Theory and Practice

Intelligence is the ability to solve a problem or create a product that is valued in a culture  (Gardner, 1983).

I love talking about my art program! It is an exciting, constant-changing environment and curriculum. As we visit artist studios and design firms I tell my students to “Check your pulse,” hoping they will “hear” what area of art or design their most excited about. I classify the majority of my teaching as real-world; trying in whatever way possible to bring relevant real-life experiences, people and places to my students. My teaching pedagogy is influenced by Project-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Placed-Based Learning, Experiential Learning and the theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Attached is my MAE Thesis Paper The Value of Authentic Projects on Student Engagement and College Preparation for High School Art Programs

Educational Philosophies

There are a variety of excellent practices in the education world and my teaching has been influenced by many of their concepts. I see “Real-World Projects” as the umbrella for all of them.

  • Project-based Learning is organized around projects that provide real-world context and framework for learning. Real-world experiences enhance problem-solving skills, critical thinking, collaborative and leadership skills, and aids in personal student empowerment (Gonzales & Nelson, 2005).
  • Problem-based Learning reverses the roles of student and teacher. Students are given more responsibility for their learning which develops an intrinsic desire for discovery and investigation of a problem. This approach creates a healthy pattern of success for life-long learning to take place. Atypical to the traditional role of a teacher, an instructor using PBL [Problem-based Learning] becomes a facilitator; leading class discussions, mentoring; assisting with valuable resource materials and evaluator; developing appropriate student assessments that provide the “scaffolding” in which the students will use to explore their solution. This hands-off approach creates more proficient problem-solvers, self-directed learners and citizens that are capable of working in community (Barrows & Kelson, 2001).
  • Place-based Learning is eager to awaken young people to the classroom that is “right at their doorstep”. Researching and serving their “own backyard” and local community creates greater intrinsic learning for students.
  • Experiential Learning emphasizes real-world experiences, particularly service-based experiences. The theory rests more on the process rather than the preconceived outcome (Kolb, 1984, p. 21).
  • Multiple Intelligences developed by Howard Gardner in 1983, suggests that there are eight different forms of intelligence. Gardner emphasizes that people learn though a variety of different ways, and thus, our curriculum should be taught in a variety of different ways to engage as many students as possible.

A team of researcher formed the SUMIT project (Schools Using Multiple Intelligences Theory) studying forty-two schools that applied the multiple intelligence theory to their classroom learning.According to the research conducted by Kornhaber and colleagues (as cited in Gardner, 2004):

78% of the schools reported positive standardized test outcomes… 78% of the schools reported improved performances by students with learning difficulties. 80% of the schools reported improvement in parent participation…Finally, 81% of the schools reported improvement in student discipline, and 2/3 of these attributed the improvement to [the use of the multiple intelligence theory]. (pp.14)

MAE Thesis Abstract by Rachael Van Dyke

A study of over 20,000 American high school students stated that 40% of students admitted to merely going through the motions in the classroom (Steinberg, 1997). As the Industrial Revolution shifted learning from hands-on apprenticeships to streamlined schoolhouse education, lecture-style learning became the new tradition. The conveyor belt approach to education has attributed to disengaged, passive learners over the past two centuries. Recently, varieties of educational philosophies have assisted teachers in motivating their students to become active learners. Studies have shown that students who see relevance in a topic will be more actively engaged in the learning (Paul & Mukhopadhyay, 2004). Teachers who engage the multiple intelligences through real-world experiences have found an increase in student achievement, a decrease in misbehavior and an increase in parental involvement (Kornhaber, 2004 as cited in Gardner, 2004). Theories that fit under the umbrella of real-world projects include project-based learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning and place-based learning. Through real-world experiences in high school art and design students are involved in career- centered projects that involve actual client work, visits to design firms and art studios and community art services. These experiences assist a young person in gaining connections with real artists and designers, portfolio work, and confidence in entering college level classes.

(Please see link at top of page for full paper PDF.)

Practicing Schools

Below are a list of links to some very exciting “real-world” schools in our country. I hope you are as inspired by them as I am.

Envision Schools

High School of Art and Design

North Haven Community Schools

New City School


High Tech High


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