Thursday, April 23, 2009

When does a student become an artist?

(This post is an aside I'd like to share with you; something that's been brewing in my head after reading a few things.)

How important is it for students--particularly elementary, middle and high school students--to consider themselves artists?

In my class, this perception/misperception usually manifests itself as protestations of unfairness for criticizing their personal expression. Their complaint centers less on receiving a grade for their work and more on receiving anything other than an "A" for it. And, you see, that's the crux of the matter.

Some of my students are under the delusion that I'm somehow obligated to give them an "A" regardless of what they hand in. When I ask what other class they have that operates like that, they don't have an answer. After all, even a creative writing assignment has to have some structure and follow grammatical guidelines in order to be understood.

Having attended conferences for art educators, I have found those holding to both sides of this debate to be rather vocal. Some teachers think it meaningless for them to "grade" a student's creative output. For them, grades are hurtful, even harmful, to the development of the child and her artistic growth. On the other side of the aisle, they believe that art education is like any other field of study where effective grading serves the student as skills are taught and craftsmanship is nurtured.

So, what are your thoughts on this topic?
If you're a parent, what are your attitudes towards your son/daughter's artistic production? Have you had run-ins with your child's art teacher? What was the issue?
If you're an art educator, what is your philosophy about grading your elementary, middle or high school students' creative output? What does your rubric look like?
I appreciate your feedback!