Tagged: Studio Habits

Cultivating an ‘Art Mindset’

ORANGE BRAINThis year something I’ve adopted with all of my classes is “Mindset Mondays.” We learn about the concept of having a growth mindset in order to develop attitudes, build habits and practice skills which help us learn better. Usually this involves a short video and some discussion or a brain-teaser or activity meant to encourage becoming a life-long learner.

In Art classes at Boyer Valley this has meant taking notes on and learning about the “Studio Habits of Mind” developed a few years ago by educators at Harvard.

I really believe in these. I think that they’re not only things that artists genuinely do even without thinking about it, but very real reasons why art education is meaningful and important and not just “enrichment.” These are critical thinking activities which are valuable in the work place, in academic disciplines other than art and in everyday life.

I encourage everyone to practice them, not just my art students. I encourage parents and other teachers to talk about them with your students. Have conversations about what they mean, how to use them, and how they help.

It may be too soon to gauge what effect ‘Mindset Mondays’ has had on my classes, but it has definitely helped me to get students to consider their process more and not get so hung up on their finished products. This is immeasurably important in art because as any experienced artist will tell you, if you fall in love with the process, more successful products will be a natural outcome.

I have incorporated studio habits into a  portion of students’ self-assessments for every assignment and occasionally will include an extended reflection/assessment for a given project that emphasizes the 8 habits, not just the usual rubric objectives.

One of the best things about these is that it provides a deeply researched, legitimate means of both teaching and evaluating what was once considered subjective or intangible, namely; inspiration, motivation, effort and participation.

Hetland, Lois. Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education. New York: Teachers College, 2007. Print.


via 8 Studio Habits of Mind – Drawing and Painting

8 Studio Habits of Mind – Drawing and Painting
(Adapted from artiseducation.org, with my commentary in orange)

  1. Become an Artist: Learning to use tools, materials, artistic conventions (the traditional Elements & Principles of Design, which I’ve had college Art educators tell me are a priority to them) and learning to care for tools, materials, and space (teaching procedures, a perennial headache for Middle School Art teachers!).
  2. Engage and Persist: Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus conducive to working and persevering at tasks. (This habit hits on things vital for MS/HS students; Attention, Focus, Concentration, Mindfulness, Perseverance, Endurance, Grit, etc. etc.) 
  3. Envision: Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece. (Initially this is about planning, many athletic coaches and trainers have written about “imaging” and “visualization,” this puts a name and a deliberate methodology to the creative, imaginative process that most artists and some students already use intuitively and ties perfectly with national core standards. Mid-process it becomes about awareness, inference decision making, flexibility and adaptation- also aligning with national core standards, 1 &2 ).
  4. Express: Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning – all within the context of drawing and painting. (A few years ago I realized that while students were claiming that this was the most important aspect of art to them, they didn’t know how to do it. So, taking a cue from Language Arts teachers, I began emphasizing how students could invoke mood using the elements of design, evoke associations using symbols and imagery and how to deliberately provoke discussion and/or reaction with a combination of composition and style. This aligns with national standards 3, 9, 10 & 11 and simultaneously makes art more personal, but also improves student’s communication and critical thinking skills by challenging them to plan, analyze and interpret.)
  5. Observe: Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires and thereby see things that otherwise might not be seen; viewing with a critical eye. (This is the difference between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson- well, this and being a “high-functioning sociopath.” Point being, this is something that scientists and engineers and anyone who works with other people, animals or machinery all need and it’s something that art education gives kids, observation skills.)
  6. Reflect: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process and learning to judge one’s own work and working process as well as the work of others. ( I really can’t say anything about this better than my colleague at artwithmrdexter.wordpress.com did, except to point out that it aligns with national standards 4, 6, 7, 8, & 10.)
  7. Stretch & Explore: Learning to reach beyond one’s capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes – all within the context of drawing and painting. (This not only teaches conceptual ambivalence, an important part of being an abstract thinker- but it increases both curiosity and pushing and challenging yourself. Taking risks in art is eminently safer than in other areas of life!)
  8. 8. Understand Arts Community: Learning to interact as an artist with other artists in the classroom, local arts organizations, and beyond (By posting student artworks on Artsonia.com and conducting regular class critique-sessions, I help students learn how to interact as members of an artist community. After discussing one habit a week for the first eight weeks, I switch to introducing students to other artistic concepts or to contemporary working artists on my ‘Mindset Mondays.’ By doing this, they see that art isn’t just about historical figures like DiVinci, Rembrandt, VanGogh and Picasso but a real, continuing, active thing. It also shows them that there are people who use the 8 studio habits today in the real world. Finally I model for them that when you learn something, adapt it or master it, it’s natural then to share it and contribute to other people’s learning. Not only do I utilize Artsonia for this, but we also post student artworks on Instagram with @BVArtdogs, which they in turn can share on other social media.)

studio20habitsstudio-habits-of-mindCheck out my “Art Mindset” Board on Pinterest

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Mindset Mondays

ORANGE BRAINI haven’t blogged in quite a while and it seems like the last few times were either politics or poetry.

