The Teacher-Directed vs. Student Centered Approach

Recently, my 6th grade students have been working hard to finish a pastel drawing. The assignment was that they were to take a photograph of their neighborhood, and then make an enlargement grid to transfer it onto big paper. The process is a bit tedious, but the results are often amazing. They learn quite a bit about perspective and creating depth, as well as drawing techniques to give the illusion of space. It seems like a great art lesson, right?

Occasionally when finished, students seem relieved or simply ready to move on, perhaps because they are tired of the process or simply not pleased with the results. Art projects can be a big investment of time and energy, and from my experience, the teacher-directed approach so frequently diminishes interest and slows motivation in art-making; It feels more like a chore than an opportunity to create.

This is why I have started to investigate the student-centered approach in my classroom, by giving students choices of materials and letting them explore their own ideas artistically. With the use of guiding questions, research notebooks, materials stations, and small group instruction, I have begun to create a choice-based culture in my classroom. And as a result, the students are more intrinsically motivated and excited about making art!


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