Studio Art Process

Students are empowered in noticing and adopting artistic behaviours as they make choices about their art process.

t I teach an art option class in addition to my Humanities teaching load. I love teaching art. It's such a relaxing pause in the day, when I just get to help kids create.

In the past, I've taught art in a project-based way. We'd learn some skills and then do a project using those skills, such as drawing portraits, linoleum cutting, or landscape painting. Covid gave me an enabling constraint that made me change my practice for the better. When we came to school in the 2020 school year, our students had to be kept in their homeroom cohorts, so we moved to a wheel approach - the students stayed in their homerooms and cycled through every option, spending about eight weeks in each one. This meant they no longer had choice in what options they wanted to take. So I knew I needed to incorporate choice within the option class, rather than outside it.

Teaching Artistic Behaviour

I'd been considering the Teaching Artistic Behaviour (TAB) approach for a while, and this was just the push I needed to jump in. I read Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom (TAB) by Katherine M. Douglas and Diane B. Jaquith (Alberta teachers, hot tip! I borrowed this book from the ATA library!), Making Artists and The Open Art Room by Melissa Purtee and Ian Sands, and once I learned more about the practicalities of this approach, I was ready. I knew this approach would help everyone find an artform that felt good to them, regardless of their past artmaking experiences, and would meet them where they're at.

The TAB approach can be summarized in three sentences:


What do artists do?
The child is the artist.
The art room is the child's studio.

Being a teacher who lives every day and thrives in student choice, I started at the far end of the choice spectrum. Since I began teaching art using a TAB approach, I changed my process a few times. The first time I did it, I required each student to do at least one 2D and one 3D project during the term. The second time, they needed to complete three projects, the medium completely up to them. Allowing them so much choice, I knew I needed to scaffold them through the idea-getting phase, experimentation and learning of the medium, creation, and reflection phases of a project. So I created a graphic that will guide them through the process, which is a morphing of studio art practice, creativity, and design thinking theories.


Minilessons and demos teach new skills and let them practice foundational techniques. Whether these minilessons are directly applied immediately or at a later time is unknown and depends on the student and what they're working on. I post resources and tutorials in my Google Classroom as well, giving them resources to use when they're ready to use them. Minilessons also focus on the studio habits of mind, which are always directly applicable.


I conference with students throughout their process, which makes up the majority of my assessment practice. We talk about what they're doing, what skills they're incorporating, and what their next steps are. We talk about the studio habits of mind and what habits they're practicing.


My students always end their project with an artist statement, as well, giving them a chance to reflect on their artwork in a more formal way, something artists do.

I have been blown away by the shift adopting a TAB approach has had in my art room. Students have been much more creative and have jumped into projects they've imagined, inspired by other artists or ideas of their own. I love, too, how they inspire each other. One student last year was really into skateboarding and graffiti. So I got some paint pens, and let him at them. There were lots of "0oooohs" as he unwrapped the new pens. He experimented, and other students wanted to as well. Something cool happened when one student saw some old records lying around and decided to use a paint pen on the records. From there, we had an explosion of record art!


Here the resources I developed:


Created By:

Erin Quinn

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