What does learning and teaching mean to me?
When I think about learning, the first word that comes to mind is ‘fun’.
From my personal experience as a student, ‘fun’ is an important motivator for me.
This does not mean not working hard on my studies, but rather that I feel excitement
and enthusiasm about learning the chosen subject.
Viewed from the perspective of being a teacher and having observed students in my
art and creativity class, I have definitely noticed that students who have ‘fun’ while
working on a chosen project, do enjoy the learning process. As a teacher, I will
endeavour to always find a way to inspire the students to chose an art and creativity
project, which they will enjoy.
Method of teaching
I teach ‘in process’, a method I learned while studying an Advanced Diploma in Art
and Creativity with ‘The Learning Connexion’, International Art School, Wellington,
in 2010/11. This particular course of study was focused on the topic of ‘Process,
Materiality and Horizontality’. Basically, each student chose one material, for
example: paint, stone, fabric or anything else of interest and then started to work with
it horizontally (on the floor or any flat, horizontal surface), exploring and building up
a sequence of events, hence initiating a process of: ‘do one thing – which will then
lead to an other’. The encouragement from the tutor was to ‘play and explore’, which
is not something I have ever practiced previously while studying. The responsibility
for what I wanted to learn was predominantly mine as was choosing and working on a
creative project I selected. ‘The Learning Connexion’ as a training provider was
offering a learner centred learning approach (as cited in WikiEducator, 2012, Learner
Centred Learning section).
Based on my learning during this fascinating and fun year as an extramural student
with The Learning Connexion, my choice of teaching method is strongly influenced
by that experience.
In the Art and Creativity class at Springhill Addiction Rehab, rather than telling my
students a lot of theory about a particular material, I will only point out the basics. For
example: acrylic paint is water based, hence we use water to wash the paint brushes
and we can choose how thick or thin we want the paint to be by adding more or less
water to it. I then encourage the students to explore the material, starting a process of
getting to know it by experimenting. Through this process, a lot of theory is inevitably
learned as a consequence of exploring that particular material. One thought or action
progresses to the next, creating an overall process. A lot of learning can result from
simply ‘doing it’. Through this way of teaching and learning, creative thinking is also
encouraged. Learning ‘in process’ creates freedom to explore rather than starting with
a preconceived idea of how it is ‘meant to be’ or of embarking on a traditional method
of using materials. Working in process frees up the person to ‘play’ rather than to
Teaching ‘in process’ can be taught to students of any skill level or from any
background; from beginners in the field of art and creativity to more advanced
students with previous knowledge, which makes it the perfect method for the
environment I teach in (Addiction Rehab), as there are students from very diverse
‘In process’ is also the way I work as an independent artist. Through ‘practicing what
I teach’, I am constantly learning as well, hence I stay in touch with the process of
learning. While teaching the subject of art and creativity, I also learn from my
Building on previous knowledge
The freedom created by working ‘in process’ also encourages everyone to use
previously acquired knowledge gained from any field of professional or from
everyday life (as cited in WikiEducator, 2012, Adult Learning Theories, Principles
and Practices section) hence building on previous knowledge.
For example, someone who has worked as a pastry chef would find creating
something from clay relatively easy because of similarities in texture and how the
material behaves. Someone who has worked as a builder might find it easy to transfer
some of that knowledge to carving plaster. I believe that learning can be very
successful by utilising previous knowledge and relating it to different situations
One of the first things I do when I welcome a new student is to discover through
conversation what kind of previous knowledge my student brings to class. Based on
that information, I will then help him or her to decide on a suitable project.
Learner Centred Environment
I enjoy an interactive relationship with my students and will encourage everyone to
ask questions. If I do not know all the answers I am happy to acknowledge that. It is
likely that this will be the case more than once, as the subject of art and creativity is
simply huge. The students and I often end up in discussions about a subject, exchange
existing knowledge and brainstorm about possible solutions. The students become
actively involved, find out answers themselves by researching through the Internet
(for students who have access to a computer) or sometimes they will get books from
the library. This way of facilitating a class encourages deeper learning (as cited in
WikiEducator, 2012, Deep Learning section).
In my current teaching position, I don’t teach only one topic, like drawing or painting
for example, but I rather cover many different materials and artistic techniques, as
well as some crafts.
I will also research a topic in response to a question asked and follow up with some
information and print-outs in the next class, hence I demonstrate a willingness to learn
myself and at the same time support learning in my students. I invite suggestions from
students about what projects/topics are of interest to them for future classes.
I believe that learning and teaching is a social process of interaction, sharing,
discussion and collaboration. The social constructivism approach encourages active
learning (as cited in WikiEducator, 2012, Adult Learning Theories, Principles and
Balance of Power
A learner centred environment (as cited in WikiEducator, 2012, Learner Centred
Learning section) creates a balance of power through the active involvement of the
students with each other and also with the teacher. I often create the class content by
deciding together what everyone would like to do. This approach creates a relaxed
environment. Learning ‘in process’ is often something new to the students and
because of this, students’ start off on ‘the same level’, which creates a sense of
Positive feedback is the norm in my class and I will encourage students to relate to
each other and their individual artwork with positivity. As a consequence, no matter
what the student’s ability, age, gender or cultural background, the environment feels
safe and respectful towards self and others.
Even a so-called ‘failed project’ is not a ‘failure’ as there can be a wealth of
knowledge gained from the process, no matter what the result. If there are areas of
possible improvement, suggestions might be offered but the choice to take these on or
not is up to the student.
Teaching art and creativity allows a lot of room for individuality.
I believe that there are no right or wrong ways of creating and that every student’s
preferences towards a project or material deserves to be supported.
The rewards of being a teacher
For me, teaching means sharing the knowledge I have gained through my own
learning and practical experience of a particular subject that I feel enthusiastic about.
One of the most rewarding experiences for me as a teacher is to see a student find
their own creativity, when enthusiasm blossoms and an impulse emerges to embark
on a journey of creative exploration, which truly has no limits. The phrase: “The sky
is the limit” can quite confidently be applied to art and creativity, which I find rather
exciting. Being able to ‘transfer’ that enthusiasm to my students is definitely a very