Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OOPS, That Didn't Work

What went wrong and where do we go from here.

So the 3D project of carving and casting low relief went bust for some reasons that I know and some I do not.  Now what do I do?

1st thing I need to do:
  • ·       Don’t let students see their projects until after discussion.
  • ·       Turn this into an opportunity for creative problems solving that requires some critical thinking.
  • ·       Have a class discussion about what went wrong.  Come up with reasons why that may be
  • ·       Brain storm ideas on what to do next.  Explain that often artists come into problems and then have to rethink their project design.·       

  • So now what do I do to figure out what went wrong wand what to do next.

  • Think I know:

  • ·       Not enough model making material for all students at the size of their projects and took too long to get liquefied.
  • ·       Too much water in the plaster mix for the model part
  • ·       Weal walls to hold in the plaster
  • Possible reasons:
  • ·       Plaster over model material may have caused the model material to constrict and warp
  • ·       Let plaster stay in clay mold too long so that it never dried

·       Results:
  • ·       Some plaster molds never dried and subsequently fell apart
  • ·       The plaster backed rubber molds constricted and warped into some strange shape

  • Where to go from here: Possibilities
  • ·       For constricted pieces that are salvageable clean out left over clay, surround in sand and pour the final casting into it.  Let dry and then combine on a board with other materials.
  • ·       Maybe soak the plaster backed rubber molds to dissolve the plaster.
  • ·       For molds that fell apart.  Carve into the wet plaster and make some new design.
  • ·       Cast a block of plaster and carve it.

Assignment :
Write out a plan for what to do with your art from this point.

How did it go
I first had the class move their seats close to the board to discuss how and why artists go back to the drawing board with their artworks.  I also talked to them about how artists let the artwork tell them what it will be rather than the artists forcing something to immerge.  Going with the flow can lead to unexpected surprises and new creations.  The discussion went well even though I had to prod them along to come up with reasons why the plaster didn’t dry, cracked or fell apart or the rubber mold warped.  I used a student’s warped rubber mold and original clay model to further discuss how we as artists can listen to our artwork and let it lead the way to a final composition.  Basically, what can we do with it now that it looks like this?  Start over with a block of plaster and carve it?  Continue the original process and clean out the left over clay, cast it in plaster and see what we get and go from there?  We looked at the new shape that was made when the rubber mold shrank and warped.  It actually appeared to reinforce the shape of a bird face, which is what the student had originally designed but in relief.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The stops along the way: A researcher’s revelation

Twenty one credits into my Maters of Art Education program I am deep in the throngs of academia and still teaching 8 sections in 6 periods of high school art.  Two are new; one with a curriculum plan/umbrella that I thought was good but am now realizing what I left out of the plan, and one that has a perceived structure but not a real strong path. (Advanced Art & Honors and 3D) The two Introduction to Photography classes are going smooth, but the Photo II and Honors Photo II are a challenge to challenge them who then challenge me.  My Independent Art students really aren’t independent.   Beyond my academics (student/teacher/researcher) there is family.  JC just turned 11 and is in 5th grade and Savana is 9 and in the 4th grade.  There’s karate, homework, dinner, 2 dogs 14 chickens, the laundry, the house, the husband, lest not forget him, that all need a piece of my attention too.  The computer crashes, the external hard drive gets corrupted, and my father will arrive in the morning.  Oh’ yeh, and tomorrow’s Thanksgiving.
Tonight, I am frustrated, aggravated, overwhelmed, have lost confidence, and am just plain underwater.  (long story)  Sometimes I think that saying “you just gotta keep your eye on the prize” is a load of crap.  Yes, I said crap.  Keeping your eye on the prize, or let’s say “destination”, can make it impossible to enjoy the ride to getting there.  I want to enjoy the ride, see the sites, and experience the growth along the way. 
I’ve realized that my “prize” is this end point (destination), on the map called curriculum guide.  But they’re some really great places I get to pass through along the way.  I get to study the best art textbooks, talk to a lot of great art teachers about their ideas on those books, read some awesome journal articles, write about what I’m doing in my classes each day and how it’s different from what I thought or wanted or planned for it to be, and then take all that new knowledge and create a real solid course design that other teachers could use too.  I just never thought I would have to do it all at the same time.
When you’re on the highway and drive 100mph in a 65mph zone you get in trouble with the law.  When you do that your thesis year of grad school it’s called normal.   I know where my end point is and I know where my starting point was, the only problem is that I seem to only have time to “pass through” the stops along the way instead of getting to soak them all in, process them, learn from them, and gain strength from them before I have to be at that end point.  When all those stops have to be made at the same time, none of them gets to be absorbed.  Which ultimately, as anyone who has gone on a road trip and was in a hurry to get to the destination, happens is that you get to the destination without realizing and respecting where you have been.
I know I’m not alone in this place and space.  There are plenty of other folks out there with me.  My story isn’t unique.  It’s just the story of how I’m traveling now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What I learned from the Screw-Up

