I want students to leave my classroom with an appetite for continued discovery, feeling capable and empowered; possessing the ability to think critically and test boundaries. It is my desire for them to become able, industrious agents of expression and creativity. To satisfy these ambitions, I implement instructional approaches and personal practices that are a combination of experience in the classroom, pedagogical research, and continued observation of colleagues.
Beginning on day one, I interject personality traits that foster a strong student/instructor relationship and allow students to see me as human. Many of these traits, such as my humor and enthusiasm, become part of daily life in the classroom, cultivating a positive, community-oriented space which boosts creativity, builds confidence, and increases overall student engagement. Relationships with students built during the course often extend beyond the classroom in the form of academic and career advice, personal studio visits, reference letters, and continued mentorship after graduation. At the same time, I establish expectations for conduct, detail policies and procedures, and outline assignments and objectives. Delivery of these expectations is clear and direct to set firm boundaries. This also creates an environment where respect is customary and reciprocated, and sets high standards for behavior and involvement in the course.
Believing that students need an expansive, interdisciplinary toolbox and a firm foundation to stand on as they mature as an artist, all course content is purposefully developed and thoughtfully arranged to function as building blocks for future artistic activity and catalysts for sustained creative exploration. Projects begin with an assignment sheet listing specific objectives, materials, procedures, assessment, and other requirements. In addition, information is presented in lecture to give the project contemporary and historical context, and to show examples of past student work, visually illustrating project expectations and providing students with inspiration from their peers. Research prompts, sketches, and maquettes jump start student art production, followed by physical examples and demonstrations of safety procedures, processes, and techniques for proper use of tools and best use of materials. Organized, in-progress critiques of maquettes and finish samples are used to provide feedback early in project development, so that students can apply suggestions directly to the project prior to its completion, resulting in stronger finished work. The course calendar is designed to allow ample in-class studio time, ensuring students receive additional, personalized instruction and guided problem solving during the actual creation process. Student-centered, formal critiques at the conclusion of a project, which include discussion prompts and a rubric for self-evaluation, are used to reinforce terminology, bolster peer-to-peer relations, and give students ownership of the entire creative process. Research and writing assignments throughout the semester further strengthen contextualization, comprehension, and retention of course content.
In order for students of all skill levels and disciplines to find success in the course, I emphasize good craftsmanship and attention to detail, focus on individual improvements, and value effort and work ethic over raw talent. Students are encouraged to think and operate independently, coming to their own conclusions about specific problems, while also working collaboratively and sharing their findings with their peers. Collectively, we identify and enthusiastically celebrate even the smallest accomplishments and learn to look at failures only as experimentation or constructive feedback from a process or material.
Reevaluation of my instruction methods, expectations, and course content is a constant. Edits to assignment sheets, potential calendar adjustments, notes following a lecture, breakthroughs in material usage or process, new artists of interest, and other ideas are collected throughout the semester in a notebook to reflect upon at the conclusion of every term. I also solicit student feedback throughout, especially when employing a new project, allowing me to assess the effectiveness of any given assignment, material, process, objective or due date. Modifications are made, sometimes while students are still working through the project to address immediate needs, and in preparation for the next term. Assignments are also updated to ensure the material stays current and to better serve the students.
In my own actions and art making I lead by example, holding myself to the same high standards and challenging myself as I do my students. Interactions with my students as well as my colleagues are professional and courteous. I acknowledge my biases and own up to mistakes, diligently working to educate myself and correct my failings. In the classroom and beyond, I maintain an active role in the studio community, participating in end of class clean up, collaborating with other instructors, and lending my skills and energy to collective goals. In addition, I work through many projects alongside students from sketchbook to completion, serving as a model in conceptual development, process and material usage, and problem solving. As often as I can, I bring my personal research, experimentation, studio practices and creative production into the common space, sparking curiosity and motivating students to keep exploring. I also engage in honest dialogue about the highs and lows of art making, as well as share my own experiences with creative blocks and how I overcome them. The energy and passion imbedded in my own creative process is transferred to the students through more captivating instruction and innovative ideas.