Process Over Product?

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A couple of months ago, I joined an art teacher’s forum on facebook.  It was a great find–a great use of social media.  I am in contact with hundreds, if not thousands of art teachers from around the globe.  It has really got me to thinking about how I run my art room, what is important, what isn’t important, what is art, what is craft, should we have more choice, should technique be the main focus, should, should, should.  In short, it has made me think, learn, and grow…3 things that are important to stay a relevant and qualified teacher.

It is through this group that I was introduced to TAB or choice-based art.  It is through this group that I have been introduced to this group of teachers from Apex, NC at Apex High School.  They have been experimenting with choice this year, and recently they have  brought to the front of my mind the question of process over product.

Is the artistic process more important than the product produced?  I don’t know.  Is the process just as important than the product?  I also don’t know. But as I begin to explore this topic and experiment with it in the classroom, I find I might lean more towards them being equals.

As I began to think about stressing the process in art making and really trying to have my students participate more in the process and making decisions regarding their art just like artists do, I began to think about how do I assess this?  Unfortunately, assessment is always towards the front of my brain. (It’s hard not to think about it when you have to have a minimum of “X” grades per marking period without question, complying with district policy, blah, blah, blah.)   I want my assessment to be fair and meaningful.  I want my assessment to be as objective as can be in a very subjective area like art.  I create rubrics for almost everything.  I have to. Otherwise, I feel like I am grading on a whim.

But back to assessment.  How does one grade process?  How does an artist think?  What actions does an artist do?  Fortunately for me, the very nice people of Apex have sort of figured that out and are willingly sharing their work here.  The questions/artistic habits that Melissa Purtee designed are wonderful and so helpful.

This week I participated in a video art chat and the topic of process over product was the topic.  Ian Sands, a teacher at Apex, discussed how he and the teachers at Apex HS are having the students do what they call a “snapshot”.  Bi-weekly the students go into blogs that they have created and they write about their process.  They must pick 3 of the artistic behaviors and add pictures.  It is a really interesting way to be able to assess the process and to see how the kids are working, thinking, and growing as artists.  The teachers are also discussing using the snapshot as their grades and not grading the final product.

This is where I become unsure.  This is where I veer off.

I decided to give this focus on process a try.  On Monday, my Art 2: P/D students started altered books.  For me, this is a project for the students to really focus working around a theme and trying new ways of making art. (They have prompts to jump off from.  Prompts include things like draw with glue, layers, glazes, burn the page, etc.  I want them to think about doing things other than just “traditional” drawing/painting. )  I have always graded the altered book in a way where each page was graded and then the book as a whole was graded.  I had a rubric that I had created for the assignment, but I wasn’t in love with it.

However, the project has always been more about the process of art making.  Why not then assess it more about the process?

I walked in to class today and told the kids we were trying a different approach to grading this time around.  I told them to disregard everything I talked about regarding the rubric and individual page assessments.  I have decided to have the students do a weekly reflection for the duration of this process instead.

I borrowed the artistic habit domains and wrote up the questions in Socrative. (No time to really set up blogs at this point.) They will answer 2 of the domains each week…their choice.  (I do think I will tell them that they can’t always answer the same two.)  Then that will be their grades.

However, I will still give them an overall product grade based on some basic questions that I outlined for them yesterday…more of did you fulfill the requirements of the altered book type things.   I can’t walk away from the product completely.  I think the product is equally as important.  I think it is important to see things through to the end, even if it is not successful.  Then you can reflect back on the artwork to see what worked and what didn’t.  But this is a conversation for another post.

I am excited to see how it goes.  I am excited to see what students will write. Many are already excited about the altered book, and I think this focus on process over product will let them be more free and willing to try new things.

I will update as we continue with this process process.  (See what I did there?)

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Altered Books | Art Class by Mrs. B

  2. Pingback: Artistic Process Reflections | Art Class by Mrs. B

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