Evaluating GAME Plan Progress

“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.

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About Megan Boyd

Teacher of Graphic Design I & II as well as Digital Photo. I live in Room B207.
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6 Responses to Evaluating GAME Plan Progress

  1. Ty says:

    Megan,
    It seems that “reflection”, especially in Art, is so important to monitor. Developing student skills in verbal communication is such a key aspect of life and becoming a responsible individual. I love the idea of doing this through group dialogue but sometimes I wonder if all students will be willing to express themselves infront of their peers. I know that many of my students would much rather express their thoughts through drawing rather than writing or talking. Your idea of improving student reflection is something that will help your students, not only in your Art class, but also in real life. Keep up the great work.
    Ty

  2. Josh Scholl says:

    Megan,
    I am not a very artistic person, but I love how you use reflection as your feedback, and it seems that you make it so your students actually learn and understand the actual art behind their work. Teachers like that, whether it is in art, english, or science always get the best out of their students because the teacher makes the students “buy into” what they are doing. You talk about art and how it can be expressive, and it seems like that is exactly what you would get out of your students. Nice progress on your GAME Plan!

  3. Megan Boyd says:

    Ty,
    Thanks for the comments! Reflection, especially verbal, is most definitely important; and a it’s transferable skill that a person will most likely be called upon to use again and again throughout their lives. You’re right about some students being reticent to express themselves comfortable in a group setting. That is certainly the problem with whole group critiques. But after trying gimmicks and written critiques (which are even MORE difficult to get students excited about!), and one on one teacher/student discussions, I keep coming back to whole-group discussions. I think this is for several reasons: the first is that we cannot learn or grow to our full potential in isolation. Time and time again students have approached art in a way that I never expected, and that has enriched a discussion in a way that would have been impossible if it was just me blabbing up at the front about each student’s work. That’s not to say that at the beginning of the year I don’t have to do a ton of ‘modeling’ to train the kids on how to discuss work objectively without resorting to “I like / don’t like it.” But all of the ‘tooth-pulling’ early in the year pays off when you build trust between students so the ones who might be less inclined to speak up develop a sense of safety. THAT, to me is the key, creating an environment where shy freshmen aren’t afraid to speak up in front of intimidating upper class-men It’s not always easy, and I am no expert at it, yet! Sometimes I am more successful than others, but I hope to make it a personal goal of mine to improve MY leadership skills when it comes to running a critique.

    Thanks,
    Meg

  4. Megan Boyd says:

    Josh,
    Thanks for writing!! I always tell people when they say they’re not artistic, you just haven’t found your medium yet! = )

    I do try to have my students focus on two things when they’re working on a project, and they’re two things that they can control: the meaning behind what they’re doing and their craftsmanship. So many people get hung up on talent, or inherent skill, but really, drawing and painting is not much different than learning how to throw a football or rebuild an engine. It takes dedication and practice practice practice. And no matter where a person is in the continuum of skill development when they walk into my classroom, they can be successful if they focus on those two things: how much thought and purpose they put into a project, and their attention to doing their best work (we call it craftsmanship). An artist can have tremendous ability to draw something representationally, but if there’s no thought or expression behind it, what is the value in it? And if it is sloppy, unfinished and does not adhere to the spirit of the project requirements, it is not successful either.

    Self expression, especially when dealing with teenagers can be a very valuable and cathartic exercise. How many of us as teenagers have thought, ‘no one listens to me, no one understands me!” Well, this is their shot to make us listen, make us understand!

    Thanks for seeing the value in what we Art teachers do!

    Meg

  5. Meg,
    How do you get your students to show the meaning behind the art? Art can be subjective and the meaning could be in the eye of the beholder. Self reflection could let you students be in the shoe of on lookers. I’m not an expert but I do believe you are on the right track. By the way, how is your little man doing?

  6. Christine says:

    Reflection by definition is mental concentration; careful consideration. To teach students how to reflect on and critique their own work as well as others is a lifelong skill they will employ continuously. I am impressed that your students are doing this in art class,especially where their designs can be so subjective. I am sure that in this arena their own thought processes are questioned and revised by listening to others’ interpretations of their work. They must also have stronger convictions when it comes to their explaination of their work because it cannot be backed up by fact. They have to express the emotions that went into the work; this is a hard feat to accomplish. I would love to sit in on one of your classes to listen to the dialoque of these conversations.

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