Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thinking Like an Artist

There is a growing pattern in the professional development of teachers to move away from an emphasis on pedagogical skills to thinking like domain experts. In many ways the idea is not new, yet the application is intriguing. Science teachers spend the summer being scientists working in university lab- thus learning the fabric of science. Math teachers spend their time learning and working math. Perhaps the most established of such ideas is the Writing Project. In the Writing Project each participant is encouraged to write and see herself as a writer, as a result, the logic dictates, she is more likely to teach writing, understand her students process, and finally help them identify themselves as writers.
The question that started emerging in our work is whether that is also true for teachers who are charged with teaching the arts in their classroom? We envision trying to foster Studio Habits of Mind with teachers as a way of transforming their practice. I think this may be a transformational piece for classroom teachers who are not formally trained as art specialist. For them (and me in all honesty) the last time they were engaged with any sustained effort of art making was in school (K12).
There might be a catch that must be considered: can elementary teachers who are asked to teach all, or almost all, subjects be domain experts in all these areas? Can we really expect depth of understanding and real experiences in Math, Art, Science, Writing, History etc.? I am excited about this idea but as I look at the larger context and being able to scale such practices up- I am sure we can scale our pedagogical ideas up (VIEW) but as for teachers thinking like artists, I am not so sure anymore.
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