Jan 14, 2010

Teacher's Studio

How to successfully teach adults to paint

As a teacher of adults I have researched how I should approach this and be good at it. I knew it was important to find this out because I was sure that there were some things I needed to know about this that I didn’t have a clue about. As I got into the research of this I found a lot of things that helped me be a good teacher.

First our main motivation to learn is often due to life changing events. Maybe we have been widowed, or lost a job or our children have flown the coop, all of these are reasons we may seek to learn something new. As we face more stresses and life changes the more likely we are to turn to learning opportunities which helps us to deal better with the changes we are facing. Learning something new increases our self-esteem but it is usually a secondary motivator for participating in a new learning experience
In my classes I noticed that my students like to paint simply to begin with.
I could not try to teach them too many theory’s at a time they flourished with single concepts, one step at a time was my technique and as they aged it got more apparent that I had to use this method.
We all get slower as we age and I saw my students compensate for this natural slowing down of motor skills by spending more time on getting things very precise thus, having to re-do things. Also, if they came into class with some preconceived ideas about their ability I had to work real hard to help them get rid of those wrong ideas. That also applied to ideas that they held about art too, if I tried to teach them something that conflicted harshly with what they already held to be true, I found that I had to incorporate this information more slowly. If I moved too fast on intricate or atypical lessons I found it would interfere with the learning concepts I wanted to demonstrate or teach. Adults prefer clear-cut how-to lessons. Adults have already experienced a wide hodgepodge of information beginning as a child at home, then in school, and then possibly in a variety of jobs prior to perusing an art class. Adult learners tend to tie new learning to what they already know.
Something I found out was that my students took their mistakes personally and were more apt to let them affect their self-esteem. So they were less willing to take some risks and would rather stick with what they knew.
As teachers we need to give our students choices, as adults the need to have some mastery over their lives as they age they want to take more responsibility for themselves. As a teacher I would often take a short survey on what my students would like to have a workshop in, this gave them the opportunity to take an active role in their education.
We must keep it in mind that our adult students are worthy of respect, they are our equals they have a right to voice their thoughts and ideas freely in our classrooms. They are not our subordinates, they are our peers, if you are a teacher who thinks that you are the only one who knows anything and it is your way or now way then you are way off base.
Adult students bring a lot of life experiences into the classroom, a priceless positive feature to be acknowledged and used not only by other students but by teachers themselves.

As time went by I noticed that I had to work hard with my students to challenge and motivate them. Some of my students just seemed surprisingly passionate about learning, but many needed more from me to get them going and all were different in the way they were motivated. Some desired it, some wanted it and some just needed it for the simple reason of the approval of others.

Unfortunately, I never did find the ideal formula but I did find some find some things that really helped.
Create an atmosphere that is open and positive, pleasurable and relaxing.
Make each and every student feel like they are a valued member of my class.
Make certain that your students have many opportunities to paint things that are not too easy or difficult.
Help your students find personal meaning in their work and a personal style.
Help build self-assurance and self-worth by giving them positive feedback early on.
Constantly tell them that they can do it and impose the need to have persistence and patience, reminding them that one does not become a Rembrandt over night.
Have high expectations of your students. Acting as if you expect your students to be interested and excited in their artwork, will set them up to be just that! They need to believe that achievement is possible. Starting slowly and giving lots of positive encouragement will help this come true. If you critique their work always remember that research consistently indicates that students learn more by positive criticism. Praise helps to build students' self-confidence, ability, and self-esteem. Even if the project is not the best recognize their earnest efforts! Encourage the student to keep working at it because you know they can do it!
Encourage students to focus on their continued development, their accomplishments and not just on their mistakes. Always shun debasing comments. My students often would be very anxious about their artwork. They often would question their abilities. If I had not been sensitive to this I might have used comments that would be hurtful so I would try to be aware of what I said at all times. One small offhand remark hurt their feelings and increase their feelings of inadequacy.
Don't let your students struggle too long with something they are having trouble with. I usually don’t like to put my brush on a student’s project but if they have been working on something for a while and don’t seem to get it right then I will show them in a small area how to do it explaining each step as I go so they have a full understanding of it.
An instructor's enthusiasm is an essential factor in student motivation. If you take genuine pleasure in teaching you will delight when your student accomplishes something he has been struggling…celebrate it with lots of enthusiasm!
Don’t let your classes become mundane and boring, once students feel they can succeed, you can gradually increase the complexity of your lessons.
Break the routine by offering a variety of techniques. Try teaching painting with a knife, a limited palette, a monochromatic etc. It is good to take a special time to do something different your students will appreciate it and so will you!
A good teacher is:
Not just teaching for employment. It is their life’s work. They love what they do and gain much satisfaction and happiness from sharing what they have learned. Their enthusiasm often makes students want to push harder.
When they start to teach they visualize success. They are always looking for ways to improve and be the best teacher they can be. Mediocre is not in their vocabulary!
They really care about their students and their work. They treat their students with respect affirming their strengths. They want to see them succeed and become great artists!
They love to share their knowledge and viewpoints with others. They never withhold information for personal gain and their willingness to share is a way of life for them. It comes naturally!
They hold high expectations for their students, as well as for themselves and have faith in students and know they will succeed if they honestly try! A good teacher will continually try to ascertain new ideas. They are always willing to learn new techniques and upgrade their skills. They continue to grow and develop throughout their lives. They never stop learning. They are not discouraged by an occasional failure looking at a failure as a chance to learn something new they can share with their students.

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