Tuesday evening at the summer post term meeting our group of 8 teaching artists and assistant teaching artists discussed this question:
How do we adapt/adjust to the nature/idiosyncrasies of a class?
Overall, this became a question of student engagement. One solution was to use the first class meeting for students to find their own way to a class topic via discussion. The teacher then wraps technical instruction around the the selected idea. We agreed that we all used this notion to varying degrees, and that student engagement could range from the original idea of a class designated project to each student’s own goals.
Here are a few specific students or groups of students we discussed:
Silent as the Grave: No one, absolutely no one will talk, especially at a critique. First, try telling the class that there will be silences after a topic or question is posed, and that this is natural and indicates thinking.
Do away with verbal critiques and use post its for students to respond to specific prompts in writing. Or have students respond on paper to be shared with the class.
Spinning in All Directions at Once: Establish limits, it’s okay to be direct and instructive re: agreed upon appropriate class behavior.
One or Two Talkers: Begin to call on other students for responses, but don’t insist. Allow students the right not to talk.
I Know Better Than You: In some instances (depends on media) let students do it their way. Empirical evidence is good. Never argue, but find a way to begin to talk with the student. Show respect, but explain why you say what you said to encourage a conversation. Never insist.
Delayed Response: as we’ve all discovered, some students may have learning issues and require more one on one instruction. Share this responsibility between TA and ATA . Two heads are better than one. Ask the student to bring in examples of their work so you have an idea of where to begin.
Ann Worthing received her BFA from Southwestern University from Georgetown, TX in 1980 and her MFA from the University of Chicago in 1982. She is represented by Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago and has also exhibited in New York, Boston, and Chattanooga. In 1996 she had a one-person show at the Chicago Cultural Center. She is currently a Teaching Artist at Marwen in Chicago.