Posted by: dbjaquith | September 26, 2012

Why Self-Directed Artmaking?

My new school is in a suburban district with 400 students, who have had traditional teacher-led art instruction in the past. They have learned many skills and have good basic knowledge in the discipline of art. What they have not experienced, however, is what they can accomplish when they choose their art materials and the ideas for their artworks. The program I bring to my school is called Choice-Based Art Education and follows the philosophy of Teaching for Artistic Behavior: Students are the artists. They decide what to make and how to make it, whether to work with a peer or alone, how long to spend on the artwork, and when it is complete. These are big decisions for small people! Critical and creative thinking skills are exercised frequently as students develop strategies and techniques, reflect on their work, and come to new understandings.

Everyone receives instruction in various art media throughout the year. We have just completed a unit on drawing and students practiced observation drawing, drawing from memory, drawing from knowledge, and drawing their feelings. They experimented with pencils, color pencils, oil pastels, chalk pastels, markers, and pen and ink. Our student teacher, who is a cartoonist, has initiated a three-week intensive class on cartooning for fourth and fifth graders. They are very excited about this!

Though students are directing their work in art class, there is a great deal of underlying structure to ensure that learning takes place. In the weeks to come, I will share many of these stories and hope that you enjoy reading about our students’ achievements!



  1. Thanks for encouraging your student artists to make big decisions about their art and allowing that flexible thinking skill to grow

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