Last Autumn as a part of graduate work I experimented with using a literacy teaching model in the visual arts classroom. The Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) was developed by Emily Calhoun and involves using an image to elicit literacy through identification and classification of elements. In my high school Art I class, the painting unit is about the interdisciplinary nature of everything we study, in this case, painting, mathematics, and the use of symbols. In this unit we focus the Renaissance, traditional East Asian painting, colour theory, the golden ratio, and watercolour and acrylic painting.
This specific lesson uses two paintings from the Northern Renaissance, Frans Synders’ The Fruit Stall, and Jan Janz van de Velde III’s Still Life with tall Glass. The goal is for the students to understand how artists use symbols to communicate meaning to the viewer. I find this particularly exciting because even though the paintings come from nearby geographic regions, time periods, and similar cultures, the meanings are quite different. The students got a kick out of this as well and later in the term they employed some of these approaches to making their own paintings. I find that PWIM is a very good teaching model and am happy to report that is has strong application in the visual arts classroom. I am encouraged to try it with some other classes and unit, and next school year may attempt to bring it into the IBDP Visual Arts class as a way to help students thing about their own artwork and exhibits. I am going to limit this blog post to the procedure with some thoughts on the process. However, I have included the paper itself, as well as the slide show, and entire unit plan should you want to explore further. And feel free to use it in your own classroom. The artwork is available from the Hermitage and Rijksmuseum. Student work is used with permission.
First, I introduced the lesson and the nature of Northern Renaissance painting from Flanders. Specifically, that the painters like Frans Snyders would use symbols to communicate ideas and concepts that wold have been familiar to the viewers. So we look at the painting and on the board I label what they see, things like: A monkey, a pine cone?, an old lady, a young lady, grapes, etcetera. In the PWIM this is often referred to ‘shaking out.’ It took them a moment but it got lively before long.
The next step was to identify the overall classification of the symbols and I told the students there are two categories of symbols here. I provided the categories, the first, senses, elements and seasons, and the second, positivity, peace, respect, and religion. I told the students that there could be overlap between the symbols and categories. I revealed the meaning of the symbols to the students through a website. Then the students created their own title for the painting.
Next I showed the students another still life painting, and I explained that this painting has a much darker meaning, namely, that this painting was intended as a warning to not misbehaving in this life. This time around, I asked the students to work in pairs or trios and work their way through the process. Before I presented the students with a resource, I asked them to title this painting as well. Then presented them with a website that explains common symbols used in this style of painting.
The final part of this lesson was for the students to attempt this once more on their own, as a part of a larger, summative assessment.
I was pleased with how well the students were able to infuse the results of this lesson into their own artwork. As mentioned above, the strongest effect came from students applying some of the ideas, and in some cases some of the symbols in their own paintings. This was not a requirement of student work but a pleasant result nonetheless. Like many units, the students often get something unintended or unforeseen out of the lesson as well. I should have known, in a room full of angst-y teenagers that I would end up with some angst-ridden paintings, especially after looking at images that metaphorically tell you hell awaits for those that misbehave.
I hope you found this useful. Since we are entering a potential eLearning environment in the near future, I think this lesson can be easily adapted to video conferencing and remote learning. For the first part of the lesson I used an online app called draw.oi and the images and websites are linked below.
All the best!
Here are some links I used for this lesson.
Curriculum and Learning Experiences
I would like to see a good balance, and by that I mean about 50/50 of structured, knowledge, content, skill, and thinking education alongside transdisciplinary, project-based, place-based, passion project learning. I believe there are a lot of things students can acquire in regard to skills and knowledge, and these skills, for lack of a better word, are enhanced by being put to use. To these ends, a lot of transdisciplinary learning will be very beneficial and could be both in the structured and project-based aspects of the course. Some specifics about curriculum are that dance and movement should be an integral part of the education, video and film are considered literacy, standards based assessment for grades PK – 10, and an odd little quirk, writing script; doesn't matter which language, it’s an enhancement on the way we communicate that activates students’ attention to both what and how they say it.