Monday, November 21, 2011

There was a lot of learning going on in the art room today.  Mostly I learned that I underestimated how much mold making supplies would be needed for students to make their molds for casting their clay panels.  The lesson as written had some flaws in it as well.  What did I want students to learn from this project?  I wanted them to learn how an artwork can be a narrative and how to create a relief casting.  Problems with unit that I see at this point:
1.     The introduction to this artwork I don’t think I used enough artist examples for discussion about narrative.  We looked at and discussed art by Chagall and Kahlo when we discussed color symbolism for their previous project.  We then learned about Ghiberti and his Baptistery doors for how he used relief to show depth and importance in his telling of a story.  We went back to those artwork and discussed how they were visual narratives about some aspect of the artist’s identity or belief system.  What I didn’t do, that I should have, was bring in more artists who used narrative in their work.
2.     We used the poem by Robert Hastings, The Station, as inspiration for creating a drawing about an important “stop” along their travels in life.  This was supposed to also serve as a starting point for their narrative artwork.  This concept was lost on the students.  I need to revisit the concept of a personal narrative the next time I teach this or a similar unit.
3.     When I introduced the project for the students (Creating a relief sculpture from modeling and casting)  I showed the steps and we discussed the pros and cons of this process.  I had made an example of all the steps and that is where the images in the presentation came from.  That part went well and as students began modeling their relief sculptures out of clay all seemed to be going well.
4.     When it came time to make the molds I learned many things. 
a.     We didn’t have enough mold-making material and I let the students make their panels larger than our molding supplies would stretch for this class of 25. 
b.     The modeling material didn’t melt like I had hoped in the crock pot so I was constantly going to the microwave to warm more up.  This made for loss productivity as students waited for their turn.
c.     High relief panels needed more modeling material which caused fewer students to be able to make their mold as we ran out.
d.     So plan “B” use the plaster to make the mold by pouring it over the modeled panels. – Problem: The walls created by foil and clay were not always sealed and plaster leaked out causing a quick panic to seal them up before we lost all the plaster or it hardened.
e.     There were students with super high relief so we were going to try out the Paint a Mold material.  Well, it doesn’t go far either.  I had only ordered 1 container of it thinking that when it was mixed it would paint on more than 2 sculptures.  I still need to figure out what I am going to do for the student who still needs to make a mold of his hand.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Needing More Experimentation Time

November 7, 2011

When the expected skill level of the students is not the reality what do you do? You extend the media experimentation time.

