Resource from Marwen’s Mid Term Meeting: Assess Where You Are and Develop Strategies For The Studio

We now have mid-term professional development meetings! The primary goal of the mid-term meeting is to provide timely professional development that can be utilized within the current term; the focus of this PD is to directly improve student experience and learning. TAs are given the opportunity to reflect, share questions and challenges in the weeks prior to the mid termmeeting in order to inform the content. At the mid-term meeting we work together to troubleshoot and share best practices.

See the refection questions and strategies below to help you revise and focus your goals for the second half o the term:

Assessing Where You Are:

  • What have students learned so far?
  • What are your current goals for the end of term and how will you get there? (Have your goals shifted? What’s most important to you and your students now?)
  • What might need to change?
  • What might you verbalize more clearly with your students?

Challenges: Strategies To Try                                                                                                                                                                Think about your course mid term and try some new strategies shared by Marwen staff -and added to by your peers at the meeting:

  • Time Management
    • Create a visual representation of the day and the term. For example, a daily timeline or outline of all to be accomplished. Make a second one to overview everything to be accomplished by week 10. Hold each other accountable.
    • Stop class at various appropriate points during the 2.5 hours to check in. What questions and challenges are you facing? How will you move forward?
    • Now that you are in week 5, try creating a daily lesson plan that is calculated to the minute and see how it feels to stick to it. (only do this if it sounds like a fun/appropriate challenge!- most classes require improvisation and flexibility!)
  • Theme based projects vs. Technique based work
    • Set parameters for content as a group. For example, all work will be based on one word and students create a group word web and all themes are generated from there.
    • After creating work to develop technical skills introduce a topic for all to investigate through their work and give time for students to make the content relevant to their interests and life.
    • Students might collaboratively decide on the above topic, or create one that is connected to the art practices of you and/or your TA/ATA.
    • Themes can be the instructor’s personal projection
    • Themes and technique/media can be an “argument” that these two separate things belong together
    • Good to ask students about their perception/expectations of the class
    • Writing prompts are important in developing content
    • Substitute “day- long games” for “themes”
    • Themes can be a multi-part build up over the course of the term
    • Techniques can be shared on a individual level, and students can then share techniques amounts themselves
    • Themes fend of dryness of technical instruction; can create an air of humor
    • Artist examples are good motivators
    • Techniques can be presented as “tricks” or “secrets”!
    • Technique/theme balance can work well with team teaching
  • Quiet vs. Chaotic
    • Take periodic and frequent breaks to get the wiggles out, and for reviews and check-ins. If students are loud and off task it may be because they are not sure what is expected of them, or they are tired and unable to focus. Create a check in routine or game. And be very transparent with your expectations and goals.
    • Do “get- to-know-each other”, or energizer activities in the middle of the class rather than only at the beginning.
    • Ask students as a group about the class environment and productivity level. How do they feel about it? See what comes up and ask them to highlight what’s working well and develop solutions for potential problems together. It may be an uncomfortable conversation. Sometimes addressing issues straight on is helpful. But be careful not to create animosity between students or groups of students.
    • Demo with no words 
    • Maybe too quiet can cause impatience
    • Refocusing talkative students with artwork related questions
    • Quick check during the middle of the class to see how everyone is doing and if any steps in the project need to be revisited
  • Intentionally grouping students for collaboration or motivation
    • As a community, create a list of all the roles needed in a group. For example, sketcher, color mixer, etc. Then have sign up sheets for students to self select into these roles. Groups typically work best with five or less individuals.
    • Have students choose color swatches on the way into the room. Like colors are grouped together.
    • If you have reason to separate certain students, set up group lists prior to class. Discuss the real world implications of this scenario and maybe list with them on the board ways to be sure the group is working well together.
    • Group based on individual specialities/needs then provide prompts to unite
    • Have students teach/help each other both new and reviewed topic/techniques
    • Investigate students’ interests and use that info to group them
  • Supporting all skill levels in the studio
    • With guidance, have students create individual goals for the remainder of the term. Have exit slips and/or one on one conversations with rotating partners to check in on the goals daily.
    • Revisit or modify previous demonstrations. For example, while class is working have several students join you for a new or extended demo session.
    • Practice “gradual release”: 1. I do it- you watch 2. We do it together 3. You do it together 4. You do I watch
    • Work does not have to be perfect or complete
    • repetition of skills/techniques/demos
    • Asks students what they will improve or change
    • Attempt to push students out of their comfort zone
    • Peer to peer demo
  • What to do about students who…
    • Facilitate partner or small group critiques with specific prompts. This can be a reset for students who think they are “finished”. This can be while other students continue to work or for the entire class.
    • If you have a student who is routinely distracting others, be sure to get support from staff. Have both the TA and ATA tried to talk with the student? Consider what might be going on in their lives that could be causing them to need attention. If problem persists, you might ask them for their help to organize materials, or to help another student, or put them in some sort of leadership role- for example, compliment their handwriting and as
    • Not working? Why? Are you bored? Why? You don’t like the assignment? You don’t understand the assignment? Are you frustrated about the assignment or something else? (Also try to ask non-leading questions and see what you hear)
    • CPS-itis? Possible distrust of teachers or adults. Are they new to Marwen? Be patient and give them reason to trust you over time
    • Anime-itis? Try to somehow use anime or manga as the topic of technique lessons/demos
    • Funtime vs Worktime: Break up class time – stretching breaks, games, guided conversations
    • Start the day with a quick and fun activity to relax group
    • More short hands on activities to break up long term projects
    • Have students get up and talk to other students about their projects
    • Ownership is a powerful toolLet students take on specific roles or tasks that they find strength in
    • Bring positive attention to students who are excelling on a project but might have low confidence. Have a short conversation with the class about why it’s successful etc
    • Divert attention away from distracting student by having them assist you
    • ownership=responsibility

Kate Adams About Kate Adams
Kate Adams is an artist, teaching artist, and mom. As a Marwen staff member she oversees Marwen’s teaching artist professional development, student assessment, and program evaluation. Through her artwork she explores concepts of home, generations and change. You can reach her at

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