Clear goals and a plan. There are many options for changing education, many of which I agree with. But in my experience, there has not been sufficient commitment to an approach which I think reveals that schools are trying systems without adequately thinking about where they want their school to be in five and ten years. So, a long, careful approach to thinking about where the school wants to be and then applying systems to those ends. My ideal school would be one where students feel a sense of comradery and identification with the school, teachers, classmates, administration, and staff; where social and emotional learning is an important part of learning experiences, where skills, knowledge, and content are learned alongside application; and where physical health and cultural understanding is given the same kind of importance as academic development. Furthermore, a school should be lab, lots of action research, lots of time for teachers to plan and develop new ideas, and collaboration with universities that are developing teacher education programs. Also, writing script, did I mention that?
Well this is personal, but I like the four seasons, especially the cold in the winter, and the mountains, and the sea, and the forest, and the city. Does such a place exist? Not sure but really what is important is that the students and teachers work in a non-distracting place. Where there is access to culture and nature, and not isolated from some the harder aspects of being alive on this planet. A strong connection and understanding with the resources that go into making a school operate. To these ends, as paperless as possible, (paper is good for things like learning to write script.) Something I experienced when I worked at public school in China, is that the students are responsible for cleaning their classrooms, they straighten the desks, mop the floor, clean the chalkboard and I think this is a valuable relationship the students have with the physical space they occupy. Having a school garden perhaps. Facilities for the students to play different sports, record audio and film, and strong computers, with solar panels on the roof. Generally speaking, a place where the students feel ownership over where they spend most of the daylight hours, and they understand the implications of occupying a physical space.
This is the literature review and discussion and implications sections of a research proposal I recently wrote. They may read a little disjointed, but that's because there are parts in between. Hopefully this gives you an outline of SEL and one model for making it work in the visual arts classroom. Feel free to use, make sure to cite your source - Mr. Allen is Cool!
Overview of SEL
Social and emotional Learning (SEL) is a relatively new field in education which attends to the individual and his or her relationship with others. There are different ways to understand SEL the most common approach is outlined by the CASEL which enumerates five SEL competencies: Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision making. Encouraging students to understand and manage their emotions will lead to self-regulation, an ability to empathise with others, and encourage positive goal setting so that when the students finish with school they are prepared to deal with the challenges of being an adult in a world populated by others (Brackett, Elbertson & Rivers, 2017; CASEL, 2019; Crowder, Brown, Gordon & Davidson, 2019; Weissberg & Cascarina, 2013). SEL has shown to play an important and positive role in education because learning itself is an emotional event. It not only leads to a productive academic experience it prepares students to be able to adjust to employment where learning new skills and working with others will be valuable. Attainment of SEL competencies result in better academic achievement, better bonding with peers, fewer destructive behaviors, and a reduction in depression and anxiety. (Balfonz & Whitehurst, 2019; Wang & Shen 2009; Weissberg & Cascarino 2013).
The interaction with the teachers and the environment is important to the effectiveness of developing SEL competencies. The amount of warmth and support the students feel from the teacher will predict its efficacy which is realized through students feeling validated and an ability to voice their opinions. Therefore, it is important for the teachers to set up this type of environment before attempting to include SEL in their classrooms (Bracket, Elbertson & Rivers 2017; Raggizzino 2003). Because the school is a social place, social skills are both a necessity of SEL as well as a result and teachers are in a position to encourage the above-mentioned attributes of a safe environment where the student perceives teacher support (Elliot, Frey & Davies 2017). Furthermore, students will be more receptive to classroom activities if they are seen as relevant to their lives both in and out of school, SEL fulfills an important aspect of this (Lin, Lee, Wang Tsai & Yi, 2018).
Adolescents are particularly well disposed to SEL for several reasons. Developmentally they are struggling with forming an identity and understanding how to be a part of a group. If their opinions are received, and they develop an awareness of those around them, then the SEL competency of self-management can be developed which in turn has a positive effect on acquisition of content knowledge (Bracket, Elbertson & Rivers, 2017). Additionally, high school students are entering a phase where the ability to conduct metacognition is just showing itself and SEL will both help the students acquire and employ it which also leads to stronger academic achievement (Crowder, Brown, Gordon & Davidson 2019). It is important to note that the SEL programs that the students may have encountered in primary and middle school are not effective in high school students, so a high school specific approach is necessary. This poses a particular problem because there is a lack of developed, high school SEL programs (Williamson, Modecki &Guerra 2017).
