As an art educator, I am inclined to say “yes” more often than I say “no”, because for my students to take ownership of their own learning, they need to have permission to explore. I teach them how to use the tools and media available to them in the classroom, I give them the direction and inspiration they need to get started, and they take that information and apply it to their work. When students are making their own decisions and taking risks, the mistakes that are inevitably made along the way are more powerful than ever. I remind my students that there are no right or wrong ideas in the art classroom, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to approach or interpret an assignment or project. There are expectations and objectives, but the way each student reaches them will vary.
Recognizing this variation in process and learning is a crucial piece of my teaching practice. Each learner is a unique individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning in the art classroom. A student who struggles with 2-D art can be given objects and tools to tinker with in order to achieve the same learning results as a student who prefers to paint. Finding out what my students’ interests are within and outside of the arts, allows me to tap into the learner’s strengths. Students need to feel valued and know that their voices are heard in order for the learning to happen. Listening to their needs, hopes, and desires is a good place to start.