Monday, November 30, 2009

MAM Poll (November 09) Results: What makes a good art teacher?

What makes a good art teacher?
copyright Katherine Tyrrell / Making A Mark

The Making A Mark Survey for November was about what makes a good art teacher. It gave readers of this blog an opportunity to select more than one response from the choice on offer. 113 respondents in fact provided 651 responses - which gave an average of 5.7 important attributes per respondent. This is much higher than in any other survey I've conducted to date. Obviously MaM Poll respondents like their art teachers to be well rounded characters!

You can see the results in the chart above - right click and open in a new tab to see the chart more clearly.

Interestingly what this means is that while a number of characteristics were identified by most people (see below), each characteristic as a percentage share of total responses is actually quite low (as represented by the yellow green bar in the chart) due to respondents' emphasis on teachers having a range of attributes .

The post announcing the poll MAM Poll (Nov. 2009): What makes a good art teacher? received a number of comments and I've highlighted extracts from these below.

What are the characteristics of a good art teacher?

So what does this all mean? It's interesting to see that people value a teacher's overall approach to teaching art rather than an art teacher's own particular skills at creating art or their knowledge about art.

What really matters is whether they are oriented towards learning, can explain and show what they are teaching and provide good quality feedback to those trying to learn.
Six top characteristics of a Good Art Teacher

Out of the 12 attributes identified, the top six are as follows.

A good art teacher is
  • Encouraging - providing constructive feedback (72%)
  • Good at demonstrations and explaining techniques (65%)
  • Enthusiastic and passionate about art (57%)
  • an effective communicator (53%)
A good art teacher also promotes independence in their students through:
  • learning and self-evaluation (56%)
  • originality and creativity (not just copying) (54%)
Commentary on different attributes
  • Encouraging - Teachers who are encouraging were identified as good teachers by 72% of respondents and this was by far the most popular attribute with nearly three quarters of the respondents identifying this as being important. I do wonder whether this characteristic explains why some artists do particularly well as tutors.
I have two art teachers and both are great in different ways.......In both cases developing an individual style is encouraged and there is always lots of supportive feedback - even if the end result is less than perfect! I find this encourages me and other members of my art group to remain passionate about the art that we produce.
  • Demonstrator - Learning by watching a tutor is obviously very popular (65%). it's very clear that art students do like a nice clear explanation backed up by a demonstration. For teachers the clear message is that this has implications for teaching tools - like step by step guides - as well as the approach with class. I've been amazed at times at the different approaches tutors take to providing documentary support for their tuition. These days it's not actually difficult for anybody to provide clear guidelines about how to tackle a particular skill or technique. Artists who provide guides in written form or as books or videos can generate a steady stream of income.
  • Enthusiastic - I take students' enthusiasm for tutors who are enthusiastic and passionate about art (58%) as being a vote for those tutors who are both positive and energising. There's nothing quite like a tutor who is able to ignite your enthusiasm for making art!
  • Effective communicator - It's interesting that being able to articulate what's important is less important to respondents (53%) than the ability to demonstrate. I do know that many artists will sign up for workshops with certain artist tutors who are recognised to be very able as painters but who (without naming names) are also known for being less than articulate. They do virtually all their teaching through demonstrations and a few incisive comments by way of feedback.
  • Enabling and empowering - Teachers are particularly valued if they
    • enable a student to learn and develop skills in evaluating their own work (56%) and
    • promote the innate originality and creative skills of students (54%) rather than trying to create carbon copies of the tutor's own work. I have very little enthusiasm for the tutor whose sole aim is to create copycat students so I was particularly pleased to see this attribute being so highly valued.
I teach workshop style with students setting their own agenda with subject and medium..... I see my job teaching them as being a catalyst to develop their own voices and interests.
vivien blackburn

the most important training technique, I believe, is guided-discovery

The worst artist/teacher is someone who gives their time and experience mainly to those students who reflect their own ideas and style. It is dispiriting to sit in a class when this is happening. The best teacher for me is someone who is able to encourage you to keep working despite what you produce.
Some surprises? Less than 50% of respondents thought that the following were important
  • Practising artist - More than half the respondents (48%) thought that a teacher need NOT be a good artist. I guess we could split hairs on this one. I've seen a fair few 'bad' artists in my time who attempt to sell their skills as a teacher. I've always recommended prospective students to take a very close look at an artist's own work BEFORE booking a course or workshop to avoid potentially nasty surprises and a waste of money. However I do agree that it's not essential that an artist make a living as an artist in order to teach. Being a 'good artist' AND making a living from your art is not always possible.
there seems to be no correlation between the quality of the art the teacher produces themselves and the quality of their teaching. The most famous, most professionally successful, artists and designers who taught me were generally speaking the worst tutors.
Julie Oakley
  • Teacher knows best - Only 31% of people thought that it was important that their teachers should be very knowledgeable - about matters relating to e.g. specific art media (e.g. painting in watercolours) or art history. I found this really surprising. However I suspect that this is an attribute which is maybe valued more by those who know what a big difference this can make. My personal experience has always been that those who have studied art (through years of practice and/or formal learning) and know an awful lot about their own specific area of expertise usually provide the best value - although the learning may come as much from conversations over dinner as it does from work in the studio or plein air. I know that in future I'm certainly going to make sure that I explain why I think certain art instruction books are better than others - in terms of demonstrable knowledge and expertise.
  • Teaching methods - 42% thought a teacher's ability to set appropriate and challenging goals was important while 45% thought it was important that the teacher could be flexible and adapt their tuition to a students' learning style.
Personally I found having a teacher who was flexible, encouraging yet pushed me slight was the best.
Tina Mammoser
  • Peer groups - Very few people (9%) thought that it was essential that they were taught in classes which were geared towards their ability.
With a good concept and structure it is much easier to have participants of different levels within the same group.
Astrid Volquardsen
Did you have any surprises? What did you think about the results of the poll?

Does it have any messages for you - as an art student or as an art teacher?

Tomorrow I'll post the poll for December - which is a fun one!


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