There is general agreement that not enough research has been done in SEL. There are no studies which test how well all five competencies are addressed in a single program nor have we collected sufficient, repeated results in any one program. Additionally, all researchers are not in agreement about a comprehensive definition of SEL (Williamson, Modecki & Guerra, 2017; Hetch & Shin, 2017). SEL can be implemented in three ways according to Torrente, Alimchandani, and Aber (2017); through discrete skills to be developed, a specific set of activities, and as a general approach to fostering school environment. The varied approaches also make it more difficult to understand how SEL can be most effectively applied. While a large majority of pre-service teachers have SEL as an aspect of their studies, many in-service teachers have less than ten years’ experience and feel insufficiently qualified to conduct SEL programs and activities (Schoner-Riechl, 2017; Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013).
The education environment for SEL
The current, school-aged students are digital natives who are optimistic about the future (Buckley, Doyle & Doyle, 2017; Pearson, 2017). As this proposal attends to high school students it is also important to note that high school students move from class to class. This will have an important effect on how SEL is presented and employed in the classroom and school settings (Williamson, Modecki & Guerra 2017). These students learn best when engaged in a moderate arousal state. Affective and cognitive brain functions work together, so engaging students where they are engaged, interested, and challenged is important. The teacher should not shy away from situations of frustration and confusion because this allows the students to overcome obstacles and construct their own knowledge (Shen, Wang & Shen, 2009). In fact, Shen, Wang, and Shen (2009) state that engagement and confusion are the most important, emotional states in education.
Another important factor to consider is that students want to see a connect between the work they do in the school and how it applies to the world outside of school. Billed as ‘authentic learning experiences’ pointing out to students, or allowing them to draw their own conclusions because the environment makes it relevant, teachers can increase student learning by providing opportunities to make these connections (Lin, Tseng, Lee, Wang, Tasi & Yi, 2018; Stern, Harding, Holzer & Elbertson, 2017). This will be explored further, below where the link between technology and education is discussed.
Cultural considerations for SEL
Because this proposal is intended for an international school in China, it is important to explore some of the cultural factors that go into implementing an SEL program. While it should be accepted that no, individual school or student is 100% one or the other, a continuum of collectivist versus individualistic should be adopted to understand how students will react to SEL. Children become self-aware at roughly the same time independent of culture and therefore it is important to adapt teaching practices to the development of this child keeping in mind that how the student conceptualizes their self-awareness will vary depending on the culture they are raised (Brecket, Elbertson & Rivers, 2017; Hetch & Shin, 2017). Collectivist cultures, predominately, although not exclusively East Asian, will see themselves in relationship to the group whereas individualistic cultures will see themselves as a person with attributes. Collectivist cultures will value perspectives that advance the whole as opposed to individualistic cultures will value achievement of goals and existence of rights. Because the more we stay within our culture, the lower our insistence of depression we need to ask ourselves, as educators, where is the student’s confidence originating? With the achievement of the individual or belonging to a group (Hetch & Shin, 2017). To add a level of complication to this matter, students who have been present in both collectivist and individualistic cultures, will adapt their behavior depending on environment (Hetch & Shin, 2017; Nisbett, 2004).
Here are some specific ways this will play out in classroom environments. In individualistic cultures, emotions are seen as a result of behavior and in collectivist cultures they are seen as a result of circumstance. Similar, responsible decision making, a tenant of SEL, will skew more towards the good of the whole in collectivist cultures and good of universal rights in individualistic ones. Eye contact varies widely from culture and depends mostly on whether or not confidence or peace-making is seen as the more valuable trait (Hetch & Shin, 2017). Consequently, as international school teachers we are presented with a conundrum, self-awareness and self-management will be easier for some and difficult for others and conversely, and social-awareness and relationship skills will be the opposite depending on how the student understands the environment. Responsible decision making will also be biased (Hetch & Shin, 2017).
