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Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) in Practice

It was at the end of 2019; that I almost completed my master’s thesis regarding creativity and assessment and was preparing to come back to the school again as I am finishing my leave of absence. At that time, I used to have intense conversations about the research with my cohorts, and one of them, who was an elementary school teacher, introduced me to the book “Studio Thinking from the Start (Hogan, Hetland, Jaquith, & Winner, 2018).” She was thrilled she found it and could introduce it in her thesis in South Korea, and I had some interest because the concept of the book was similar to what I was thinking about the ideal art classroom. I had some debates with her about whether these artistic habits can be taught to students or not and decided to apply this strategy to my secondary school class when I came back to school.

After meeting TAB, the Studio Thinking approach became my central art teaching strategy. I adjusted these habits a bit relating to national standards in South Korea and set a goal of the art class as “being an artist.” I made self-assessment sheets for the start and end of the semester to give students the opportunity to check the changes in their artist’s habit of mind after their art project. I bought small blank sketchbooks and pasted the sticker of “An artist [students’ name]’s note” and set the big desk in front of the art room as diverse kinds of materials that students can freely use. I prepared lectures that explain each “habit” briefly and added some mini exercises for the case of remaining time between the projects.

Even though every effort was small and the projects I planned were nearly similar to what I did before, I could see distinct differences. What I primarily observed was motivation. Students were intrinsically motivated a lot. All of them (I never saw anyone saying or showing disinterest in art class) loved to show up in art class with anticipation of what they would do, and many of them personally prepared their own materials to improve their artwork even if I did not require or encourage to do that. Moreover, they started to have authenticity to their projects. When I taught art before, many students had asked me a question like “Teacher, how can I draw a human?” “How can I draw a cat?”, expecting that I could give the answer and being ready to follow my instructions. However, after I used the TAB approach, I barely heard that kind of question. Instead, since I show reference images on the big monitor on the class wall if a student wants to know the look of something, they ask me to find the image and express it in their own way (of course, some students copy the image, but I think it is okay if they ‘use’ the image instead just copy and follow). What I explained was how to deal with materials, especially focusing on the method and process of specific materials and instructions to reduce the possibility of injuries and avoid irrevocable stains from unremovable materials.

Finally, explaining and promoting eight artistic behaviors as a primary part of my class for three years, until right before I came here to the state, what I regret was that I could not care enough to share the art-making process and final artworks each other and discussion about them (Students were too shy so did not want to promote their artworks in front of the class of adolescent youngsters) and could not make a space for exhibiting their works of art in the art room or somewhere in the school building. If I were there a few years more, I would develop such kinds of experiments more actively.

From 2020 to 2023, I enjoyed planning and implementing the TAB class a lot. As Sands (2021) argued in his podcast, TAB is an effective way to let students learn by themselves. They challenge themselves by organizing their art-making process, choosing among the choices, developing own their ways, and finding what technique they will develop by themselves. Furthermore, it can be applied to all kinds of art education from the elementary level (Hogan, Hetland, Jaquith, & Winner, 2018) to the secondary level (Sheridan, Veenema, Winner, & Hetland, 2022). Above all, the most amazing thing about TAB was that all these activities are absorbing!


References

Hogan, J., Hetland, L., Jaquith, D. B., & Winner, E. (2018). Studio thinking from the start: The K-8 art educator’s handbook. Teachers College Press.

Sands, I. (Speaker). (2021, March 31). Make artists S1 E14: TAB misconceptions [Audio Podcast] Make Artists. Available from https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/makeartists/episodes/Make-Artists-S1-E14-TAB-Misconceptions-etvpf7/a-a544hd1

Sheridan, K. M., Veenema, S., Winner, E., & Hetland, L. (2022). Studio thinking 3: The real benefits of visual arts education. Teachers College Press.

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