Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When it Doesn't Work

Most often when I write in this blog, I am writing about the positive things that are working in my classroom. But let's be honest, not everything we try in our classrooms is successful. Yesterday I taught a lesson that I have taught before but I received very different results. In this lesson I have students critique a piece of art for the first time using Feldman's Method of art criticism. They then use what they have practiced to critique their classmates' portrait drawings. I have written about critiques in my classroom before, and I had grown to believe they were always exciting for students because that is what I have experienced the last 3 semesters I have held them. In previous cases I had students come to class on optional days, beg me for more critiques, and stay over an hour in class just to discuss the work as much as possible. Yesterday, this lesson was a flop. I asked prompting questions and heard crickets. Students were exiting my classroom left and right. The thirst for discussion was non-existent, polar opposite from what I am used to seeing. What went wrong? Is it just a different group of students or it is something more? I looked at the factors that have changed since I last tried a critique. This semester I give students credit for attending my live lessons by completing guided notes. This has increased attendance and seems to improve student performance on quizzes and projects. For this lesson I did not require students to complete any guided notes because I wanted to free up their time to be immersed in the discussion. For some this translated as no credit=no reason to participate or even stick around! This semester I have been teaching Art 5 lessons during the time slot so I have not done my weekly optional critiques for students this semester. These had previously been a very popular time for students to meet and it offered them a social outlet and opportunity to make friends with their classmates. Perhaps these optional critiques showed students that discussing art can be fun, and even something they look forward to. I never realized these small changes could affect the culture of my classroom in such a strong way. The guided notes I have added seem to encourage more students to attend my live sessions and watch the recordings of them, but has it discouraged those students who attend my lessons for social opportunities and the pure pleasure of learning? Too often in our educational system are we focused on the grade and away from what we have learned. How can I both hold my students accountable and remind them that the learning is more important than the grade? An age old question I can't answer, but if you have ideas please share.

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