Technology in education
The use of technology in education poses teachers with opportunities and challenges. Current, high-school aged students fall into the category of Generation Z. They are digital natives who will use up to five screens a day for educational, recreation, and communication purposes. Referred to above, students perform best when they see a connection between the world inside of school to the world outside of school. Perhaps it is better put to say that students do not see the distinction between the two which their previous generations have (Doucette, n.d.; E-Learning, 2017). Students are looking for ways to personalize their learning and the use of technology provides not only this opportunity, but also has been shown to provide moderate increases in academic achievement. Herein lies one strong source of connecting students to authentic, experiences (Doucette, n.d.; Lin, Tseng, Lee, Wang, Tsai & Yi, 2018; Stern, Harding, Holzer & Elbertson, 2017). Suggestions about using technology in the classroom include highlighting the mobile and social nature of how students use it today. The SoMoLo game-based application, for example, encourages students to explore the local environment and communicate with one another and work their way through learning activities that help them acquire content (Lin, Wang, Lee, Tsai & Yi, 2018). Social media can be used to provide students with reminders about work and indications about the potential for independent learning (E-Learning, 2017). Unfortunately, this area has not been fully explored and at present, there are some mobile, emotional apps for the cell phone, but these have not been adapted to SEL. Furthermore, the collection of data and geo-location, a part of SoLoMo, poses child protection and ethics questions that have not been addressed by explicit policies (Doucette, n.d.; Lin, Tseng, Lee, Wang, Tsai & Yi, 2018).
Consideration of incorporating SEL into classroom practices are fairly straightforward with many similarities at how we also incorporate content learning. Teaching of SEL competencies should be systematics, regular, and a multiyear part of classroom instructions. The skills they learn should be able to put to use right away and students need to be able to return to skills and competencies multiple times to increase acquisition. SEL should be provided by teachers, administration, and peers, and the school should have strong administrative support for the SEL program (Schonert-Riechl, 2017; Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013). When engaging with SEL activities the best approach is to discuss the benefits with students as well as their progress and connect what they have learned and discovered with past experiences (Bracket, Elbertson & Rivers, 2017; Timpson, 2009). When assessing SEL competencies, direct observation is the most effective method, albeit cumbersome for the teacher practitioner. However, using surveys with rating scales have also shown to be effective for both teacher understandings of individual student competency as well as student self-assessment about efficacy and individual advancements in the competencies. Furthermore, surveys help student acquire a level of ownership over what takes place in the classroom (Elliot, Frey & Davies, 2017; Timpson, 2009). The two important obstacles to overcome. First, to integrate SEL into the classroom activities. Some activities have shown to be disruptive to learning. Second, the cultural considerations should be taken into account because students from different cultures will be more or less adept at different competencies, and the ‘right’ things to do will depend on cultural background as well as the immediate environment (Hetch & Shin, 2017; Shen, Wang & Shen, 2009).
Discussion and Implications
Limitations of the study
There are several limitations to this study that should be taken into consideration while both evaluating its implementation and results. First, because the study is being implemented after the students have already had a full semester of course work, the students may be more familiar with classroom activities and expectations of the courses. As the students become more familiar with the requirements of the course, they may be more adept at functioning with the content learning goals. Therefore, some of the positive results that are seen in the reports could have causality for this reason. Second, the students are maturing. This is particularly poignant in the case of the early, visual arts classes. Young adolescents are progressing at fast rate and being in the environment of high school will be easier for them than it was at the beginning of the course. Second, this is a sample of convenience. The students are chosen because they are taking classes with the researcher. All classes are voluntary with the exception of the TOK class and what is found from this study may not be entirely relevant to other classes and teachers. Third, the demographics of this study are rather limited. As mentioned in methodologies, the students represent a largely East Asian heritage and what is understood from this study may not be completely relevant to demographics that are from South America, for example. Fourth, some content-oriented activities, in the design class in particular, and to a lesser extent, the TOK class employ the team-based learning model which may result in advances in relationship skills. Although it is the opinion of this researcher that they will work in conjunction with one another. Finally, the researcher is biased in the efficacy of explicit SEL and so may be pre-disposed to find causal relationships.