Students need time to experiment with various media before they can choose which to use to express their idea.  My Advanced Art class continued their paint media exploration today.  I’m working the curriculum I wrote last year, but that curriculum was written for the advanced art student.  I have a split class this year.  The students who had me for Art III are prepared for the level of instruction and art creation expected from an advanced student.  But a have at least 1/3rd of the class that does not have either the artistic skill or the creative skills that they should have in this type of course.  So I am having to rethink my expectations and approach to instruction.  I had not planned on spending 2 weeks in exploring watercolor, acrylic and oil.  Rather, the plan was to go straight to oil.  I have too many students in this class that don’t understand paint enough to begin a painting in oil.  What I’ve decided to do is allow time for experimentation in the three painting media and then allow students to choose which one they are most comfortable with to create their final artwork.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Qualitative Research

What is Qualitative research?
Stephanie Wirt
University of Florida

Qualitative research involves observation, documentation, interpretation and reflection on the part of the researcher.  Through examining the articles Using Participatory Visual Ethnography to Explore Young People's Use of Visual Material Culture in Place by K. Eglinton, Reflections on the Narrative Research Approach by T. Moen, and Qualitative forms of research methods by M. Stokrocki I will discuss key factors of qualitative research as it relates to art education and my research interests.

Key Words: Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, Narrative

            Qualitative research is guided by questions that have personal significance to the researcher.  The researchers is the leading instrument of investigation who uses a systematic process of describing, analyzing and interpreting to characterize and classify information observed in everyday life (Stokrocki, 1997).  The qualitative approach to research involves studying things in their natural environment as they interact with it in order to make sense of and interpret it.  This type of study involves prolonged observations and engagement with the subject of inquiry   (Moen, 2006). 
            In Qualitative forms of research methods Stokrocki references E. Eisner when discussing the characteristics of qualitative research.  The six key features of qualitative inquiry identified are "1) field-focused, 2) constructed so that the researcher is the instrument, 3) interpretive in nature, 4) expressive in language, 5) highly detailed, and 6) persuasive" (as cited in Eisner, 1991, pp.32-40).  Stokrocki identifies and defines ethnography, micro ethnography, phenomenology, educational criticism, case study, and social critical theory as types of qualitative inquiry.  Moen and Eglinton expand on these categories of inquiry by illustrating the importance of the personal narrative as a method of qualitative inquiry.  With the narrative research approach the researcher is examining to understand, through documentation, reflection and story-telling, the experience of humans as they encounter everyday life situations (Moen, 2006). 
            In Reflecting on the Narrative Research Approach, Moen discusses ideas of Vygotsky and Bakhtin as they relate to narrative research.  Moen agrees with Vygotsky and Bakhtin that any research that considers an individual or single group cannot exist in a vacuum and still be valid (Moen, 2006).  The dialogue of the researcher, whether internal, with participants or audience, is fundamental to qualitative research.  The internal dialogue of the researcher acts as the "talking through" of an idea with one's self in the process of coming to a meaningful conclusion or in solidifying one's own knowledge and understanding.  Meaning is made through shared experience (Moen, 2006).  That sharing of ideas can be through dialogue with other people or with one's self.  Therefore, the voice of the researcher is what constitutes the narrative and acts as the documentation of the research itself.
            My personal research direction involves utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  In the process of creating curriculum for high school arts based on the big idea of Identity, I will be analyzing the differences between curriculum as designed and curriculum as implemented in preparation for writing a better informed curriculum guide for high school art teachers.  In dealing with contemporary high school students visual and material culture is an important part of their identity construction.  Eglinton points out that the personal narrative is a valuable ethnographic tool in conveying over reaching themes.  She also points out that the "place and space" has largely been left out of visual arts education.  This leads to a disconnection between theories and approaches used to engage teenage students in examining visual material culture (Eglinton, 2008).  With this awareness, I realize that any curriculum I write or implement needs to take into account the place and space of my students.  Therefore I must examine the place and space of my students prior to curriculum design.  It also makes me wonder how I can create curriculum that engages students that exist in a different place and space. 
            In order to investigate my students' perspectives and understanding of their place and space I will need to conduct interviews and utilize surveys.  To do this I will need IRB permission.  However, to investigate my own successes, pitfalls and processes in designing and implementing specific curriculum I will utilize a narrative approach in synthesizing my data collection.  My data collection will take the form of a research journal which describes, analyzes and interprets my daily interactions with my students, my process of curriculum design and implementation.  I essentially will be doing a prolonged study of myself as a practitioner of art education and research, of my students as they interact with me and their experiences in the classroom, and the stages of curriculum design.  All of this in preparation for writing a quality curriculum guide for future high school art teachers.

