How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and arts classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?

I realized that trying to work with all of  my art classes regarding our group’s inquiry question was overwhelming, so I began to narrow it down to which group(s) I thought would best benefit by increasing their motivation and drive to create exceptional works of art both inside and outside the classroom. My Independent Art class, which consists of nine young ladies, 6 seniors and 3 juniors, are higher end art students, but have been procrastinating about production and seem to be “looking for their style”. Their lack of motivation was disheartening, as these girls opted to be in a year  long, high level skill and motivation art course. I began by scheduling an “interview” with each of the girls to have them talk about what they had been doing with their concentration and what they thought they could visualize by stepping outside of their comfort zone and pushing their art with different materials and ideas. I have worked with these girls in other art classes over the years and knew that they were creative and could break “out of the box” in trying new and exciting ideas. Individual interviews grew into small group interactive discussions with a few directed questions or comments and then into question and answer sessions with little or no direction from me. The classes went from “I don’t know what to do” or “what you think that I should work on next”to“what do you think of this idea?” As new ideas emerged from students who originally kept falling back on traditional drawing and painting skills, my comments to them were “where were all these ideas and concepts hiding?” I started pushing more “research” into new techniques- mixed media using found objects, altering books not as a journal, but as a sculptural forms, trying materials that were not normally considered art materials and encouraged the girls to find other artists that were also experimenting or working with similar concepts so they would realize that they were not alone. The group went from “what should I do now?” to “look what I was working on last night” or “I found this out in the parking lot of the mall and I am going to incorporate it into this piece of art”. Direction and inquiry was no longer teacher based, but student driven and the level of motivation was off the scale! I forced the students to talk about what they were doing and how “boring” their ideas were to really exciting works of art! They stated to think about their process and began to listen to one another regarding the production of their art. The more personal the artwork became, the more motivation and effort were visible. The girls were asking one another to be critical in viewing their progress and listened carefully to suggestions and questioned reasons for the comments. They became more critical in their own thought and creative process and more motivated, spending study halls, lunch and after school time in the art room. Now I am seeing the artwork that they are working on at home! The more they explore, the more they have been motivated to create!

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