The researcher predicts that the findings of this study will yield three results. That there will be a moderate increase in achievement of content learning goals. Because the students are made more aware of how SEL as embodied by the SAL, SHOM, and IBLP these skills will show themselves in their study habits and result in better achievement in the courses. Second, there will be a stronger identification of the SEL competencies as described through the SAL, SHOM, and IBLP. Students should be able to pinpoint where they received feedback, took risks, and understood their perspective. Third, some students should be able to identify, at least obliquely how these skills have proved valuable in other classes.
This research project may provide a useful tool in the implementation of SEL into a class environment that is effective and non-intrusive. It can be employed by other teachers that do not feel completely comfortable with using SEL in their classes by providing a pre-packaged approach. In fact, in the development of this research project, the researcher has already shared two of the surveys with the Visual Arts and Media team and members of that team show interest in using it in their own classes. It will also provide the groundwork for a system that can evolve with the learning needs of students in the coming years. The use of technology in the form of the surveys that can be integrated with the learning management system kay open the door to more advanced technological systems like the use of social media to the same ends.
In discussion of this point, the study could also require ICT to consider the problem and solutions to working with student data in a safe way. This researcher has already discussed the potential for use of technology to develop SEL competencies with the school’s ICT director who is better disposed to developing systems that are effective and safe.
There is also the opportunity to use the data collected from this survey to serve the research needs of the SEL community. As referenced several times in this proposal, not nearly enough research has been completed and the data compiled here can be integrated into meta-analysis studies that help educators gain a more robust image of how SEL is integrated into the classroom experience.
There are several issues that have arisen because of the research that went into this proposal that are not included but warrant consideration. If there is little research about the implementation of SEL integration into the classroom, there is even less on variety of cultures that stand to benefit. Most of the research accessed for this proposal are from North America, Europe, and Asia which leaves out nearly half the world. It is difficult to find information about how this may apply to cultures in Africa and South America and little to guide development of programs that attend to a multicultural environment. Hopefully, this research proposal inspires others to consider this issue and develop more action research projects and information that can be applied to a wider variety of students across the globe.
Stern, Harding, Holzer, and Elbertson (2017) suggest other methods of delivery in SEL content, specifically collaborative technologies and graphic novels. It is beyond the scope of this project, although the researcher believes there is strong potential in both of these as well as others that have yet to be envisioned. Social media applications are also of great interest. The above-mentioned authors as well as E-Learning (2017) reveal that Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular mediums for this generation. While there is still the question of protecting underage students, the potential here is exciting to contemplate.
Balfonz, Robert & Whitehurst, Grover J. Russ. (2019). Should schools embrace social and emotional learning? Education Next. Summer.
Brackett, Mark A., Elbertson, Nicole A., Rivers, Susan E. (2017). Applying theory to the development of approaches to SEL. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
Buckley, P. Doyle, E. & Doyle, S. (2017). Game on! Students’ perceptions of gamified learning. Journal of Education & Society 20(3). Pp. 1 – 10.
Crowder, Marisa K., Brown, Randal D., Gordon, Rachel A. & Davidson, Laura A. (2019). Linking social and emotional standards to the WCSD social and emotional competency assessment: A Rasch approach. School Psychology 34(3). Pp. 281 – 295.
Doucette, Dave. (n.d.) Meeting the educational demands of Generation Z. Ed Tech CCW LLC. https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2018/10/meeting-educational-demands-generation-z
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E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
E-Learning Infographics (2017). [Gen Z and E-Learning] Educational Infographics retrieved from: https://elearninginfographics.com/gen-z-engage-elearning-infographic/
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Elliot, Stephen N., Frey, Jennifer R. & Davies, Michael. (2017). Systems for assessing and improving students’ social skills to achieve academic competence. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
Hetch, Michael L. & Shin, Young Ju. (2017). Cultural and social and emotional competencies. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
Hong-Zheng, S.L. & Guey, F.C. (2019). Effects of gamified comparison on sixth-graders’ algebra word problem solving and learning attitude. Journal of Educational Technology & Society 22(1). Pp. 120 – 130.
How do artists use the studio habits of mind? (n.d.). Artcore. Retrieved from: https://www.artcorelearning.org/studio-habits-of-mind/
Hutzel, K. Russell, R. & Gross, J. (2010). Eighth-graders as role models: A service-learning art collaboration for social and emotional learning. Art Education 63(4). Pp. 12 – 18.
