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Suggested Routines and Classroom Practices

1. Begin each class session with a generative question related directly to the project or trail of projects. Write it on a poster or chalkboard.


2. Begin each class session with a discussion of what came before a particular lesson, project or activity. Articulate how the projects/lessons or activities connect (returning to the big idea and the understanding goals).


3. Use thinking protocols on a regular basis. For protocols, check out Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church and Morrison (2011). 


4. Make it a habit of concept mapping the topics/concepts you are exploring  


5. Do the same with the ideas for interpreting those concepts or inventing new things.


6. Be transparent. Tell students why you assign things, what you are up to and how it all connects.


7. Allow time for working in students’ research workbooks or adding to the Learning Wall. This can be as a “do-now” at the beginning of class or as an activity for speedier students who have finished their work for the day. It can be a regular once or twice a week activity.


8. Stress that the research workbooks are an artform in themselves. They should be afforded lots of time and effort.


​9. Regularly introduce artists (and other creative thinkers, doers and makers) who address issues and ideas similar to what students are exploring. Keep and update an image bank of contemporary art according to themes and topics you address in your class. For some examples, see Contemporary Art.

What About Assessment? 



Criteria should be clear and meaningful, and based on the understanding goals. Students can be expected to do research, experiment with ideas and materials, interpret ideas and concepts in imaginative and personal ways, construct artworks that convey their ideas, and reflect on their learning, their creative process and the concept they are exploring. Assessment in the art-based inquiry approach is easier and more meaningful than in conventional art classrooms because its criteria are based on more on performance and learning than on product, and they are concrete, specific, more objective and easier to see.



Assessment should be formative (on-going throughout the inquiry) and summative (at the end). The methods in art-based inquiry promote authentic, meaningful, multi-layered assessment of learning and growth over time.  Documentation of process and learning is the engine of assessment. It is also a key learning tool—a way to track learning, make it visible and build more learning on what has been learned. Documentation works for both teachers and students. Students can see their growth and where they need to go next; teachers can see how their curriculum/teaching is working, where it needs improving or could go next. 


Group Documentation

Teachers can use Learning Walls, website portfolios etc. to document the pedagogy and the process of the inquiry as well as the artwork that emerges from it. The wall can include the questions asked; artists’ statements; information about the concept investigated; resource material, concept maps and other scaffolding; maps of the inquiry process. Students can be co-designers of this documentation. (See: Making Learning Visible).


Individual Documentation 

Students can use Research Workbooks/Journals. These books are essentially personal, portable learning walls that chronicle, spark and support inquiry. They contain the same kind of documentation as learning walls. However, they present opportunities for personal exploration, ideation and connection-making. They are learning tools, reflection tools and assessment tools that can prompt students to forge their own path and understand what they are doing.


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