Sometimes during the school day, I scan the artwork and the students making it and think to myself ‘…unique and unrepeatable… unique and unrepeatable…’ The second time I heard someone speak about the human person as unique and unrepeatable was in a workshop at NAEA with Peter London and Virginia Freyermuth. At that time I thought how very Jesuit, specifically how very Ignatian. The first time was years ago at the beginning of my practice of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In education, thank you to John Dewey and many others, we have language for the unrepeatable moment and for the uniqueness of human experience. Language is not enough to wrap around what happens in the studio classroom. We need to document the moments of student learning and of student experiences.
India Ink Thumbprint Paintings
Documentation of student process, discussion as well as in the cycle of artwork exhibition, matters. Through documentation we create a sort of dendrochronology (study of tree rings) of the uniqueness and unrepeatability of the students learning and studio classroom environment. These tree rings of documentation serve as a pathway for colleagues and leadership (principal, coach, evaluator) to see a creative climate of student investigation.
Students working on Pop Art paintings
For several reasons, I wanted to share with my school leadership what was happening in our studio classroom. I created a website using Google Apps. The website has become a web-folio of sorts. It contains pictures and documents that align student action with the Teacher Rubric and my Individual Educator Growth Goals for my school district. The web-folio and documentation certainly does not replace a teaching moment or the observed amazing conversation of two 4th graders, it does demonstrate a spiral of learning and great things happening for students with the tables filled with artwork and art materials.
To document, one way that works for me is to walk around with an IPad and take pictures over the students’ shoulders, or to video hands working while the conversations about art making, materials and ideas are happening. Try different ways of capturing student art activity. Because really, we’ve all had the thought, ‘Wow, I wish I could show someone this really great thing… or I can’t believe where the students took this or that idea…’ Recording the steps of student work along the way will aid your ability to share that really great thing or how the students imaginatively pulled through this or that idea. Documenting and creating a web-folio may also have the added benefit of making one (as it has for me) more intentional about instructional choices and more reflective in their teaching practice because documenting what the students are doing shows what the students are understanding (or not).
The goal of the web-folio has been to tell the story of what is being taught to the students and to a greater degree the depth of understanding of the students by recording their process, actions, responses and art making. The students are individuals; the works they are engaged in are an individual expression of their understanding and vision. Documentation of student action creates an avenue to narrate the unique and unrepeatable expression and experience of each student’s learning and art making.
India Ink Thumbprint Paintings