Kress, J.S. Norris, J.A. Scholenholz, D.A. Elias, M.J. & Seigle, P. (2004). Bringing together educational standards and social and emotional learning: Making the case for educators. American Journal of Education 111(1). Pp. 68 – 89.
Lin, Y. T. Tseng, Y. M. Lee, Y. S. Wang, T. C. Tsai, S. I. Yi, Y. J. (2018). Development of a SoLoMo game-based application for supporting local cultural learning in Taiwan. Journal of Education & Society 21(4). Pp. 115 – 128.
Nisbett, Richard. (2004). The Geography of Thought. New York. Simon and Schuster.
Ragozzino, R. Resnil, H. Utne-O’Brien, & M. Weissberg, R.P. (2003). Promoting academic achievement through social and emotional learning. Educational Horizons 81(4). Pp. 169 – 171.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2017). Social and emotional learning and teachers. The Future of Children. 27(1). Pp. 137 – 155.
Shen, L. Wang, M. & Shen, R. (2009). Affective e-learning: Using “emotional” data to improve learning in pervasive learning environment. Journal of Educational Technology & Society. 12(2). Pp. 176 – 189.
Sirinterlikci, A. Zane, L. & Sirinterlikci, A. (2009). Active learning through toy design and development. The Journal of Technology Studies 35(2). Pp. 14 – 22.
Stern, Robin S., Harding, Tucker B., Holzer, Allison A. & Elbertson, Nicole A. (2017). Current and potential use of technology to enhance SEL. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
Timpson,W. M. (2009). Improve your students’ learning. Academe 95(1). Pp. 34 – 35.
Torrente, Catalina., Alimchandani, Anjali. & Aber, J. Lawrence. (2017). International perspectives on SEL. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
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Williamson, Ariel A., Modecki, Katheryn L. & Guerra, Nancy G. (2017). SEL programs in high school. Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice. Durlack, Joseph A., Domitrovich, Celene, E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Gullotta, Thomas P (Ed). London: The Guilford Press.
Synectics is a teaching model that was designed by William J.J. Gordon which aims to develop the creative thinking through the use of metaphor and analogy. Originally intended for use in industry it has become a valid and strong teaching model that can be applied in classrooms across disciplines. (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015.) Teachers present students with an image, an issue, questions, or situation and ask them to make metaphors with the aim of combining normally unlike concepts thereby providing students with a way to observe the situation in a new way. It allows students to access the creative problem-solving skills including restructuring ideas about what is known, providing access to the unknown, and empathy with a situation; all important to contemporary learning (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun 2015; Milbrandt & Milbrandt 2011.)
There are three categories of metaphors the model describes, with subcategories and an addition. Personal analogies are when the student identifies with what is being studied, direct analogies, which is comparing two objects or ideas, and compressed conflicts, which is working with seemingly unlike or contradictory concepts and descriptions (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015.) These three are employed in two strategies aimed at a specific goal: Creating something new and making the strange familiar. (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015.) This model can be used in different classes and one study referenced in this paper is that of pairing gradate, visual arts education students with undergraduate engineering students. The action research aimed at helping the engineer students re-evaluate challenges provided by their professors. It has also been used in the digital art classroom, specifically to help students understand the difference between the creative process and a tool (Branyt 2010; Costantino, Kellum, Cramong & Crowder 2010.)
