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With consistent practice the students realized they can improve and they became determined to create and to experiment. So it’s not necessarily the cutting-edge concepts, but having some success in a new skill that enhanced their motivation. As the students began to “get” throwing a pot on the wheel, they were more than willing to help other students. Together they would problem solve and show some independence. I interviewed a student who seemed to fall into this category. His name is Logan and he is a junior in a Sr. High Art Class.

Do you enjoy ceramics and working in the potter’s wheel? If so, why?
Logan: Very much! I like doing it because it is something I am good at.

During the ceramics unit in art class, how often did you come to the art room to work?
Logan: As often as I could! Up to three periods a day if I could.

So how did all of this practice help you?
Logan: It got me to where I am now. I can center the clay in like 10 seconds and the rest just comes naturally. It’s a good feeling to finish a nice looking pot.

What do you recommend to other students who are less motivated than you?
Logan: They just have to get past the hard stuff and don’t get too frustrated. They will get it, and then they will love it.

Today during our CIG meeting, we made preparations for our final presentation. We took our own inquiry into our classrooms and went in a variety of different directions. I narrowed mine down to one class and then narrowed even more into how it affected one particular student. Our goal was to determine how we could increase student motivation to practice and I came to the conclusion that opening up a discussion, mastering new skills, and gaining confidence will motivate a student to continue meaningful practice. We used today to complete the voice-over portion of our video and will meet again in early May to wrap everything up.

When we first got our cig together, just like every other year, we kind of just looked at each other and we were not too sure what to do. Most are used to a concrete plan in a credited course, but inquiry based learning can be a little intimidating because where do you begin? We started with deciding on a line of inquiry, our question that we wanted to focus on. “How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and arts classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?” We then decided to put together a survey for our students just to get a starting point. We put together a plan as to how our outcome would be presented. We knew right away that we wanted a video to present our research. So we took all of this to our classrooms to see where it would take us.

Success in new skills increases student motivation. Students gain confidence in an area and understand the importance of practice. This behavior became even more apparent in the Art II class. There is one particular student who has a lot of skill and potential, but did not show confidence. Because of this lack of confidence she lacked independence. She would want me by her side every step and always asked “Is this how I should do this, Do you want me to do it this way?” etc. Keeping classroom inquiry in mind, instead of offering suggestions as to what I would do, I asked her questions to guide her to her own conclusions. Like, “How do you see this outcome? What would happen if you went in this direction?” etc. Once this conversation started she went above and beyond in the assignment and finally got it. Asking students questions will lead them to their own conclusions. This student had motivation but lacks confidence, which lead to a lack in practice! With this newly found confidence she realized that she can create successful art on her own and do her own problem solving. She knows with more practice she can continue to grow.

This assignment she was working on during this discovery was a sculpture. Students were assigned to use their own cast body parts to create a thought provoking sculpture. She knew right away she wanted to use her feet. After going through the long process of casting her feet, she set them on her desk and asked, “Ok, now what?” Which was her usual question to me. So my response was to figure out what to do with these feet. I asked her and the rest of the class, “What do you think of when you see these cast feet sitting on the desk? What are they doing? Where could they have been? Who do they belong to?” Each student had their own sculpture to create but they were all involved in each others projects, which I loved! So the class discussed possibilities in an in depth and sometimes funny discussion. She decided that some of the imperfections of the casting process could be used to her advantage and looked like scars and blisters. Like that of a person without proper footwear for everyday use. The scars and blisters looked sad and tired and worn, like that of a homeless person. Then the ideas came flowing! The outcome was a sculpture of the sad, distressed, dirty feet of a homeless man.

Gaining confidence and realizing they are capable is how to continue student motivation and realization of practice actually helping them.

My CIG created a survey regarding motivation to practice, which I had recently given to my students. The results were expected.. they are not really interested in rewards, probably due to their age group. However I’m sure they would not turn down award money! Most of their answers consisted of creating art that is more interesting, more cutting-edge, and trendy. However as I am wrapping up my ceramics unit, I am finding that students working on the wheel are highly motivated! Students who caught on to throwing pots can’t get enough. They would be in my classroom working all day if their other teachers would let them! Ceramics is not a new concept and is not cutting edge, it is an ancient art. The students are excited about doing this art because they’ve succeeded with a new skill. With consistent practice the students realized they can improve and they then became determined to create and to experiment. So it’s not necessarily the cutting-edge concepts, but having some success in a new skill that enhances their motivation.

I enjoyed going through the thought process of Sondra’s painting assignment. However I wish I would not have read preface before the journal. I had a hard time taking the reading seriously after the author explained, “I also had to use language in the way Sondra would; so, there is some of the ubiquitous text messaging lingo used by teens… lol: laugh out loud… omg: Oh my god… sk8ter: skater.”

So after getting past this explanation of a fictional teenager and her lingo, I actually found the journal pretty interesting and informative. Sondra comes to the conclusion that themes for contemporary art come from many different sources and she writes, “I’m still wondering why teachers always want us to look at other art to inform our work when artists are copying us. Absurd.”

Themes and inspiration for a work of art can come from a student’s own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Honestly sometimes I find it hard to believe that teenage students even have an original idea, but they do! They just need the push through the thought process as in Sondra’s journal. I often relate lessons to the students in some way, like having them create themes that interest the student or are about the student. This leads to discussions, arguments, and ideas. The thought process then flows naturally.  I find this to be one sure way to motivation and success.

What “problems” do you encounter with your students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?

I have noticed over the few years that I have been teaching that students often prefer being told what to do and how to do it without having an original idea or opinion. They want to do what I want them to do. Students have difficulty coming up with their own ideas, answers, techniques, and opinions of art. They will ask me, what do I do next? Is this how you want me to do it? Is this finished? Is this good? Which is fine, of course I am here to guide them and to help them understand, but what inquiry will help them do is break out of that shell and discover these answers. It will make a much more meaningful learning experience and they will have a better understanding of what they are doing, whatever the project may be. The arts are about experimenting and thinking outside of the box, and there is not always a clear-cut answer like the students are seeking.

A good start to this shared inquiry could simply be, What makes our artwork successful? So instead of seeking answers from the teacher, they can discuss ideas and techniques to make successful artwork. They may learn that they share the similar difficulties with a particular assignment and share new ideas of overcoming these difficulties.

September 2020

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