Eglinton, K. A. (2008). Using participatory visual ethnography to explore young people’s use of visual material culture in place and space. In R. Hickman, (Ed.). Research in art and design education (pp. 51-66). Chicago: Intellect Books.
Eisner, E. (1991). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New Your: Macmillan
Moen, T. (2006). Reflections on the narrative research approach. International Journal of Qualitative Methodology, 5(4), 1-11.
Stokrocki, M. (1997). Qualitative forms of research methods. In S. D. La Pierre, & E. Zimmerman (Eds.). Research methods and methodologies for art education (pp. 33-56). Reston, VA: NAEA.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Enduring Ideas from Fairfax, VA

I just returned from our VAEA conference.  I learned today about one Fairfax County, Va. district curriculum.  The workshop was titled "Re-visioning: Integrating One Big Idea for a Course or Grade level, and presented by Carol Trost, Art Resource Teacher, Marshall l High School.  In that county they are taking 1 Enduring Idea and making it "The Idea" for the entire county. (Trost, 2011)  Fairfax County Public Schools, in Fairfax Va. Has 194 schools (138 Elementary (preschool - 6) 22 Middle, 4 Secondary (7 - 12), 21 High (9 - 12), 2 Alternative High Schools, and 7 Special Education Centers.  They have articulated three overarching student achievement goals.  They are Academics, Essential Life Skills, and Responsibility to the Community.  Part of the county's philosophy is "Art education in Fairfax County Public Schools is a core discipline, essential to the growth and development of all students."  It's interesting that the theme for this year's VAEA conference was that of Art Grows Potential.


Sample of FCPS Curriculum at a glance. Presented by Carol Trost from Fairfax, VA at the VAEA Annual Conference, November 3-5, 2011

In this workshop we worked in groups of 4-5 to create a single unit of instruction.  We were given a sheet of paper with one big idea on it.  (My group's idea was community)  Then, in 7 minutes, we recorded anything that came to mind that could be related somehow.  We filled the page.  From these words the key concepts are discovered.  We followed that with finding artists that would also relate.  The presenter had small 4x6 cards of contemporary and known historical artworks that she uses with her students in the classroom.  It was easy to recognize the "masters" from art history, but there were some art works I had never seen, and artists I had not heard of before. Some of the artists image examples from Carol's classroom collection were works from Tim Hawkins, Leornaora Carrington, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Heidy Cody, Ken Chu, Volanda Lopez, Trenton Doyle, Bruce Newman, John Baldessari, Pepon Osorio, Layla Ali, J. Andtoni, Bansky, Varo, Moralso, A. Cutler, L. Lukova, Varo, A. McCollum, and K Marshall.  Now I have new artists to go research!
We didn't get to the production piece of the plan but it was a good start for all of us who participated.  Not only did the presentation/workshop show us "how" and "why" to utilize this type of plan, but it showed how they are doing it.  What I would now also like to know is what all their teachers thought of this plan at the end of 1, 3, and 4 years.  How will it have been received, implemented or changed?  Now there's an idea for a long term investigation.
Student Achievement Goals - The Fairfax County School Board has created three overarching Student Achievement Goals that provide a framework for the school system in its work of educating students. The goals involve:
The direction I want to go with my thesis project is to write curriculum.  The hard part about writing curriculum is doing it all by yourself.  The document, the guide, is better designed by more than one mind.  Collaboration with peers who are all working to make a map for their art educational community is what produces a quality curriculum guide.  We all just need to remember that it is just a guide.  It is not the specific map every teacher must follow.  There has to be some freedom of choice within any curriculum.  This allows for each community to decide for themselves what approach will work best for their students.
I was fortunate enough to participate in many incredible sessions over the last 2 days.  I'll write more about those later.  For now, I need to get some sleep.

Trost, C. (2011, November). Re-visioning: Integrating one big idea for a course or grade level. Paper presented at Virginia art educators association 49th professional development conference, Roanoke, VA.