Strengths and Weaknesses of Synectics
As referenced above, the Synectics model encourages creative thinking. Repeated many places over, there is a misunderstanding that creative thinking cannot be taught, although both works referenced in this paper, and the author disagree. Creative thinking is aided by employing strategies, like what Synectics proposes, and can be taught and practiced (Bryant 2010;, Castatino, Kellum, Cramong & Crowder 2010; Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015.) The strength of this model therein. If students can practice this model, become comfortable with using a level of irrationality and emotion in the classroom, then this model provides a strong thinking skills that is called for in the world beyond school (Cstatino, Kellum, Cramong & Crowder 2010; Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015; Milbrandt & Milbrandt 2011.) One potential issue of this model is the emotion requirement on the part of students. Creativity is understood as a strong emotional process (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun 2015.) Some students may relish in this, others may be intimidated and still some may like to idea of using emotions in their classroom activities but feel uncomfortable with sharing these in front of their peers. Like any model of teaching, Synetics has limits in its scope. Excellent for arriving at new ideas and empathizing with situations, but oblique when it comes to content acquisition
Personally, I am very excited to find this model. While I have used something similar in the past, this approach is much more structured than what I have done. In my notes for this paper I have challenged myself with the following questions: How can I use this model to help students design a section of publication? What applications are there using Synectics when comparing the visual arts to mathematics? How can I use this model when asking students to employ symbols and symbolism in their painting? And as my Tok students are mostly interested in science and mathematics, how can we compare areas of knowledge using this model? In fact, while researching this paper I did put some analogies to design students who were contemplating a voice for a new section of a book. I am fortunate in that I teach subjects that naturally align to this model, and I will be certain to share it with my team, although I suspect they are employing something similar.
Bryant, Courtney. (2010). A 21st-Century art room: The remix of creativity and technology. Art Education 63(2). Pp 43 – 48.
Costantino, Tracie. Kellum, Nadia. Cramong, Bonnie. & Crowder, Isabell. (2010). An interdisciplinary design studio: How art and engineering collaborate to increase students’ creativity. Art Education 63(2). Pp 49 – 53.
Joyce, Bruce., Weil, Marcha., & Calhoun, Emily. (2015) Models of Teaching. Hong Kong: Pearson.
Milbrandt, Melody. & Milbrandt, Lanny. (2011). What are we talking about? Art Education 64(1). Pp 8 – 13.
For my current graduate studies, I was given an opportunity to study with UbD founder, Jay McTigh. At the end we had to write a reflection, here is that reflection:
My early experiences in backwards planning came with the IB MYP, and to this day it has a strong influence on how I plan units, including how I use the UbD unit template. The previous MYP asked teachers to use a significant concept and even now this is how I conceptualize a long term transfer goal. Furthermore, I have formally and informally come across the constructivist model of education which proposes that students construct their own knowledge through interaction with learning material, activities, and socialization. While I wouldn’t say I am a hard constructivist I find the theory strong and use it as an underpinning of how I think about teaching. UbD also has a level of constructivism in it, I believe.
My road down UbD follows a predictable path. From the start it is exciting and appears straightforward. Then, over time I question how I am interpreting the different parts and start to wonder if I really know what I am doing. As I get more specific information, I need to re-evaluate how I understand the system; this often takes a lot of close study and contemplation. Currently, I feel that I have the necessary foundational knowledge and will be able to build upon that.
Some past experiences have both helped and complicated the matter. Professor Tran’s class (Theories in Curriculum Design) was the first time I worked specifically with the UbD template 2.0. One of the changes in understanding I went through is the use of subject specific understanding, knowledge, and skills in Stage One. Also, in Professor Kuhn’s class (Assessment Practices) I learned new ways to construct assessment. However, up until this point I haven’t had the chance to really incorporate them into my unit plans, although they do have a place in my classroom practices already.
Which takes me to the present moment. Since I had some experience with UbD and some related theories, the broad strokes we addressed were easy enough to comprehend. However, as we delved more deeply into the nuance of the course, the more explicit evidence and theories, as well as anecdotes and supporting evidence, things got a little overwhelming. It was a lot of information to process and once again, when going through Stage One I questioned myself at every decision and tried to reference back and forth between handouts and the books. Fortunately, I received a lot of help, particularly from the graphic organisers found in the book and the UbD handout. Many pages in my book are dog-eared and passages highlighted for future reference because I am certain I will need to return to them. Of specific interest to me is the section on the different facets of understanding. I have to teach TOK this year and I am looking forward to designing a graphic organiser in this format for myself and students based on TOK required principles. Also, I will use the original UbD model to plan my units.
Working with others was very helpful for three reasons. First, just the opportunity to talk about teaching, both in my subject matter and across subjects. There are always good ideas that come about from these experiences. A week to do all of this was also a lot more useful than a weekend, which is the normal IB experience. Secondly, because it gave me some confirmation about being on the correct track with how I was proceeding. I could see my understandings about the UbD template were similar to those of my classmates. Finally, I benefited from the unit review because we all have different ways to conceptualise and manifest our ideas. Having a more logical and detail-oriented classmates review my unit gave me his perspective and allowed me to think about my planning in different ways.
