My primary roles as an educator are to nurture each student’s search for an enriched and meaningful existence and to promote art as a tool for critical thinking across disciplines. I encourage my students to develop personal methodologies of self-directed curiosity, discipline and creativity, while embracing an approach of mentorship within my teaching philosophy. It’s critical for me to be accessible and provide support to each student. Serving as a mentor promotes respect for individual direction, a vigorous exchange of ideas, and diverse solutions to creative challenges. I offer mentorship to students through formal and informal, one-on-one progress reviews.
It is also critically important for students to feel supported by their peer group. I foster a sense of community and trust among the students in my classrooms through formal and informal peer reviews–encouraging honest and insightful critical feedback between students. Group discussions and critiques promote critical dialog, provide valuable feedback, and help students establish assertive conceptual positions within each of their art practices. With this support from their instructor and their peers, students become confident, insightful makers and problem-solvers.
The structure of my courses progresses from technical and conceptual exercises to increasing levels of self-direction and independent research. This progression builds confidence and competence in preparation for more advanced studio work. In introductory courses, I introduce new technical skills through lecture and demonstration. At each level, students are exposed to the diversity of practices within the art field and gain a contextual familiarity of historic and contemporary traditions, movements, and theories. Visits to exhibitions further help students to position their work within these contexts. Supplemental articles, theoretical texts, and written responses aim to challenge preconceptions and place the ceramic discipline within greater contemporary discourses of Art and Craft.
As my students advance in their art practices, I evaluate their engagement with craftsmanship and concept, but emphasize success broadly in terms of "significant learning" (Fink 2003). Through this approach, students feel confident in applying foundational knowledge; empowered to integrate a sense of responsibility for themselves, their field, and their community into their work; and energized by their own development.
Fink, L D. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass, 2003. Print.