. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? "Making soup. You said we could do anything."

    Next year, I went to strictly MS and HS (not b/c of TAB) and tried to continue TAB, but found kids very reluctant to make choices of any kind. I spent my classes encouraging decision-making, offering suggestions b/c kids would often sit for the entire time, chatting: "I can't think of anything." Too often, I saw paint being used to write names and hearts. "Done!" It was, again, exhausting to coach each student enough to foster a meaningful project. Students didn't take art seriously, seeing it as a time they could play and 'do anything.' I missed the idea, somewhere along the lines, I figure. I've used Layered Curriculum, similar process, giving choices to fulfill a list of objectives, but again, lots more work for me, devising the choices and stocking supplies. Kids would almost always want to know which of the choices were the easiest, quickest. Now my choice offerings are at the end of the quarter.

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    1. We've been giving TAB a try and I'm really pleased so far. I did start off with a "no cards or posters" rule which means it can't be just a "drawing" of their name or a floating heart, star, etc. Let me be clear that I did not outright ban symbols, but suggest if they want to use them, they do it in something other than a crayon scribble, or at least do it in a thoughtful way. I've been careful with my wording and that might be making a difference. Instead of saying "you can do anything" I say something like "if you're ready to start a new project, you can choose painting, drawing, collage, or paper weaving." I also have not gone 100% student choice- I ask for projects to be worked on for more than one class period and usually ask that a project be completed before a new one is started. Otherwise I'm not sure how I would handle storage. I have some of the longer TAB books and haven't had a chance to read them yet. I read "Choice Without Chaos" by Anne Bedrick over the summer and it was a great, concise starting point. It sounds like you're doing modified TAB and there's nothing wrong with that!

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