I wouldn’t say I am an expert, or even very good at UbD just yet, but I do feel that I am closer to understanding than before. I will continue to use my unit planning approach of brainstorming what could be possible of a unit and then use the template to organise my thoughts and focus the unit in the correct way. To these ends the curriculum map is also very beneficial because it gives me to the opportunity to see what is happening in other units and better focus my units for a balanced, learning experience. In the future I hope I can use curriculum mapping to do the same with colleagues and provide students with an overall, well rounded experience in the plastic arts.
As mentioned above, the assessment class I took, helped me think about assessment in new ways, and while reading the texts for that course and this one, I have multiple margin notes about how to incorporate the theories. One of the ways I am presently contemplating it is to check Stage Two performance tasks and assessment for better alignment to Stage One. This would also go for Stage Three as I have a new-ish understanding about formative assessment, specifically as how it relates to the visual arts classroom.
Well, the business still hurts my brain a little bit, but in the good way. Getting all the parts that I want into a unit takes some mental effort and I’d like to elaborate a little on one such aspect. From the time I began teaching in international schools, teaching visual arts had almost everything to do with the concepts and the thought process. After ten years abroad, I returned to the United Sates and found that teaching techniques was how many teachers were going about units and classroom practices. Initially a little apprehensive about this I came around some, particularly as I learned students appreciate the opportunity to learn skills. This is not to say I don’t find the concept approach valuable; I have been making sincere efforts to combine the two in a way that provides students with a fuller image of studying visual arts (pun intended.). The way I have been conceptualizing this is to treat skills and techniques as an engage and persist long term transfer goal. If we consider that to learn a new skill requires practice, metacognition, and discovery, then the long term transfer goal would be related to engage and persist. In the visual arts classroom, we can study that goal through painting or drawing or ceramic techniques. There is also potential for long term transfer goals in social and emotional learning, but I will save that for another time.
For sure this has been a good class and I am happy for the mental games I get to play with myself and others about using the UbD template and concepts.
As part of the professional growth through work, I have been researching cognitive load theory as a result of student surveys. As in, based on the surveys I felt that I could improve my teaching practice through applying some of these methods. So, research I did and then based on the research developed some behaviors and routines to improve in classroom work. Below is the blog post I made to the school:
After reviewing cognitive load theory, reading a few articles, and a bit of thinking about my classroom practices, I’ve developed the following list of behaviors to work towards when conducting lessons. I am considering developing measurement tools for these routines. However, intuition says do not proscribe it too much. So, I am going to try it less formally and see how it goes.
I chose to write about null curriculum because the name intrigues me and, honestly, I had never heard this term before. In short, the null curriculum that which is left out of the taught curriculum. It is a moving target in that in one school what is null, is explicit in another. Thus, making it not null curriculum. There are several examples the article I read pointed out. In a school that focuses on strictly defined content, like detailed lists of events in East Asian history, the nature of how to define reasons and connections between those events could be left out, or null. Conversely, in a school that focuses on the design cycle, the specifics of furniture design history may be left out, null.
I, personally, have noticed the increasing awareness of social and emotional learning in schools over the last five years. We can agree that part of the value of going to school is learning to socialise, but until recently there has not been a lot of specific socialisation strategies taught. Other recent additions would be explicit teaching of deductive and inductive reasoning.
Null curriculum appears to me more of a tool, or at least a fulcrum which we place our tool against. “And finally, the null curriculum may be useful in bringing into sharp focus our knowledge of implementation possibilities.” This comes from the article I read, cited and linked below. If we examine and define the null curriculum, it gives us better insight into why we are making specific choices in what and how we teach and may illuminate areas of education we value or are deficient.
Flinders, David J., Noddings, Nel, Thorton, Steven J. The Null Curriculum; Its Theoretical Basis and Practical Implications. Curriculum Inquiry, Volume 16 No. 1. Blackwell Publishing 1986.