Monday, October 10, 2011

Communication Skills


The quote above the door of the classroom where 
I taught for nine weeks reads, "The goal of 
learning is not just to acquire knowledge, but to use 
that knowledge in a variety of settings."
 According to Adler and Rodman, "subjects spent an average of 61 percent of their waking hours engaged in some form of communication." I believe art teachers can and should model effectively verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques to students in the classrooms, parents and custodians in the home, teachers and administrators in the workplace, and to the larger community that supports the education of young people. Such activities help foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in all groups of people for the unified support of the arts. There are basically five types of communication. Although, all five of these share common attributes, the following types each occur in a different context inside to the art classroom. 
More student work from Ritenour High School.
      Intrapersonal communication is by definition about "self talk" or the internal conversations that people have with themselves.  I sometimes include directions on the board for students to refer back to during a studio activity. By these means students can retrace their steps and ask themselves if they have followed the directions correctly. This is a introductory way to teach self-assessment to a very young student. I often include self-assessments along with a rubric. Students must fill out a brief questionnaire in which they retrace their activities in order to check on the inclusion of all the required processes or elements in a studio project. I use this intrapersonal communication technique with older students who are encouraged to develop discipline/focus in order to make higher grades. I also promote internal conversations through the practice of journaling in many of my classrooms. 
      Dyadic/interpersonal communication is the most common form of communication in my art classroom. Dyad, meaning “two” occurs when two individuals have a conversation. I spend approximately seventy-five percent of my time communicating one-on-one with each of my students. As they work, I circulate around the room to answer questions, give personal presentations and make positive observations about their work. Dyadic communication is often referred to as interpersonal communication. The difference between these two forms of communication is a simple number. Interpersonal communication usually involves three or more people speaking to each other face to face. When students are seated by twos or threes at individual tables in an art classroom, interpersonal communication is also occurs naturally inside of most art classrooms.
Another mural size painting from Ritenour High School.
      In small group communication the dynamic changes dramatically. A small group has a well-defined majority or minority depending upon the members of the group. In many cases the majority will determine how that small group functions. Small groups can also change in function according to who is most dominant inside of its makeup. If a classroom of young students is led by an older teacher, the majority of members do not rule but decide that the oldest single member should be obeyed for reasons such as: experience, strength, inheritance or knowledge. Peer pressure can also change the way people behave inside of group. Sometimes all members of a group may be equal, however, one member may have superior skills. In the cases of sporting events, one member who is exceptionally talented may be elected the head of that small groups' agenda. Families, classrooms and athletic teams are all different types of small groups. I frequently assign small groups inside of my classroom in order to ad new interest to the method of conducting class. I do not generally assign the prospect of earning important grades to small groups because students have a tendency to become dependant on only one or a two of its' members to carry most of the workload. I assigned discussions/observations to small groups in order to promote social interaction. Students need to learn how to engage each other actively in academic conversation, polite conduct and appropriate discussion long enough to understand what is socially acceptable. The art classroom is as good a place to begin this part of their education.
In the display case above are paintings 
by students at Ritenour High School.
      Public Communication happens when small groups get so large that not all of their membership has time to participate equally in all circumstances and discussions. At this point, one or two individuals are usually appointed to communicate ideas and opinions to the larger group. The audience is then given opportunities to express themselves at the end of a discussion, through written comments or body language. When I lecture to a large group of students, I do so in brief fifteen to twenty minute intervals at the beginning of a larger assignment. Aside from lecture, I frequently communicate with the public on the behalf of my students. I've listed below the most common occasions in which I anticipate art teachers to participate in a public forum.
  • Student art exhibits on school grounds or in community centers such as: libraries, conventions, malls, or other public buildings are traditionally hung by art teachers. These kinds of public exhibitions promote student self-esteem and also share the progress of art students with their friends, teachers, and parents.
  • Art teachers sometimes give interviews to the local press in order to promote educational programs.
  • Art teachers help homeroom teachers communicate through art everyday by sharing ideas for classroom bulletin boards and displays.
  • Art teachers also contribute to cross-curricular agendas established by administrators and their fellow educators. I've included many samples of this type of work on my education blog.
  • Art teachers are often asked to contribute to local community events in order to promote the education of the public as well.
  • Art teachers can improve the visibility of their programs by actively communicating with the community.
      Mass communication happens when I send out information via the e-mail, through newsletters, or over the internet through a blog. I also will use whatever software programs school districts have acquired for these communication purposes. I have worked on the internet for eight years now in publishing and I do not find these technologies intimidating. It is important, however, to conduct oneself formally as a responsible participant on the web because it is a public forum where many eyes can view/read about your conduct for many years after the fact. Teachers should be selective about the resources they use over the internet. I discuss these resources in detail under MoStep1.2.11: Instructional Technologies.
Artworks by students at Union Elementary. The principle 
at this elementary school chooses one painting a 
year from all of the art classes to frame and install in the 
hallway permanently.
Artworks by students at Union Elementary.  
These permanent choices are hung directly on the 
concrete wall above. The temporary student 
artwork is pinned to the cork strip below and removed 
throughout the school year as new creations are produced.
This display is among several student art 
installations at Ellisville Elementary School.
My cooperating teacher was in charge of enlisting many 
of her own students to decorate the public spaces in her elementary school.
This fountain's tiles were painting by her students.
A student textile mural from Ellisville Elementary.
Above and below are photos of the "trees" with ceramic
leaves decorating a hallway at Ellisville. The leaves
were sculpted in my cooperating teachers art class
by dozens of her young students.