Teaching with Contemporary Art

Feedback Control

Image: toneworld.co.uk

Giving good quality feedback can sometimes make the difference between students completing mediocre assignments and high quality works of art. This week I want to offer some suggestions for what to do when students are “done” but we know they aren’t. We’ve all been there at some point- a student finishes an assignment long before the suggested amount of time or they’re simply staring at a sketch that’s basically a good idea about to hatch.

First, and this may seem obvious, but having students respond to the prompt, Tell me about this so far allows them to give us some context when it comes to what they’re thinking and where they want to go with the work. It also communicates that we are genuinely interested in the work and want to learn more vs. simply asking them to plow ahead for a few more minutes. Often, a student will respond to this kind of prompt and it will open up possibilities for next steps all on its own.

As described last week, having students frame their idea or theme as a question , or helping them form a question, can allow for broad opportunities to explore their work in different ways. Once a student moves towards forming a big question they begin asking themselves how else the idea can be approached.

Asking students what they hope viewers will think about (vs. asking them to describe how they want viewers to “react”) gives us more information about the story and intent behind the work. If students want viewers to think about something specific we can make suggestions about how to get there. And once we have some basic information about where the student wants to go or what they’re driving at, it sometimes makes good sense to offer open (vs. closed) suggestions. For example, “What kinds of things can be happening to communicate the weather you describe?” is much different than, “You could really use some lightning and darker clouds.”

Even simple questions such as, “What’s the next step?” communicates that we have expectations for the work to go a little further.

How do you get students to think about going further on works of art, even when they’re “done”? Please share your ideas!


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