Importance in the Art Classroom?

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There has been a lot of debate recently about what is important in an art class.  What should we, as art teachers, be teaching our students?  Is it enough to just teach skills?  How important is it to be able to recognize the Mona Lisa or Starry Night?

Do we just want “good-looking” artwork to hang in the hall?  Is it important that we, our program, be know for our students winning art contests?

Or, do we want students who can think?  Do we want students that create THEIR own work, and not the work conceive by the teacher?  Should students be able to include their interests in their art making?  Is it important that students be able to go through the process…from conception, through research, revision, reflection, and to the final product?  And, how important, in a school setting, is the final product?

I think all of these things are important, but some more important than others.  While yes I want a good looking display in my hallway, I would sacrifice that for meaningful work that was authentic to students and their interests over something I wanted them to create.  And, yes I want them to recognize important works of art, but for what reason really do they need to know that?  Can they be intelligent without knowing what those paintings looked like?  Can they be great thinkers and inventors?  I mean, unless they are going on a game show anytime soon, should it be at the top of my priority list?

When it comes to skills, yes, they are important, and YES I TEACH SKILLS.  But, for me skills are just one part of the whole artist.  You made be a wiz with a pair of scissors, but if you don’t know what to create with those scissors without someone telling you, then what’s the point?

I want my students to leave my class as thinkers.  I want them to be able to go through a process from beginning to end.  I want them to be able to problem solve and take risks,  I want them to know what failure is and how they can learn from that.  I want them to push limits and to look within themselves.  I want them to be able to see all this in themselves, and in others.  I think if you just focus on skills and what the teacher directs the students to create, you are limiting your students and their potential.

That is what is important to me and that is why I follow the TAB philosophy.  What is important to you?

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2 responses »

  1. Great points here Professor Barnett. My question….If children are born into the World as biologically endowed to learn….why do so many have trouble learning in school?

    • I think it has to do with the setting and how we teach. Now that I have kids, I really understand why differentiation is important.

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