So, I did just that. I asked them on their midterm exam what the experience of having choice in their classroom was like. Here are some responses.
“This effected me a lot because last year we were very limited on the materials we had to use, and we all had to do the same art work in the same manner everyone was doing it. It was a good idea for you to change it to were we can all do different types of art work but with the same theme, for example we were able to carve, paint, draw, and a lot of types of work. i think that method should stay because you can see what each person likes, and what their good at.” ~A, Art 2 student
“I was really appreciative of the opportunity to get to pick what I wanted to do and how I would do it. Having little restrictions was really helpful in expanding my creativity and giving me more choices.” ~E, Art 2 student
“We had a variety of things to use and how to use them. I personally think that some of the projects shouldn’t have been so optional with such a variety of things. That the assignments shouldn’t have been so open to do what those of such wanted. Some should of been open to pick to choose their material used, but some also should of been told what to use and work with that and grow on that to know how to use it and get used to using it. When starting a project it took me awhile to pick what I wanted to do and what I wanted to use due to all the options we had. I am the type of person that I’m more comfortable to be told what to use and then go from there. So it was a challenge adjusting but I got it done. ” ~K, Art 1 student
“I liked the new way of teaching/learning you introduced because it gave me a lot of liberties. In my school (in Germany) we have more defaults and the pictures look similar. Here everybody can draw and interpret the theme his/her own way. That way everybody draws something different and unique.” ~D, Art 1 foreign exchange student
“I felt like it really effected me because if you wouldn’t have given us the choice to really be creative i wouldn’t really try and make something really boring just something easy. I feel like it honestly did help me because i am actually interested and feel like i could do something with my art one day in the future. I am honestly really happy i stayed in this class and you gave me freedom because without that i probably wouldn’t see how much i enjoy art and really see i can do a good job when i put actual effort into it.” ~C, Art 1 student
“I loved that we got to choose what our artwork was this year. It’s given me a lot more freedom and has actually made me care about my artwork because I’m doing what I want to do, instead of something that i have no connection to.” ~R, Art 2 student
“This was effective to me by, letting me use the things that i needed and allowing me to have the things i need to make my artwork be great, and make it to where i don’t just slap something on a piece of paper and turn it in. I can actually give it character.” ~Z, Art 1 student
“I remember last year in ceramics when we had to make a certain piece, but use the method our art teacher wanted us to use. This year, we have theme that our pieces must revolve around, and we may use which ever method of building we like. Personally, I love this new method our teacher has been using for this year. I feel this allows us to continue to use a method we enjoy and focus on improving our skills using that method. Instead of constantly changing which method we have to use and using a method some students might dislike more than others. For example, say we are assigned to make usable containers, one student could use the slab method while another might use coils. There could also be a student who wants to use his or her own method to build a container. They each can find a way they like to sculpt and continue to learn more and more about whatever method they choose. We also have the privilege to try and improve our skill in a method we are not yet comfortable with.” ~J, Intermediate ceramics student
Far and wide, almost all of my students (with the exception of beginning ceramics because I have not moved that class to choice…yet–it is coming next semester) really like having the choice. They like being able to experiment and try new things and start over with another medium when the first they chose isn’t working. They like being able to interpret themes as they wish.
I appreciate K's perspective as well. I know for some it is really hard to not be told how to do something, especially when you have been told how to do it for most of your young life. She is a fabulous artist who spends time thinking about how she will interpret things and trying new mediums. She works hard and has created some fabulous work. I think that one day she might change her mind about having such freedom because from my perspective, it is working for her.
For more reading my students’ responses, go here.