What do I believe my students should learn?
I design Metals and Jewelry curriculum to help students develop skills and knowledge in five core areas: craft, communication, critical thinking, criticism, and professionalism. (1) Craft refers to the se of skills and specialized knowledge used to accomplish tasks in a given area, and the virtuosity and discipline with which these tools are used. I believe the foundation for any profession or vocation, especially in the arts, is craft. To accomplish anything a student first has to know how to use the tools of the trade and be able to evaluate if they have been used well. In my classes students begin with skill mastery and an evolving appreciation of the medium that develops over time. (2) The tools of craft are useless if the student can’t decide what to create. As a teacher, I must nurture the student’s ability to develop his or her own ideas and express them eloquently. The ideation process is an intellectual craftwork, and I teach it as tied to model making, drawing, and even the scribbles art students collect as the evidence and documentation of their work. (3) My third task is to help students develop their critical thinking skills. Students need to learn how to set their own goals, define their own problems, answer their own questions, and know where to go for help when they can’t do these things. In short, it is my goal to teach them how to be autonomous thinkers and object makers who still know how to collaborate and communicate. (4) I am also responsible for guiding students in developing their ability to thoughtfully, insightfully, and intelligently evaluate and discuss art. While my primary expertise and responsibility is in 3-D object making, exposing students to art history, aesthetics, and cultures of art must be part of the learning process for my students. (5) Finally, I believe it is my responsibility to help students develop their professionalism. This has three parts. a. They should be aware of what is happening in their school, in the world of fine and applied art, and in the world in general. b. They should know how to behave and communicate as a professional in their chosen area. c. They should be able to strategize how to put their skills, talent, and knowledge to work for them in a myriad of ways.
How do I teach these things and how do I think my students learn them?
Each of the metals and Jewelry courses are designed to develop skills in the five areas listed above. However, as courses become more advanced the focus gradually shifts from basic skills and knowledge to more complex performance, and the information within these areas becomes more advanced and theoretical. Introductory courses focus primarily on craft and communication, with a secondary focus on problem solving and critique. Intermediate courses focus more on problem solving and communication, inclusive of craft and critique, and professional practices are introduced. Advanced courses focus on problem setting, professionalism, personal expression, and advanced criticism. I teach this building sequence of knowledge and performance using a mastery learning approach. In this approach, students are expected to provide project-based evidence at intervals that can be assessed and critiqued. Feedback is immediately provided, and students are expected to decide how much more work they choose to put into a project. Over time, this feedback cycle encourages mastery of skills, not simply one-shot exhibition of a final work for evaluation.
The diversity of my students.
Fine and applied arts students are diverse. They vary especially in their developing educational and career goals, and how they want to achieve their objectives. I believe that it is my job to help students develop skills that will serve them no matter what their aspirations. I use a broad range of teaching techniques to address the spectrum of learning styles, cultural backgrounds, and expressive skills these students bring to the classroom. Using an organized, varied, and responsible curriculum I try to accommodate and encourage their individuality as students and aspiring artists. This means providing guest speakers, field trips, symbolic and text based materials, one on one feedback, out of class contact, and access to alternate ideas about the medium that I may not be able to address by myself. Humor continues to be a key element I use in my teaching, as a way to build rapport and ease tension in the classroom. I attempt to build an inviting studio environment that goes beyond the classroom time slot, and encourages interactions between students and myself, between different levels of students, and creates a sense of community.
Teaching as central role
With this orientation to teaching and my multiple roles as educator, I can address students as readers, writers, talkers, and doers. I use an active learning approach whenever possible so my students reinforce what they see and hear with what they read, and do in the studio. Assessments are designed to reflect this synthesis and provide clear, explicit feedback and reinforce mastery expectations. In sum, my teaching is a connected, dynamic process from curriculum development, through classroom interactions, to final assessments that is open to change, responsive to student and institutional needs, and provides an additional source of inspiration for my own artwork.