Students learn in many different ways. We can not expect every student to retain information and grasp concepts the same way as their peers. We should be teaching in a student based learning environment in which each student has the opportunity to learn in the manner that works best for them individually.
Ideally we should be giving every student a setting that allows them to learn in many different ways. In the book, “A New Culture of Learning”, Douglas Thomas (2011) says that we need to find a way to integrate play into our classroom. I have created a significant learning environment that does this. I am going to shift to a more holistic learning environment than I currently have. Ron Miller (2012) says that when educators take a holistic approach to teaching they pay attention to children’s physical, personal, social, emotional and spiritual well-being as well as cognitive aspects of learning. We have to incorporate all of this into our teaching paradigm if we want our students to achieve their full potential. I also think having the students use every tool they have access to inside and outside the classroom to learn is holistic. I always try to take into consideration my students needs and personalize my projects to fulfill their needs the best I can. I have witnessed in my class that individualized learning is more effective than having all the students do everything the same way.
Being a constructivist art teacher, I allow my students a large amount of freedom to create their work. I encourage them to complete their assignments how they want to, not how I want them done, or how I would do it. I introduce techniques and practices to them and I let them go with it. This learning environment has worked out very well for me and my students over the years.
Learning does not have to be torturous to our students, there is no reason to stand in front of our class and lecture all day, every day. I concur with (Siemens, 2005) that “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application.” My learning philosophy is to use everything I have available to me and interject my past experiences and knowledge I already have combined with new information to continue to grow. We learn by building on what we already know. I don’t think that will ever change, it is a process.
To aid in aligning the outcomes, assessments, and activities for my Art I class I have made a Gig Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and created a 3 column table using backward design. Fink (2003) points out that “this process starts at the “end” of the learning process and works “back” toward the beginning”(p. 7). Creating learning outcomes/goals should be done first then derive a way to reach them. My BHAG is:
Students will take responsibility of their work and demonstrate knowledge of fine art by creating personal pieces of traditional and digital artwork to add to their e-portfolio in a hands-on learning environment while incorporating prior experiences with what they are currently learning.
That is my overarching goal for the future. I will show you in a 3 column table, that was derived from L. Dee Fink and Dr. Dwayne Harapnuik, how I plan to make my BHAG a reality through learning goals, learning activities, and assessment. The first column in the table contains the student-centered learning goals. This column starts with the foundational goals, which are the basis for the application goals, integration goals, human dimension and caring goals, then progresses to the final goals for learning how to learn. All of these goals are crucial for the student to be successful in a self-directed learning environment. The learning activities are simply the way students can reach their learning goals. The learning activities should urge the student to set goals for themselves, be self-disciplined, responsible, and incorporate imagination into their learning process. The assessment activities should be thorough, well planned, and student-centered in order to understand if the students are really grasping the goals.
After making a 3 column table that set goals for the entire year I made an Understanding by Design (UbD) model using the one page template from Wiggins and McTighes’ book Understanding by Design. The UbD model is a more detailed, specific set of goals that is aimed at one lesson or unit. This UbD example is based on a color theory unit. It is very important for artist to understand colors and how they relate to one another. One way to do this is to create a color wheel. I took the information from the 3 column table and extended upon the learning goals to create a UbD model. The UbD model allows one to create more detailed and specific objectives on multiple levels. It also encourages cross-questioning. Which can get confusing if the proper action and describing words are not used. The UbD model is based on short term goals. The example that I am sharing about color theory is a ten day unit. One thing I like about the UbD better than the 3 column is the ability to assure that every aspect of the curriculum is covered and has purpose. I also include the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in my model. This allows my principal and myself to make sure all the objectives are being covered that should be.
In order to have a successful learning environment we should have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset try to hide mistakes, become defensive when wrong, give up quickly if they do not understand, and often avoid challenges. A student with a fixed mindset thinks that intelligence can’t be changed – people are only good at things they are born good at. They ignore constructive criticism and are threatened by others success. The fixed mindset student does not take chances on learning new information for fear of failure.
The growth mindset is very important to obtain because this learning process sets the student up for success. These learners are very open to new ideas and different ways of learning. They understand and accept failure or mistakes. They turn failures and shortcomings into learning opportunities instead of giving up. They continue to learn at all times despite setbacks. The growth mindset learner embraces challenges, accepts constructive criticism, and most of all understands that intelligence can be developed and learned. They take on the idea that we are born to learn. I will model to my students what a growth mindset is.
Creating a specific learning environment based on Holistic Learning combined with my learning philosophy, a BHAG, a 3 column table, an Understanding by Design lesson plan, and having the growth mindset is going to help me implement my Innovation Plan. I will create a UbD for all of the units I teach through the year. This will give myself and my students a clear understanding of what is expected of them. I now have big goals for my students that they can eventually reach. Having everything organized and accessible is going to help my students create their e-portfolios and make artwork to put in them. Having clear outcomes, goals, and objectives will give my students a stable beginning to build their digital portfolios. Their portfolios will be a place for them to display work, discuss art, and receive feedback. I would next like to dig deeper into exactly how I will have all my students create their e-portfolios.
Miller, R. (2012, March 4). Exploring Holistic Approaches for Early Childhood Educators – Raise Learning – Early childhood services (inc. LIFT, planning for the EYLF and the National Quality Standards). Retrieved from http://www.raiselearning.com.au/blogs/news/5818384-exploring-holistic-approaches-for-early-childhood-educators
Fink, L.D. (2003) A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Siemens, G. (2005, January 5). Jan05_01. Retrieved from
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY. Author.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.