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Visual Arts – Early Childhood Centre – Prep – Year 6
Mr Mikl Longstaff, M.Ed B.Ed (Visual Arts)
Junior School Art Teacher, Carey Baptist Grammar School
Art education provides opportunities for students to develop higher order thinking and problem solving skills. It enables them to enhance imagery and spatial learning, individual, cultural, global and aesthetic awareness. Students gain an understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication and multiple viewpoints or responses. All these aspects can be used to reach their creative potential.
Encouraging students to actively, as decision-making individuals, participate in all aspects of these creative processes can enhance their overall appreciation and enjoyment of the subject within a classroom setting. It can also allow them to discuss art in an enhanced and meaningful way – to each other, to teachers, to parents, to artists and the general public.
Art education should be about relationships, where art sits in the scheme of things, not just about the art object that is somehow separated from life experience. These relationships include: a relationship between the visual arts and other arts areas; a relationship between the visual arts and other intellectual disciplines; a relationship between oneself and others in a pluralist society, and a relationship between contemporary culture and history.
Art is viewed as a subject with aesthetic content that cannot be taught or learnt appropriately if the cultural context of the art practice is excluded. This implies that understandings of the relationships between art and culture – that culture shapes art and that art shapes culture – should be integral to an arts curriculum. Art appreciation or aesthetic education can involve the detailed descriptions of images, speculative and informed analysis, interpretation, and evaluation.
Aesthetic awareness in schools is essential so students will have skills in both areas: the skills to produce and the skills to appreciate. To know only art skills, processes and techniques, in the use of materials, would deprive the student of an extra body of knowledge necessary for a deeper and more profound approach to art production. Their own studio art areas will also benefit from increased aesthetic knowledge put to use within the creation of more cohesive, substantial and varied artworks.
All children can learn in the Visual Arts. How quickly they learn depends upon the ability of the child, and the effectiveness of the teacher. It is the teacher’s responsibility to be informed in the domain knowledge and subject content they are teaching. An effective teacher is also aware of different learning styles, and respects the diversity of their students. The teachers guides the student through experiences that enable the student to think, reach their own conclusions, and apply what they have learned into other contexts. It is the student’s responsibility to take an active part in their learning.
The following details a specific visual art program, its aims, catering for individual differences, frames for teacher self-evaluation, and a generalised rubric for assessment.
The Visual Arts program will:
– be a relevant, sequential and cumulative learning program that fosters a purposeful progression in learning, and meets the specific needs of the schools students;
– encourage creativity and experimentation with a variety of media, materials, techniques and processes;
– develop intellectual and expressive potential through art experiences;
– equip students to use and understand the language and skills necessary to explore and develop their own ideas and critically appreciate the work of others;
– develop students’ visual literacy through describing, analysing, interpreting and evaluating their own and others’ art works within particular social and cultural contexts from historical and contemporary perspectives.
My personal aims for an art program also include:
– introducing art as a visual language;
– developing personal aesthetic awareness and visual literacy;
– generation of personal and relevant ideas through a variety of mediums and approaches;
– problem-solving skills;
– higher order thinking skills involving analysis, evaluation, and synthesis;
– encouragement of students to learn through experimentation;
– development of creative potential;
– development of self-expression and cultural identity;
– the fostering of an understanding of other cultural heritages;
– the promotion of co-operation and collaboration;
– and the development of literary, vocational and leisure skills.
Central to achieving these aims is an art classroom that accepts and celebrates individual differences, by providing a cooperative, supportive, well-organised environment where expectations and options are clear. Such a classroom environment is structured to encourage children to take responsibility and make decisions in their learning where appropriate. It is a classroom that is a ‘safe’ place where they can experiment, try new ideas, and where mistakes or ‘when it does not work’ are part of learning within a creative context. Each child brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding to the art classroom. Teachers may draw on these so that new knowledge and experiences can be added to these prior understandings.
It is important to vary routines and timelines to meet the individual needs of children so that they can work at their appropriate level, and structure programs so teachers can intervene in children’s learning in order to help them to meet specific needs. Essential to success is the monitoring and assessment of individual children’s progress, so that specific teaching strategies can be employed to meet each child’s individual needs, depending on the purpose of the activity. Additionally, in the art curriculum there is a balance of: skills, process and teaching of technique, experimentation, teacher-directed and child-initiated learning activities, and individual, small groups and whole class teaching.
Continual evaluation of the program is essential, as is making changes to meet individual student needs. The following questions are useful here: Are students enjoying their art lessons? Are they getting a sense of satisfaction from what they are doing? Do they see the relevance of what they are learning? Do they understand that they use art and creative processes in other areas of their lives? Do they understand that art involves a wide range of inter-related concepts and processes? Will they persevere at a task until it is finished? Are they able to work at a project over a number of lessons? Are they able to work individually with a partner and in small groups? Are they able to initiate investigations and select appropriate materials, techniques and processes? Are they able to collect, record, display, interpret and explain data clearly? Are they using arts language appropriately? Are they able to explain the processes they have undertaken, the results they have found, and the conclusions they have made?