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Praiseworthy?


One of my favorite roles as an art education professor is supervising my students’ experiences teaching in public schools. Often when we are scheduling the time for me to come and observe them, I will hear, “You can’t come on that day because I won’t be doing any teaching.” And I love to respond with, “So, what will you be doing?!” That idea that teaching is when challenging content is explained and presented in an interesting and engaging way by the teacher is really hard to give up. Of course what my students meant was that their students would be in the middle of an extended studio assignment and they would be spending their class time monitoring their students’ progress.

While moving around the classroom, I regularly hear my novice teachers responding to their students with words of praise, such as “good job,” “nice work,” “way-to-go,” or even “awesome!” We do all love praise, but will it get the desired outcomes? Praise can result in students seeking to please you, not to grow and take risks. It might result in students comparing your responses to their classmates or wondering if your praise is genuine. And, as author Michael Kinsin (in Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers) states that "it’s "important to separate praise given in response to work and performance and praise given for expected behavior" when the better way is "to simply thank them for it."

For those times when you “won’t be doing any teaching” (smiley face!), I encourage you to monitor by: describing your observations of your students’ individual growth and effort; along with asking them questions about their intentions and opinions; and then providing specific, timely feedback. This type of monitoring may take you some practice. It is actively observing, listening, and responding. However, the results may be just the type of studio day that you have been teaching for!

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