Book Review: Engaging Learners Through Artmaking (Part 1)

Engaging Learners Through Artmakingengaging_learners_artmaking, written by Katherine Douglas and Diane Jaquith, addresses the idea of student choice in the art room. In 2014, my department hosted a consultant who came in to speak with us about curriculum matters. It was an awesome time of being stretched and challenged on a variety of topics related to art education.

During our discussions, I learned informally about art education pedagogies throughout the twentieth century. Choice in art was one of the topics covered. This topic hasn’t gotten away from me as I continue to read about it online through sites such as The Art of Education and others on the Web. Just do a search on “Teaching Artistic Behavior” or “Choice-Based Art Education” and you will find a host of results that will keep you busy for days.

About the Book

The authors view this as a seminal resource detailing “the philosophy, rationale, and implementation of choice-based authentic art education in elementary and middle schools.” To facilitate this the authors believe children need opportunities to think and act like artists. In fact, you will find the role of children always elevated to that of artist in this book. They provide a substantial, though not exhaustive, list of artistic behaviors including things like problem finding and solving, constructing knowledge, experimenting, reflecting, connecting and representing. Douglas and Jaquith ask art educators to identify what artists do and how that can inform a studio space. On page 3, they point out that adult artists:

  • Play with materials
  • Dream and mentally plan
  • Conceive and expand ideas for artmaking
  • Risk false starts, abandon failed attempts
  • Utilize materials in traditional and idiosyncratic ways
  • Combine materials and genres (e.g., sculpture with painting)
  • Complete several pieces in a very short time or work for weeks on one piece
  • Pursue multiple works at the same time
  • Follow a particular line of thinking over time,c sometimes repeating as tries so similar works
  • Accept mistakes as the springboard for new directions
  • Comment on one’s life, beliefs, popular culture, politics, and history

In my next post, I’ll go into more details related to the  contents. The above concepts are woven throughout the work at both and intricate as well as high level. Therefore, to do the book justice, I will do a couple of posts to explore the ideas more fully and how these concepts of choice-based art making can benefit me in my own classroom.

Stay tuned!

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