“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
My goal is to encourage my students to be more self-reflective, to look back before they move forward. There is no sense in working for weeks on an art project only to hand it away to the teacher and move on without ever asking, “what have I done well? What can I have done better? If I were to do it all again, what would I change?” Danny Gregory, an illustrator/author/genius* (*my opinion) explains that pieces of paper with markings on them are called “Drawings” and not “Drawns” because to put their names in past-tense would be admitting that they’re ‘finished,’ when a drawing is an ever improving, ever evolving thing. One may abandon a drawing and move on, and it may remain as it is forever, but to make a drawing is a process that can continue forever. It’s the creative act: thinking, moving, deciding, marking, and that should never stop. So to walk away from a piece of art without allowing it to teach you all of its lessons is a waste.
On my journey to discovering new ways to encourage reflection, I have learned a few things. Namely, there are many approaches, some more formal than others. As an Art teacher, I have tried verbal critiques, written critiques, self rubric grading, gimmicky exercises geared towards opening lines of communication, and blog post/commenting. Over the past few weeks, I’ve researched forms, ideas and other techniques of running post-project reflections. But what I have come to decide is that the best way, and it happens to be the way most art teachers use, is by leading whole class discussions, or critiques. I have also found a really fantastic guide to running a professional critique, which I will reference when running my classroom critiques in the future. Some benefits of verbal critiques are:
- Instructor can model appropriate language and format of discussing a work objectively
- Students learn how to discuss something on its merit, apart from “I like” or “I don’t like”
- Students learn how to express themselves in a public situation and “think on their feet”
- Students learn to analyze another persons work, pointing out successes and offering suggestions for improvement, all higher-order thinking skills
- Students may apply comments made about another’s work to their own project, internalizing lessons through other’s experiences.
While verbal critiques may be difficult at first, the rewards of a great critique can be an open, comfortable and thought-provoking dialog where an artist talks about his or her work, and fellow artists learn from and teach one another in a collaborative environment.