As a veteran art teacher, Leslie Anderson has developed an impressive collection of lessons over her career. She doesn’t like to repeat projects so she’s constantly looking for ideas and inspiration. While most teachers design and implement a few new projects each year, they rarely adopt an entirely new teaching philosophy but that’s exactly what Anderson has done.
Last summer, as Anderson was preparing for the upcoming school year at Canopy Oaks Elementary School, she stumbled upon a blog focused on an approach to art education known as Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB). “I read it and I clicked on the next article. I read that one and I just kept clicking. I was totally sold. I was on fire,” Anderson said.
The more research she did, the more excited she became. She only had a few weeks to overhaul her curriculum, instructional style, teaching materials and classroom set up. She got advice from Fort Braden School’s art teacher, Heather Clark who recently implemented the TAB philosophy in her own classroom. Anderson rearranged the physical layout of her art room, with the help of her niece, and she was ready to go when students arrived on the first day of school.
In the early 1980s, the leading framework for art teachers was Discipline-based Art Education (DBAE). This approach focuses on art history, aesthetics, art criticism and art production. The TAB model is a student-centered, learner-directed and choice-based practice. Though Anderson was trained as a DBAE art teacher and has been teaching for nearly 30 years, she is now a TAB convert.
“I like the idea of having them in control of the project from the beginning to the end,” said Anderson, though she admits getting her students in that frame of mind is an ongoing process. “They come to me and ask, ‘can I use a marker, can I use a crayon?’ I say ‘who’s the artist?’ I see how they are starting to test their own abilities and they’re coming up with more creative ideas.”
After brief introduction and demonstration by Anderson, her students can choose to work at various stations in the classroom. These stations present the students with a tantalizing challenge and an opportunity to explore different art methods and materials. “The goal is to transfer the decision-making from the teacher to the student,” explained Anderson.
Though she started with 11 stations, Anderson quickly realized she needed to streamline. Students can currently choose from three stations: drawing, painting and collage. Each one offers specialized media for that specific technique and, in the center of the room, students have access to a multitude of other art supplies.
They’re encouraged to make their own selections any point in their creative process, just like an artist in a studio.
With students frequently getting up from their chairs and moving around the space, Anderson recognized the need for different seating. She applied for grants from the Council on Culture & Arts and Envision Credit Union. “These were the first two grants I’ve ever written and I am so humble and so excited at the same time because I got both of them.”
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