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Sara Kirk

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Practicum Synthesis: EDUC 203 – Fall 2012
Journal Summary: Syntheses of Practicum Experience by Sara Kirk Domain 1: Planning and Preparation In an art education setting, the type of planning and preparation done by the instructor varies on what type of project students are working on and whether or not group instruction will be a part of class that day or week. The lesson plans needed for an art classroom tend to be less complex than lesson plans for other classrooms; the instructional lessons are typically short, and they include lots of visual aids and technical explanation. A lot of the planning and preparation time for my practicum teacher was spent making sure that there were appropriate supplies for each class to work on various projects and also making sure that there were appropriate visual aids and examples for each project the students were assigned. Over the years, my practicum teacher has created and collected many examples of different projects to use to facilitate the instruction within her class. However, if any of these projects become outdated or damaged or lost, she must take the time to create a new set of project examples. As a part of planning out the assignments for each unit across the semester, my practicum instructor has to be competent in various art methods and styles and be able to effectively use a variety of materials. In order to be able to effectively instruct students on different mediums, she has to be familiar with the uses for materials and the style of art they can be used to create. For example, in the cultural crafts class she teaches, my practicum instructor assigned the students a project working with clay, which means that she must know how to work with clay, how to use a kiln, how to properly glaze the clay project, and be able to successfully explain how to work with these materials. As an instructor, she must make an effort to continuously learn and develop her own skills with different art mediums to be able to instruct students properly. Although the day-to-day planning and preparation varies based on instructional need, the planning for the entire semester is more structured. There are no specific Iowa CORE standards that pertain to the visual arts, so the board that decides on the curriculum for my practicum teacher’s school assigns curriculum requirements that are in line with the national standards for the visual arts. My practicum teacher, along with the other educators in her department, works together to create student goals and projects that will allow them to meet these standards over the course of a semester.

Sara Kirk

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Domain 2: The Classroom Environment Throughout my time as a student, I have spent countless hours in art classrooms and studios. Of all of these rooms, there are a few that are really memorable to me; a few where I had the best experiences and was the most productive. These classrooms were full of life, from the décor and room set-up to the exceptional qualities of the teacher that led the class; these were teachers that greeted us in handmade costumes and cared about every student as an individual. During my practicum experience I kept this in mind and spent time observing how the set-up and the approach from the teacher in my practicum classroom affected current students. Unlike many other classrooms I have spent time working in, my practicum classroom was new; the school was only built a few years ago, and the majority of the equipment and workspaces were clean and in very good condition. Despite the coldness of the architecture and newness of the building, my practicum instructor worked really hard to make the classroom feel warm and inviting. The classroom walls were covered in pictures of artists and art related themes; there was student work displayed in various parts of the room, and she had posters of school related sports teams and other school events hung up. She also utilized wall space to post deadlines and weekly schedules for each class that she taught. In addition to covering the walls with visual aids, the practicum instructor made use of every part of the classroom. Student workspaces were set up in clusters with approximately four to five students at each table or workspace. This clustering of workspaces is a really effective way to foster collaborative learning in an art room. It allows students to work together, discuss their project ideas, and feed ideas off of other students. Collaborative learning helps to develop creativity and strengthen student work and project designs. Another key component to the classroom set up was the placement of materials. All of the materials used for projects within the classroom are easily accessible and can be found in clearly labeled drawers and cabinets surrounding the students’ workspace. Domain 3: Instruction Throughout the time spent working with my practicum instructor, I have seen the importance of flexibility and adaptability in instruction and how those skills lead to an effective learning environment. The teacher I worked with was always finding ways to include student likes and interests in different assignments. In her flexibility with art project themes, she was able to allow students to include their own creativity and thought processes within each project. Allowing students to incorporate their own lives and interests into their projects worked as a way to eliminate distractions and kept students focused on their assignments, which is key in a less-structure based class like art.

Sara Kirk

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In addition to flexibility with project content, my practicum instructor also had a unique strategy of allowing students to work at their own pace while still keeping firmness with deadlines. For students who were more advanced or finished their work more quickly, she would get them together in a small group and explain the next project; while doing this, the rest of the class continued to work on current projects without being interrupted. Another thing I observed about my practicum instructor’s approach to instruction was the time that she took to check in with every single student. Each day, she stood at the door as students entered the classroom, and she said hello to each individual person and inquired about his or her day. She used this same technique to focus attention and begin her class. She started her instruction by checking in with the group, asking things like “How was your weekend?” or “Did anyone watch this movie last night?” From there, she would transition into that day’s lesson by showing an art image and asking a few quick questions. The use of smooth transitions worked really well for her classroom environment, because it is a classroom where limited time is spent on group instruction; the majority of the class time is spent by students working on individual projects. The check-ins and smooth transitions were effective in helping students adjust from individual work to group instruction. The teacher made it a point to not start abruptly with instruction. She always started with the social aspect, because that was where students were at mentally when they came in from the hallway. From there, she used the social aspect to gain cooperation from students so that she could then transition in to class work via discussion and visual aids. Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities As an educator, I believe that there are a variety of things that fall under the category of professional responsibilities. For me, these include: continuing professional development, creating an integrated and collaborative educational environment by working with other educators, maintaining accurate and updated student records, and making a commitment to encourage and represent tolerance and appreciation for diversity. As an educator, it is crucial to continue personal professional development; this is especially true within an art education setting. In order to successfully instruct students in a variety of techniques, my practicum instructor needed to have a broad understanding of different mediums. Taking studio workshops, working with other artists or art educators, and spending time working on individual artwork are effective ways for educators to remain competent in their instruction. This continuous development of individual skill also allows educators to find new ways of working with different materials and to create new project ideas to assign to students within each class.

Sara Kirk

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In addition to professional development, it is important for educators to collaborate effectively with other teachers within in their department. My practicum teacher works with the three other teachers within the art department on a regular basis to develop curriculum and build stronger lesson plans, to share techniques on different methods of instruction, and to share art materials. In an effort to create a sense of community among the visual arts department, my practicum instructor (along with the other art teachers in the school) is always encouraging her students to go into the other art classrooms and see what other students are working on and to ask questions. This is a great way for students to inspire each other, learn different creative methods, and also gives students the opportunity to learn about other art classes that they may be interested in taking. Another professional responsibility of educators is keeping up-to-date and accurate records within their class. At my practicum instructor’s school, they utilize Infinite Campus. Infinite Campus is an online student information system. It allows educators to keep track of attendance, post grades, and access student records from their entire school history. There is also a section of Infinite Campus that is open to students and parents to access online. This area serves as a class website where the teachers can post information about upcoming assignment due dates and class announcements. In addition to using Infinite Campus, my instructor also kept a paper logbook where she recorded students’ grades and attendance. This is a beneficial backup for when computers are not working or Infinite Campus has problems. It is also an efficient way for my practicum teacher to discuss grades and missing assignments with students during class check-ins.