This year for professional development, our school is doing something called “Personalized PD.” Essentially we’ll be getting licence renewal credit for doing something I’ve been doing for years anyway; doing personal reading or research and implementing what we learn in our classrooms. Any professional educator worth their salt ought to be doing this at least casually if not deliberately and formally anyway.

Sometimes it’s a website, blogger or twitter. Sometimes it’s a professional journal or association resource. Sometimes it’s your own personal learning network (PLN). But anyone who’s serious about helping their students learn and grow is also constantly striving to learn and grow themselves.

Now that it’s becoming “institutionalized,” that is to say now that the educational-industrial-complex is finally catching on to personalized pd and to “professional learning circles (PLCs),” I worry that it will no longer be as organic and subversive as it once was. Time will tell, but in theory at least, it’s an excellent idea.

One component of our school’s Professional PD is that we need to share what we learn and implement with other educators. So, rather than create an entirely new blog, I am going to post about what I research and apply here on my existing blog under the tag “teaching” and with the spiffy “faculty lounge” banner graphic.

I may not be a professional education consultant, a TED Talks speaker, award winning administrator or YouTube or podcast host, but I am a 24 year veteran of both parochial and public schools, so I hope that my ideas and insights will be useful to whomever stumbles across them and to my colleagues at Boyer Valley and Woodbine schools.

DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING- What I write here are all my own opinions and do not represent Boyer Valley Community Schools, their Board or Administration- although

1) I will do my best to remain as positive and professional as I can at all times because

a) I like my job and want to keep it and

b) it’s the right thing to do anyway.

2) They really ought to be their ideas because it’s not like I’m a blither idiot, I try to be informed and it’s not like I haven’t got years of experience and any district ought to trust and empower their educators (whew- sorry, just putting that out there even though I recognize that it was both cynical and unprofessional, but admit it, it was at least kinda funny, right?) and

3) I forgot 3… oh yeah- any blogger ought to be able to feel comfortable being as genuine and authentic as possible without having to fear recrimination for their candor, right? Be that as it may, my goal is to share ideas, not spew opinions or vent frustrations so even if I try to use humor (or sarcasm) on future posts, please know that it’s intended to help communicate not to ruminate.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it.

The PLC I am a part of (not to be confused with a PLN) has as a goal to increase motivation among our students. Last year we discussed using “Growth Mindset” ideas, but for whatever reason, we didn’t get all that far. That doesn’t mean that I have to give up on that concept myself in my own classroom.

One of my plans is to dedicate a portion of each Monday to addressing issues of learning attitudes. In my eighth grade Civics classes I plan on using videos from Trevor Ragan at trainugly.com. In my middle school Art classes especially, I will be working through the Studio Habits of Mind (SHoM) developed at Harvard. I will touch on these in my high school Art classes as well although in Commercial Art and Web Design , I intend to emphasize the steps in the design process more.

Later in the year, I may switch Art classes to videos from a YouTube channel called ‘The Art Assignment’ which will essentially be cycling through the studio habits in different ways. I may move Web Design to either Trevor Ragan, Simon Sinek or Steven Covey or some combination of all three.

As a Cheer coach, I’ve used John Wooden’s ‘Pyramid of Success’ for many years, but have let it go for a few years now, so I think I should bring it back.

All of these programs are intended to help develop learner’s own intrinsic motivations to desire to learn and challenge themselves rather than relaying on extrinsic motivators like grades, privileges, rewards, punishments, detentions, candy, etc. etc.

The thick, pseudo-intellectual explanation for this is that I see myself as aligning with cognitivists and existentialists in psychology rather than the behavioralists. The snarky way to say that is that I want students to be thinkers and learners rather than treating them like animals or machines.

Let’s be blunt. The trend in legislatures and state departments of education in recent years has been to focus on testing, data, and standards. But if students don’t respect the test, the results will always be skewed and therefore inaccurate. What’s more, the best tests, the best data, and the best designed standards in the world won’t mean jack if students are either unwilling or unable to learn.

Because of this, we need to direct our energy into inspiring and encouraging students to actually WANT to become life-long-learners.

Here are two trite cliche’s which I consider personal mantras and which I share as often as I can:

  • We can’t teach them Bloom till we take care of Maslow
  • If you WANT to learn, NO ONE can stop you;
    But if you DON’T want to learn, NO ONE can help you

MindsetMondaysPlanbook